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May 31st, 2015

This story is posted live as part of the LitBulb Festival, an international short fiction festival.  Please enjoy, and check out the other great stories on the festival programme: http://litbulbfestival.com/2015-festival-programme/

Scrying Through Crystal
By Alicia Cole

My sister poured me a glass of Shiraz.  It caught the light, red liquid faceted through the crystal of the glass.

"How come you don't call me?"

Her voice, plaintive, rose like a reed through brackish water.

I turned to catch her downcast glance, shoulders slumped over one of the damask-covered chairs that lined the breakfast nook.
My ring finger tapped the crystal rim, eliciting a crisp ping.

"We've been busy."

Taking my ring off, I dropped it into the glass.  It sank, ruby bubbles surrounding it.

***

My sister's hula hoop saunters through the hot air.  As it spins around her waist, the plastic sparkles. 

The air breathes out.

Our mother cries sharply as the car veers, the O's of its tires screeching.  My sister’s hula hoop scrapes the ground.

***

“You could still call,” she replied petulantly, swinging her body into a chair.

“You learn to work with the robotic parts,” she’d once said, standing in my doorway, her hair wavy under a patchwork hat.

Catching me glancing at her leg, she laughed and tapped the metal rhythmically against the chair.  "Some men are into the prosthetic."

Fishing my ring out of the glass, I hitched a laugh.

She survived three surgeries before the age of nine.  I can’t handle one impending divorce.

***

“Does he still make you laugh?”

Her voice is now calm.

She has pulled the confession from me as neatly as pulling a wing off a dead damsel fly.  I pour our second glass of wine.

“Sometimes, but it’s a disturbing sort of laughter, the kind that makes him uncomfortable.  The kind of laughter you force out when you want to cry instead.”

It is wormier than my strong ten-year old laughter, shielding my sister from taunts.  This laughter has holes in it.

“Is he cheating on you?”

I take a drink.

“Not that I know of, but he’s distant.”

***

After the first surgery, my sister lays on the sofa, tracing the air with a finger.  She makes limnus patterns, saying little.

Our mother brings her green jello in a flowered bowl. 

She is much cleaner than I.  She drops none of it. 

***
I slept on the sofa, my head heavy with red wine.

Subsequent nights, men arrived, quietly.  Sometimes, I would hear them laughing from my sister’s bedroom.

I traced my own hands across my knees, wondering if losing flesh helped to loosen the body from its vice-like grip on the heart.

My sister would certainly slap me if I spoke these words out loud.

When I decided to return home, after he texted to tell me his things were packed and he was leaving the dog, my body moved automaton.

My sister ambled down the street after, laughing to cheer me, the wings of her body aimed at the sun, metal glinting like a sparrow, flechette clenched in its beak.

THE END