The Fatima Sisters

There were rumors circulating throughout the party that night that the three Fatima sisters had seen The Virgin Mary.

It was one of many topics that swarmed in the noisy air like the sound of a freeway or a wind-swept sea. Or even a high-school cafeteria. Topics of love and loss and television. Words of wisdom doled out to ringing ears. Confessions and lies. But nothing that was said seemed as interesting as the story of the Fatima sisters.

The party had been, for the most part, uneventful. People came and went, some driving off into the night even though they had had far too much to drink. Girls took their shoes off and laughed loudly. Boys ducked out onto the back porch to suck on cigarettes and blow smoke clouds off into the starless night. An mp3 player was on shuffle, switching from rap to indie to classical randomly and with mostly pleasant results.

It was held at the house of the boy who wishes to remain anonymous. A boy who already had too many tattoos at such a young age and played guitar in at least three bands. His mother had been a roadie, and his father was possibly a singer of some '80s hair metal band that may or may not have been popular. His mother was frequently gone, and this left the house, and the large liquor supply, open for guests. And then there were times when his mother was home, and the party went on anyway. The mother would mingle with the kids, and she was well liked by all, although some would often comment later on how pathetic it was for a woman her age to be hanging with teenagers, trying desperately to capture her wild youth. And still others thought she was pretty cool. She would die in a fire a few weeks after the party, after the office building she worked at was set ablaze under mysterious circumstances. The other office workers had all made it to safety, but she had been found sitting upright at her desk, her skin charred black and resembling a dead oak tree.

The rumors about the three sisters came in like the wind, sneaking through the tiny cracks of the front door before it was slammed shut. Someone, possibly Kelly, heard someone, possibly Tim, mention it in class earlier in the afternoon. Or maybe it wasn't class; maybe it was lunch. Or study hall. One thing was for certain: it was somewhere in the school. And it had lasted all day, building slowly, gaining up momentum. Getting stronger. Feeding on whispers.

By the time of the party, everyone knew a little something about it, but no one wanted to say it too loudly. People casually mentioned it to each other.

"I heard that all three of them are pregnant now," Thomas said to Jane. "And they've never even been laid!"

"That's horseshit," Jane said. "I know for a fact that all three of them are like the town water-fountain: everybody gets a turn."

"Does that include you?" Thomas asked, eyebrow raised, and was met with a whack on his arm by Jane's handbag. The two of them would later be killed during the worst electrical storm in the history of the town. They'd be making out in Thomas' Jeep on Dover Point when a single bolt of lightning would travel across the universe and smash through the front windshield. "I heard," whispered Carl, to no one in particular, "that they were all sniffing glue behind the church and mistook a statue for the real Virgin Mary. Dumb bitches!"

He would join the army in a year, then fight proudly in the Middle East. He would return home from his tour of duty safe and sound, only to be killed a week later in a rock climbing accident, when his guideline would snap and he would fall over one hundred feet, head first. At the funeral, his father would be heard to mutter: "Why couldn't he die in battle, like a real man?"

And the rumors went on and on. The whispers growing softer and softer. They grew softer still when the three Fatima sisters themselves actually showed up at the party.

It was strange for all three of them to arrive together. It was true that the girls would go to parties, but it would usually be either one of them or maybe two at once. Never all three at the same party. They didn't travel in packs. As people watched the three of them step in through the door, they searched their brains to remember a time when they all had been spotted together. Everyone drew a blank. It was around the time of their arrival that Jimmy passed out in the upstairs hallway. He would not wake up until the following day, and he would tell everyone of the strange, beautiful dream he'd had during his unconsciousness. When pressed for details about the dream, a blank look would come over his face.

"I can't...quite remember," he would say. He would be dead less than a year later, an apparent suicide by hanging. There would be no note.

As the sisters passed through the throngs of people, everyone, male and female, could not help but have his or her breath taken away. The three Fatima sisters were dangerously beautiful girls, each individual in tiny ways.

The youngest wore plastic bracelets and wool skirts and black Converse sneakers. She had no piercings in either of her ears, and this was considered by all to be strange. She liked any music that featured an acoustic guitar or a violin. She would take long walks by herself, often strolling down to Kilmer's Farm, where she would lay under the dead willow tree and meditate. This was becoming a problem, as Old Man Kilmer kept complaining that every time she came by, his horses would go wild, kicking in the air and screaming their high-pitched screams.

"Something's spooking them!" he said to his wife. Two weeks later, all the horses would be dead, killed by a strange new virus.

She slept in on Sundays. It was rumored but never proven that she had a strong cocaine addiction, though there were never ever signs of it. When she spoke, it was a soft sweet sound.

