Flash Fiction / Anushree Nande

The Lily Fresco

Issue 3. January 15, 2022

Mira has avoided the sea her whole life.

          “It’s cursed for the women in our family,” her mother warned in early, hazy recollections.

          Even when she thought they were the ramblings of a woman whose life hadn’t gone anywhere near to wish, Mira made up excuses for the rare invites to the beach and foraged for reassurance in the forest bordering the town, her back resting against her favourite fir. She avoided streams and rivers and even swimming pools, not learning how to float until after her daughter was born.

          It was during the pregnancy when the sea soaked into her nights, her most fragmented of dreams, then her waking hours, until a white noise machine was the only way to prop up her life. It became the accompanying soundtrack through those nine months and the early years raising Sara, her little girl with the inexplicable affinity for water.

          That little girl now holds her hand, the sea far below them, a clear, startling blue Aegean that on these islands follows them everywhere, buoying more secrets than the world has forgotten. Mira wonders if it knows hers; does it guess why they have come against every logical fibre in her bending her away?

          It’s bright and warm but she rubs her arms, trying not to think of Kami and where she might be. She wishes she could leap into the future, for it to reveal whether there was any chance of being reunited with a grandmother who was yet no more than an accidental discovery. Was it too much to ask for a sign here?

                                                                                                         - 

The next afternoon, Mira is impatient, waiting, yet secretly relieved that no sign is forthcoming. The town of Akrotiri remained hidden under ash and pumice for more than 3500 years, remarkably well-preserved after the most destructive natural event in recorded history. It would have remained unearthed if not for its own accidental discovery in 1967. The light here is gentler, the cool air somehow fragrant, and even Sara’s usually boisterous visage is muted under as they walk among the ruins, under the newly built and reinforced roof that protects it. Each building had beautiful, detailed frescos which were restored with care and now live in different museums.

          Mira hopes she can take her daughter to Athens one day and show her the fresco that convinced her she could be a single mum. The National Archaeological Museum was the nearest building with a restroom at a particularly dizzy and nauseous moment towards the end of a week abroad before her final semester. It was mercifully quiet before noon on an off-season weekday, and as Mira wandered back from a splash of water on her face, it homed in on her. Lilies across three walls out of four, swallows flitting between flowers, and colourful volcanic rocks scattered at the base of the walls. The vibrant shades of a living spring.

          Now, it is a short walk to the Red Beach where copper-red sand and black stones contrast the distinct blue of the water and the white of the rocks surrounding the beach. The landscape is rather dramatic, even before sunset, but it is the sound of the waves that Mira isn’t prepared for—it was silly to even imagine she would be. They remove their shoes and sit down in the sand. It is fine, slipping through fingers and toes. Next to her, Sara is already squirmy, eyes sparkling in the presence of all that blue, the hush and the hiss. Mira knows her daughter wants to run out into the middle of all of that and let the waves guide her and strengthen her, to shape them in return with the borrowed power flowing through her veins that she is blissfully oblivious about.

          Will this appease a sea once wronged? She thinks again about Kami, somewhere out there, waiting to be released; about the inevitability of fate and the responsibility trusted through certain legacies. Mira steps onto the squelchy sand, as close to the water as she can bear—is that a softening of its fury—hand in hand with the one who will break the cycle. She hopes.

 

 

Anushree Nande is a Mumbai-born writer, editor, and publishing professional who has studied and worked in the United Kingdom, Spain, and the United States. Her work (fiction, essays, CNF, football pieces, poetry) can be found in a range of online and print platforms. Her microfiction collection 55 Words (Underground Voices, October 2015) is available on Amazon. Also available is her novelette, Summer Melody, recently published by Alien Buddha Press. Anushree's writing, in whatever form, tends to explore how we navigate the emotional landscape of our lives, and is always hopeful.