The new gloves were quite lovely. The lady from whose purse she had liberated them had seemed firmly middle class, and so Victoria was surprised by the softness, the shine of the fabric. The way they slid over her fingers was - oh, heavenly. Victoria looked down at her hands, lithe digits sheathed safely now in immaculate red leather. A smile slid its way across her mouth. Luxury was not a familiar thing. 

She stretched her shoulders, back arching, and brushed a stray orange curl away from her eyes. She had been trailing the former owner of the gloves all morning, tense and predatory, desperate for a new pair and instantly in love with the colour of these ones. They were a far cry from her first pair of gloves (a gift, a year ago); those had been threadbare, and the sort of grey that could have once been white in another life. Her mother, poor creature, could afford nothing better.

"Victoria, you need to put these on. You cannot take them off. Promise me. Promise me you will never ever take them off. " 

The itch as the rough wool closed over her fingers. Her mother's face, inches from her own, red and teary, her shallow, stale breath puffing into the space between them. 

"Mom?" The crack in her own voice, sounding so small, so young again, a child. "I don't want to go. I want to stay with you. Please, please!" Desperation.

"If you stay, the government will kill you, my flower. You can't come back. You can't ever come back." And then they were both crying, and Victoria was reaching up and tangling her gloved fingers in her mother's hair, pulling her closer, the first and last time physical contact was allowed. She didn't understand the gloves or the crying or the panic or why she had to go. She had sat up all night at the top of the stairs, very very still so the wood didn't creak, and listened to the rising and falling of the conversation between her mother and Randy. Her stepfather had always been an unstable man, but that night his voice was shaking, and not with anger. It was fear. He was afraid of her. And all the whispered words that night, words like talent and testing and dangerous had only made her more confused. And all the screamed obscenities were quieted suddenly with words like look what she did to meThough she understood nothing else, Victoria knew deep down in the place where truth lives that "she" was her. 

And now her mother was sending her away.

Victoria shrugged off the memory, shutting it down, scrubbing her mother's face from her mind. Remembering meant hurting, and hurting meant weakness, and weakness was something Victoria could not afford. In the year since her banishment, she had learned in bits and pieces what her mother and step-father had realized. The first time it was a cat: its eyes, staring at her, widening and widening in its face as its skin shrunk against its bones and then crumbled in earthy pieces to the ground. The eyes went last, staring at her to the last moment, clouding and losing colour and then shrivelling away into the bleached boney sockets. Paralyzed with shock, unable to take her hand off of the cat until the spine crumbled to dust under her palm.

 She was a dangerous person, and that meant that she was valuable. 


The End

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