by Victoria Nations
The girl smiled at me from the wall, and even before I saw that her mouth was stitched closed, she was in my arms. She was doll-like, with a sweet, open smile and black button eyes. A burgundy bouffant made her skin seem all the more pale. Her scars were barely noticeable.
Her mouth had been shut for her, and here the stitches were real, made from thick, black thread.
An artist named Chicho had written a love letter on the back of her canvas, naming her Frankenerin. He had drawn a heart and written, “Don’t remove the smile.”
The thrift store clerk rang me up, glancing between Erin and me. She slipped a bag over the painting and laid her face down.
“Better you than me, sugar.”
Erin moved to our new house, but she never selected a room and stayed in the garage instead. She oversaw house repairs and weekend chores, always smiling her encouragement.
I couldn’t remove her stitches. I mean, it looked like I could – it was just tape and thread. But I didn’t. Maybe Chicho had spoken metaphorically, and maybe he hadn’t. Who am I to doubt what he knew?
I didn’t want anything to happen to that smile.
After a year, it was time for Erin to live somewhere else, somewhere she would want to move inside and settle on a wall that suited her. I propped her up on a bright red chair at the yard sale.
Erin didn’t sell at the sale.
And I had to move her off the chair before someone would buy it. They said they would move her, but they just kept standing there looking nonplussed until I did it.
Erin left in the backseat of a friend’s car. My friend promised she knew a good home for her, though it definitely won’t be with her. Erin sat staring out the side window as my friend drove away. She seemed delighted to be traveling again.