by Levi Cain
In the beginning, there was a world and the world was Marya.
In every photograph littering my parents’ mantle, there are the two of us, smiling tightly under the heavy gaze of the camera. I am always standing just behind her, my hand cupping her shoulder. She is looking up at me, her own tiny hand reaching up to grasp at mine. Each of us is holding tight enough to be painful: afterwards, when we are finally allowed outside to play, we compare battle wounds. They faded almost instantly but we spent the night recreating them, stifling any winces we might’ve ordinarily made. We created a game out of it, racking up points for endurance and creativity.
“Minus five points if you flinch,” Marya would whisper under the covers, after we had faked being asleep so that our parents would not disturb us. She would cup her hands around one of mine and then bend my fingers gently backwards, watching my face intently for any changes. I wore a splint for the next few weeks but had not moved at all. Marya set it herself, her mouth curling with pleasure.