by the way she’d twirl in that new dress with the colors of a lost sunset across the shimmering corn fields.
We knew she’d become a stranger by the way she’d look right at the camera, never smiling, but her eyes danced on the molten flash, a secret slowly revealed.
We knew she’d become a stranger by the way she’d talk to us in full sentences from the age of five, expecting us to use proper grammar, and shimmy out of the dead skin of our shared cultural speech she said were riddled with cliches. Starting, she said, with I love you.
We knew she’d become a stranger by the way her skin used to gleam like a fish jumping out of the water sunlight dappling her fluorescent scales, each one a glimmer. Someone aching to catch her and frame her across their cabin wall.
We knew she’d become a stranger by the way she practiced different expressions in the mirror. Ten of her at once in every tilt of her chin, the glossy flash of her lips, how she was there and gone, a stone skipping across a lake, sinking and yet never ceasing to hover just above the water.
We knew she’d become a stranger by the way her beauty already eclipsed our dreams, that the camera whispered; it peached her skin to the brink of decay, our implores of degrees held her too tight; she was a held breath next to a brittle candle flame.
By the way, we knew nothing, about the stranger she would become. A life caught strangling in the glimmer of a camera flash is a caught flame hovering.
After “The Prodigal Daughter” by Emma Bolden
Tommy Dean lives in Indiana with his wife and two children. He is the author of a flash fiction chapbook entitled Special Like the People on TV from Redbird Chapbooks. He is the Editor at Fractured Lit. He has been previously published in the BULL Magazine, The MacGuffin, The Lascaux Review, New World Writing, Pithead Chapel, and New Flash Fiction Review. His story “You’ve Stopped” was chosen by Dan Chaon to be included in Best Microfiction 2019. It will also be included in Best Small Fiction 2019. Find him @TommyDeanWriter on Twitter.