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Family Circle 2010 Fiction Contest: "The Ravens Are Leaving the Tower"

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I sit on a curb in Barcelona, waiting for a bus. An older couple sits on a nearby bench.

"Can you understand what they're going on about?"

I turn to the bench. A British woman is motioning towards a couple fighting in Spanish a few feet from us. "No, sorry," I say. "Something about the color yellow, I think."

"American?"

I nod, with a slight expression of guilt, but their faces both explode in smiles.

"My cousin lives in South Carolina! We were just there last summer. Donna Flannery? Do you know her?" the woman asks.

"Now, why would she know Donna?" the man says to her, shaking his head. "What, you think she knows everyone in the country?"

Their pale, white faces are flushed bright red from the sun. They look uncomfortable in their khaki shorts and running shoes. "Why are you all by yourself?" the woman asks me.

After her diagnosis, Eliza had sat my parents and me down to tell us the news. My mother later confessed that she thought Eliza was going to tell them she was gay. My father had expected to hear that she was pregnant. Neither of them were prepared for cancer.

You know, Eliza said to me that night, you hear about all these people with cancer, how one in six people have either had it or will, but I'm the first person I know.

Do you want an award? I'd asked. I was fifteen at the time.

Maybe I'll get to do Make a Wish.

Stop it Eliza, you're not dying, I'd said.

That was three years ago. In Barcelona, the woman waits for my answer. "My sister is dying," I say.

"Oh dear," the woman says. "That's too bad." She fans herself with a map, uncomfortable with me and my dying sister.

I write: I met an adorable British couple while waiting for a bus. There's nothing else to say about them, so I continue with, Barcelona is beautiful, the sky is bright blue and there are mosaics everywhere. On Las Ramblas, there are parrots in cages, men in silver paint pretending to be statues, and a pregnant woman dressed as a fairy in a bright, purple dress.

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