Westwind

flash fiction finalists

Story by Jillvie Nguyen

When I was a little girl, my dad used to take me to the ice cream shop and tell me stories about his life. When I was younger, I always wanted to afford fancy clothes. When I was younger, I never thought I’d be in America. When I was younger, I never knew I’d have a daughter like you.

I was eight.

He was forty-four.

Time flies by.

I’m getting married tomorrow at a quaint, little chapel overlooking the ocean. In exactly eight hours and twenty-two minutes, I’ll be walking down the aisle in front of ninety-nine people. Ninety-nine and missing one person—my dad.

My friends say that marriage is all about the future. But the past haunts me. I wipe tears from my eyes and reach over to the nightstand. The lights flick off.

One hour and eight minutes.

Everyone probably thinks I’m leaving the groom at the altar, but I’m not. I’m sitting at the ice cream shop in my wedding dress with a coconut flavored ice-cream cone in hand. My dad’s voice flashes back to me. All of a sudden, I feel like I’m eight years old with my dad chattering beside me:

Hot sun, blazing down. That’s Kansas for you. It’s hot and dry and there’s nothing there.

“Then why were you there?”

“I’m getting to that part, kiddo.”

My entire family immigrated to America from Vietnam. We all ended up smack dab in the middle of Kansas. That’s why I was there. That was my new home.

For a place with nothing it did have one thing—

“What?”

“If you keep interrupting, I’m never gonna get there.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s okay, kiddo.”

One thing—a woman so beautiful I couldn’t stay away. I didn’t know I loved her. I don’t even think she knew she loved me. Until one day, she asked me to leave Kansas and make a life somewhere else with her. She was my new home. Vietnam, Kansas, and now her.

We sold everything and bought a brand new car. Then drove to California. It was the best decision of my life because it all led to you.

Fifty-nine minutes.

I’m almost done with my ice cream so I go to buy another. I can hear my dad already. What are you doing, Brea? You’re in love.

“Thank you,” I whisper.

I finish my ice cream cone. Put ten dollars into the tip jar. And dash out the door.  

Four minutes.

I’m standing outside the chapel doors with no bouquet in my hands. Only a framed photo of my dad rests in between my fingers.

Eight hours and twenty-two minutes ago, only ninety-nine people were going to be here for my wedding day. But now—as the doors open and the music starts—there are a hundred people here with me. I look down at the photo in my hands. My dad smiles up to me. Together, we walk down the aisle.

Story by Christine Linh Nguyen

By the time the fairy arrives at the manor, Ella’s already stripped herself of the dress her stepsisters had ruined and changed into a sensible tunic and pants. The fairy’s flabbergasted by Ella’s choice of attire, while Ella, on the other hand, is unperturbed at the sight of the elderly woman swathed in a silk cloak dripping sparkles all over the floor Ella had just scrubbed earlier that morning.

“May I help you?” Ella asks.

“Dear, dear, Cinderella! I am your fairy godmother and I am here to make your dreams come true.” The fairy waves her wand, releasing more glitter and Ella inwardly wishes the insipid creature would get to the point already.

“That’s nice,” Ella says. “But I can take care of myself, thank you very much.” With that, Ella turns on her heel and begins packing for her journey. Since her father’s death, Ella has stored what few valuables she could squirrel away without her step-family noticing beneath a loose brick by the fireplace. Now that she’s eighteen and a full-fledged adult, she thinks she’s amassed enough money and just worldly enough to be able to survive on her own.

“Er, but don’t you want to go to the prince’s ball, dearie?”

“Oh no, that was just a diversion,” Ella snorts. “I never expected Stepmother to allow me to go.”

“Well, dear, I can help you get there! I’ll give you a gown, and a coach, and shoes, and soon enough, you’ll be off to your own happily-ever-after, Cinderella!”

“No thanks,” Ella replies. “I’m going into the village to see Ruby, the blacksmith’s daughter. We’ve been courting for a few years now and her father’s agreed to take me on as his apprentice. And if that doesn’t work out, Ruby’s mother is the baker, and I’m plenty good with food, considering how I have to cook all the meals in this house.”

“Dear, dear, Cinderella,” the fairy says, her wings fluttering up a dust storm of sparkles behind her. “You can’t possibly want a life like that! Don’t you want to leave all the ashes behind? If you marry the prince, you’ll be taken care of the rest of your life. Don’t you want a happily-ever-after?”

“I’ll pass, thanks.” Ella swings her pack onto her back and heads for the door. “I don’t need an ending. I just need a new start.” She pulls out a matchbook from her pocket and glances back at the fairy, who wilts under her gaze. “And by the way, my name is Ella.”

She lights the house on fire before she leaves to make her own happiness.

Story by Sarah Garcia

The woman formerly known as the little mermaid looked back on the kingdom she had once longed for. She had gotten all she had ever wanted – convinced her prince she was his savior, got him to love her, and married him aboard a ship, the sun setting as they shared their first kiss. Now that sunset seemed less like a romantic vision but instead an omen, where her fantasies and grand love had died away.

Her realization arrived slowly, built up year by year and with each and every step she took upon her new home called land. She held no voice to speak to her prince but danced whenever asked, her pain and bleeding feet as proof of her love. She hoped her suffering would lessen with time, but it never stopped hurting, never ceased in slicing and dragging her blood across the floor in an unrelenting stain. And in return, her prince asked only for more and never gave fully in kind, never considered her agony and scarred feet.

Too many years of this brought her to the realization that her prince had never seen her as anything more than a child, a plaything, an ideal to be loved. He had never loved her but instead her dancing, her utter adoration, her mystical beauty. Even if she could speak, he wouldn’t have listened. Not if what she said didn’t fit into his narrative. After so much of her spilt blood, she had moved past her teenage notions of true love and come to see that she was not his spouse but his possession, something he loved but was not in love with.

She could no longer exist with her pain simply for his pleasure. But she also could not return to her kingdom in the sea, for she now had two legs and an immortal soul. She was unwelcome in both worlds. So she had decided her only escape was to combine the two. Years into her dead romance, she gathered her courage and slipped away into the night, leaving her marriage bed for the last time. She journeyed to the docks and left a trail in her wake, the moonlight shining on her blood like a morbid dream. And now she stood on a stolen ship, taking in the sight of her second abandoned home before sailing away.

She had no plan for what lay next. She belonged nowhere on land or sea, adrift between two worlds. She thought of her grandmother’s old tales of the sirens – those winged creatures enchanting and singing sailors to their deaths as they crashed upon the rocks. The woman formerly known as the little mermaid thought of these legends and smiled, hoping they would seduce her into a watery grave, becoming one with the sea again, or pity her as they saw her broken but living body on the rocks and raise her to their ranks among the heavens above, where her feet would never touch the earth and suffer again.

 

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