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Story by Eileen Merriman (Read author interview) April 11, 2016

Art by Katelin Kinney

2. Sheepie. Bubba. Nappy. Mummy-sit. Book. Good-girl, girl-I-am, Molly-girl. Audie. Hot. No, Audie, no-no-no.

3. I. Don’t. Like. Audie. I bite Audie. I sit in the corner. Bad Molly, mad-bad-sad Molly.

8. Audrey stole my words. When I was two, and Audrey was six. My mouth wide open, the screams running through me like a blade, until they turned me inside out and all the words got buried. No, Audie, no-no-no.

10. Audrey is the sweet sister. I am the sister that played with fire. I sit in my room, bending light, and nobody knows the truth. Adults talk in whispers, when they think I can’t hear. Post-traumatic stress. Asperger’s. The words are sharp, like the prisms I keep on my windowsill. Glass can cut-cut-cut, deep and deadly. There is something deep and deadly inside me, and I think that’s where the words went.

12. In the mirror, I am two halves without a whole. If I stand facing the window, I look like any other girl. If I stand facing the wall, it looks as if my flesh is pouring down my neck. If-you-play-with-fire-you’ll-get-burned. My insides run like wax. If I melt enough, I’ll turn into glass.

13. Audrey has a boyfriend. They make out in her room when our parents go out, and Audrey says she’ll kill me if I tell them Tom came to visit. Kill me, as if that’s worse than the legacy of fire. Tom catches my eye when Audie isn’t looking, and I run the tip of tongue over my lips, wondering how the inside of his mouth would taste.

14. If I wear my hair over my face, just so, then you can barely tell I’m melting. The other day Tom wandered into my room and said, what’s with all the prisms? I showed him how to take a photo through a prism, how it turned people into ghosts. He said, that’s some weird shit and then he shut my door. There’s a lot you can do in five minutes, while your sister is in the bathroom, and now I know the inside of his mouth tastes like toffee apple.

15. But no one will admit they prefer the Asperger’s syndrome sister to their girlfriend. So when Audrey finds us in flagrante delicto, Tom tells all sorts of lies. It was only once, and she threw herself at me, and you’re the only one I’ll ever love, Audrey. He doesn’t say, at least she puts out. He doesn’t say, I took a photo of your sister through a prism and turned her into an angel. They break up anyway, and Audrey hates me, but I’m not finished with her yet. Nothing is worse than fire.

16. Here are four facts about fire: (1) Petrol has an ignition temperature of 280 degrees Celsius. (2) Fourth-degree burns extend into muscle, fat and tendon. (3) A phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. (4) It can take fourteen years to avenge the day your older sister set you on fire, and a lifetime to realise your heart has turned to glass.

About the Author

Eileen Merriman‘s work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Literary Orphans, the 2015 Bath Short Story Anthology, the Sunday Star Times, Blue Fifth Review, The Island Review, Takahe, Headland and Flash Frontiers. She was the second place winner in the 2015 Bath Flash Fiction award, commended in the Bath Short Story award, and third place winner in the 2014 and 2015 Sunday Star Times competitions.

About the Artist

Katelin Kinney is from the hills and fields of Southern Indiana. She attained two BFAs from the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis, IN. Her portfolio consists of fine art and commercial freelance work.

This story appeared in Issue Fifty-Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Fifty-Two

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