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by Vanessa Carlisle

Delia first, a normal-sized and loud-mouthed baby, and then Dalia, unexpected and hastily named, who had hidden from the ultrasound, the first of many disappearances. When the other children were busy pounding their fists into each others' thighs, Mother would tell Delia to find her sister, as if Dalia's wayward body belonged only to Delia, and no one else. At fifteen years old, Delia, by way of her excellent conversational skills, got them both hired to rent out skates at the ice rink. Customers handed over dirty winter boots and fuming sneakers, noticing aloud Delia and Dalia's hair, hugely curly and pulled into two low ponytails. When the customers returned from the ice with their noses running into their smiles, Delia always asked if they had a nice time. Dalia sprayed the insides of skates, kept the rows neat by pushing each skate a fraction of an inch with the heel of her palm, and tucked the laces gently into the tongues.
    One orange afternoon, a man receiving his shoes asked them out on a date, as a pair. "Bring your pretty ghost," he said to Delia, winking, while Dalia chewed thoughtfully on her thumbnail, within earshot. Delia started wearing low-cut sweaters and glossy lipsticks, blow-drying her hair, and popping her gum. Dalia quietly lost weight under baggy flannel shirts, slipping in and out of rooms like an old cat, leaving no footprints in the snow that lined their street.
    Their last holiday photo shows them smiling. Their arms extend around each other, Delia's face round with teenage desire, Dalia's lips pulled thinly over protruding teeth, her eyes half-lidded as she sinks into being held.

About the author:
Vanessa Carlisle earned an MFA in Creative Writing at Emerson College, where she now teaches writing. She is also the Writing Programs Coordinator at Wheelock College. She co-authored "I Was My Mother's Bridesmaid" with her sister Erica Carlisle, and her work has appeared in NinthLetter, Catalyst Magazine, Boink Magazine, and the Insolent Rudder.

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Midnight Picnic
a novel by
Nick Antosca


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