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After a mysterious dinner party, Lina begins to question her reality.

Lina’s silverware clanks noisily against her plate. She can feel her cheeks heating up, butsmiles awkwardly through the embarrassment. Lina knows she’ll be lying if she says she isn’t uncomfortable. Joseph, her husband, puts a comforting hand on her thigh from under the table,and squeezes lightly. “Wow, Marybeth,” he says, “dinner was fantastic.”

“Yes, fantastic,” Lina hums in agreement.


“Oh, thank you,” Marybeth replies graciously, “I’ve been trying to perfect the sauce since… well,” she laughs forcefully, “since my mother moved away.”


“It tastes just like Grandma’s,” Gerald, Marybeth’s teenage son, insists with a smile. But Lina immediately sees behind it – it’s the kiss-ass smile she used to give her mother when she was his age. And it never failed to work. Marybeth smiles adoringly at her son, like there is no one more perfect in the entire universe.


Parents always insist they don’t have a favorite child. They say it’s impossible to chose between their children, that they love them both (or all) equally. But just as Lina knows that her little brother Nico will always be their parent’s favourite child, Gerald knows he is his mother’s favourite. Marybeth has spent the entire night praising teenage Gerald’s successes – his ‘above average’ grades, his identity as a ‘soccer star,’ his perfect everything. She hasn’t spoken a word about her daughter – if Georgiana hadn’t been sitting at the table, Lina probably would have forgotten about Marybeth’s other daughter altogether.


“So how’s school Georgiana?” Lina asks the younger girl, when there is a break in the conversation.


The girl winces, but recovers quickly. “It’s just Gia now,” she says with a shrug, “and it’s all right, I guess.”


Lina almost laughs at the look Marybeth shoots her daughter as the nickname comes out of her mouth. “You’re in grade eight, right?” she asks, “have you decided on a high school yet?”


“Not yet,” Gia replies, “I’m thinking if either York Memo, or George Harvey.”


“I don’t know why you don’t just go to North Toronto like your brother,” Marybeth tells her. She’s being overly polite, so Lina can tell that this is a conversation they’ve had before.


Lina feels as uncomfortable as Gia looks annoyed. Lina quickly takes charge of the conversation. “Well,” she says, turning to Gia with a smile, “I hope you go wherever you’re happy.”


“Gerald got into every school he applied to,” Marybeth adds, proudly, “didn’t you Gerald?”


“Yeah,” Gerald replies, beaming, “but I picked North Toronto because–”


“May I be excused,” Gia interrupts, already pulling herself up and picking up her plate, “I have to finish some homework.”


“Georgiana,” Marybeth hisses, “we have guests.” She turns towards Lina and Joseph, her face tinged red in embarrassment, “I’m so sorry.”


“It’s no problem at all,” Joseph says.


“I’m sure you don’t wanna hang out with us old folks, anyways,” Lina adds, jokingly.


Gia laughs, but it’s awkward and forced. She smiles, and after putting her dishes in the sink heads upstairs. Marybeth looks like she’s about to explode, Lina notices right away, but she keeps it together for the sake of her guests. Or so Lina assumes. The night has been filled with silence and awkward conversation, and Lina wants nothing more than to make up some bullshit

excuse and get the hell out. But for the sake of politeness, Lina stays and helps with the dishes.


“I’m sorry again,” Marybeth apologizes, hands lathered in soap, “sometimes, I… sometimes I don’t know what’s going on with that girl.”


Lina can’t help but snort. She tries to disguise it as a cough, but the damage is done. Marybeth turns to her sharply. “What?”


“I don’t know,” Lina says, hands raised in surrender, “maybe it’s because you wouldn’t shut up about Gerald the whole night.”


Lina regrets the words as soon as they leave her mouth, but there’s no going back now. Marybeth sucks in a shallow breath. Then, “excuse me?”


“I’m sorry if I’m being too… forward,” Lina tries to backtrack, “it’s just my Mom was the same way with my brother and I. She just wants to be recognized.”


“This really isn’t any of your business,” Marybeth says with a careful, but condescending smile, “I shouldn’t have mentioned anything.”


