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Happy to Give


Corley Longmire

            There are things about home Mika hoped to forget. The rust-riddled water towers and empty silos, land that never seems to end. How flat everything is. How much slower. How people don’t ask for your name but who you belong to. Mika felt so seen in Texas—it’s partly why this is only her second trip back in seven years.

            “There’s no way to say something like this gently,” her sister Beck told her over the phone the other day, “but Daddy’s gone.”

            Mika needed no clarification. At some point, when she’d run out of things to ask—the whats and whens and hows—she said, “It’s weird, losing two fathers in ten years.”

            “Don’t act like you knew that guy. Daddy raised you.”

            Once the call ended, Mika drank coffee. Then whiskey. Cleaned the bedroom. The bathroom. The living room. Drank more coffee. More whiskey. Threw up. Wanted to make curry but fixed soup instead. Ate one spoonful and hauled it to the neighbor upstairs. Tossed clothes onto the bed, stomped on the dress she tried wrangling off its hanger—and why a dress? Beck said they’d already had the funeral.

            After that, it was simply a matter of going through with leaving.

            Now she’s on one of those boring stretches of the I-10, surrounded by bottle-blue sky and billboards advertising attorneys and casinos. The $300 she scrounged up has gone toward fuel and food and last night’s motel. Mika doesn’t have much money to spare: the Lebanese restaurant recently cut her hours, and nothing’s come of the sous-chef positions she’s applied for—she’s either too young or inexperienced or female.

            If there’s one good thing about this trip, it’s that it’ll end soon.

            Mika cracks open an orange Shasta just as John Fogerty’s voice breaks through the radio static. All this time between her and home, and there’s still that urge to sing along—There’s a calm before the storm, I know it’s been comin’ for some time. The volume nob snapped off long before she bought the second-hand car, so she switches stations. Twirls the chain around her neck, taps the gold coin hanging from it.

            There are things about home Mika hoped to forget. There are things about home it’s hopeless to forget. The smell of herbs and spices—epazote, fennel seed, dill—soaked into wooden spoons. The almond flavor of pound cake batter she and Beck licked from mixing bowls. Sitting on her father’s lap as he let her drive the Bronco. His laughter. Her old name. Try as she might to erase who she used to be, she’s never fully managed to leave that girl behind.


            Before she called herself Mika, she was a kid who found magic endlessly fascinating. Parlor tricks, sleight of hand. It was all the same to her: something unexplainable, a special knowledge her father alone seemed savvy to. Maybe because, unlike her friends’ fathers, hers was so much older. He’d lived longer, knew more. Like the magic. He was helping her and Beck pick blackberries but stopped when she demanded he do the coin trick. Sunlight blinded her as it glinted off the coin, and then the coin was gone, lost between his fingers. No matter how closely she watched, she could never place the moment when one became two. “How?”

            Daddy grinned, mustache starch white above his tobacco-stained teeth. “Practice,” he said and rolled a coin across his fingers. A blink, and it was on the tip of his thumb. “The trick, the real trick? It’s making people see what you want them to. There’s nothing special about these dollars. Now you—” he told her “—you’ve got something special.”

            “Don’t start,” Beck called from her bush. “She’ll want to head to Vegas and join the weirdo magicians.”

            “Nothing wrong with that. You can be a Houdini like your daddy.”

            It wasn’t long before he plopped his hat onto her head and left for his weekly poker game. Much as she’d miss him, it gave her a chance to bring up Mama. Beck didn’t mind her questions, though they meant talking about a woman who wasn’t her mother, but Daddy never answered when she asked about her mom’s favorite foods or if she’d also been afraid of moths.

            “Her leaving was hard on him,” Beck said now, words muffled by the bandana she wiped across her face. People who didn’t know their family often mistook the two of them for mother and daughter because of the nineteen-year age difference. The girl didn’t mind. “He threw out anything she didn’t take with her.”

            “Where’d she go?”

            “She talked about California a lot.”

            “Why California?”

            “Why does anyone go to California?”


            Beck flicked a berry at her, mouth shifting in that way it did when she tried not to laugh. “If you still want to make cobbler, pick while you talk.”

            She ate the berry then licked the juice from her fingers—blood too, she kept nicking herself on thorns. Didn’t seem like Beck had trouble plucking berries, not even with the gnats nuzzling her ears. Even covered in sweat and sunblock and with dirt smearing her nose, Beck had a sort of tired, lovely beauty. Sloe-eyed, Daddy called her, like her mama. Their father didn’t readily talk about either of his wives.


