She Is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran

She Is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran

Author:Trang Thanh Tran
Language: eng
Format: epub, mobi
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

When I am dreaming, I walk Nhà Hoa’s halls. It’s not from our time because a carpet runs the hallway’s full length, plush and patterned in what one might determine as oriental or exotic.

I aim for the exit into the woods where the hungry ghost can’t see us. Cam should be waiting for me, but the only flutter of clothing is on a small girl scurrying from kitchen to sitting room. No, this isn’t a dream. I missed it: the invisible plugs in my ears. I’m visiting a dead bride’s memory.

Laughter rings out from that room—from more than one person, nothing I’ve heard yet in the restored Nhà Hoa. Once, my whole family laughed together. It was never at dinner, since Mom worked such long hours, but on those Saturday nights when we gathered with their old friends, the ones they met at refugee camps in the Philippines. There was a lot of laughter. Then of course, separated, people picked sides—even the children.

Lily is the only one who can’t.

The small girl, I remember, realizing then that it might be my great-grandmother. I move quickly around the corner. I have to see her face in motion. Maybe her brows are perpetually raised as Bren’s are, or she— Marion Dumont walks straight through me. Her body is fuller than in Cam’s last memory. Rouge colors her cheeks, her scent nothing but crushed flowers. That neck is set normally. She isn’t dead or sick yet.

She shouts at the staff in the kitchen. French, broken Vietnamese, fast and demanding. My—I turn back around—great-great-grandparents, all white fog seeping in from the windows, meaningless to her except for the production of food. Her guests smoke and clink glasses together. The small girl refreshes their drinks, oblivious to my presence.

All around me are officers who undoubtedly keep Vietnam in check and profitable, their starched uniforms muddied at the hem. One other person stands out. Her heart-shaped face is turned down, and she speaks to no one. So many mouths move, but here they’re not translated. Fast French. Nothing I understand.

My great-grandmother smiles when she reaches Cam, who smiles back. Cam sneaks a candy into her pocket, her eyes mysterious under straight-cut bangs.

“Camilla,” Marion says. The words and the mouth do not match up. The wrong record, mislaid audio. “Will you please help set the food, dear sister?” Only dear sister doesn’t sound like its meaning at all. It slips in the teeth: broken floss, chicken skin, something for your tongue to consider removing.

Her husband places a hand on her knee, as if to say no, but Cam excuses herself anyway. A squeeze on his hand, as quick as the candy for my great-grandmother, now hidden in drifting fog. The faces blurry.

“Ce sont tous des parasites,” goes the French from Marion’s mouth. They are all parasites. She picks a fresh oyster from the platter Cam carries back. “If they’re not working, they’re scheming. Should we not keep them busy, then?” Her thin mouth turns upward in a grin as she demands everyone’s attention, lemon sluicing from the gray shell in her palm to hardwood.


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