Lina sighs, loudly. “You’re right, it’s not my place. I was just trying to–”


“You’re not a mother, not anymore or whatever happened,” Marybeth says, going straight for the punch, “so I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”


For a moment, it’s like someone has knocked all the air out of her lungs. She feels like she’s going to throw-up. Literally. Marybeth’s face crumples, as she realizes what she’s said. But just like Lina’s words before her, the damage is done. “At least I’m not a bitch like you,” Lina spits, and spins around.


But Marybeth has grabbed onto her arm. “She hasn’t been enlightened yet, Lina.”

Lina wrenches her arm away. “Don’t touch me,” she hisses, and storms out of the house making extra sure to slam the door as loudly as she possibly can. On the one hand, she feels like she’s being a petulant child, but at the same time, Marybeth is Satan and she deserves it.


Lina digs through her pockets for her keys, and unlocks the door. She’s about to slam her own door shut, when Joseph pushes through. “What the hell was that?” he demands.


Lina just shakes her head. “I’m never going back there. I don’t care about all this friendly neighbour bullshit. That woman–”


“Jesus, Lina,” Joseph cries, running his hands through his hair, “why do you have to be so difficult? This is the first time they’ve invited us over since…”


“Since Elodie,” Lina finishes for him through gritted teeth. She can feel the familiar lump in her throat, “she said I wasn’t a mother, Joseph.”


He opens his mouth, then closes it. Joseph shakes his head. “I really can’t do this right now, okay? I just… I can’t do this,” he’s speaking so quietly, it’s almost a whisper, “I think I’m going to sleep on the couch tonight.”


Lina snorts. “Fine,” she replies, dismissively, “whatever.”


She goes upstairs, and gets ready for bed. Marybeth’s words ring in her mind, repeating themselves on an endless loop. It’s like the devil-woman is right in front of her, screaming in her face. Lina just wants it to stop. She wants Joseph to be the kind of husband who will stand up for her and be there for her, not the type of man who gives up when things get too tough. But…

Joseph is still her husband, and she’ll always love him, no matter what. She hears her mother’s words now, don’t go to bed angry. Once she’s calmed herself down, she tiptoes down the stairs, preparing to apologize.


But Joseph is fast asleep. He looks too peaceful for her to disturb. Sighing dejectedly,


Lina heads upstairs and falls into a dreamless slumber.


Lina wakes up alone, the memory of the fight from the night before replaying in her mind. There’s humming in the kitchen, and she can smell the bacon searing in the pan downstairs. This is the first sign that something is seriously wrong. Joseph never cooks breakfast in the morning. He doesn’t hum either. Lina throws the covers back, and rushes downstairs.


Joseph isn’t there.


She swallows. “W-who are you?”


The man in the kitchen twirls around. He cocks his head sideways, and looks at her strangely. Like he hasn’t just broken into her house. “Are you okay, Ang?”


Lina moves backwards. “What – what are you doing in my house?”


She realizes then how stupid she’s being – treating this stranger like he’s an unwanted overnight guest and not a criminal. But then the stranger laughs, and she can feel her body clench up. “I’m your husband, remember?” he reminds her, grinning like this whole exchange is one giant joke, “I live here.”


“H-husband,” she breathes, her voice no louder than a whisper. And then she does the sensible thing – she breaks off into a run. She flies through the front door in record speed, but as she looks out onto her front lawn, she can’t help but stop in her tracks. The lawn is immaculate – it wouldn’t even be an exaggeration to call it beautiful. The grass is trimmed to perfection, and there are beautiful flowers – lilies – everywhere. Joseph hates lawn work, and she herself never could be bothered. Had the stranger turned their messy front yard into a garden paradise overnight?


“Good morning, Angie,” a voice calls from beside her.


Lina’s head sharply turns towards the voice. Marybeth. She remembers the altercation from the night before. You’re not a mother. Not anymore. Or whatever. The anger she felt from the night before comes surging back. She’s about to give her neighbour the finger when Joseph pushes through the door. Warmth floods back to her body, and for a moment she forgets about everything weird going on and rushes over to him. “Oh, thank God,” and she wraps her arms around his body, “Joseph, someone broke into our house and–”


The words catch in her throat when the door opens again. “Elodie?”


