Silent Communications – Anita Goveas

The flowering cherry tree outside Sarpana’s room in the pebble-dashed house in Wimbledon was a mistake. A dwarf ‘Pink Perfection’ tree that grew too big until its canopy shaded the front garden and its branches almost stretched to her window. The music of the wind in the leaves blew her to sleep most nights, as she lay awake counting her mistakes.

The eldest child is the leader, everyone knows that. The middle child is neglected and the youngest is spoilt by everyone. But what happens when the eldest is tone deaf and the middle child is a boy who’s born singing? When the eldest daughter has arms skinnier than the green shoots of over-shadowed crocuses, and the youngest daughter’s cri-du-chat means she only listens to people who can lift her over their heads?

No one ever asked anything of Sarpana but she felt silent expectation pool in the base of her neck. It wouldn’t rub away. She gave up going to the library to take Tarla to the park, and winced every time she ate dandelions. She stopped playing chess after school to take Jinesh shopping, and shrank every time he came home with pockets full of stolen CD’s. The only thing she knew for sure was sometimes the breeze sighing through cracked bark sounded like secret comfort. She whispered back in gasps in the dark and listened for changes in the code.

The cherry tree replied the day of the Great Storm. The wind intensified all day, swirled over the porch and ripped through the lavender. The tap-tap-tap on the window came at exactly midnight on her digital clock. Sarpana moved forward, pressed her face on the cool glass, blinked into the gloom.  The heavy branch crashed through the top of the window and spiked through her pillow. She slept on the floor as if stunned.

It split itself in half with the effort of communication, limbs still pointing. A hybrid, twisted thing. Crocuses grew back under the dead part, Tarla hugged the half that still flowered every morning. It never gave fruit again. The crowds who gathered to stare at the wreckage and point at the miracle girl made her mother bite her lip and her father rub the base of his neck. Sarpana pleaded for the tree every evening, but her passionate gasps dispersed like seeds sucked from a dandelion head.

They chopped it down the day she left home. The tap-tap-tap of the suitcase on the pavement told her not to go back.

Anita Goveas is British-Asian, based in London, and fueled by strong coffee and paneer jalfrezi. Her stories are published and forthcoming in the 2016 London Short Story Prize anthology, The Word Factory website, Dodging the Rain, Rigorous, Pocket Change, Haverthorn and Riggwelter Press. She tweets erratically @coffeeandpaneer.

Melina at the Movies – Sarah Valeika

I had an aunt Melina who wept during sad movies. There are plenty of people who review movies and attest to their gravity or appeal by saying things like,

“I cried like a baby!” or praise a film that induces both “laughter and tears,” but nobody cried at movies like Aunt Melina.

It was funny to most of us. To my father, for example, who had married Melina’s youngest sister, this 47-year-old woman with the long, auburn hair, big billowing scarf and mason jar of green tea was just a suburban vignette rife with city-dweller humor. Raised in Chicago himself, having seen a “hell of a lot of women,” he had “never seen anybody who looked more acutely miserable while being entertained as that Aunt Melina of yours.” I never really understood why being from the city made him so wont to laugh at those of us with hearts on streets named after trees, but he liked to think he was jaded, knowing and hardy, so we let him. There were times when he wanted to watch movies with my Aunt Melina simply to watch her reactions, as though they were infinitely more amusing than any fiction could be.

Take “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” He casually asked my mother one day if her sister had ever seen the movie.

“Don’t think so.”

“Don’t you think she should? It’s a classic.” He loosened a slice of pizza from a tupperware and shoved it in his mouth.

“Oh Rod,” Mom sighed, “leave Mel alone!” She snatched the slice out of his hands and finshed it.

“What?” he laughed, that little impish gleam in his eye. “It’s part of her cultural education.”

So, that Friday evening, she came over to watch “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” with us. I sat in a blanket on the floor with the book in my hands, to cross-compare. Mom spent most of the time in and out of the room going to the kitchen to refill Anthony’s water bottle or get Fossie some more popcorn. Fossie and Anthony flopped across their beanbag chairs, and Dad and Aunt Melina sat side by side on the purple sofa. (Funnily, my Aunt Melina had chosen the color—she thought it “suited” Mom’s eyes, so my mom picked it up in a heartbeat. Dad never really saw it that way; after all, he had separately suggested the color to fit the caramel walls, but I can tell even now from the way my mother talks about Melina that it was she, and not Dad, who changed Mom’s mind).

“Look at her eyes,” my aunt whispered, 67 minutes into the film. Audrey Hepburn was gazing at something or other, but I couldn’t see what, too occupied was I in trying to find the page I had lost in the novella.

“What?” my father asked.

“Her eyes, don’t they just look so childlike? So trusting?”

And thus did she proceed to loosen whatever restrained her eyes—faucet, duct tape, nails and screws—who knew what ever kept her composed at all? But with the flick of an eyelash, as it were, she began to cry. My father said nothing, only motioned with his hand as Mom returned to the room, and again he smirked to his wife.