            It’s only once she’s at the house that the distance from here to Miami sets in, her past and present selves separated by not even fifteen hundred miles. She hasn’t seen home since three Christmases ago when she came at her father’s request. Refusal wasn’t an option this time.

            The flowers are in riot: columbine and pansies with their scrunched faces, impatiens, morning glories. While Mika lived here, she never knew the flowerbed to sport anything but dandelions. Someone finally hauled away the Bronco that stopped running when she was a teenager. They’ve repainted the house, sage green instead of salmon.

            Mika tries not to resent things for being different.

            An oversized Mastiff lumbers into view, drool trailing behind him as he lopes toward her. She doesn’t cringe away—dirt and slobber and my God that thing is a horse—but lets him sniff her wrist. He bowls into her until she’s forced to the ground beneath his weight.

            “Pitiful guard dog,” Beck says.

            Mika’s sister leans against the porch railing, watching Mika and the dog from beneath the brim of their father’s straw hat. Paisley bandana around her neck and watering can in hand: tending to the garden, if she’s kept it up.

            “He this nice to strangers?” Mika asks.

            “You’re not exactly a stranger. Still Mika?”

            “Legally now.”

            Beck squints beneath the hat brim, as if she’s staring at the sun or an explosion. “You shaved most of your hair.”

            “You stopped dying yours,” Mika says, pointing at the graying ponytail hanging over Beck’s shoulder. She was blonde when Mika last saw her; to impress her boyfriend, Mika thought at the time. “Where’s Hawk?”

            “Byrd,” Beck corrects. “He’s not here. Hasn’t been in a while.”

            “You didn’t say anything on the phone.”

            “Why would I?”

            “Seems important.”

            Beck plunks the watering can down. “I was starting to wonder if you’d show up. You need help unloading?”

            Mika hasn’t brought much: a duffle for clothes and toiletries, her backpack, extra shoes on the floorboard. Everything she values—the stand mixer and German knife set, her Yves Klein prints, her favorite mug (a leprous green thing she took when she first moved)—is in Florida. “No, I can get it.”

            Beck stands there with open palms, like she might offer a blessing, but she only pats her leg until the dog trots to her. Neither waits for Mika before heading in through the screen door.

            Mika knows exactly how hard to yank the door to open it. Some things remain the same.


            There was no faltering once she made up her mind to leave. More importantly, she planned. She got her GED—couldn’t face her classmates and teachers, too afraid they somehow knew the truth about her family—and held two jobs from the time she was sixteen, stocking groceries and waiting tables at a restaurant in town. What money that didn’t go toward a car went into a lapsang tea can.

            There was a thrill in it: of leaving those too quiet nights and a place where everyone knew her. Terror too, and a barbed thing like grief she kept shoved down deep—behind her appendix or near a kidney. Something sublime crested over her that first evening at Haulover 

            Beach when a storm rolled in over the water, wind whipping sand that didn’t come from a desert into her face. Kids her age were setting off for islands peppering the Caribbean to celebrate graduation. She signed a lease and moved into a duplex not even half the size of her old house.

            The day she unpacked was spent picturing the objects she’d fill the apartment with. A mattress to replace her sleeping bag. A coffee maker so she wouldn’t have to heat instant on the stovetop. Potted herbs lining the window over the black-stained sink. A new life, and with that a new name, the first of many she would wear and outgrow, none quite fitting correctly. None like the one her father gave her.

            She opened the sun-rotted blinds and looked onto a street choked with trash and graffiti and saw that it was good.


            Memories rise when Mika spots the gingham kitchen curtains, the tabletop marred with water stains and the occasional burn mark. She touches the nesting hen cookie jar and remembers their dad sneaking her vanilla wafers. Beck must have cleaned because the house smells of Pine-Sol and nothing like the cherry snuff and grease her dad carried with him after shifts at the garage. No radio playing from the den: only the walls creaking and air circulating through empty rooms.

            Mika sits her backpack in the chair Beck’s hung her hat on. She goes to grab glasses but stops short of opening the cabinet. They used to keep cups here. Finding the Coca-Cola glasses their dad favored settles her anxiety: she fills two with ice and then ginger ale from the fridge.

            “Bring the Blue Plate,” Beck says as she digs for a butter knife, holding bread and a tomato in the other hand.