She sucks in a breath, and pulls away from Joseph. She looks long and hard at her daughter, taking in everything she’s missed – her beautiful face, the way her infectious smile brightens up a room. She’s not smiling now, but Lina chooses to ignore that. Tears are blurring her vision, and her heart feels like it’s about to explode right out from her chest. She doesn’t

know or understand how Elodie is standing in front of her, but right now, she doesn’t care.


But the moment is shattered in a single second. “Bye, Mom,” Elodie says, kissing Marybeth on the cheek.


Lina feels dizzy now, and she has to steady herself against the railing in order to stay upright. Elodie waves at her, looking at her strangely, and after a goodbye to Joseph she heads off down the street. “Are you all right, dear?” Marybeth asks her.


Lina looks back at Marybeth, then at Joseph. The stranger comes out of her house like he owns the place, and she looks at him, too. She still doesn’t know who he is, still doesn’t know what’s going on. They’re all looking back at her with concern etched upon their faces. And then they’re speaking to her – mouths moving, only no sounds coming out. She swallows, her

breathing shallow. “Angie, honey,” the stranger says, putting a hand on her arm. She wants to pull back, but her eyelids are getting heavy, until finally, darkness overtakes her.


A constant, and steady beeping is what wakes Lina up. Her eyes slowly flutter open, and all she sees is white. Lina can’t remember the last time she was in a hospital – not since Elodie was born, at least. Joseph is holding onto her hand, like the wonderful and loving husband he is.


Lina turns around, and smiles at him – only it’s not Joseph. It’s the stranger from before.


She jolts upwards. But there’s a painful ringing in her head, and the next thing she knows there are doctors and nurses hovering over her. The doctor shines a light in her eyes, temporarily blinding her. “Can you tell me your name, Ma’am?”


“It’s Lina,” she says, “Lina Mancini.”


The doctor looks at her like she’s said something wrong.


“It’s short for Angelina,” she explains.


The doctor scribbles something onto his notepad. “And the year?”


“It’s twenty-sixteen,” she says, “is this really necessary?”


“It is, Mrs. Mancini, I only have a few more questions,” the doctor assures her gently, and he rattles off more questions from his clipboard. Lina knows she’s answering them all correctly, but the more she speaks, the more worried they become. Once he’s done, the doctor pulls the stranger from her bedside and takes him to the doorway. They’re speaking in hushed tones, but

through their whispered mutterings she can hear the words “miscarriage” and “last year.”


And then she is struck with a memory.


The bedsheets are soaked, her thighs caked with blood. There’s a dull ache in the pit of her stomach, fear and dread rising all at the same time. She lets out a scream, “Zion!”


She’s at the hospital, screaming and crying into his body. He’s crying too, apologizing, “I’m sorry, Angie, I’m so sorry.”


“Where’s my baby?”


But she knows where it is.


“I’m fine,” she insists loudly, finding her voice. She shakes the memory – the dream, whatever it is – from her mind, and slowly pulls herself up, “I just… I just want to go home.”


The doctor and the stranger – Zion… she’s almost positive his name is Zion – look at her, concerned. It’s a look she’s quickly becoming sick of. “I don’t feel comfortable releasing you until we figure out why you fainted, Mrs. Mancini,” the doctor explains, “we’re going to run a couple of tests, and–”

“I don’t want any tests,” she cries, “I want to go home.”


“Angie, be sensible,” Zion tells her patronizingly.


“I don’t even know–” she stops herself, shaking her head, “you can’t keep me here against my will!”


“Mrs. Mancini,” the doctor says gently, “we just want to make sure you’re all right.”


Lina crosses her arms over her chest. “I’m. Fine,” she snarls.


She ends up getting herself released – AMA, of course – but Zion protests it the entire way out. They’re about to get into the car, when he stops and takes her hand. “Look, I know things have been tough since we… we lost Mel,” he says quietly, “but you have to pull through, Ang.


You can’t keep doing this – keeping all this shit to yourself. It’s not healthy.”


“She needs a name,” she says.


Zion laughs, easily. “She?”


