Today we are thrilled to share the third place finalist from our 2020 Summer Short Story Award for New Writers. Guest judge Kali Fajardo-Anstine says, “‘Como La Flor’ is a fascinating story that explores the bonds between two women, Mari and Delia, their connection to one another and the ways we come together and apart. I was impressed and intrigued by the subtle attention to these strong women characters, their psychology, their passions, cultural and class differences, and their longing for family and togetherness that permeates the entire story. ‘Como La Flor’ asks questions of race, assimilation, class, and privilege in a way that feels naturalistic and carefully observed. Above all else, this story feels honest, and that level of truthfulness is part of what makes literature feel like magic.” Read on below:
Delia tsked, a sound Mari had grown accustomed to hearing from all the women in her family. The tsks all meant different things; tsk what an asshole, tsk his loss, tsk that’s so sad, tsk how will you get remarried at your age, tsk you have no kids to show for it, tsk, tsk, tsk. Delia’s tsk was thick with pity. “But you so pretty, Miss,” like it was a shame her good looks were going to waste without a husband. Mari wished beauty was the antidote for a lasting marriage. She would have nailed it.
Today was the day Mari could stop cleaning up after herself. Her soon to be housekeeper, Delia, stood in the middle of her living room, hands on hips inhaling the full 360 view. After the divorce, Mari decided she deserved a housekeeper. All she wanted was someone reliable. Mari was careless with her belongings and she didn’t want to be bothered worrying about anyone going through her closet, snooping through her jewelry or designer purse collection
“Thanks so much for coming. I just moved here,” Mari shared.
Delia dusted her comment off. “No problem. I work many houses around here.” She paused as a perplexed look crossed her face, “By the way, um, how do you say your name, Miss?”
Mari let a nervous laugh escape. She was unsure of which of the three ways to offer Delia. At work, her colleagues pronounced her name Mary like the Virgin. Her name was technically the abbreviated form of Marisol which was short for Maria de la Soledad which was in fact a version of the Virgin Mary. Her cousins, whom she never saw except at funerals because her mother decided they were on different life tracks, called her by the Spanish version, Mari with a miniature ‘r’ roll, which to her English-only ears sounded like Maud-dee. The third version, which was what she and her parents used, was a hybrid and sounded like Maur-ie, absent of any sound of her tongue tapping the top of her mouth as the language intended.
Too afraid of how she would sound pronouncing her name in Spanish to someone who knew the language, Mari offered Delia the third option.
As Delia tied an apron around her oversized t-shirt, Mari noticed her inspecting the walls she had carefully staged with the art pieces she accumulated during her first few years of marriage to Paul.
“Your pictures are very nice, Miss,” Delia observed.
The collection decorated her new space in a way that defied the bleached walls in her Beverly Hills apartment and the whiteness that extended beyond. The pieces were part of the divorce settlement; Paul kept the espresso machine, she kept the art. Her favorite pieces included original work by an up-and-coming street artist that her mother said looked like nothing more than framed graffiti. Of course it contained the obligatory Frida print and to round it out, a series of photographs of naked women in greyscale, their private parts hidden by obsidian ropes of hair thick enough to belong to a horse and wide stoic pre-Columbian faces with eyes that clenched your own if you stared too long.