            “You’re eating that crap again.”

            “You never taught me to make the food you like. There’s turkey and Swiss, if that’s not too basic.”

            Mika passes Beck the mayonnaise before sliding to the floor with her drink. She blows kisses at the dog until he settles by her, massive jaws shiny with spit. A wince—she forgot to wash her hands before getting ice—then she turns off her chef’s brain. “What’s your boy’s name?”

            “Big Dog. Daddy named him,” Beck says while layering tomatoes onto bread, casting a fond look at Big Dog when his tail starts thump thump thumping.

            It takes Beck a moment to ease down across from Mika, hip cracking so loudly Mika can feel it in her own body. New creases bracket her sister’s mouth and red-veined eyes. Forty-four is not old but Beck looks it. Mika wonders how much of that is new grief and how much life: losing her mother to cancer as a kid, dropping out of nursing school to help raise Mika, putting herself on hold for years but eventually finding something with this one guy, only for it to not last.

            Big Dog looks at Beck with begging eyes. She tears the sandwich into pieces and feeds most to him. “We cremated Daddy,” she says. “Like he wanted. Like my mom.”

            Heart attack, she’d explained over the phone. Went in his sleep. Mika hopes it was peaceful but knows the person she was nine years ago, two years ago, may not have.

            “We didn’t do much, just close friends and family,” Beck explains.

            “He always wanted a big service.” He’d already seen one wife dead; Mika could never understand his insistence on music, a slideshow, some real human emotion, dammit. “I can’t believe he changed his mind.”

            Beck smiles, and she looks nothing like Mika. It was always there, something Mika could have guessed at long before she found out they weren’t biologically related. “Well, you know. People change.”


            By the time she heard her sister drive up, stars were blinking alongside the radio tower’s insistent glow. She knew this because for however long she’d sat on the couch, the answering machine on her thighs, she’d stared at that tower until it went in and out of focus. Daylight slipping into night never registered; it was still sunny when the school bus dropped her off and she set hamburger meat out to thaw. When she checked the answering machine and found the voicemail. She’d lost count of how many times she had replayed it, one emotion slipping into the next before she could describe any of them. Now, she just felt tired of waiting and chewing over her worries.

            Beck came into the den, already out of her scrub jacket. Must be close to seven o’clock; Beck didn’t leave the nursing home until six, and she’d had to pick their dad up at the garage. “Why’re you sitting in the dark?”

            Even with her sister half in shadow, she’d know Beck anywhere, anywhen. The thought made her ache.

            From behind Beck, their father flipped the light switch on and grinned when he spotted her. Corners of his mouth lifting, eyes creasing, then suddenly not as he looked, really looked, at her. “Baby girl, you okay?”

            She squeezed the answering machine until the plastic popped. Something hot sat in the center of her chest, a flame waiting to spark and only needing fuel, made worse by how shallow her breathing was. Air caught in her throat as she tried to inhale—her lungs weren’t working right. But maybe they’d listen to the message and laugh it and her fears off, force the world back into its normal shape. Maybe she could breathe again after this. She hit play.

            The recognition on their faces set her chest ablaze.

            She’d stopped missing the idea of her mother, that woman she’d cobbled together from too-few stories and a name, but even now, hearing her voice was surreal. “Looks like I missed you again, Henry,” her mom said, cartoon-character chirpy. “I tried last week and couldn’t get you or Rebecca. Anyway. ———-’s father died. They’re saying hunting accident, but knowing the crowd he ran with, I doubt it.” What sounded like a child shrieked in the background, followed by the woman making shushing sounds. “There’s nothing for you to worry about,” she went on, “just figured I should let you know. In case you want to tell her.”

            The phone clicked. No goodbye.

            Words came to her slowly. “Is she telling the truth?”

            “Sweetheart,” Daddy started to say and stopped.

            “We didn’t find out about any of it until after she’d gone,” Beck said when the silence grew thick between them: Beck and Daddy on one side, a girl holding a stranger’s words on the other. Beck shot a glance at their father, her jaw tight, eyes tighter, but he never even looked at her. “You were five months old before we knew.”

            Only her dad flinched when she threw the answering machine. Buttons and bits of plastic snapped off as it crashed against the wall; one piece shot beneath the recliner, another burying itself between the floorboards. People in movies were always hyperventilating or passing out due to shock—she wished for something to pull her from consciousness, something that would force her out of this moment. This day. This life. That she felt so rooted in her body seemed unfair. “And you figured you’d just not tell me? That you’re not . . .”