“I don’t know, mother’s intuition?” she shrugs.


“Clara’s a pretty name,” Zion suggests.


“I like Elodie.”


“We can’t name our daughter after the neighbour’s kid,” Zion says.


“Marybeth’s the one who stole that name from me,” she insists.


He rolls his eyes. “We didn’t even know Marybeth back then. How about Melody? It’s like Elodie, but with an M.”




Lina’s pulled out of her reverie. “Huh?”


Zion lets out a breezy sigh. “Maybe I should make an appointment with Dr. Taemor. She really helped you out last year–”


“I think I’m just going to walk home,” and she spins around and heads out of the hospital parking lot before he can stop her.


Lina heads home, hoping and praying that she’ll wake up from whatever the hell this is. But when she wakes up the next morning – Zion is still her husband, and Joseph, Marybeth, and Elodie are only her neighbours. She throws on her work clothes, and slips out of the house before Zion is even out of the shower. She doesn’t think she can stomach another confusing conversation with him – about how he cares about her, about how he loves her. How can he love her if he doesn’t even know her, if she doesn’t even know who he is? But she does know who he is. Or she doesn’t. She isn’t sure what she knows anymore.


She drives to work, and prays that she still has the same job. She doesn’t trust her memory, anymore. She’s pulling into the parking lot of the real-estate office she’s worked at since finishing school (probably?), just as a familiar car pulls into the lot. She gags involuntarily, and tries to hurry inside the office.


“Angie, hold up.”


Lina takes a deep breath, and turns around. “Hey, Gino… what’re you doing here?” she asks as politely as she can muster.


Gino just laughs at her. “You’re funny,” he says, following her up the steps.


Lina stops in her tracks. “You... work here?”


“Jeez, Ang, you hit your head or something?” he asks.


She just looks lost. “Gino, what – what’s going on?”


He puts a had on the small of her back. It’s way too close to her ass, and she has to pull away in order not to felt up by him. Gino just shrugs, and smiles revealing a glistening silver tooth.


“I’m your boss, remember?” he says.


“But you didn’t even finish high school.”


He recoils. “I went back,” he says defensively, “eventually.”


“But you’re shit at selling houses.”


“Look, honey,” he says, “just ‘cause I got promoted–”


“Wait, you got promoted?” and she actually laughs, “you? You, Gino, got promoted?” But she doesn’t wait for him to finish his sentence, and goes inside. She knows that hell has frozen over… that if she looks up in the sky, pigs will be flying.


The Gino – greasy cousin Gino, as she likes to call him – she knows… is her least favourite relative. He’s too handsy, and if her grandparents had had their way when they were growing up, she’d be his bride. He’s lazy, self-centered, and completely rude – definitely not leadership material. But as she heads into the office, the giant Gino-portrait hanging on the wall proves that he’s telling the truth. This entire world – this entire whatever, whatever the hell is going on – is completely wrong.


There’s a bouquet of flowers sitting on her desk. But when she reads the card (I LOVE YOU ALWAYS, ANG. – ZION), she flings them into the garbage.


The noise catches the attention of The Other Lena, who shoots her a sympathetic look from across the room, and walks over to her desk. “Jesus H. Christ,” she mutters under her breath, with the roll of her eyes.


“I heard what happened,” The Other Lena says.


“Of course you have,” Lina tells her icily. She and The Other Lena were old high school acquaintances turned enemies since The Other Lena joined the real-estate firm six years ago. The Other Lena was probably Satan. She stole nearly half of all her customers… and pulled immature office pranks that made Lina seem like the crazy one.


The Other Lena sighs, and squeezes her hand. “Hang in there, okay?” she tells her, then she smiles so brightly Lina almost defrosts, and says “come on, we have a showing at ten… we have some time to grab a coffee.”


Lina looks incredulous. “Seriously?”


The Other Lena looks at her sadly. “Of course,” she tells her genuinely.


Lina doesn’t know why she goes, but she does. She goes out for coffee with Satan, with The Other Lena. Only, she’s not The Other Lena, and she’s definitely not Satan – she’s Best Friend Lena. When Lina asks how long they’ve been friends for, Best Friend Lena insists since before high school.


