I walk through the palace foyer, a satchel around my neck full of notecards; a pair of scissors spinning around one finger. I’m on my way to tutor the Tsar’s daughter.
Along one wall, a batch of well-dressed aristocratic women eye me. They giggle.
As I pass I hear one whisper, “Those are scissors!”
The others gasp. One, in a mauve bonnet looks closer as I walk by. “I hear they get rust along those loops.”
“What is rust?” another asks.
“This brown stuff, it is hard and gets caked on the handle. You can’t touch it without burning yourself.”
“Wow,” they chime together. I hear them at my back. I stop and spin around.
“You like these?” I say, holding up the scissors.
“Want to see how they work?”
The other’s push the bravest one, in the mauve bonnet, toward me. She smiles, shyly. I hold out the scissors. She touches the handle.
“You see,” I tell her, “the rust can actually get in here, on the blade. Then the scissors stop working. But,” I pull out a handkerchief and adroitly wipe one side of the scissors, “if you do that, they stay never rust.”
I spin the scissors around on one finger, then another. I slip them in my pocket.
The girl’s eyes go wide. Then, she lays a hand on my chest.
“If you come back,” she whispers coyly, “I’ll buy a pair off you.”
I touch her cheek. “No my darling, I’m not some sleazy salesman,” I give her a devilish smile, “I’m an English teacher.”
Then, I wake up.
It is cold. It is dark. My eyes hurt. I stand up, stumble to the other side of the room, and fall into N’s bed.
He jolts awake, staring around in the half light, wild eyed.
“What! What is going on?”
I look at him, then down at my hands.
“I’m losing my fucking mind.”