            A strangled sound, the first her father had made in some time. Arms close at his sides, hands closed. Even across the room she knew his knuckles were probably aching, fingers curled into his palms as he scratched them, the same way he did when puzzling over a problem with a busted car. Trying to figure out how to make things better. “It was never important to me,” he said. Soft. So soft. “To either of us.”

            “It’s important to me!”

Daddy—could she call him that?—stepped closer to her. His white hair and mustache, the sweet scent of his snuff, the dip in one shoulder from a bad rotator cuff, all these were familiar, yet she saw a man she didn’t recognize. The knowledge that she might no longer know him sliced through her. Daddy, not her daddy. Beck, her half-sister, not even that.

“I know you’re upset,” he said, something near desperation oozing into his voice, hand extended. “But sweetheart—”

            She stepped back. A single step away from him, but it was enough. His eyes shuttered, darkness settling over the blue: that was all she saw before she shoved past him. She’d cry or let him soothe away the pain if he got close, if she looked at his face. She could wear her rage like armor but only so long as he did not touch her.

“I don’t want to be around you tonight,” she said, ignoring how both he and Beck shifted forward as she made for the front door. They didn’t follow, though, and remained on their side of the room. A division: when us because them and me.


            Beck says she spoke to Mika’s mother, and all Mika can ask is: “Before or after me?”

            “Does it matter?”

            It shouldn’t.

            “I thought about calling you—”

            “What’d she say?”

            Beck tosses her hands up, a helpless gesture from Mika’s adolescence. “That she was sorry. Not much else, you know her.”

“I really don’t.”

            Lips pressed so thin they’re bloodless, Beck rubs her neck in the same place she kept tension once she went back to LPN school. Mika can almost see their dad massaging her shoulders, all take a step back, honey, you’ve got this. Did she have anyone to hold her up at the funeral? Had Mika been there, people would have stared at her shaved head and gossiped politely: the prodigal daughter and all that crap.

            “She did ask about the will. They were technically still married, but he didn’t leave her anything.” Beck scratches Big Dog’s neck, her face tilted downward. “The house and land, the money. Everything goes to us.”

            “When did he have the will made?”

            “Not long after your last visit.”

                        Mika imagines Beck from three years ago—honey-colored hair, not quite so bony. How she laughed when Byrd, unknown to Mika but not unlikeable, wore a sweater that looked like a snow globe had exploded Christmas all over it. Mika sat on the arm of their dad’s recliner watching Byrd and Beck, the alliteration of their names making her want to gag but unable to deny they looked good together. By then, the anger she’d felt toward her family had mellowed enough that she hadn’t immediately shut down the idea of returning. Her father was so surprised she’d agreed to come that he’d accidentally hung up on her.

            “So,” he said from his chair. “Will you ever bring a boyfriend to meet me? Girlfriend?”


            He’d smiled like he knew she was lying and loved her for it. She’d been gone for four years and until that night hadn’t realized what changes could take place in such a short period of time: how his speech came more slowly, the missing teeth, a body gone soft with fat. Frail was never a word she’d associated with him. “Well, you have me forever,” he promised.

            The last time they spoke, when he called on her birthday five months ago, he’d tried giving her money—money Mika honestly thought she could do without—and she told him thanks but no, she didn’t need anything. She was fine.

            Mika can’t wrap her mind around it: her dad, gone. No longer there to get in the way of her making fudge or fawn over yet another work shirt with his name stitched into it or switch from singing carols to Creedence Clearwater Revival, and damn him. Damn him for dying.

            She stands so quickly Big Dog startles. “I’m going for a drive.”

            Beck doesn’t chase after her; she stopped long ago. “We’re doing this already?”

            “I don’t get why you wanted me here,” Mika says, hating how shrill her voice sounds. “You had the funeral, you called my mother and told her before you told me, you’ve got everything under control. You don’t need me.”

            “Bullshit.” Big Dog whines as Beck struggles to her feet, glancing between his master and Mika. Beck’s dog, Daddy’s dog—yet another thing Mika has no right to. This time, it’s her own doing. “I’ve always needed and wanted you, but that’s never been enough for you. I’m not saying you’re the problem—”

            “That’s exactly what you’re saying!”

            “We arethe problem. And I want to be better. I want that, and you do too, otherwise why are you here?”

