A flash fiction piece in preparation for my novel tentatively titled Annie and the Second Anasazi, scheduled for publication in late 2012. Sign up for notification by email here.
Annie’s mother wore a triangular veil that half-covered her face, the burned part. She looked like a coy beauty, a perfect blue-eye peering from a porcelain-china face, golden hair framing the work of art. Even as a child, Annie noticed men watching her, jostling around as too many moths to a single candle flame.
One time, and one time only, she saw her mother remove the veil in the presence of men who desired her, envied her father, offered to whisk her away to a fairyland.
“A toast,” Bernard, their attorney, said at one small party, of which there were many. “To the most beautiful woman!” Poor Bernard drank too much and considered any woman who tolerated his presence the most beautiful.
But that night the other men in attendance surrounded Annie’s mother like a herd of cows around a couple of badgers. Her father gave her that image. Said he’d seen it once on the eastern plains of Montana.
“Your husband doesn’t deserve you!” one man said. Bernard beamed at him.
“Is your hidden face as perfect as the face you show?” asked another. Obviously a bunch of strangers, all of them from out of town.
“The most beautiful and alluring woman is a veiled woman,” another said.
“Gentlemen,” said her mother, her voice strong and clear, nothing veiled about it. “Would you like to see what is behind the curtain?”
One man cat-called.
“Don’t stop at the veil,” another said. “We want to see it all.” Bernard looked horrified.
Annie knew the absence of her father, in addition to the drinks, made the men bold. She hid behind a couch in her night clothes, at twelve years old too young to attend, but too mature to stay away.
“Do not ask to see what you do not wish to see.” Then her mother removed the veil, and the men, all but Bernard, literally took steps backward. Away from the hideously burned face, the dropping eye, the discolored skin. They went quiet. A couple of men coughed.
“Do you still wish to see what else is hidden? I warn you. My right breast, you may enjoy. Perhaps part of my right leg. But the rest of me is as you see here.” She moved her hand over her disfigured parts.
The men demurred. Backed further away. Excused themselves. The room cleared in fifteen minutes. Even poor Bernard seemed at a loss for words and left. Then her poor mother sat on the couch and wept. Annie felt the pulsing vibrations of her sobs through the wooden frame of the couch until she, too, crept back to her bed.
Annie and the Second Anasazi is about a migration of intellectuals into the deserts of New Mexico where people live like the ancient ones because of changing climate coupled with an intolerable mix of politics and religion that rises in the cities of the American South. Annie is the daughter of Tucker and Lydia Roth of Girl on a Rock.