Illustration: coral-colored barette holding blue and black waves of hair

Black Coral

The heat dances through the coral fronds of tita’s black hair as we walk along the lava fields. Soon we will hit the gravely white sands dotted with naked pink tourists, shrimps stretched and oiled. I don’t want to look at them but I dart my eyes along their edges, nipping at differences. Tita tells me to stop staring and keep walking.

When we reach the Queen’s Bath, salty and fresh, we tear off our clothes and jump into the cold water, its edges dotted pink. Tita’s hair unfurls around her, the tiny shrimp finding purchase along her branches. I want to be one of them.

As she swirls around, I drift, tasting the ocean we can hear over the lip of the bath. Tita will leave for the mainland soon. Like now, the shrimp will cling to her but she won’t mind. She will be immovable, anchored here.

Melissa Llanes Brownlee  is a Native Hawaiian writer. She received her MFA in Fiction from UNLV. Her work has appeared in Booth: A Journal, The Notre Dame Review, Pleiades, The Citron Review, Waxwing, Milk Candy Review and elsewhere. She was a finalist for the 2018 New American Fiction Prize and the 2019 Brighthorse Prize.

Barrette illustration by C.B. Auder.

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