Metamorphosis (fiction)

The fault was Eva’s. She was the one who came floating in one morning, her hair cut to swing just below her shoulders and dyed a deep chestnut. When she, after fifteen years of trimming her long lank mouse-brown hair with a stationery scissors in her own bathroom, did this - she burned the covenant that bound them all to perpetual mediocrity.

“My, my!” Liina clicked her tongue, her high-heeled shoes neatly parked beside her desk, her feet in black socks crossed, “What’s the occasion, someone special?” she asked in mock humour, hoping to find out if indeed there was someone new.

Though Eva’s transmutation could be blamed on their sudden move of office, after twenty years, to a newly built, wall-to-wall carpeted glass office block - it was because of her that Jukka found himself apologising his way through the frenetic crowds of Hullut Päivät, trying to recollect his shirt size.

He'd never been to the Stockmann sales before, the only person he knew who could say that. He had no use for Stockmann with its imposing stock and staff with flags that told the world they spoke English, French or Russian. The yellow ghosts had warded him off, kept him away from the twice-yearly rush for cut-price couture. His preference was heavy metal band t-shirts, economy clothing well below the prices Stockmann asked.

But Eva had changed things.

Jukka had underestimated the crowds, the deals and excitement. Head down, he perused the plastic boxes filled with shirts, socks and underwear with Italian names, surreptitiously as if in fear of being caught. When he looked up through the frenzy it was to a vaguely familiar face, too familiar to ignore yet not familiar enough.

"Hei?" the face said and Jukka reciprocated.

There was nothing about this man’s demeanour to express disdain, Jukka’s tension eased. The man wore Tommy Hilfiger stripes and black jeans, and the woman beside him was slender though she pushed a black and lustrous aluminium pram in front of her, a Marimekko scarf obscuring the baby from the crowd.

He introduced himself as if they were colleagues, and they were in the undefined way in which people who share an enormous building, meeting in corridors and outside toilets are. “Come for the deals?”

They parted without shaking hands and then Jukka knew exactly what to buy, the sense of foreignness easing, allowing him to wonder through the bazaar that was Stockmann at its most full.

He found Ruija and her husband selecting cheeses, meat delicacies resting in their trolley, mumbling to each other with the familiarity of those who’ve spent more that half their lives together.

“Jukka comes to Hullut Päivät! Where’s my camera. No one at work will believe me.” Ruija had been at her desk drinking coffee, the first day he came to work now fifteen years ago.

She would still sit there now, the plants she tended on her windowsill and her coffee mug a different shade of purple, had they not moved and Eva cut her hair.

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