“We may need a little more tea in here, doll… to soothe the nerves!”


There was also, of course, the time when my father decided to rent “A Year Without Santa Claus” to show at the family Christmas Eve dinner. After roast beef was served, the family with children groggily headed home, parents a little wine-liberated and children sipping the sweet nectar of anticipation. Those who stayed: Granny, (who was dwindling in the head), Uncle John (passed out) and Aunt Melina.

“Prepare yourself,” Dad said solemnly to the 47-year-old woman with the long auburn hair and the trigger-ready tear ducts and the shallow blue eyes. “This is not a movie easily forgotten.”

“Rod,” my mom chided demurely, picking lint off the floor, “come on now.”

“I think this one is going to bring us closer, even through the pain.”

Fire munched away at itself in the fireplace, and Aunt Melina only smiled that thin, closed-mouth smile of hers.

“Rod,” my mother repeated.

“It’s a movie that speaks to me,” he began, and clapped me on the shoulder, under the weight of which I shuddered (having inherited my mother’s weak frame). “I think I first saw this one with the kids. Maybe Fossie first? The poor little lamb was waiting for smiles on snowmen, I could see it in her eyes, but no such smiles come in the year without Santa. How could they? Without the enchantment of a dream to sustain their feeble little hearts, what are they to do, I ask you?”

Hunkering down beneath our front porch, I could hear the local stray whining, braying at whoever was passing the house. A shadow skipped. A music note, single and sustained, was being played somewhere, I could feel it.

“Just shush,” Mom said quietly, a gentle in-and-up of the chest suggesting some attempt at a laugh.

“C’mon Mel, you’n’I will get through this together,” and he grasped my aunt’s hand and pressed it to his chest. As he did, Melina just sat there and lowered her eyes to the carpet. A single, sustained note was being played somewhere, I did not know where. Not once did anybody cry that night which, in retrospect, was a sad sort of funny.


I always wondered how infidelity worked—whether it had to be physical, or whether it was suspected or proven, or whether it was a matter of blame or just bad timing, mutually bad timing. By the age of fourteen, I had learned that it was just a matter of movies. Sad movies, and whether or not you let yourself cry.

Sarah Valeika is a writer whose works have been featured in Eunoia Review, Fem Fiction, Poetry Breakfast, Navigating the Maze and other print and e-journals.

Dying Dahlia Review: Summer 2017

It’s finally here! We are so happy to present the Summer 2017 edition of Dying Dahlia Review!  We are featuring some amazing flash fiction and poetry by some awesome women writers!  And check out that beautiful cover art by Ashley Parker Owens!  Make sure to snag yourself a copy today! Follow the links below to purchase the ebook at your retailer of choice.



Barnes and Noble


Apple iBooks (Search for “Dying Dahlia Review”)


Baby’s Breath – D. Vaisius

Learning someone is like falling. Every moment changing, bringing you closer to something else. A cold, hard ground. But you weren’t the ground. I learned and fell but there was no end. No ground. And so I learned to fly. I haven’t quite figured it out yet. Maybe I’m getting there. Maybe we are so different I’ll never make it. But you will. I look at you and a gentle smile tugs at my insides. There won’t be any yelling this time, or sadness.

You have got my smile and I have a weird thing about your hair. We have fairy lights, candles and nightlights to break up the dark. We have the space we make together through our hands and bodies and voices. We are a knotted mess of pure, experiential love. It sounds like a beautiful secret. I kissed you on the nose. Now rain hits our roof. It’s February and rain is surrounding me. I stain my ears, hoping the sound will not fade away leaving me alone. At least the rain has come. If only for a moment.

I clasped and unclasped my hands anxiously all day. Searching for an anchor in the buzzing hail of nerves that seemed to inexhaustibly fill me. This old house makes bones ache. The silence of the scream in me seems to wrap quieting fingers about my throat and squish. I can hear birds outside. They are twittering away. It’s not quite a hopeful sound yet but it’s one I’ve not heard for a while. The roar of a backhoe as it rips another tree down cuts through. Perhaps that is why the birds seem subdued. I close my eyes and lean back in the rocking chair, breathe in time with you.

D. Vaisius was eight when she first started writing. Since then it has been a quiet, reflective journey through styles and experiences. Writing is probably the only things she doesn’t over think and as such is incredibly important to her happiness.

Two Liner Contest

Our birthday is coming up on February 22! (We much prefer birthday rather than “anniversary”.) And we want to celebrate with a little contest! Send us your two line story/poem and win a copy of the Dying Dahlia Review: Winter 2017 ebook.

Rules? There are none. Just send us your very best two lines. We’ll choose the best three and feature them in our upcoming Summer 2017 ebook.

Winners will be announced on (you guessed it) February 22nd. No time to lose! Send us your two line poem/story to or simply #DyingDahlia on Facebook or Twitter. 

Happy Writing!