            Mika covers her face, pretending it’s from frustration and not because she’s hiding from Beck’s rubbed-raw honesty. “I can’t be here right now,” she says. “I’m sorry, but I can’t. Just give me a few hours.”

            Her sister makes no move to stop her. Mika isn’t sure whether she wants Beck to or not. “I’ve given you a lot,” Beck says. Quiet, factual, as if she knows it will hurt Mika more this way. But Mika can admit it may only be her projecting onto Beck, wanting her sister to act as ugly as she feels. “So did Daddy. A little more won’t kill me.”


            She couldn’t say when her interest in food started—watching early morning PBS programs or helping Beck make birthday cakes—but cooking became a hobby once the school reintroduced home ec during junior high. “I wanna make curry,” she told Beck one afternoon. When that got no response, Beck too focused on her BLS manual, she threw a pen at her. “Curry,” she repeated while Beck used the pen to mark her place. “This guy brought some to class today.”

            “What is it?”

            “Sort of like stew but better.”

            The next evening, after Beck picked up the ingredients on the list she’d given her, their father stared at the food in front of him as if confounded. “I thought we were having sloppy joes.”

            “Our budding chef wanted to try something new,” Beck said.

            The curry didn’t turn out like her classmate’s, but Daddy went back for seconds and bragged about her all evening. Soon she started trying recipes from church cookbooks and ones found online, with varying degrees of success. One incident involved serving asparagus burnt because she’d overbaked it. Her dad ate his serving, charred bits and all, and called it good fiber.

            Only after Beck tired of buying vegetables did her sister suggest they plant a garden. Zucchini and squash, eggplants so purple they were black, tomatoes, carrots. It wasn’t long before she started fixing dinner those nights when Beck didn’t get off work early enough to.

            A few months later, over regular spaghetti because it was Beck’s turn to cook, Daddy claimed that any cooking school would be lucky to have his baby girl. He could never remember the names of the dishes she made—settled for “that Asian thing” or “the fancy casserole”—but ate everything she fixed. “You’re teaching this one a thing or two,” he said and pointed his fork at Beck. “Tastes like you actually seasoned this, Becky.”

            Without sparing him a glance, Beck swatted her fork into his and sent it flying.

He braced his hands on the table and crowed, that booming laugh that shook him through the shoulders and made you laugh along. “Look at you both. My girls.”


            Mika drives down unpaved roads, avoiding potholes the county will never fill, rocks spitting as she slams into curves. It’d be better if she could blare music, something with enough percussion to rattle her teeth. She settles for a reasonable volume because of that broken radio nob.

            Eventually, she winds toward town. Mika can’t say if she’s pleased or offended that it’s mostly unchanged. The Hitchin’ Post caught fire sometime since her last visit—nothing’s left of the restaurant but charred beams. Mika noses her car into the grocery store’s parking lot and thinks about how working here saved her when being home felt akin to drowning. Growing up, her dad brought her whenever he needed beer or Beck sent him for sugar. He always grabbed them orange Shastas.

            Mika longs for her apartment in a way that differs from how she’s spent the better part of a decade secretly longing for home. Miami doesn’t expect anything of her; there are no especially close friends, no significant other, no one who matters waiting for her to screw up. Only the memory of all the versions of herself she’s discarded: Octavia, Jewel, Kim, Alexis. It’s funny how similar Mika is to her birth name, but choosing this name for herself gave her power, meant she belonged to no one else. That’s what she’d thought.

            It’d be easy to tell Beck she isn’t interested in the will. Leave, for good this time.

            She really is her mother’s daughter.  

            Things were simpler when Mika could claim the distance she maintained with her family was because of the betrayal, of being lied to. They had their reasons; she accepts this and has mostly forgiven them for it. But not for the placelessness that followed, though they had no control over that, the sense that she could no longer say her eyes were blue or that she had a latex allergy. That while her hands moved surely between ingredients, they would never master those stupid magic tricks Daddy tried to teach her.

            Mika has good memories of her father. Of him riding her around on the lawnmower and helping her hunt Easter eggs, the way his eyes nearly disappeared when he grinned. She would rather remember him like that and not the way he looked the night she confronted him about the voicemail, how easily he stumbled when she pushed him aside. You were mine, he told her later once he’d found her in the Bronco. You are mine.

            It’s all she can hold onto. That, and the gold dollar she wears.


