train of tulle

By Maddie Bowen-Smyth

The conductor waves her aboard, polite but mystified. Rain swirls her footsteps. The dress is muddy, a travesty of tulle. Frances clutches her ticket, armed with a watery smile and the dregs of her allowance.

Scenery whisks past. The tea lady brings her a slice of cake—“On the house, dear.” She casts her eyes over the sodden outfit, then departs. The cake is stale, the tea lukewarm. Frances imagines her lonely beau in the rain. His sharp eyes, his sister’s soft lips, heels clacking on cobblestones.

Well, if she’s to be a cliche, at least it’s dramatic. In San Francisco, she switches trains, buys a coat. The dress trails underneath like sad, wilted plumage.

Seattle arrives too fast. Outside, Frances stumbles, drops her purse. A girl picks it up; her hands are warm, her brown eyes sweet. She smiles at Frances, then: “Christ, what on earth are you wearing?”

Maddie Bowen-Smyth is perpetually, endlessly tired. She’s an avid tabletop roleplayer, spends hours hunting obscure historical facts, and all her characters wind up bi until proven otherwise. After working in Japan for several years, she now lives in Australia with her linguist wife and their growing menagerie.