New Voices: “Euphoria” by Heather De Bel

May 27, 2019

When an accident reveals an affair between Lydia and Dean, Abby’s boyfriend, Abby spirals into a drunken depression. “My mother thinks it’s my job to pick her back up,” Lydia says. New today in New Voices: “Euphoria” by Heather De Bel, a striking tale about the things we can’t find the words to say.

It scares me to be like my mother. She is not as happy as she pretends to be. Ma has been talking with me a lot about helping the family. What she means is get your sister sober. She thinks it’s my fault. She doesn’t say this, but it’s probably true.

We go shopping for our mother’s birthday present and I drive because Abby has been drinking. It’s a week or so after New Years and New Jersey’s Willowbrook Mall still smells of pine and log cabin candles. Paper stars and red streamers hang from the ceiling. The store windows are littered with what’s left of winter clothes and bright yellow signs: Clearance!

Abby has recently dyed her hair one shade darker than white. It is paler than her skin. I’ve tried to convince her I like it. She pretends like she is convinced.

Our mother insisted that we go do something together, to cultivate a loving sister relationship. Our father passed away when I was three and Abby was two. We’re all Mom has. Abby is still reeling since her boyfriend Dean died in a car accident a few months ago. My mother thinks it’s my job to pick her back up.

We go to Macy’s first. I can see the long, flowered dresses from the main aisle. My mother loves long, flowered dresses.

The many walled mirrors make Macy’s look twice as big with twice as many people. I dread department stores. The lights are hazy green. Everyone looks pasty and sick. The clothes are dark blue, dark red, black and patterned. I look forward to the summer season, bathing suits, the smell of sunscreen when you pass an old lady. It smells now like linoleum floors.

Abby touches every dress. She acts as though each is the most beautiful she’s ever seen. This is the one thing I can’t stand about her drinking: the exaggeration.

“Ma would look beautiful in this, don’t you think?” She takes a short, bright red dress off the rack and holds it up to her body. She hooks the hanger behind her neck, swings it around. She has to take a few side steps to hold her balance. The neck scoops low, a playful tease.

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