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Sara Freeman

Step 1: Get a jar. With a lid.  

Step 2: Follow the lights in the sky. The fireflies are easy to catch. If not, ask your mom. She can do


Step 3: Once you’ve got one in your hand, carefully lower it into the glass. Twist the lid on tightly and

watch it glow. 

Step 4: Untwist the lid and let them go. The fireflies will die behind the glass.  

That list is in my mother’s handwriting. That’s the woman everyone else knows. That’s the

woman the new girl has just found in an old box of my childhood stuff.  

“Your mom sounds great!” she laughs. “I used to love catching fireflies too. Isn’t it crazy that

we all grew up doing that?” 

“Not really,” I snapped as I grabbed the box back. “Doesn’t even make any sense anyway.

They’re not interesting. And they’re weak. Look how they’re dying out.” 

Of course it does make sense. We’ve mythologized them. They bring wonder and joy and

longing. They carry the light within them, and we’ll take anything that makes us forget the dark. But I just don’t want to keep this conversation going right now. And it worked--she’s left the room.  

The thing is, my mom was great at one point, and I’m afraid my lies about her contribute

to that golden narrative. But she started to change when I started to change, when it became clear that my features were setting into hers, that she couldn’t just hide the mirrors anymore. I know this because I am this. Our shared inheritance is self-loathing. That’s not something she could understand. The last time I went home, the time my mother died, we spent the whole night screaming into each other’s faces. I told her she’d burn in hell. She told me I’d already done that to her. I stormed outside and stared at the empty sky, wishing the nights stars could blind me right then, wishing I never had to look at the sky again. I didn’t go back in the whole night.  

That’s just not something she could understand.  


I’m looking at her and for a moment I love her. The sun is glinting through her hair as she

chatters about her family. Her lips are soft and parted with every breath. I imagine them breathing into mine. Sometimes I want to slice open her belly to see where the light comes from.  

“When can I meet your mother?” she says abruptly. I don’t smile quick enough to lie, and

she refuses to leave this time. So I throw her a piece of truth. I tell her about walking in at dawn to find my mother on the couch. I tell her about the lights flashing all around my house. I tell her my mother was declared dead on the spot. I don’t tell her about the fight. I tell her about the pills, but I don’t tell her I have those same pills in my nightstand now. It’s not the whole truth, but she doesn’t need to know that, and it’s enough for her to wrap herself around me in tears. I always find it interesting how some people are drawn to pain. Not that she’d admit it. She thinks she’s helping.  

Back in my room, I can’t sleep. My breath is cold and my body is stiff and fragile. People

are never beautiful when they sleep, and she is no exception--her eyes are sunken and her lips are cracked. I can only imagine what I look like. I untangle myself and head for the door, stealing one last look as I twist the knob. The lights are dark, but her hair is still glinting on my pillow. 

Spring 2021

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