By the time the moths appeared, it was too late. Somewhere, buried in the folds of scratchy wool and inherited cashmere, immune to desiccated lavender and scent-faded cedar balls, eggs had already been laid. Larvae, microscopic, fed on the fabric, ate through it and, come spring, took flight in winged form. The small brown moths were the worst: a sure sign of holes to come.
Nina had already spied several of the pests that week. Now, she closed in on one marking her apartment wall, a tan smudge almost camouflaged upon the scarred, flaking paint. The moths never moved quickly; even if they did fly off, they fluttered weakly, like dust swirled by a subway gust. This one stayed put. Nina plucked it, rolled her fingers together and brushed off the remains. Particles of wing, paper-thin, drifted into the trash can beside her easel. It was too late to save one of her few pairs of silk underwear; with a little more larval lunching, Nina might pass it off as a crotchless panty. But she could, at the very least, take revenge.
She held up the undergarment towards the light filtering through the smut-greyed window, which was large but, as it overlooked the subway line and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, enabled more soot- than sun-trapping. Little holes sprayed the fabric as if it had been caught in a miniature drive-by. Given the amount of attention men had paid to her lingerie in recent years, it didn’t much matter; Nina may as well go commando. She felt mournful all the same, balling up the underwear and tossing it the way of its muncher. It was a relic of years past, a time when someone might have admired her in it but, despite the leaner body of youth, she hadn’t had the courage to flaunt it. Just to buy lingerie on rare occasions, to please herself. And now that she had dug it out to consider wearing it, it was no longer an option.
Crystal Fraser’s stories and essays have been published in Alaska Quarterly Review, MacGuffin, The Iconoclast, Potato Soup Journal, Flash Fiction Magazine, and elsewhere. She teaches high school history in Indianapolis, where she lives with her husband and two kids.