“I need a picture for the scrapbook.”


Angie snorts. “Like you scrapbook.”


Lena rolls her eyes, and pulls out her camera. “I don’t scrapbook because I don’t have any pictures. Now shut up and smile.”


Angie lets out an annoyed sigh, but smiles anyways. The flash nearly blinds her. “I can’t believe we’re actually done,” Angie says.


“Best four years of your life my ass.”


Angie laughs, then punches her jokingly in the arm. “Shut up, it’s over for good now.”


“Yeah, thank God,” she cries dramatically, “I’d die if I spent another year in that hellhole. I’m glad we did it all together.”


Angie nods, and smiles. “Me too.”


“Angie,” Best Friend Lena says, “Angie, are you okay?”


Everyone’s been asking her that lately. Lina can’t bring herself to say that she is. “This isn’t right,” she shakes her head, and leaves the coffees shop. She spends the rest of the day in a blurry, confused haze. She manages to make a sale, but now she’s certain that nearly everyone in her life – even greasy cousin Gino – think she’s certifiably Crazy, with a capital C.


She sees Elodie on the way home from school as she drives home from work. At the stop sign, she rolls down her window, and against her better judgement, sticks her head out. “Need a ride?”


Elodie looks startled. “Oh, Angie. Hey.”


Lina ignore the pang in her stomach, and pretends that she’s just said Mom. “I’m just on my way home,” Lina tells her, “it’s really no trouble at all.”


Elodie looks uncomfortable, like she wants to refuse, but the sun is beating down on her and she’s sweating so she accepts. Lina can’t help but smile, and happily unlocks the doors. As Elodie gets settled in, Lina can’t help but stare. It feels like a dream to be looking at her daughter again. Even if Elodie’s convinced that Lina’s not her mother. “Thanks a lot, Angie.”


“No problem, sweetie,” Lina says.


Elodie’s crying her tiny eyes out, and it breaks Lina’s heart. “It’s okay, sweetie,” she assures her daughter, “Daddy’s gonna find him, I promise.”


“I want Mr. Snuffles.”


“I know, baby,” Lina soothes her, “I know.”


The front door opens, and Joseph walks inside. He’s got his hands behind his back, and he smiles. “Elodie, look who I’ve got?”


Elodie jumps up. “Mr. Snuffles!”


Lina laughs out loud at the memory. She remembers the feeling of pure joy that spread out across Elodie’s face, it makes her heart beam just thinking about it.


Elodie looks over at her. “What?”


“Sorry, I was just thinking about Mr. Snuffles.”


“Mr. Snuffles?”


“Yeah. When you were little, you had this little stuffed elephant named Mr. Snuffles. It was… baby blue, I think, and it was your favourite toy. You lost it on the bus one day, and your Dad searched all over the city for that little thing.”


“Oh yeah, I think I remember. He couldn’t find it, and so he bought me a new one but told me it was Mr. Snuffles,” Elodie laughs, thinking back, “did Mom tell you that story?”


Lina laughs, too, but she gets too caught up in the moment. “I was there, remember,” she tells her.


Elodie laughs again. But it’s forceful, and uncomfortable, and Lina knows she’s said the wrong thing. “I… uh,” Elodie looks at her wristwatch, “just remembered. I have to go grab something at the store for… I have to go… so you can just let me off here.”


“I’ll give you a ride to the store then,” Lina says with a smile. She’s being too forward, she knows, but she can’t bring herself to lose her daughter. Again.


“No!” Elodie cries, sharply, “I mean, no thank you!”


“I told you it’s no trouble,” Lina insists.


Elodie unbuckles her seatbelt. “It’s all right, honestly. I’m… I’m meeting someone, too. So…” in a split second she’s unlocked the door and flung herself out.




“Leave me alone!” she screeches, and breaks off into a run.


“Oh my God, Mom,” Elodie screams, slamming her bedroom door shut, “leave me alone!”


Lina goes to follow her daughter, but feels a hand on her shoulder. She looks back. “Don’t do it,” Joseph tells her.


“Why does she keep shutting me out?” she cries. She can feel tears burning in her eyes. “I just want to help her.”


