[Fiction] The lifelong impact of brief friendships. A woman meets three friends in college who have special gifts:

Charles voice is controlled mortification. You fainted, he says.

One of the girls holds my hand. You totally did, she agrees.

Where are the birds? I say.

They disappeared when you fainted, the other Earring Girl says.

Her face is replaced by a mall paramedic demanding know what year it is, who is president, what my husband’s name is, what my name is.

My husband’s name is Ian, I say.

It is the wrong answer; their faces make this clear.

“Great, Wondrous.” — Marie-Helene Bertino, Five Chapters

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