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Copyright © 2010

Maria Deira



She came to life with a port-wine stain on her right cheek. The mark of the devil, said her grandmother. The kiss of God, said her grandfather. At school no one touched her. At home no one called her beautiful. When she was sixteen, eating a burger at McDonald’s, she met a boy with the same boot-shaped birthmark on his left cheek. Louisiana, he said. No, she laughed. Italy. They shared french fries and a milkshake and when the restaurant closed, they walked outside together. Above them the stars faded in and out, a silent rhythm that moved him to grab her hands and twirl her around. He pulled her close. On her tiptoes, she pressed her purple cheek against his and it burned. Meet me here tomorrow night, he said, and she promised him she would. But come morning, her stain had vanished and in her ecstatic surprise she spent hours looking at herself in the mirror, dusting on different shades of blush—Georgia Peach, Radiant Rose and Spring Fling Pink—forgetting about the boy until late that evening when an ad for a new double-cheeseburger and fry combo played on the radio. When she finally pulled into the parking lot, he was sitting on the curb, still waiting for her, even though the restaurant had long been empty and the weak light of an old street lamp flickered above him. She hurried over to him and asked, Is it gone? Is it gone? He looked at her, his eyes dull and gray, his left cheek smooth and unblemished and soft. I want it back, he said. She cupped her hand against her face. No, no, no. He dropped his head, his shoulders hunched like those of an old man who couldn’t breathe, saying, Just put your cheek next to mine. That’s all we have between us. I can’t, she said, and she ran to her car, leaving him there alone in the dark, in the fumes of her escape, alone and stain-free. Free, free, free, she thought to herself as she drove away without looking back, trying not to understand what she hated and he needed.