The middle sister was tall and tan and had hair the color of wheat. No one knew much about her, except that one summer she had disappeared without a trace, only to return in the fall with a slightly chipped front tooth and a small case of amnesia.

The oldest sister had a tiny tattoo of a sparrow on her neck, and a laugh that would give everyone goosebumps. She cracked her knuckles often, creating a loud crunch. She had a switch-blade in her purse that her first boyfriend had given her for protection. She was the only one of the three to have ever had boyfriends, though the relationships never lasted and, at least in one circumstance, ended in a mysterious and never solved disappearance. She seemed to be the wisest, the most world weary. She had studied abroad, having graduated from high school two years ago. She had had affairs with rugged Italian boys who spoke no English whatsoever. She liked to dance, and had studied ballet in high school and college. When she pirouetted, people would stop whatever they were doing and become fixed on her, her thin frame spinning, her hair flowing. She smelled faintly of vanilla and jasmine. She played in the rain and took naps up in birch trees. No one had ever heard her utter a curse word in her entire life.

All three girls had sunset eyes and heavenly smiles.

They each had self-inflicted scars hidden on their bodies.

They all carried flasks in their purses.

The sisters kept secrets, and they kept them well.

For most of the night, the party went on the same way it usually did. People got too drunk and made fools of themselves. Injuries of the night included a left foot, a right hand, a black eye, and someone's feelings. Two people who never seemed attracted to each other ended up making out in front of everyone. TV channels were changed frantically. People got too loud. Claire Simmons met the boy who would go on to become the love of her life, and then would, two years from that night, strangle her to death during an argument over dinner. Rodney McCullen slowly began to feel it was time for him to find his father's gun, and he would a month later, in his father's sock drawer. He would fill his father full of holes, and then put the gun into his own mouth, blowing the back of his head clean off. Police at the scene would notice that the blood splatter on the wall above Rodney's lifeless body resembled a face, and some would go so far as to suggest that it might even be the face of Jesus. This would be laughed at, as well it should be, because photos of the crime scene show that the splatter really looked like nothing more than a wet, bloody mess.

People did shots and threw up. And the whole time, everyone eyed the three sisters and wondered about the rumors of the Virgin Mary.

A loud, unfriendly girl, who was likely named Mavis, finally broke the ice and asked the sisters flat out if the rumors were true. She was chewing gum loudly as she spoke, and when she finished she let out a nervous laugh that made everyone in earshot uncomfortable.

The party grew silent. Some people wanted to leave, to escape the room. Some didn't want to know the real answer; the rumor was good enough. Knowing the truth would destroy the stories they had already formed in their heads. Wild, inaccurate stories filled with blood and sex.

The sisters looked at each other, and then back at the rest of the party. The sisters were standing with their backs against the wall, and the rest of the party was crowded around them, a slight circular gap between the sisters and everyone else. They were watched with wide curious eyes and slightly gaping mouths.

The oldest sister nodded at the crowd, and proceeded to tell the story:

The sisters had been on their back porch, sharing a cigarette, when the Virgin Mary had appeared to them, high up in the swaying pine trees of their backyard.

The Virgin Mary was dressed in blue robes and cast a warm glow out at them. Her eyes were brown, and her skin looked fake, as if made of wax or porcelain. Her hands were always at her sides, palms up, fingers held tightly together.

When the wind had blown the branches of the trees, the Virgin Mary's robes had billowed slowly, not in sync with the tree movements.

The sisters' reaction to this sudden appearance was calm and quiet. They did not cry out in shock. They did not fall to their knees in reverence. They merely starred up at the apparition, their eyes unblinking, their lips held tight.

When the Virgin Mary had spoken, her lips and mouth had not moved, but her words had been heard loud and clear by all three girls. Her words had a sort of strange muffled echo to them, as if emanating from a tunnel or from under the sea. They were breathtaking and beautiful. Strange and wonderful. Pure words.

And then the oldest sister stopped telling the story.

A hush fell over the party. The people gazed at the three sisters, waiting for more.

Waiting for something else. Nothing came.

"And then she was gone," the oldest sister said.

The people of the party wanted answers. They wanted to know exactly what the Virgin said.

One by one, the sisters left without telling. Everyone stood in silence and watched them shuffle out the front door and into the night. They would not be seen again. The house where they lived with their parents would go on sale and never be bought. No one would have any record of their current whereabouts, not even the few family members they had in town.

The sisters kept secrets, and they kept them well.

About the author:

Chris Evangelista was born and raised in Philadelphia. He has written short stories, screenplays, and poetry and is currently at work on a novel. He lives in New Jersey with his fiancee, writer Emily Ambash.