Facelessness: An Excerpt from Anne Leigh Parrish’s ‘Maggie’s Ruse’

Coil Excerpts
Oct 16 · 3 min read

Fiction by Anne Leigh Parrish


H e drank from his beer, set the bottle on the floor, then took her hand.

“I don’t know how to say this,” he said.

“Then don’t.”

He looked at her until she had to turn her gaze on something else, but that was only for a second. He kissed her.

She dropped his hand.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I’m not really ready for this.”

“You were the other day.”

Maggie conceded the point. She said she’d been trying to figure out what made her do it, and she realized that she must have some crazy wish to be her sister, if that made any sense. She might have discovered this before if she’d moved out sooner. She and Marta had spent very little time apart, which made this separation a valuable thing. She needed to know who she was, aside from Marta Dugan’s twin sister. She tried to imagine that Marta had never been born, that it was just Maggie and her three other siblings; or that Marta had died at birth, and Maggie survived, but it was hard to think like that, because it seemed so cruel, willing someone out of existence. She realized, too, that this was what drove her work right now — she showed him the sketchpad, and the several versions she’d drawn of the faceless woman.

He was impressed, or pretended to be, and when Maggie registered her suspicions, she knew the evening was doomed. She couldn’t sleep with a man she didn’t trust. She then wondered whom she had ever trusted, male or female, in a binding, unquestioning way, the kind of bond she assumed should exist between a man and woman and had never observed, certainly not in her own fractious household. Her father remarried a woman who remodeled houses with her own hands and was, the children all agreed, actually very like their mother in terms of her capability and practical bent. They seemed happy. She couldn’t tell. Her mother and stepfather seemed happy, or rather he seemed happy. She seemed generally disinterested. But they must have a deep, solid trust between them since it would be impossible to live together without it.

Until recently, the only person she had trusted was Marta, and not because Marta always treated her well, or was considerate of her feelings, but because she knew what she was thinking. Perhaps that — and only that — was the true basis of trust, knowing another’s mind. And since it took time to learn the habits and inclinations of someone else, especially a love interest, maybe all you had to go on for a while was faith, and physical attraction.

She studied Josh while he studied her drawings. When he saw her doing so, he blushed. She lost ground then.

“It’s a cool idea, facelessness,” he said.

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

Coil Excerpts

Written by

Book Excerpts at The Coil: An Independent Literary Magazine at http://thecoilmag.com. Contact Excerpt Editor Lyndsey Ellis at excerpts@thecoilmag.com. #CoilMag

The Coil

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade