In the dim station, close to the tiled wall, among a press of harried people, near the clean passing chords of a saxophonist’s bebop, Ruben had stared. Not at the woman, technically. He’d been admiring her coat. His mother had worn one exactly like it: a navy all-weather Count Romi from Neiman Marcus, with brass buttons, a bit of a buckle on each side of the waist, and pintucks that formed neat rows down the front. (And wasn’t that how he remembered her—not at the end of her life but at the beginning of his? A knot of hair at her nape, the grip of her hand, and at the school door, the firm hug, his brow briefly branded with a button, and then her “Be good,” the swift release, and a cloud of lemons and lilies. Chanel No. 5 stayed longer than she did.) He was sorry. He’d only toed up the hem to check the color of the lining. (And yes—just right—a satin-like crushed violets.) Truly, Officer.
Melissa Ostrom is the author of the YA novels The Beloved Wild (Feiwel & Friends, March 2018) and Unleaving (Feiwel & Friends, March 2019). Her stories have appeared in The Florida Review, Fourteen Hills, Juked, and Passages North, among other journals, and her flash “Ruinous Finality” was selected for The Best Small Fictions 2019. She teaches part-time at Genesee Community College and lives with her husband and children in Holley, New York.