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There is a fog clouding her visage, getting in her eyes and taking the color from them until all she sees is grays and blacks and whites, until her iris is the color of mist. People –some people– call her color blind, but people –other people– call her demon kind. She’s some sort of devil woman: fire won’t touch her. They say she loves it, was born in it. That’s right, they say, She was born in fire and fear, clawing her way into the universe like a rabid jackal. That’s not it, though. She just likes fire cause it looks like it’s got color to it, not the usual grey-scale monotony that the rest of her world lives in.
She’s twenty, if you asked her, but she’s been twenty for some time. She’s got no job ‘cept her healing – if she would heal you. Poorest rich woman the world ever did see. And Cherry’s sister, if you can believe it. Cherry and Annabelle Lee, twin sisters like two of the same people in different skins. And maybe that’s why they call poor Anna devil-girl and demon spawn: Anna’s the only white one in all the family. Cherry’s got that glorious mocha, clear-skinned brown going on, but Anna’s got to be the whitest girl that ever sprang from any woman’s belly.
Cherry’s the sweetest girl, though, you ought to know. She loved that Annabelle Lee like her heart was sown right on her sleeve. She didn’t care about how glossy her sister’s skin is, how she’d never seen Anna drink water, how Anna don’t burn like a real girl ought to. It was nothing to Cherry, good ol’ Cherry, reliant little dog.
Cherry didn’t even scream when they trussed her up and lynched her from her favorite tree, the words “half-blood sinner” written in slashes over her smooth skin.
River Sunbeam Rice was the daughter of the harvest queen, neighbor to that queer twin pair back in the day. River was twelve and they were eleven, and therefore she could be friends with them, but they really must understand that she was superior. River didn’t even see the difference between the two of them, having grown up next to ‘em and been their friend for over a decade. River was so vain back then, so proud of her glossy black hair that streamed down her back, of her long, thin frame. She flounced around and declared that as soon as she showed up to the harvest party, she’d be crowned queen on the spot just like her mama. She was always willing to make Cherry the handmaiden, but Anna was a little harder to control. Anna’s dark brown hair, longer even then River’s, made River jealous. And Anna never wanted to run around and play anyway: the skin on her arms burned easy and she hated watching it glance off of her the way it did. Mostly she would sit and draw on the porch, giggle and clap and sing. Anna could draw a dream, and could sing it three times better, her song like the first true notes that the angels hummed. She’d sing and River and Cherry would dance along, whipped up into a frenzy.
Mrs. Rice never liked her daughter anyhow. River had taken her youth away. River didn’t even try to be pretty, that stupid little girl. It wasn’t even hard calling the police one bright spring day as the world smiled the first few tremors of spring. She fake-wept into the telephone, telling them that Annabelle Lee, devil and witch, was dancing her little girl to death. Was hypnotizing her. Killing her.
Anna doesn’t sing anymore.
River is old now, years wearing her down like rocks at the bottom of a waterfall. She’s no longer vain, but she does occasionally crow that she was crowned harvest queen thrice in a row, then once more two years from then. She was the prettiest thing for miles around for a while, but eventually her mother fell ill and River spent more time indoors helping her instead of going out being River. Eventually, in a fit, Mrs. Rice took a knife to River’s face, slashing her up like the dickens. River didn’t even scream, just stood and took it, blinking back the blood. She wiped her mother’s brow after the failing subsided, and stepped quietly out of the house, over to Anna’s.
That was the first person Anna ever really healed: River’s mother. She was standing at the door, opening it before River even got half up the walkway. She just nodded to her friend, slung a bag over her shoulder and advised the harvest queen that she really ought to put some ice on that. Fifteen minutes was all she spent in River’s house, fifteen minutes in the room of the woman who had first condemned her as a witch. In those fifteen minutes, River’s mother became the healthiest woman for miles and miles. ‘Cept she can’t talk: her tongue’s all burnt and curled. Anna says its from the fever, and no one really contradicts her. No one goes after Anna anymore, though. They’re scared one day they’ll wake up and all that will be left of them is a pile of ashes.
Anna cured River too, of course, so that not even a scar remained. River, though, says she can still see the wounds clear as when she first got ‘em. Says that Anna made her see that every day and every night because then River will remember to be modest. River hasn’t spoken about her beauty in forty years, but tells how Anna saved her and her mother as often as anyone listens.
No one ever believes her though. Her face is too perfect, too unscarred. Anna – no one – could heal a girl that well.
