Nicole Arch is an English and Music major at UNC Chapel Hill pursuing an honors thesis in Creative Writing. When she's not writing another poem or short story, you can often find her reading, singing ... [+]

Image of Long Story Short Award - 2022
Image of Short Fiction
They tell you she was wearing your shoes. The pinchy black stilettos, the ones with the painted silver heels. The paint is cracking now, and they're a size too small for you, but you never got rid of them. Too many memories of anniversaries, friend's weddings, dinner parties gone wild. Plus, they were always her favorite. The shoes, and your grandmother's pearls. Or else the orange cat-eye sunglasses you bought a few years back but never used. It was hard for her to have just one favorite, when everything was so shiny and bright and just beyond her reach. But the shoes were the deciding factor, or so they tell you. If you close your eyes, it's all too easy to imagine: how she traipses out of your closet, face obscured by over-sized sunglasses teetering haphazardly on the bridge of her nose. Your grandmother's pearls, which dangle comically far past her stomach, brushing her belly button as she struts left and right. And the shoes, always the shoes, wobbling under tiny feet not even a third of their size. She loves playing dress up, and there's no one she'd rather be than her mommy. Fancy, fairy princess mommy, but mommy nonetheless. And that's what she's thinking about, as she waddles down the hall. What a beautiful princess you'd make, and how she looks so much like you, in her big girl clothes. How she wants to grow up just like you too—with her own closet of pearls and heels and cat-eye sunglasses and everything. And maybe that's why it happens. Why she doesn't see the edge of the carpet, why she doesn't lift her feet high enough. Why her heels snag on the wool, pulling her down with them. And, for a moment, she's flying, the fairy princess she always knew she would be. Wings of pearls fluttering past her back, sunglasses sliding up her bangs like a crown. Tiny forehead suspended in thin air, hovering just above the corner of the coffee table. And then, with a crack, she's not.