Seven Sisters
Lena Bertone

Settesima's sisters tell her she has the hair of an angel, which is good, because looking at any other part of her is quite unpleasant. But her white blonde curls fall to her shoulders and they're so soft and shiny that strangers can't help but sneak a touch as they pass on their bicycles. They ride past her, and they are so used to ugliness that they easily ignore her face, especially with the sun and the wind playing with the rings of her hair, as infatuated with it as they are.

Sesta's eyebrows take minimal grooming and then they are like artwork on her otherwise hideous face. One might not even notice that they are too high on her endless forehead, because her brows are so dark and symmetrical, and move with such graceful emotion. Really: there is no reason to look at anything else on Sesta's face.

Quinta finds reasons to stick her nose in people's things. She desires connection. She wears large, dark glasses and a scarf on her hair and neck, lipstick and liner, foundation to hide as much as she can. But her nose: small, upturned, curious—a tiny person all its own—she wants to show you her exquisite nose, put it in your strawberries, your sleeve, bury it in your cheek to tickle and enchant you.

Quarta believes she can command with her chin. Once, on a crowded bus, she lifted it with medium force and a man in a pinstriped suit stood and gave her his seat. Quarta's jaw is square but her chin comes to a pixie point. She has silenced crying babies with it. They look at her chin, entranced, eyes never wandering above that distinct triangle of courage.

Terza's sisters are jealous because she has two beauties: plump, heart-shaped lips so deeply pink they're almost purple; and when she parts them slightly, perfectly shaped white teeth with a translucent sheen. But Terza prefers not to smile due to the unfortunate circumstances of the rest of her face, which she tries daily to forget, except during Carnivale, when she wears a butterfly mask and flaunts her smile, her mouth as pretty as any movie star's.

Seconda's cheekbones draw attention as she walks, so she walks with her sisters to the Marketa, in the open air, where the sun's light catches the angles of her face. Heads turn and necks whip to see who belongs to the razor cheek strutting by. She's already past when they look, of course, so there is no seeing the rest of her face—unremarkable or worse—she does not allow it.

Prima's eyes inhabit her face with a largeness and ferocity that cause her other, monstrous features to pale and recede to an extent that, upon first look, a young man might be convinced to lock his eyes with hers, dark and sad, whites a shining white. Her lids dip down just sleepily enough to make Prima appear ready to close her eyes; indeed, when she blinks, her lashes link together for a long second before releasing, so that the young man watching might not be blamed for thinking that Prima looks upon him with wonder and disbelief, ardor and adoration, though when he tears his focus from her luscious, limpid eyes—that is, if he can—what he sees in Prima's face is something I would rather not describe here. It would be impolite. We all have flaws, every one of us. Prima, on the inside, is a lovely person.

Lena Bertone has stories in or coming from Caketrain, Redivider, matchbook, Harpur Palate, NANO Fiction and others.

Read more of her work in the archive.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Davezilla.

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