SENNA XHIANG: How We Are All Related

Flash Fiction by Senna Xiang

                                                  Belly Button

Alice is my mother’s second husband’s daughter. My mom joked that I should draw out a family tree just to see how we were all related, but I thought that if I put pen to paper, that it would make it real. I didn’t like Alice. She wore a white crop top with lacings up the front that ruched her waist, and blue jeans that covered her belly button. I was relieved at that. I hated belly buttons because they looked like a Cyclops eye, gaping and begging to be put out of their misery.

The day after my mom remarried herself to Brian, she asked me to show Alice around school the following Monday. I thought that that would have been the worst thing to ever happen to me since the summer of seventh grade, but my mom said I was being dramatic. Alice and I had reached a mutual agreement that we hated each other. I hated her because on the first day of senior year, she wore a tiny tank top that barely covered the undersides of her breasts and paired it with low rise jeans with rhinestones that bedazzled her ass. I thought it must have hurt to sit down. I felt disgusted by the scant curves of her waist, the rudimentary hole in her stomach.

Alice hated me because Brian liked to joke that I was the well-behaved princess he’d never had. People said she had daddy issues, but I thought that she was just a bitch. 

The day before the Homecoming football game, she cornered me in the girls’ locker room. She had already changed into her cheerleading uniform, the pleats of her skirt spiraling out like snakes. She came at me fast, her face twisted into a snarl. She yanked the straps of my swimsuit down my body, ripping it out from underneath my feet. I asked her what the fuck was she doing but she told me to shut up. Alice spiked her acrylic nails into the grooves of my belly button, then pinched my nipples and yanked them outwards. She taunted me, saying that she thought I liked girls and besides, she had seen the stepsister porn on my computer. I tried pleading with her by saying that this was real and we were actually sisters and she bit back with the cliché “You’ll never be my sister.” She yelled the word ready and I didn’t know what she meant by it until I saw the backend of a phone being shoved in my face. I closed my eyes and imagined what people would say about me. Nothing good, I bet. I felt my blood leaking down my torso and I felt very, very sick. 

No one could find Alice during the football game even though she was supposed to be the tip of the cheerleaders’ pyramid. They substituted in Brianna, even though she was a freshman and barely knew her somersault from her back handspring. The pyramid worked fine, except that Brianna wasn’t wearing safety shorts and when she needled her leg in the air, everyone saw the pattern of cherries on her underwear that contracted like a fist. They had someone new to call a slut now. 

They found Alice ten minutes after the football game was over. No autopsy necessary. Seven stab wounds in her belly button, one for every minute she had debased me on her fingers the day before Homecoming. 

The therapist asks how I feel. My mother and Brian are watching me. I clutch my stomach. I say, it feels empty all the time. It’s like I can feel what they did to Alice. What Alice did to me, I correct in my head. 

                                                  Whistling Jenny

Truthfully, we did see Jenny just an hour ago. We saw her with Sam on the orange couch stained with semen, rubbing him underneath a blanket. Jenny liked to whistle when she was high because she said she felt like a bird. We strained to hear her bird-noises over the slur of the room. We only knew she was whistling when we saw her puckered lips by Sam’s ear. Vivi said that her eyes sparkled like rusty quarters, that her mouth slotted against his like coins in an arcade machine: she noticed Sam spitting out Jenny’s tongue after he had lacerated it with his teeth. We saw her face, blank as a bomb, blood carriaged in the corners of her mouth. Vivi said that Jenny’s hand stopped moving under the blanket, a sudden stillness that marked the room like an omen. We saw Jenny stand up, adjust her dress so it covered her thighs again, and walk out of the living room, all while Sam was still drunkenly moving his hips, hands shimmering with alcohol. 

Sam drove here in his mother’s blue Lexus, passengers crammed into the backseat like flies in honey even though he did not have his license yet. We ducked beneath the windows when we saw police cars, giggling because we knew that they could not X-ray Sam’s car, could not diagnose us with the surest, sweetest sickness of youth. 

Before the party was over though, we found Jenny in a bathroom with the shower turned on high. She shaped the steam with her fingers, drawing hearts and dicks on the mirror until the haziness wore off again. We asked what was wrong, but she could not tell us. We asked her to spell it out on the mirror, turning the shower handle until the water burned our fingers. We waited as she wrote out that Sam was in love with someone else, then marked the mirror with a garnet kiss. Who, we demanded to know. We’ll sneak worms into her water bottle, snakes into her shoes, bees into her bra. We’ll immolate her for you, Jenny, just tell us who she is. The condensation on the mirror dried until her words were permanently stained into the glass. 

Jenny shook her head, said she had a better plan for Sam. We leaned in girlishly, anticipating a wicked plan where the pretty girl got revenge on the cheating douche. I can’t tell you though, she said. I can’t get you in trouble. We were disappointed. Vivi said that she didn’t mind getting in trouble, not really. We nodded in assent. Okay, Jenny relented. I’ll tell you one part of the plan. Once we heard that it involved his mother’s blue Lexus, we were delighted. We hated her bitchy-blonde-buck-tooth-face, and we would have gladly done anything to destroy some part of her. We began thinking about all the ways we would deface her car and deface Sam. 

I’m not staying though, she said. I have to hightail it out of here after it’s done. 

We looked behind her at the mirror again, which was starting to reflect the malice in her face even though she was facing us. We watched the mirror warp itself into ruin. We exchanged glances with each other. The lights were beginning to make Jenny look sallow, her dress sticking to her in all the wrong places, sweat blacking out her armpits. We didn’t think she was serious. If she left, there would be nothing left for us in this town. 

Whistle for us, Jenny darling. Whistle for us like you’re coming home and you’re going to stay this time. Jenny said that she couldn’t promise that and mean it, but she could do something else. Close your eyes, she said. She puckered up her lips like she was about to whistle, then kissed us each twice. We opened our eyes and she was gone, like we were never really home for her. 

We hear whistling in the sirens. We pretend like it’s her. The girl we thought we knew one hour ago. 

Senna Xiang is a teen writer. Her work is published or forthcoming in Superfroot Mag, Sledgehammer Lit, GASHER Journal, and other lovely places.

Flash Boulevard is edited by Francine Witte. Banner photograph Wes Candela.

Published by poetrybay

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