Lit, Lit Fiction

Mirrored Skirts by Katy Gale

The skirt sways just below my knees.

It is old and ragged and carries a scent that reminds me of father — safe and familiar.

The suitcase swings just by my calves.

It is brand new and shiny and smells of the shop from which we stole it.

The hand that my mother clasps slips from her grasp and hangs loosely by my side.

It is covered with sweat and has small half-moon indents in the palm from where I was pressing my too-long, chewed-up nails.

I had had the skirt since I was three. My father bought it for me, flashing it at me midst tantrum — an attempt to pacify me. I never had a comfort item like most children until my father handed me that skirt. Then, it was ankle length, and had small mirrors around the outside that glittered and flashed in the sun when I spun around, the material billowing around me. It was a small battle to take it off me, with my mother eventually resorting to slipping it off me during the dark of night and washing it, before replacing it at the foot of my bed. I am six now and the skirt is shorter, and most of the mirrors on it are cracked and broken from tumbles. My mother says that it is like carrying around a millennium’s bad luck with us, all those broken mirrors.

I clutch at the skirt with my dirty fingers, twisting the material around until mother bats my hand away.

“Can’t you leave that filthy rag behind?” she hisses at me.

I widen my eyes at her and tilt my chin up. No.

She brakes the stare first. When she is safely at the front of the line again, her lips pinched and her creases becoming ever present in what used to be a smooth forehead, I look around.

I do not like the airport. The giant planes scare me, the fuel-guzzling beasts that will propel me unto some unknown land. All around me people run, devices clutched in their hands, suitcases wheeling behind them, knocking away anything in their path. It is simultaneously too fast paced and too slow, too loud and too quiet here. It confuses me.

My mother still won’t tell me why we must go. I have a vague idea. The teachers at school speak about me behind my back, quiet snippets of information passing between them behind hands, as though my future is a game of Chinese whispers. They believe that after my father died, my mother took desperate measures to live, and that is why we must leave.

I glance at my newly-stolen suitcase and wonder if maybe all the gifts my mother bought to comfort me after my father’s passing are the reason I must board this plane.

The skirt sways just below my knees.

Looking out at the clouds into which I am about to ascend, I am glad I have it with me.