Stones Heavy in Their Pockets
by Gina Headden
When Beatrice leaves the house, Daisy is asleep and Ted is blacking boots.
‘Give my love to Dolly,’ Ted calls.
She keeps her mouth shut. She isn’t seeing Dolly, something Ted does not need to know.
Outside, in semi-darkness, she reads again the scrap of paper she clutches in her hand and then, head down, she hurries off.
As she nears her destination, she stops and scans the street. All clear. She chaps the door, tapping out the code, her heartbeat hopscotching in her chest.
Scurrying feet. The drawing back of bolts. Hands pulling her inside where they speak of men in suits who wear moustaches on their upper lips like passwords that let them through the doors of power, while maids skivvy in the basements and well-kept wives and daughters maintain their rightful place.
Two weeks later, while Ted paints rich men’s houses and Daisy is at school, Beatrice leaves the hotel where she works and walks to Piccadilly Circus. They come from all directions, taking up their posts, alone together, outside Swan & Edgar, stones heavy in their pockets.
‘Votes for women!’ someone shouts.
As one they hurl their missiles at the windows and see the glass sheets shatter.
Something hits her head. She feels a swingeing pain, crumples and curls up on the pavement.
‘Bitch,’ whispers the policeman who kneels down beside her.
As he pulls her upright, his hands brush against her in places where only Ted has ever been.
Held fast, they march her to the prison alongside other women whose eyes, like hers, are fiery, their voices struggling to be heard above the coppers’ whistles.
Stripped bare, they’re clad in arrowed aprons and led to cells where clanging doors confine them.
Ted will wonder where she is. He’ll glance up at the clock above the mantel, look outside the door and try to find her.
‘Now where’s your Ma?’ he’ll say, ‘and what’s she got for supper?’
Trolleys clatter in the corridor then stop.
Keys rattle, jangle in the lock.
Beatrice grinds her teeth. The door swings inwards, hinges squealing. She sees, tries not to see, the length of rubber tube that dangles from the doctor’s massive hands. Instead, she pictures Ted and Daisy, behind their own front door, eating ham and eggs while her jaw clenches and her fingernails dig deep into her skin.
Gina’s writing has been published on audio platforms and in fiction and non-fiction magazines, including, amongst others, Longleaf Review, Ellipsis Zine, Sunday Herald Magazine, The Casket of Fictional Delights, Funny Pearls and National Flash Fiction Day’s Flash Flood. Gina lives in Scotland and tweets @gmdfreelance.
Photograph by Andy Kreyche.