Love is Make-Believe • Riham Adley

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My daughter Evol asks me if a flat line in a mirror can ever get splashed. I tell her flat lines in a mirror are a rarity but straight lines can curl after the slightest swivel.

Her caramel eyes carve their disapproval at my current state of affairs, but not before inviting me to her invented Umbria—something like other children’s Narnia but this one sounding like an actual place with frothy waves and sand dunes hand molded into castles.

She curses the sun for having hurt her mama; she says it has a sour mouth the same color as ketchup. She lathers my back with soothing cream and asks me to sing along. Her song’s about an Eskimo girl living in an iceless hut with a heart the size of an iceberg. 

My two-piece swimsuit reminds me of the prison bars that held back the girl from one of Evol’s favorite anime series, the one she used to watch with her father. 

I think about how sea-glass, seashells, and grand sand castles look good on a postcard.

When he sailed down south, she knew it was her fault and that she should have been like a sunflower looking dutifully towards the sun, following it, adoring it, worshiping it, but she didn’t. She let the whip of its rays slash at her skin. 

So he left, but not before smearing her forehead with the illusion of a kiss.

“I’ll be back.” They both knew the truth. They both pretended not to look at their mirror with all its flat lines and straight lines spelled backwards.

My daughter loves to play make-believe.

“Mommy, imagine you are a fairy, then you’re a fairy. Imagine the sand castle has a king and you’re its queen.”

“Mommy, imagine the water in the hole is my favorite letter soup. Or if I were an Eskimo with whales for friends.”

“Imagine Daddy loving whales and those oranges you called mandarins. Imagine if I could not swim… but then I can.”

I look at her, all grown up in the mirror with fiery braids the color of sunflowers, and wonder why I spelled her name in reverse. I then imagine her shrinking to the size of a fist ball, finding her way back inside my belly, exploring haunted beginnings, and that one true story I won’t read to her at bedtime.  

Riham Adly is an Egyptian writer/blogger/ translator. Her fiction has appeared in over forty online journals such as Litro Magazine, Lost Balloon, The Flash Flood, The Citron Review, The Sunlight Press, Flash Frontier, Flash Back, Ellipsis Zine, Okay Donkey, Bending Genres, New Flash Fiction Review, Spelk and Vestal Review among others. Her stories have been nominated in 2019 for “Best of the NET” and the Pushcart Prize. Riham lives with her family in Giza, Egypt.

Comments 1

  1. A lovely story, Riham, and is this a new photo of you? It has that familiar Adleresque hint of a smile that seems to tell your readers you know how to take us both to the far away and to the intimate. Something your wonderful writing does do.

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