“The First Time We Met” by Maria Deira

Elena has a gift: her saliva can heal cuts and scrapes. When she and Hector, the story’s narrator, first meet, she licks a deep cut on his forearm, leaving only a faint trace of the gash. Needless to say, Hector was surprised, confused and attracted to her.

The story switches from the present, 15 years after that first meeting, and incidents in their life together. I’m always amazed how much we can learn about the characters in a short story. Here we learn about their history, but also about how even though their comfortable now with each other, some of the passion has left. Also, Elena is losing her gift and doesn’t know who she is without it.

In some ways, Hector wants to leave her, but in some ways he can’t.

I don’t know what to say. She’s both right and wrong. I’m right and wrong. At this moment, I can’t go anywhere. I’m too tired and weak and she’s nestled on top of me, perfectly balanced, our bodies pressed together like two magnets. I imagine a forcefield around us, making it impossible for us to separate from each other.

I like how Deira takes this couple, Elena with her power and Hector just an ordinary guy, and makes their life come alive. More than that, though, their worries are universal. How do we change and grow, but still stay together? When is “safe” a good thing and when is it stifling?

If you’re interested in reading the story, it can be found at Strange Horizons. John hosts Short Story Monday at The Book Mine Set. Head over there to see what he and others have been reading.


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