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Cindy has fat feet and varicose veins coast like highways towards her thick ankles. She can't remember when she first noticed this change or whether, in fact, it was the delicateness of her dancer's feet that went first. Was it preceded, perhaps, by the transformation of her crystal-carriage body into a robust pumpkin? Whichever came first doesn't matter.

She used to be stunning. She revels in this fact. Her father called her 'Princess'. She stands naked in front of the mirror, looks in and squints - searching for the shadow of her former self. Her age-battered image only stares back. The bulbous sack of her right hip is now on the left. Put the two sides together and her body would be symmetrical. She smirks. Some consolation!!

The children did it. Five children in five years. Contraception was strictly forbidden. "We're Catholic", her husband had reminded her. In between her pregnancies, he would invade her bedroom and mount her, galloping frantically towards that elusive son. There were only ever girls.

 

Untitled by Brent Brumfield
Untitled
by Brent Brumfield
This thought 'only girls' echoes in her head. 'Only girls' She reaches for a photograph on the dresser. They look out at her from the frame. The youngest two sit naked on a sheepskin rug. The other three encircle them like a fortress, arms around each other's necks. The second child, Chloe, has a cheeky smirk on her face. Diana, the oldest - named after the Princess - is sullen. The bruise on the apple of her cheek is peeking through the foundation Cindy smeared on last minute.

Cindy looks from one little girl's face to the other. In her mind, she can see Chole's smile melt into tears and the third child so quiet so as to almost disappear.

Cindy feels a weight come onto her body and fall through her until it is a vice around her ankles. Even the air feels suddenly heavy so that she gasps to catch it before it smothers her. Her face, when she looks up, contorts in horror. She can see their future looking back at her in that full length mirror.

Her gaze returns to her hands; her slender, dancing fingers holding youth. She traces the images of her daughters - her five little dwarves. She holds the back of the photo like a kiss to the warmth of her cheek and her eyes close. When her eyes open, the six of them are looking back.

They are all smiling.

Donna Lee lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand. Her poetry has been anthologized and has appeared in literary magazines such as Poetry NZ and J.A.A.M. Her short fiction has appeared in Hecate and Scant, Australian journals, and the New Zealand publication, Takahe.

Also in Song and Story:
Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography by David Bogle
Family Treasures    Untangling Roots    Dynamic Range   
Mrs. Lambert    When They Take Your Breasts Away
From the Kitchen Window

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