“She’s twelve, Lina,” Joseph replies with a sad smile, “she doesn’t want her Mom’s help. It’s what twelve year olds do.”


When Lina pulls into the driveway of her house, Joseph is perched on her front steps, arms crossed over his chest. She knows that look. She dreads that look. Lina closes her eyes, and takes a deep breath. For a split second, she pretends that everything is all right. Then she steps out of the car.


“Angie,” Joseph sighs out her name.


Lina sighs, too. She can’t bring herself to meet his eyes.


“I know that you’ve been… struggling since,” he stops himself, looking for the perfect, politest way of saying it, “what happened last year.” No one wants to say the word. No one wants to say miscarriage. And while she’s not sure if she’s even had one or not, she wishes that people would just say the word.


“You need to leave Elodie alone,” he tells her seriously.


But she’s my daughter. Lina doesn’t say it out loud, though, and she pushes past Joseph. She’s hurriedly unlocking the door as he makes the same suggestion Zion does. “I know a good grief counsellor you can see, Angie,” he suggests. He puts a hand on her arm, but it feels foreign and unfamiliar, like she’s some kind of stranger.


“You need to stop calling me that,” she tells him, and slams the door in his face. Zion, the stranger, is still in her kitchen. Or his kitchen. Or, she doesn’t know. He frowns when he looks at her face. “Angie?” he asks, raising an eyebrow.


“It’s Lina,” she hisses, “my name is Lina.”


She rushes upstairs, and flings herself onto the bed. She doesn’t scream into the pillow, even though she wants to. It’s what she used to do when she was still a teenager, after she’d had a fight with her mother. But it was easier then, because she always knew that things would work out in the end. Now, she’s not sure about much of anything – if things will work out, if the

world’s gone crazy, or she has.


Lina can barely see out in front of her from the white veil covering her face. Someone’s grasping her arm, and she doesn’t need to look beside her to know that it’s Nico. He’s promised to walk her down the aisle since they were both kids. She feels like she isn’t herself in her gown… it’s entirely too large, and over-the-top for her taste. She’s a simple girl, but she feels

like a princess in it – and not in a good way.


She can’t see the groom at the other end of the aisle. He’s just a faceless man in a suit until she reaches him, until Joseph pulls the veil over her head. Warmth floods her body, and she wants to kiss him right then and there. They join hands, and the priest begins to speak. His words are entirely forgettable, the same kind of Catholic nonsense she’s heard ever since she was a child. The church wedding is for her mother, who has always insisted that a wedding isn’t a wedding without God. Her mother is deeply religious, but Lina? Not so much. She focuses on Joseph, his smile, his eyes… there are tears in them.


Lina can feel the callouses on Zion’s hands. He didn’t want a church wedding, said it went against everything he believed in – but he also said that he loved Lina, and that he would do anything to make her happy. Zion is almost sobbing, but the priest continues preaching like nothing unusual is happening, like nothing has changed. She’s crying too, though, if she’s being

honest, she isn’t sure if she’s happy, or she’s just afraid.


Joseph smiles at her, beaming. He mouths ‘I love you.’ She mouths it back. Lina says her vows. They flow off her tongue easily, like she’s been waiting to see them her entire life, which is only half-true.


Zion and Joseph are standing side-by-side, speaking their vows proudly in perfect unison. Lina blinks, and she’s in her bedroom – only it’s not her bedroom at all. She’s in some sort of hallway, it’s pitch black, so dark she can’t see her hands right in front of her face. At first everything is completely silent, but then a mournful weeping invades her eardrums, and she can

feel sudden fear creeping up into the pit of her stomach. She isn’t sure what is scaring her – she’s never been scared of the dark. That was Nico, who slept with a night light until he was thirteen. She stumbles blindly, silently tiptoeing forward. Lights flicker, and she realizes she’s in a long hallway of photographs. They all have grand, ornate frames, Lina feels like she’s in a

museum or an old mansion. But it can’t be… because why would she, of all people, be in a museum? The photographs lining both sides of the walls are all of her. One side, her life as Lina, and other, her life as Angie.