Lee Harper Henry (the third), father to Anna, spent most of his time out of the house, trying to get away from the glaring truth that was his daughters. One was the girl he had always wished for, the other was just the epitome of horror for him. He was a big-shot, one could say, high power job and too much money to spend. He thought sometimes about just leaving his family and getting out of the state, but he had some decency buried in his bones. Instead of looking after his kids, he took up gambling, and he was worse at that then he was a being a father. He’d come home, drunk and defeated, ready to whip whoever stood in his way: which was usually Anna. She didn’t even cry out, either, even when he thrashed her so hard that one time that the walls were actually stained with her blood. Even when he’d crush in her skull or break her bones, she’d just pull herself off the floor and wander upstairs when he was done. Cherry usually cleaned up for the poor thing, since she didn’t want her sister to see the blood everywhere or the teeth and the broken glass – that would just make it worse. Cherry was good. She was quiet, too, so quiet so that her daddy, sleeping on the couch with a broken beer still in his fist, wouldn’t wake up and thrash her too. ‘Cept that one time she accidentally dropped a dish she was washing and bang all of a sudden her father was raining pain down on her. She let out a timid mew, collapsed, felt her ribs smash under his feet.
Anna stopped him, out of nowhere. One moment there was darkness in the kitchen, next Anna came in carrying a baseball bat in one hand and a box of matches in the other. Small Anna, child of the flame, beat back her father until the baseball bat smashed in half, and then whipped flame across him until he wasn’t nothing but a cowering child in the corner like Cherry had been. She hadn’t never fought back against any living thing, but all of a sudden she was fierce and fiery, in control and willing to kill. She was totally silent, as if what she was doing wasn’t nothing short of normal. She then just left her father there, took Cherry upstairs and locked the door behind them.
Her father beat her brutally every night after that, hard enough to kill her, but he hasn’t touched Cherry since.
Anna got hated lots, of course, being the only white girl in an all-black school, but she didn’t care much. She just wanted to be with Cherry, protect Cherry. But Cherry got hated too, cause of her sister. The white folk say that Cherry’s the wrong one, but Anna knows better. They make fun of Cherry’s mama, saying that she went for a white man even though she don’t deserve one. They say that Anna is that man’s child, that Anna’s father couldn’t get the job done, whatever that means. They say Cherry’s just the shadow, just the defect part of a white man’s one night stand. Cherry looks strong while it’s happening, but at home she cries into Anna’s arms like there’s no tomorrow.
Their mother was actually the most genuine woman that ever set foot on this planet. She was true to her husband all the way, was nice and sweet and she lived to be that way. She wanted nothing but some children, a house, and a family. It didn’t need to be a normal family, just one that she could live with. That was all. She died in the arms of her husband, died giving birth to a demon spawn with glowing white skin.
Anna got teased lots ‘cause she was color blind too: she wouldn’t wear clothes that matched, just wore whatever she picked up. She didn’t dress her doll pretty and didn’t color in pictures right and didn’t know what was red or blue. She was strange, and didn’t seem to notice just how white she was. Cherry didn’t seem to notice either, even though Cherry was cool. And none of the kids let Anna be with them. She didn’t care: she’d just sit and draw these amazing pictures and be silent, as if nothing mattered but her pencil and paper. Cherry hung around her and sometimes the kids would tease her, but one look from Anna’s mist colored eyes shut ‘em up good. Only one time did the tease come to blows: and then Anna hacked off her beautiful skein of hair and used it to strangle the boy that pushed Cherry. Teachers had to pry her off like some rabid animal. Nobody ever talked to Anna again, but at least they let Cherry alone.
Until that day she was killed.
There are about seven billion reasons why people claim Cherry’s pretty head got hanged. They strut proudly in front of Anna, shaking their head and offering condolences, saying what a crying shame. But behind her back they whisper about it being her fault, ‘cause she’s so white that it brought the world to judge her sister. Brought around those men in those white hoods, those that killed her dead. Anna went darn near crazy over the sight of her twin, let out a moan like the world never heard, a note of such agony and hate and mourning that every living thing for miles around dropped to the ground and wept without knowing why. Anna had to close her sister’s beautiful blue-green eyes, had to wrap her in black muslin, had to tie back her black hair, had to lay her sister into the ground. Anna didn’t speak through the whole thing, until the funeral, then got up and sung an aria with that beautiful voice of hers, one that shook the pillars of the church and ripped the hearts out of everyone. One that pulled the clouds over the city until it rained and rained. Anna sang and sang, until the night came. Then the poor little white teen had to place her sister’s black coffin into the hard, wet earth.
Annabelle Lee didn’t understand it. Her sister wasn’t mean, wasn’t wrong. And Anna of everyone understood the difference between black and white, ‘cause that’s all she could see. She understood just how glossy white she was against everyone else, how she was a genetic throwback. But she could see how everyone was the same, too. Cherry and her breathed the same air, went to the same school, ate the same food. Cherry was like her and wasn’t, but they were still as close as could be. But Cherry was dead, and there wasn’t any justice for her. People turned the other cheek, called it a hate crime and a crying shame but they said that it couldn’t be helped. They looked away and kept their daughters indoors, but they never showed up at the grave to pay their condolences. And that day Anna saw how the world worked, how the spite and hate and fire that existed in all people really functioned. She saw humanity, with its frail colors, she saw just how they thought they were witnesses but were instead instigators and haters in their own right, how they didn’t notice their own actions and tried not to notice anyone else’s. Anna saw the world that day, and Annabelle Lee realized just what was wrong with it.
All the world is blind.