By Aimee Parkison and Meg Pokrass
Victim of gossip, like a blacklisted movie star, walking through a sleepy town, I found the boy with hypnotizing eyes. At a tacky hotel owned by a bankrupt widow, the boy and I found a box of antique love letters written to a dead girl. Would anyone ever love me the way the letter writer loved the dead girl?
The antique paper crumbling in my hands, I read aloud to the boy, trying to memorize the fading words written in a wavering hand:
You will be the moss hanging from the vine. I will be the dust in the windowsills.
You will be the geese flying over the roof at sundown. I will be the old shutters beating on the wind.
You will be the wind because I’m not so forgiving, especially when remembering the eye in the sky that sees us and knows everything we’ve done. Listen to me. I’ll come and sit with you like the hair removed from bathtub drains. Like early in the morning light in winter, I’ll illuminate the first song bird singing.
“What’s the eye in the sky?” the boy asked me.
I kissed him, resisting his hypnotizing eyes.
“These letters don’t make sense,” the boy finally said.
“What do you expect?” I said. I blamed the partly destroyed paper, the nearly illegible script, my eyes weakened from gazing (should I say staring) at the boy’s hypnotizing eyes.
They had kept the boy in a box. But he’d escaped.
I kissed him again, this time on his eyelids.
“I can’t read minds,” I told the boy. “And I don’t make the rules.”
There is an old photo of my dead sister and me as children, looping our arms around each other, like the soulmates we had been. I wore it inside a locket around my neck. I wanted to show it to the boy, the photo, like the letters, having almost entirely faded. You could hardly tell who was who. Would the boy fall in love with my sister, and by loving her, lose interest in me? Even seeing my sister could ruin things, it always had.
The closeness my sister and I’d felt had something to do with the comfort we learned while embracing each other’s troubles with the sun in our eyes. The troubles we found by borrowing each other’s lovers, waiting for the gossip to fly. We were old movie stars together, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, causing trouble on the set, gossiping about each other. I was still proud of my sister’s ethereal beauty, the shape of her curls, the gloss of her voice, her purplish eyes, eyes as alluring as the boy’s.
Her lovers had never written me letters. Or sat next to me like hair underneath a drain. But they had loved my sister as if she were some kind of rare moss on a vine, or a goose flying over a nighttime house. They hovered around her like fresh morning light at a campsite in early winter.
The letter writer’s scribbles made sense to me; I knew them by heart. The dead girl felt like someone close. Wonderful in the very same ways my sister had been to me. I wondered if he the letter writer had killed her. It felt like I could read his mind.
“I’ll meet you back here tomorrow at this time,” the boy said.
Later, in my front yard, I had a long discussion with a package of golden sponge cakes, sitting on the cool grass. I didn’t want to give up on the boy but I felt like a fool. He had asked me to meet him back at the tacky widow-owned hotel and I didn’t feel I could. There were dead people all over that place.
Nobody believed in the magic of new stars and what they foretold was deceptive, so I sat in the yard and watched them pop out like freckles. The sky was filled with tiny dots like me who had not yet felt loved.
The cream inside my golden sponge cakes was almost fluffy enough to fill the loneliness in, to patch up the empty places.
Aimee Parkison is the author of Refrigerated Music for a Gleaming Woman, winner of the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize. Her other works include Woman with Dark Horses, The Innocent Party, The Petals of Your Eyes, Sister Séance, and Girl Zoo (co-authored with Carol Guess). Parkison has been published in numerous literary journals and is full Professor of English in the Creative Writing Program at Oklahoma State University.
Meg Pokrass is the U.K. based author of seven flash fiction collections, two award-winning collections of hybrid prose, and two novellas-in-flash. Her latest books are The Loss Detector, The Dog Seated Next to Me, Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, and An Object at Rest. Her stories have been published in Big Other,Electric Literature, Waxwing, Tin House, Wigleaf, Smokelong Quarterly, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and many other publications.