Lina remembers finding the first photograph, hidden away in an old scrapbook in the back of the closet. She showed Nico, but not her mother, never her mother. It’s baby Lina, held by her exhausted mother. Her mother looks sweaty and tired, but she also looks beautiful. And happy. Lina can’t forget happy. It’s a look that disappeared from her mother’s face for a long, long time. Lina pretends not to notice her father in the background, sleeping on the chair beside her mother’s bed.


On the other side, it’s her – Angie, of course – this time, her father’s holding her, and her mother is the one who is sleeping in the background. Her father’s looking into her tiny, eyes with a look of love and devotion that she can’t comprehend. She remembers this photograph, too. It’s the one her mother tore into a million tiny pieces when she thought she and Nico were fast asleep.


Lina is cradling newborn Nico in her arms. Her mother is crouched over the floor, looking at a pile of papers sprawled out against the floor. Lina looks just as exhausted and tired as her mother – Nico hadn’t been sleeping, Lina remembers, feeling sleepy just looking at the photograph. Lina recalls how hard that time had been – after their father had disappeared off into

the night forever. Her mother worked three jobs to support the family, and spent nights crying herself to sleep.


Angie is dressed all in black. Her face pale, her eyes red and puffy. Her mother is sitting beside her – also clad in black – holding baby Nico in her arms. She doesn’t look sad – more angry, more furious than anything else. Her mother’s hair is pulled back into a tight, uncomfortable bun – she looks stern and severe. Everyone kept saying how sorry they were, kept

offering their condolences. Angie’s mother wouldn’t say anything, not even a thank you because she wasn’t sorry. Angie wouldn’t grow to understand why her mother was so angry until later – when she realized that her father had died in a car accident on his way home from spending the night with his mistress. Angie’s mother called it karma.


Lina is smiling, dressed in bright blue and gold – her cap and gown. Her mother and brother are smiling beside her. Lina remembers sharing a cake with “congratulations, bella” scrawled in bright red frosting. Her mother had told her she was proud of her, and it was the best day of her life.


Angie and Lena are lying on the hood of a car in their cap and gowns. It’s a beat up Ford Taurus that Angie spent all of high school saving up for. They’re frazzled, but smiling like always. You can’t tell from the picture, but they’re shitfaced – they were always spectacular at holding their liquor. They got kicked out of a bar – not because of their shitfaced-ness, but

because of Lena’s fake ID.


Lina meets Joseph in an art history class her first-year of University. The picture is a selfie – before selfies were even a concept – of the two of them sitting in a crumbling lecture hall. They bonded over their mutual hatred of art history – spent nights pretending to study, and laughing into the early hours of the morning. Joseph asked her out after their final at the end of the semester, and they spend the rest of her time at school together. The rest, they say, is history. Angie and Zion meet in a bar the summer before Angie heads off to University. He calls himself “Z” and Angie can’t help but be intrigued. She isn’t even sure why. She jokingly asks him if it stands for Zorro. He laughs even though it’s a stupid assumption, and tells her his real

name. She stays at the bar ‘til closing time, and he walks her home that night. Before he leaves, he takes out his disposable camera and snaps a picture of the two them under the moonlight, standing on the front porch. Her brother is visible through the window, a knowing smirk on his face.


Lina drops out of University during her third-year. Joseph is the one who convinces her, telling her that she needs to do what is best for her and not what is best for her mother. Joseph is there for her during and after she graduates college, and when she gets her first job at a real-estate firm. Joseph takes a photograph of her in front of the first house she managed to sell, standing tall and proud in her sensible but cringe-worthy pants suit.


Gino is holding onto her too tight, too close that is appropriate for a cousin. He’s clearly happier than she is. Angie graduate’s university with a useless degree. After dead-end jobs and months of unemployment she takes her cousin’s offer to work at his real estate firm – on the condition he gives Lena job, too. It’s supposed to be temporary until she finds herself something

better. The photograph is an office party – her tenth year at the firm. She’s not smiling, not really.


