Tug of Love / Hilary Ayshford

Around her right wrist the girl on the train has a bracelet made of human hair. The narrow braid gleams with shades of brown and gold, auburn and grey, black and ginger. I can’t take my eyes off it.

She sees me watching and holds out her wrist across the aisle for me to stroke the silky plait. Then she holds the hand up to her throat so that the bracelet is between her breasts and caresses it with her left hand, encircling the hair, teasing it, sliding it over her knuckles and pulling it through her fingertips, all the while watching me through half-closed eyelids.

She gives a sudden gasp and a small shudder ripples through her body as colour rises from her neck to her cheeks. She catches my gaze and smiles.

The train slows, she rises and makes for the doors. As she passes my seat she tugs gently at my hair – the way a boy might pull the pigtails of a girl in the playground to let her know he likes her. I follow her off the train and over the footbridge. She takes my hand and leads me through unfamiliar alleys to her bed.

There is a pair of pointed silver scissors on the pillow. I let her slide their cold sharpness close to my scalp and cut a long strand of hair.

I leave quietly in the early morning light, while she is still sleeping. Memory tingles my fingers as they feel for the patch of bare scalp, where the bonds of shame and doubt that tethered me to the past have been severed. My other hand strokes the tissue in my pocket, enfolding a skein of her hair to begin the weaving of my own bracelet.

Hilary Ayshford is a semi-retired science journalist and editor, living in rural Kent. She writes micro and flash fiction and short stories. Her work has been published by Retreat West, Pure Slush and Funny Pearls, among others.

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