            She didn’t go immediately. After getting her GED, after counting and recounting her money, she went about work and chores like usual. Beck eventually stopped interrogating her whenever she went out. Their dad wasn’t a problem: no matter how often she’d threatened to leave in the last two years, he never thought she’d do it.

            Her opportunity came when Beck agreed to cover a friend’s night shift. Beck wouldn’t be home until early the next morning, their dad in Dallas for a car show. From the chair she’d piled into with a book—Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, she’d never finished it before dropping out of school—she watched Beck slide on her coat. It was the puffy one she’d given Beck years ago, the one her sister claimed to hate but wore anyways. “Be sure to lock the deadbolt.”

            I’m sorry if you don’t understand. I love you. Please don’t be angry. “Night.”

            No use bringing much with her, she didn’t want to haul stuff she could replace. She did take one of the mugs: a lumpy green thing Beck made in ceramics as a sophomore. The last of her bags in the car, she went through the house flicking lights off but lingered outside her dad’s room, the one he’d shared with Beck’s mother and then her own for the few years the other woman lived there. 

            She didn’t turn the lamp on as she rooted through his dresser and nightstand. From the closet, she pulled one of his work shirts and held it to her nose—Coty Musk and peppermints, and the lingering smell of motor oil. She considered taking the shirt but put it back.

            The photo was between the mattress and box-spring. Not the best hiding place; Beck changed the sheets. Warped from years of being secreted away, its shape molded to the bed’s. She’d never seen the woman in it but still knew her: dark hair, freckles, eyes forget-me-not pale and too large for her face. Some of the same features she saw in the mirror. Her mother looked caught off guard, mouth not quite smiling as she stared into the camera, hands holding her ankles and chin on one drawn-up knee. Of all the things her father could have kept of his runaway wife, it was this picture. This picture, and her.

            She left him the photo and took a gold dollar he used to perform magic tricks with, half of a pair housed in a velvet-lined box. One for her, one for Beck.

            Beck said her mom talked about California. About redwoods and sequoias, and the ocean. Florida had good oceans, too.


            Beck’s on the porch when Mika returns. Oddly enough, it feels like the peach-soft dusk highlights all these little things that made up Mika’s childhood: the crooked address numbers and steps supported by cinderblocks, crickets chirping in the high grass. Big Dog’s trying to catch a butterfly as it flits around the morning glories, their petals long since tucked away.

            “How many people do you plan to feed?” Beck asks, nodding toward the grocery bags Mika pulls from the car.

            “Just you, if you let me. I bought stuff to make curry. Forgot some of the vegetables though.”

            “Good thing we have a garden.”

            Rather than sit beside her, Mika puts the bags aside and plops onto her sister’s lap. Beck smacks her butt but doesn’t force her off, arm loose around Mika’s waist. Unsuccessful in his hunting, Big Dog flops at their feet and demands belly scratches.

            “I can tell you’re trying to apologize,” Beck says, “because I know you.”

            “You do. Better than anyone.”

            “But don’t. I hate apologies, just like I hate secrets.”

            “What if I promise to do better? To try and do better,” Mika says. “We can look at the will together, that’s a start. Neither of us is good at talking things out.”

            “You get that from me. Sorry,” Beck says, scrubbing at Big Dog’s stomach with a bare foot. She snorts. “Shit, I just apologized.”

            “I’ll let it slide this once.”

            Mika considers Beck’s silver-shot hair and how her wrinkles are not as noticeable at this angle. Learning they weren’t related by blood meant Mika stopped trying to spot similarities between them. Now she thinks about what they share. A dislike for milk. Their father’s taste in music and the passed-down knowledge of how to drive a stick shift. The ability to hold a grudge. Made of iron, Daddy used to say of Beck, with a gooey, candy center heart. Something she got from him. Something maybe Mika can say about herself one day.

            “Your head feels like a Brillo pad,” Beck says and kisses Mika’s shaved scalp.

            Mika buries a watery laugh in her sister’s shoulder and holds on.

Corley Longmire spent her childhood fending off mosquitoes and sipping honeysuckle. She holds an MA from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi and is an associate project editor with University Press of Mississippi. Her fiction has appeared in journals including Little Patuxent ReviewPassengersThe Westchester ReviewBrink, and Barely South Review among others and is forthcoming in LandLocked. In her writing, she often explores themes of gender and societal expectations, surrealism, familial bonds, isolation, and the relation between identity and place. She can be found on Twitter @Corley_Longmire and online at

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