The blond man in front of her is too tall. European of course, Dutch perhaps. It’s claimed the Dutch are the tallest people in the world. She’ll find out if it’s true soon enough. Amsterdam is their next stop. Kyoko stands on her toes. She can’t even get a glimpse of the woman with history’s most mysterious smile, only the right upper edge of the gold-varnished, renaissance-inspired frame. How she’d love to see a friendly face, even if it’s just a painted one.


She planned the ten-day Euro trip with her daughters right after the divorce. A chance to forget, at least momentarily, to “make new memories together”, which was what the travel brochure said, “while admiring artworks with a lasting impact”. Now, she’s standing here alone. She’d already booked three tickets and didn’t want them all to go to waste. Her teenagers preferred shopping on the Champs-Élysées, without her. She just wants her daughters to be happy again. It already means the world to see the girls getting along. That hasn’t always been the case, but a common enemy unites.

She’s the guilty one, the instigator. She’s not even sure why she did it. She simply didn’t have a choice but to leave their father. If she has to describe the reason, the feeling when growing out of her favourite dress at the age of thirteen comes closest, the blue one with ruffles. She still loved it, but it didn’t fit anymore.


She had expected the Louvre to be busy, but not like this. Crowds are a strange phenomenon. Each has its own distinct character: some fierce and loud, others dumb and dangerous. Though obstructing her vision, this one seems kind, rocking her softly from left to right, holding her tight, making it impossible to fall over.


Josje Weusten

Josje Weusten, PhD (she/her), is a writer of (auto)fiction and a senior lecturer in literature and creative writing at Maastricht University. She is a Faber Academy London alumna. Josje aims to write fiction that stays true to Oscar Wilde’s words: “A truth in art is that whose contradictory is also true.” Her shorts have appeared in Litbreak Magazine and Flash Fiction Magazine. Her work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions 2023. Her first novel, Fake Fish, a near-future story on the devastating impact of fake news, will be released on November 14, 2024, with Sparsile Books (Glasgow, UK).


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