A Curtain Child

by Alina Kuvaldina

1st Place Winner – Flash 405, April 2024: “Home”


When I walk into my childhood room, sometimes I turn into a tiny teddy bear with black beady eyes. I always stand inconspicuously in the same corner then and do not breathe. My arms and legs are stuffed with cotton wool, and even if I wanted to, I could not move them. I just stand there and wait for someone to come into the room, pick me up, and play with me until they get bored. And then they will throw me into the corner and forget about me again until the next time.

On other days, when I enter this room, I become a carpet. My pile is soft and bright, I am always well-groomed and clean so guests cannot say my parents do not take care of carpets in this house. This is important. But it is not the main thing. The main thing is that I remain comfortable. I will be so pleasant, so happy to be trampled on. My family will come and trample me more and more into the floor with their dirty feet. They will smile back at the big smile painted on me, an integral part of the room’s interior.

But most days I am a curtain here. Everyone wanted a completely different color. Everyone remembers this when they look at me. Often I am simply pushed aside so that I do not interfere. But basically my task is to cover up what is really going on in this house. Anyone does not have to guess what happens to me when I turn into a teddy bear. Anyone does not have to see how often I lie on the floor in this room as the carpet. No one even has to think about taking me out of this place.

They say it was happening so long ago that it does not matter anymore. But no matter how old I am, when I walk into my childhood room, I always feel an urge to become anything else but not myself before my parents come inside.



Judge’s Comments:
This piece is so understated in its devastation, its quiet pain hidden beneath a smile, a front, anything for anyone not to know. Brutal and beautiful and so, so affecting.

Alina Kuvaldina is a journalist and writer of Ukrainian origin. Her stories in English appear or are forthcoming in the Beyond Words anthology Regrets and Short Beasts. She currently resides in Leipzig, Germany, and working on her first novel.

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Photo by Maria Orlova