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This Is Not Who We Are

I.

The problem isn’t mirrors; it’s cameras. In glass, Vera’s face is like glass looking back. But in pictures, she’s always laughing and her skin is tired, rolling down her face as it does.

Before the party, she smiles into the mirror to see how her face will hinge. It isn’t bad, she thinks, knowing it will be.

The party is for pregnant Clara two houses over; the Muslim woman at the end of the street arranged it, stands in a corner when Vera arrives. Sunlight halos Clara’s hair—her cheeks like apples, belly the earth. She makes Vera laugh.

II.

Amala sweats at the edge of the party. Imad said not to wear the hajib—it’s too hot—but Amala knows he is only afraid. He calls her Amy in public, tells white men his name is Isaac.

“This is not who we are,” she tells him. “We cannot forget.”

Her sister sends no word; Amala has read of women holding headless children for doctors to cure.

At the punch bowl, Clara says, “I’m Sigourney Weaver.”

Vera laughs. Amala knows, without looking, that it’s Vera—her sound unmistakable, neck thrown to the sky, line after beautiful line rippling her face.

III.

Clara wakes alone, Ben gone. The foot beneath her ribs shows like a mountain; her belly, the plains. When she calls, a woman answers his phone.

“Wrong number,” Clara says.

At the party, Vera talks about halos and Clara corrects her.

“I’m no angel. This baby’s an alien and I’m Sigourney Weaver.”

Vera laughs. The foot that is a mountain kicks, exploding. Clara looks for Ben, forgetting he’s not there. Her chair is wet, dripping. Only Amala, in the far corner, sees.

“Amy!” Clara calls to her.

A camera flashes, in that moment before her blood is seen, before women begin to run. It flashes despite the sun, bleaching skin. Washing beyond recognition.


Flash Fiction by Stacy Trautwein Burns

Published in Spring 2017