I saw her ankles first

She jumped onto the train in a hurry, grabbing the nearest pole like a ballerina with poise. What caught my attention was the penny sized blisters that covered her ankles.

A series of bites spiralled around her calfs, crawling towards her thighs like morse code. How high did they go? I dreaded to think. She reached down, scratched self-consciously at the largest of the bites. It screamed angrily, throbbing against the light mahogany tone of recently tanned skin. No more than twenty-four hours ago this woman had been sunning herself on a beach.

Then train screamed into the station, and brought with it a judgement, an instant assessment formed from nothing more than a glance. She’d claim these marks as the battle scars of a good time. “The holiday was great. The weather was beautiful. So hot. But the mosquitos. You’ve never seen anything like them. They ate me alive. Look. See. Ate me alive.”

The tube doors opened. The woman pushed her way past the crowd of commuters, and disappeared, taking her war story with her.


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