Violent Nylon by Beck Collett

Finally, a seat freed up, and Kathe (with an E) gratefully crammed her layered-up behind into it, before yet another mother with a grizzling toddler and too many shopping bags bagged it. Though the carriage was stuffed to its metal gills with passengers, Kathe struggled to recall a time she had felt so cold. It was inside-cold, she knew that; no dirty warm air from the overhead nozzle heaters could hope to tackle it. It was the cold in your bones, marrow turned chill with endless disappointment and too much self-reflection.

Thirty-years-old, and feeling as though her life was utterly pointless, Kathe found herself welling up with gratitude at the feel of the moquette beneath her. She allowed her left hand to wander, exploring the side of her seat – a dangerous move, in a second-class carriage – lightly brushing over crumbs, and a damp spot (that gave off the sickly-sweet strawberry smell of the medicine her sister gave Kathe’s nephew), and then, what was that? A jolt of excitement coursed up her arm, alongside a small static shock. Lifting her find up slowly to get a better view, Kathe was oblivious to the bodies pressed all around her. Fortunately, they were all also oblivious to her; a reoccurring theme in Kathe’s life. Looking through the steam-covered window to until her prize was at chest-height, Kathe unfolded the little dropdown table, and placed her find on it with the reverence of a fairy-tale character crowning a new princess. Only then did she look.

In front of her lay a pair of breadcrumb-covered gloves; not your typical woollen gloves, but something so much more. Emerald-green, the nylon sparkling with life, Kathe brushed off the crumbs and lifted them to her face. In this dreary, miserable winter, the gloves smelled of Turkish rose, of wealth, of a future that could have been hers. Not daring to breath, Kathe slipped her hands into the gloves, and found to her delight that they fitted like…

Eyes closed, Kathe watched as her mind played her a preview of her future. Emerald-green hands flashing over a keyboard, writing a prize-winning novel. Emerald-green hands flying over paper, writing the most beautiful calligraphy poison-pen letters to her enemies. Emerald-green hands around her ex-partner’s girlfriend’s throat. Though she felt a slight stab of revulsion at the last image, Kathe knew that the gloves would know best. She would do their bidding, receive their accolades, be their vessel. Their future would be hers, and what a future it would be. If only she’d kept her eyes closed.

Through her mascara clumped eyelashes, Kathe became aware of a tall woman standing in front of her. Even before she had a chance to focus, Kathe knew the woman would be striking. She smelled of wealth, of Turkish rose, of the future that Kathe had glimpsed for herself.

‘I believe you have something of mine,’ the woman said, smiling through a perfectly painted-on smile. Kathe had no choice but to submit. Oh well, she thought, it was nice while it lasted.

‘Take my card,’ said the woman, proffering a cream business card to Kathe, in exchange for the gloves. All in all, it was possibly the most civilised hostage handover in history. ‘My name is Maggie, Maggie Blue, perhaps you’ve heard of me?’

Kathe nodded, even though she had never heard of her. Manners cost nothing, her grandmother had always said, ‘Of course. My name’s Kathe, Kathe with an E, Kathe Pole.’

Maggie bared her teeth, her version of a smile, ‘What a name you have, Kathe with an E, may I name one of my characters after you?’

‘Of course,’ Kathe mumbled, still holding onto the gloves. The train started to slow, and the tannoy muttered something mostly intelligible about Bristol Temple Mead.

‘My stop, I’m afraid. Call me sometime, Kathe, perhaps I could help you.’ And with that, Maggie pulled the gloves away from Kathe’s still freezing hands, and walked away.

Kathe looked down at her palms, searched for traces of emerald-green, for the magic and hope she had felt just moments before, but there was nothing, not a trace of, wait, what was that, caught in the dry patch of skin on her left wrist? A glimmer, a flash – in a certain light. She caught her right hand over it, lest it escape and fly down the train corridor after Maggie Blue. Not this time, Kathe thought, I won’t let you go this time. And she closed her eyes, and let the thread compose a story about a woman on a train, who found a pair of gloves, and never went home again.

Selected: March Short Story Contest
Published in Issue #28

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