BRITTLE • by Elaine Mead

I watched her as much as she pretended not to watch me. My little sister. Wasn’t the youngest the baby? Wasn’t she supposed to be subject to our parents’ worries? Their touches of melancholy?

I remember when she would beg and beg for a day at the beach. I’d watch her from afar, running freely in the soft baby pink bikini I secretly coveted. All smooth tanned limbs and sandy, salty fun, turning cartwheels in the surf. Mother’s grip on my arm, father’s t-shirt over my own one-piece bathing suit, shorts down to my calves, and the stick stick stickiness of too much sunscreen.

There’d be arguments after. While I wheezed and groaned all the way home, the day too much for me. My parents would argue in a barely hushed refrain from the front seat as my sister glared out the window, headphones on, tinny music blaring, blocking us all out.

I used to think she had so much freedom. Later I realized her life wasn’t too dissimilar from my own, drawn between the points of what I could and could not do. She ran away at seventeen. Jumped in the backseat of some guy’s car with a backpack and a shout. Occasionally she sends a postcard. A vintage scene of sandy stretches lined with beach shacks, a simple I’m alive scrawled on the back, and no return address.

I still daydream about her and those hazy beach days. She taunts me with the litheness of her limbs, rippled with tan lines. Sometimes I like to imagine I am her, my body working as it should. I dive into sea-green foam and dig my fingers deep into hot sand like freshly baked bread.

The envious image of health.


Elaine Mead is a writer from London, currently residing in Hobart, Tasmania. Her flash fiction and short stories have been published with Reflex Press, National Flash Fiction Day, Writers HQ, The Suburban Review, Underground Writers, and others.


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