The Coat

The Coat

Here’s another of my fun, quick reads to brighten up your festive season. This one is a humble ode to that most festive of stories ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. Happy reading and Merry Christmas to everyone.

A coat of many colours…

“I’ve had it!” the young woman said, flinging her book down on the coffee table with such force she managed to send her husband’s wine glass toppling in the process. It landed with a whoosh of crimson across a stack of papers and he pounced upon it, halting the flow before dashing into the kitchen to retrieve a towel.

“What is it with you lately?!” he yelled back, mopping at the mess with angry, stabbing motions.

“If you even have to ask that question, we’re worse off than I thought,” was Hannah’s grumpy retort as she stood up, reached for her coat and made a beeline for the front door.

“Hang on, babe, where are you—”

The slamming door put a halt to that sentence but not to Hannah’s pace which rapidly picked up as she plunged her hands into her coat pockets and began marching up the darkening road, towards the park.

The air was crisp and cool and she welcomed it, needed it, in fact, her fury at boiling point, her anger burning up. She opened her coat wider to let the chill slide through and as she did so, she couldn’t help smiling.

Oh how she loved this coat. It was the softest cashmere, a beautiful soft pink colour, and the only good thing that had come out of her relationship with Liam of late. She recalled the day he brought it home for her as an anniversary present, him grinning from ear to ear like a child with a special secret, her blushing with anticipation and regret — she hadn’t thought to get him anything. After five years together, it hadn’t seemed necessary. Still he didn’t seem to mind, simply made her shut her eyes as he placed it snuggly over her shoulders, the soft silk lining caressing her naked shoulders, the fine wool warming her instantly.

Since then there had been little to celebrate. Liam had been offered a big promotion at work the month before and while he had hesitated to take the job, she had been nothing but supportive. Now she regretted that keenly.

Liam was never home early, not like the old days when they’d both sneak out of their respective offices to be back in each other’s company, cooking up a meal or heading out on the town. Now, when he did finally get home, he brought his work with him or was too weary to do much besides slump on the sofa or sleep the weekend away. They rarely spoke, barely touched and were growing more distant by the day.

And every time she tried to talk to him about it, he would assure her that everything was fine, that it would “all be worthwhile in the end”. Well she didn’t want to wait until the end. She wanted it to be good nowSurely that wasn’t too much to ask?

Hannah looked up from her thoughts with a start. She glanced about curiously, not recognising her surroundings. Where was the park? How had she strayed so far? She spotted a street sign, which read Greener Pastures Lane and frowned uncertainly.

“Hey Hannie!” growled someone behind her and she turned to find a middle-aged man striding towards her, his fists clenched, a scowl upon his stubbled face. His hair was long and stringy, and a grubby shirt barely covered his protruding beer gut. She did not recognise him. “Where the hell have you been?”

“I’m sorry?” She stepped back, her spine prickling with fear.

“I’ve been waiting all bloody day for you. How much d’ya make?”


Make,” he mimicked her, his voice small and cruel. “Money, you moron. How much money did ya make… Or did ya let the bastards get it for nothin’?”

Hannah wrapped her hands around herself warily noticing as she did so that her coat was no longer cashmere. It was thin and denim with cheap silver brooches pinned all over it and a rip down one sleeve. She looked up horrified and just in time to see a fist flying towards her face, knocking her into oblivion.

Hannah awoke to a blood-curdling scream and sat up with a gasp. She was now clad in a grubby old housecoat fraying at the edges, faded into a patternless grey. She was sitting on a crumpled bed in a tiny room that was dimly lit and smelling of sour milk and dirty diapers. Beside her a baby was screaming itself senseless, its scrawny limbs flying about violently. Instinctively she clutched it to her chest, trying to calm it down and that’s when she noticed the other children. There were five in all, their faces splattered with dirt, their clothes unkempt. One of them, the eldest looking, stepped forward uncertainly. He was no more than seven.

“Mummy,” he said tentatively, his face held to one side as though preparing to be struck. “We’re hungry.”

She stared at a patch of blood that had caked beneath his nose where no loving hand had bothered to wipe it clean, while another child tugged at her coat.


Hannah felt a rush of horror and shook them free, racing through the door and into a lounge room that was strewn with broken toys, baskets of washing, and last night’s dinner plates piled up on the table. She stopped with a start. There was a man slumped in a ratty armchair by the window, a beer bottle balancing precariously on his lap, his unshaven face hanging to one side, snoring loudly.

“Exquisite, isn’t it?”

Hannah snapped her head around to find an achingly thin woman standing beside her, a glass of champagne in one manicured hand, the other resting gently under her chin. Behind her the lounge room had completely transformed and was now brimming with designer-clad types, some air kissing, some chatting, some staring at her with concrete smiles and what looked like envy. The children were gone and the room had turned into an elegant ballroom, chandeliers dripping from the ceiling, a string quartet in a corner. She turned back to find the sleeping man had morphed into a Picasso.

Gorgeous coat by the way,” the woman purred before slinking away.

Hannah glanced down to find herself cloaked to her ankles in mink. She recoiled with disgust and landed into the arms of a wrinkly old man with pasty breath and a sniggering smile.

“Now that’s more like it,” he drawled, slipping one hand down to stroke her from behind. He was dressed in the finest silk suit, his oily hair greased back on his scalp, a diamond piggy ring on his other hand. “Ready to announce our engagement, sweetheart?”

“Engagement?” she managed.

“Don’t worry, your lawyer got the pre-nup across this morning, so it’s all settled. I’m going to enjoy having you at my disposal.” He slapped her smartly across the bottom and steered her back towards the crowd.

He was surprisingly strong for his age and Hannah tried to dislodge herself, stepping out and away, only to find herself smashing into a low-lying branch that seemed to come out of nowhere. She fell with a hard thud onto a wet patch of lawn and sat up on her elbows, looking about. It was dark, just a sliver of moonlight and a distant streetlamp illuminating the street beyond. She was back in the park near her house and the old man and his friends were nowhere to be seen. Scrunching her eyes shut, Hannah didn’t dare to look down, but when she finally did, the mink was gone, replaced by her beautiful cashmere coat.

Squealing with relief, Hannah pounced to her feet and began dancing in a circle so that the coat twirled freely about her. She stopped suddenly, turned and began walking towards home. Very soon she was running, head down, heart beating rapidly.

When she reached her address, Hannah hesitated for just a moment before mentally crossing her fingers and unlocking the front door. Inside the stereo was oozing the soulful tunes of Marvin Gaye and the lights had been dimmed, candles revealing two fresh glasses of red wine on the coffee table. Beside them some wild flowers had been hastily arranged in a vase, and beside that an untouched bowl of chocolate. But Liam was missing.

Hannah raced into the kitchen, then along the hallway to the bedroom, the bathroom, the study. Through the study window she spotted him standing in the garden, his arms dangling to his side, his eyes staring up at the dazzling moon. Within seconds she was out of the house and into his arms.

“I’m sorry, Hannah,” he said, barely able to meet her eyes. “I know I’ve been preoccupied with work. I know I’ve been lousy company—”

“No!” she interrupted. “I’m the one who should be sorry. I encouraged you to take the damn promotion. I insisted, in fact, even though I knew you didn’t really want it. The truth is, I loved the extra money it was bringing in and the beautiful things it brought me.” She dropped her eyes to the coat, which didn’t seem so special anymore. “I just didn’t realise the toll it would take on you, and on us.”

“I’ll drop back my hours. Hell, I’ll hand in my notice.”

She smiled. “You do what you want to do. Just know I’m supportive. No matter what.”

And then she wrapped the cashmere coat around him and she held him tight.