SD Short Story Contest Finalist: Las Luchadoras – Riley Mayes

Las Luchadoras 5

The last summer they were together, it was war time. Not in the battles that were fought overseas but in their chests and hearts and the bitterness of their mouths as they ate meals together in a taut line of silence. It was the intensity of bloodshed, and how they let themselves bleed. Sangre poured onto the dishes that went unwashed, the floor that went unswept, and the mirrors smudged with fingertips, until angry hands took it upon themselves to clean the messes they had made. But the blood still wept.

They were two strokes of fire in an unlit well. Flames rushing up either side and flickering towards the top, but never reaching open air; held tight to their little home of photographs all shuffled out of view and turned down on the cabinet tops. That girl, she wanted to hurl herself from the dark pitch of that well. Her anger was enough to seize the countryside and burn it to the ground. Trees, flowers, creatures, all she loved, down to the silt of the earth. Her anger was an unrelenting red that puckered and whined under the heat of her belly. She begged it, coaxed it, pleaded with it as her mother commanded, again and again: controla tu temperatura. With every pulse of her heart, she tried. You could see it in the half moons on her palm, where the nail bit. You could see it in the knuckles of her fists, that shone dark speckled bruises in the lamplight. But it was not a part of her she could maintain; it overcame and controlled her. Everything she was. The soft gentle aching was washed away with a steel wool sponge, little cuts and tears on her heart where the wound would never heal.

The two of them fought with silence, they fought with words. They fought like sisters. Dark like blood and wine, biting like salt and soil. Their voices were like the chapped underside of the lemon peels that curled beside the sink, sourness that burned white with age.

Even the house had turned against them. It came first in the broken bits. Door knobs falling from the handles, hitting the wood floor in the night like a porter tolling his midnight bell. Under the pressure of their wordlessness, the dishes cracked; and with their apologies, they broke. Crawling into the grout lines of their kitchen tiles and working their way in tidy westward lines, sugar ants invaded. The house groaned in the heat and the roof sagged with leaves that clustered there; the walls grew smaller all the time. Before them and between them, chair legs and arms seemed to shove every which way.

Just when it seemed like it could go no further, the summer broke its fever and breezes began to mourn in the windows at night. Quietly, their tempers dampened. Not extinguished, but not quite burning, either. The frosts were coming and soon mother and daughter would be leaving each other. Knowing this, their hands became soft on their plates. Their voices gingerly picked their way around the scattered pieces between them.

On the first day of September, when the daughter went to turn her key in the door for the last time, something caught her eye. It was in the crack in the front stairs, where the rain always fell through and warped the wood just so; no thicker than a horse hair, no taller than a blade of grass. Sweet and hopeful, shivering gently in the breeze. A tiny white flower, curled softly in the steps.

Having grown up in a family of librarians and book-lovers, I have always been a highly motivated writer. Whether this meant poetry, short stories, or critical essays, the written word has been my constant companion for as long as I can remember. I have received several awards for my writing, including first place in Maine’s statewide Merriconeag Poetry Festival, a Scholastic Gold Key, and second place in the 2017 Writing For Peace Competition sponsored by DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts. Currently, I reside in Massachusetts as a student and research assistant, where I read, write, and create art as often as possible.

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