The First Word

by Melissa Llanes Brownlee

The wrong dress, floral and pink, worn to a failed interview for a school she will never be able to enter, dumped in the Goodwill box. The torn song sheet from a missed audition, because her mother forgot to pick her up, burned and buried behind the house. The portable cd player, she’d bought with her own birthday money, stolen by her sister to use in her new car their parents bought because she was dating a quarterback and needed a car for cheerleading practice and a part time job. The broken-lock diary her brother ripped from her hands to tease her about her first crush, his cruel words burned red as the hearts she’d drawn, tossed in the trash after his fun. The fantasy books, she borrowed from the library, used to hold up the couch her dad insisted he would fix before they were due. The old typewriter, a gift from the aunt who lives too far away to know, resold to an antique shop before she could even type.

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Melissa Llanes Brownlee (she/her), a native Hawaiian writer, living in Japan, has fiction in The Citron Review, Waxwing, Milk Candy Review, Claw & Blossom, Bending Genres, The Lumiere Review, Micro Podcast, (mac)ro(mic), 3Elements Literary Review and elsewhere. She was selected for Best Small Fictions 2021. She tweets @lumchanmfa and talks story at

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