My Sister’s Birthday

Khristina Cabrera

        After she’d blown out the last candle, she informed me that she hadn’t made a wish. This was not
spoken in a whisper, as if sharing a secret that the universe shouldn’t overhear, but in her usual tone of
voice—lilting, almost like a canary singing—because she always claimed it didn’t matter who heard or
didn’t hear anything she said. In truth, that was a lie. She always spoke as if a vast sea of people was
listening, opening up to her like petals to the sun, and she looked around often, her lips drawn into a sultry
pucker that she always practiced in the mirror, as if hoping that someone would swoop into the room with
a camera around to capture a candid picture of her. People like my sister always said things like that, that
no one else’s opinion mattered to them; I privately knew that if she had thought to say that in the first
place, she must have cared.
        I don’t do well when no one is watching me.
        I wanted to tell her that she looked ridiculous, standing over the kitchen table in a room full of our
relatives in a skirt that was a few sizes too small and wearing scarlet lipstick that was too dark for her
complexion. She was pale now, like she always was when her golden tan of summer faded, like whittling
away layers until only her original skin remained. The only reason I kept quiet was because she would
have been mulling my words over for days upon days, weeks upon weeks, picking them apart in her head
until they became nothing more than a meaningless string of letters. Instead I just smiled at her, and when
she smiled back, I caught a flash of her pearly-white teeth, fake, all of them fake.

Khristina Cabrera (she/her) is seventeen years old and lives in New Jersey. Her work has previously been selected as a highlight from the 2021 National Flash Fiction Day Youth Competition longlist, and has also appeared in Love Letters, fingers comma toes, Cathartic Youth Literary Magazine, and others.