Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Robert Kostuck
Parents arrive to pick up their kids from Symphonic Strings rehearsals, and we're loitering outside the classroom at Osceola High School. Julie has her two littlest girls with her. Caitlyn, the blond one, is leaping up and down the hallway in pink tights and pink scuffed ballet slippers. She spins and spins, as if spinning were the most important thing in this life. The other girl has little wings, and she's twisting on her mom's hip, trying to glide down from a loose embrace, wanting to run with her sister. Julie brushes her hand over what's left of Lucila's black hair, smoothes it down the girl's back.
Lucila's left eye is covered with a blanket of soft, white gauze. Her right eye lacks perspective and darts wildly, trying to follow the movement of her high-voltage sister. The scar tissue begins at her collarbone and ends near the back of her head. The skin of her scalp and face is taut and thin, shiny and translucent; and her lips don't really look like lips anymore. She stares at me staring at her and blurts out, "Hello. Hello. Hi. Hi."
She squeezes my fingers and we shake hands.
Caitlyn rushes by, twirling. Lucila squirms and whispers, "Mom. Mom."
Julie touches noses with Lucila. "Not now. No running now. Your eyelids have to heal first, OK?"
I touch Julie's arm. "How old are your daughters?"
"They're both five years old."
"That's a lot of work," I reply cautiously.
"Lucila's from Columbia, we adopted her." Caitlyn stops spinning and listens. "Well, it's not official yet—but I dare anyone to take her away from me. She's my daughter. She's been with us now for eight months. She was burned when she was one week old. The skin grafts on her left eyelid had fused together before we got her, so these eyelids are new."
I stare at the girl's right eye. "Her eyelids? Both her eyelids?"
"Top eyelid and bottom eyelid. And some of the hair on her head was used to make new eyebrows."
Lucila looks at me and directs my gaze to her legs. She touches her finger to a constellation of red scabs. "Bug bite."
"She scratches herself," explains Julie. "It's a nervous habit from being left alone in the orphanage in Cartagena for so many years."
"Self-stimulation." I've worked with autistic children in a special education preschool. I'm staring at Julie's eyelids.
"She's getting better. She doesn't scratch as much as she used to."
"I'm impressed. You're a strong woman."
"The best things in life take the most work," she says simply.
Lucila's wings flutter like eyelashes, echoing her sister's dance of life. The two girls spin around their mother—moths around a candle, moons around a planet, planets around a star.
Robert Kostuck lives in Clearwater, FL.
Contact him at email@example.com.
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