Lina cradles Elodie – her perfect, baby girl – in her arms. Joseph’s sitting behind her, his arms around her, Elodie’s tiny fingers wrapped around his pinky. Lina’s hair is damp, her forehead covered in a thin sheen of sweat. She’s tired, and still in pain, but looking down at her daughter makes every crazy thing that’s happened in the last forty-eight hours worth it.

Zion holds Angie in a death-like hug. Angie’s face is pressed into his neck, and silent tears are streaming down his face. The picture itself is unfamiliar, but the moment is fresh in her mind. Their daughter is gone.


She remembers all of these photographs. She has memories of all these conflicting moments in time - of her life as Joseph’s wife, and Elodie’s mother… before everything, and of her life as Angie, Zion’s wife, and childless.


The mournful weeping continues, louder and louder and louder. Lina follows the sound, past empty picture frames, and finds a door. She’s a second from turning the knob when she feels a little, tiny pull on her pant leg. She jumps. Lina looks down, and there’s a little girl. She’s wearing a purple dress, covered with beautiful, delicate flowers and silver embellishments. Lina

recognizes the dress before the girl – her mother bought it for Elodie when she was little. Lina knows right away that it’s Elodie, only she’s practically a baby.


“Don’t go in there, Mommy,” the little girl warns, but as soon as Lina blinks, Elodie is gone.


She looks back into the darkness, and realizes with a start she has no choice but to go forward. Ignoring her baby’s warning, she pushes onwards and through the door she finds herself in a room entirely too large. It’s almost completely pitch black, the only little lights coming from the candles that cover the floor as far as she can see.


Lina blinks and she’s in the middle of the room, a crowd of people swarming her. Joseph is there – her Joseph – staring at her with a strange, sad look on his face, the look she’s come to dread. The other Joseph is beside his doppelganger, shaking his head at her, disappointed. Zion is there, his face contorted with worry, and anxiousness. Both Marybeth’s are standing across from each other, heads up high wearing identical expressions of smugness. Best Friend Lena is looking at her sympathetically, while the Other Lena is laughing at her maniacally. Gino is standing impatiently, pointing at his watch unhelpfully. Her father is there, though she isn’t sure how she recognizes him – it’s been so long. Lina’s father looks confused, like he isn’t sure why he’s even there, while Angie’s father is bruised, bloodied and barely recognizable. Little Elodie is tugging on a third, younger, fresh-faced Joseph… tears streaming down their faces. She’s crying too, now, though she isn’t sure why.


Lina finds herself lying down, strapped to a table. The crowd of familiar and unfamiliar faces is surrounding her. Both Marybeth’s step forward. “You must be enlightened, Angelina,” they say in perfect unison.


Lina opens her mouth, but she finds that no words come out. She tries to break free, but the bonds are so tight they’re drawing blood. “Enlightenment is only way,” the crowd chants.


Lina soon finds herself unable to resist. Enlightenment is the only… the words are repeating on an endless loop, then she mumbles them out loud. The moment the sentence is out of her mouth, everything around her disappears.


The field around her is grassy, and perfect. There are white lilies everywhere she looks, and the sky is a perfect, clear blue. Then she remembers – it’s the park she used to take Elodie to when she was a little baby. At the end of the field is the playground that Elodie spent hours laughing in, and the sandbox Elodie made sandcastles in. Lina takes a hesitant step forward, and looks off into the distance.


Elodie – her Elodie, sixteen, fresh-faced and smiling – is there. Warmth floods her body, and Lina breaks off into a run, they both do. But as her daughter’s face becomes clearer and clearer, she realizes it’s not Elodie at all. Her face is grotesque and misshapen – she’s a monster. Lina stops suddenly in her spot, frozen and horrified.


There’s a hurried tug at her pant leg. Little Elodie in her pretty purple dress looks up at her.


She smiles, and Lina suddenly feels as though everything is going to be okay. The little girl sticks out her tiny hand. “It’s okay, Mommy,” Elodie assures her.




“It’s okay,” she repeats.


Lina links hands with her daughter, and they step forward off into… Lina doesn’t know. She blinks, and she’s back in her bedroom at home.


“Elodie?” she whispers into the darkness.


She can hear footsteps coming up the stairs.


“Elodie?” Lina whispers again, this time a little louder.


“Don’t be afraid.”

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