What Could be More Deadly – by Clare Routh

Rosie had not gone any further than as far as the Portuguese Deli, at the furthest end of the street, for many years. In the expanse of her Victorian terraced house, all those stairs had been enough to keep her in and busy, going up and down all the 4 floors. That and the Deli were good enough to deliver, quite necessary after a few Margaritas. Neither did she believe in over eating, wanting to keep her figure, mostly to fit into the vast array of clothes hanging upstairs, so a liquid lunch often sufficed.

Regardless of anywhere to go, dressing up was a preoccupation, a joy that could occupy hours, days and years it had transpired. Inheriting the extensive wardrobe from generations past, there had been much to conjure with, if few to share the visual effects. Visitors had dwindled over the years, partially why Rosie had continued with band practise, an occasion to look forward to, with company coming into the house, the quartet having been established many years back. The double bass gave some constraints regards movement so Rosie favoured chiffon, her fabric of choice which flowed, moved with her, effortlessly, when lost in music she loved how it made her feel.

And so the days passed by, much time spent dressing-up, fun as much as something to do. Being of a certain age & mindset, Rosie didn’t care much for Technology having neither computer nor Television. She listened to a French Jazz radio station 24/7 constantly in the background, partially as the knob from the Roberts had broken off many years ago. Whilst not a French speaker, she preferred the background babble that way- incoherent. Bad news was always better in French, even more so if incomprehensible. Rosies only connection to the most recent century’s advancement was a classic, Art Deco, Bakerlite telephone, having pride of place as a main feature on its own hallway table. Rosie had been known to dress up just for a telephone call. It did give the whole occasion a suitable gravitas, the dialogue more meaning, not to mention the outfit a reason to be. But the Telephone didnt ring much anymore.

Being visually challenged, Rosie tended not to notice much but was fascinated by the smaller details in life. That the ladies of the quartet had all arrived on bicycles, wearing face masks did not strike her in any way peculiar nor unusual. As far as she was concerned they always dressed oddly, not so smart, mostly favouring comfort over style. As always without much fuss, some small talk about the weather, the crowded parks & their usual health anxieties, they then got going with practise quickly, to make the best use of time. So, transported by the music, Rosie would play with her eyes closed, inhaling and controlling her breathing, feeling the vibrations and enjoying the moment.

It was during band practise that Rosie had noticed the hole. A void, definitely, a hole. A casual glance, then a moment of focus and there it was, no doubt whatsoever. That dress was one of her favourites, not worn for a

while, having not seen the ladies for a bit. She was quite the vision, standing out from the troupe. Anything beyond brown, navy beige or maroon was considered ‘outre’ by the ‘girls’, dressed so casual they could be off to do a spot of gardening or house clearance. Not the Brunette, however, who was equally vintage & visited often, stayed longer, flapping around the various deep, dark lavender scented wardrobes to try on outfits and costumes. It was a love of dressing up that had united the two Ladies, as school girls, once invited back to survey the vast numbers of trunks, full of endless sources of fantasy dress up, the Brunette had virtually moved in and hadn’t been back home, to Mayfair, for over 25 years.

Brought to the United Kingdom by her Grandparents, Rosie had lived alone a long time since, so dressing up was a connection to her country of origin, a very different time indeed. The wearing of her Mother & Grandmothers clothes had made her closer to both of them, Ladies of finery and style. Here in Camden, in the relatively small confines of the terraced house, no ballroom to expect a guest for, no real occasions to dress for, had suited her fine. She had grown up with the stories of splendour and ceremony from a previous life, so the existence of the surviving wardrobe brought them all to life. Fabulous gowns, hoops, crinolines and vast arrays of sumptuous silks in every colour imaginable. Her Grandparents had brought everything the family owned with them from the home country when they first arrived. Much was disposed of, as they had to downscale on arrival, but the loft was packed out and so much scattered over the 4 floors. The house was tall and narrow, high ceilings, but only few rooms on each floor apart from the basement and all filled with clothes, beautiful clothes, the whole house was rammed.

As was customary after practise, the ladies fell about the cold buffet dutifully provided by the Deli. Rosie usually formalised the occasion with a speech and so the toast was well accepted, the ladies reacted accordingly, so it occurred to Rosie that life was very much about more than a hole in her dress. Then, what caught her eye, was so tiny in size, most would not have noticed it steer towards the curtain, showing up against the dark red if somewhat faded velvet colour, golden wings flapping. It was more the movement that caught her eye, flickering, a tiny entity, flapping its wings, randomly spiralling. Her whole house full of the most amazing, historic fabric treasures, to be taken down by the smallest, most insignificant looking thing, Tineola bisselliella, or clothes moth. The end of the world as far as Rosie could conceive of, there could be nothing smaller and more deadly.

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