by Anastasia Stelse
At her mother’s funeral, Vivi forces sad smiles and thanks the guests for coming to pay their respects. Their faces indistinguishable to her. Their bodies flounced in the same black drapery, the same rigid black suits.
She’s not thinking of the dead in the room.
Vivi leaves the visitation early, leaves her half-sisters who can distinguish Mrs. Snider from Ms. Strode, swipes a lilac bouquet on her way. The train tracks are near. She almost swears she hears Jane’s laugh again.
On those endless summer nights, Jane and Vivi walked these tracks to survive. They stayed out later than their classmates, watched the groups pair off and walk home from the Creamery. Hand in hand with Vivi, Jane laughed at those who would stay in Kiwana, those who would follow their parents’ slow, hay-filled lives. Jane had already planned their escape, told Vivi stories about their city lives. No mother, no father. Each other only, only each other.
If Vivi had known. She should have known. Should have seen.
On the tracks now, Vivi watches the headlight doubling. She kicks a stone towards town where in place of the Creamery sits a Pick’n’Save. The trackside flowers are gone. She, the only one who visits. Vivi scatters her bundle of lilacs, tosses some in the air. Twirling in flower rain, her greying hair tickles her throat. “I’ve never felt so alive, Jane” Vivi murmurs, then shouts. “I’ve never felt so alive.”
The fireflies at their height were blinking SOS around the sisters. Hair blazing under the moon, Jane planted herself over the center tracks, arms reaching towards endless sky, face heavenward. They’d done it so many times, stared down the train until the roaring in their ears burst and adrenalin forced them to ditch dive. That time, Jane laughed. I’ve never felt so alive. A whisper lost under the blare of the approaching train.
Anastasia Stelse is a native of southeastern Wisconsin, the former assistant editor for The Intentional, and a graduate from the MFA program at American University. She is currently pursuing her PhD in creative writing at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for Writers. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Fairy Tale Review, New South, Sou’wester, Hawai’i Pacific Review, and TAB: The Journal of Poetry & Poetics, among others.