My Beautiful Cousin (Flash Fiction)

Image by Alexa from Pixabay

Flash Fiction #140

“Oh, my beautiful cousin Alia again. Every time my mother posts a family photo with Alia in it, she has to mention that Alia was in competition for Miss Malaysia in 2007. She just has to. And if I don’t give a star or click ‘like’, she would be annoyed. Of course she won’t express her annoyance in a straightforward way, but instead, she will whine late on–Oh, you live in New Jersey and you forget about us back home… Then I will have to do something to keep her quiet.” Nia says while scrolling her phone to catch up with the latest social media posting.

Nia and her friends Pammy, Lulan are sitting in the dining room after dinner, chatting and laughing. Their husbands are gathered in the living room, their eyes glued to the television where some soccer events are happening in Qatar, in preparation for the big game later this month.

“Oh, mothers are like that. My mother still scolds me like I was a little girl sometimes, but I know she has good intentions.” Pammy says.

“Oh, your mother is normal, but my parents are narcissists. I know many people don’t believe such parents exist, but they do. My grandmother is one big narcissist, who raised several little narcissists, among whom my mother was the most narcissistic of all. And then guess what, a narcissist attracts another narcissist. She married my father, who’s a covert narcissist. And Alia is the golden child of my narcissistic family that everybody just can’t stop talking about.” Nia says while showing her friends the post from her mother.

“Well, I have to say those beauty pageants, I mean Asian beauty pageants in Hong Kong, Malaysia or whatever places. I mean those winners they selected don’t look, you know, like, representing East Asians like us.” Lulan says.

“Of course not. The sky high legs, the huge eyes, the high nose and cheekbones. I mean those are not our features. We don’t have legs like that or eyes like that, and our face is flatter…” Pammy says.

“Well, I have to say my cousin’s grandpa, not the grandpa we shared, but her other grandpa on her father’s side… You know…” Nia says.

“You know what? I don’t know.” Pammy asks.

“Her other grandma said her husband was a Portuguese businessman who died young, and that’s the official story we all have to stick with, but I just think they probably didn’t marry and he just left one day.” Nia says.

“Nia, you are becoming more cynical.” Pammy says.

“Cynicism is the self defense of people who grew up under two narcissists. Anyway, every summer break, my parents would invite Alia to live with us for a month or so just to show her off to colleagues and neighbors–we lived at the residential quarter of a university. They never invited my other cousins who were not cute enough for my parents’ narcissistic parade. I guess my cousin was also the cute little tool they could use as a standard to criticize my look, my manner, my sulkiness. Most important of all, they accused me of being jealous of her beauty and being a bad elder sister–we don’t use the word cousin for some reason, but rather we always use the word sister. One day, they insisted that I should bring my cousin to a summer science fair that our school always held each year. I refused to do that since not only my cousin didn’t like science at all, but she’s also very artlessly vocal about her own beauty. She would just blurt out that she’s more pretty than this or that actress, or how a young colleague of her parents almost died of heartbreak because he thought she was too young–at the time she was 12 and I was 16. No doubt she’s just parroting the praises people piled on her, but I was so embarrassed at listening to her naive declarations. I mean I would become the butt of all the jokes among my friends if she talked like that within my friends’ hearing. My refusal caused a big row, which is typical for a narcissistic family–any thing no matter how insignificant can trigger a huge fight. I was labeled as the most evil of all the sisters and most jealous of all people, which of course I vehemently denied.” Nia says.

“Hearing your talk of narcissism for so long, I’ve started to wonder if my husband Pan’s family is narcissistic. I mean Pan turns out to be normal, thank goodness, but my mother-in-law is quite…” Pammy says, but she is interrupted by her husband Pan, who emerges right next to them with Nia’s husband, Yitu. The Qatar event on TV is taking a break and the two guys walk pass the dining room to the kitchen for cans of beer in the fridge.

“I heard my name and a beautiful girl or something.” Pan says.

“I heard it too.” Nia’s husband Yitu chimes in.

“Nia’s talking about narcissism again. Can you believe Nia’s parents tortured her like crazy? Two narcissistic freaks. And used her beautiful cousin Alia as a torturing device. All those mind games narcissists play.” Pammy says.

“Alia? Is she Miss Hong Kong several years back? Show me her picture.” Pan says, craning his head forward.

“Yes, show us.” Nia’s husband Yitu says.

“No, she’s much older than that. She competed in 2007. You’ve met her. You don’t need to see her pictures.” Nia says to Pan, and then to her husband Yitu.

“But I need to refresh my memory. We haven’t been back for quite some time. Show me the picture.” Yitu replies.

“We are talking about serious stuff here, like psychology and healing. I’ve told you about my parents’ narcissism.” Nia says to Yitu.

“Honey, I totally agree with you. Now show me the picture.” Yitu says. As Nia is not responding quickly, Yitu grabs the cell phone from her and scrolls the social media posts himself.

“Can you believe that?” Nia says to Pammy and Lulan. “My hubby doesn’t want to listen to me and he just wants to see the picture.”

“Nia is trying to talk about something really serious…” Pammy talks to Yitu and her husband. However Yitu was busy scrolling, and Pan murmurs something in reply while his eyes stare at the cell phone screen in Yitu’s hand.

Nia tries to say, “men and women belong to different species,” but immediately feels that probably she has not been positive and complimentary towards Yitu lately. Probably the negative environment she grew up with still cast a shadow in her life…

19 thoughts on “My Beautiful Cousin (Flash Fiction)

  1. It’s tough to shake off the effects of a damaging environment. And one usually spills the hurt and anger on to others without even realizing it. Limiting oneself to positivity either in the form of work, people, or even hobbies could be the answer to reducing the stresses. Well written, Haoyan! 🙂


  2. It’s funny to think it was absolutely normal to watch Miss World or Miss UK at one time. The whole family would gather round the TV and my mother was probably the most critical of all when it came to dissecting the girls’ looks. We men were actually more squeamish about doing that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know a couple of women who can find faults in the most perfect human specimen. I just feel sorry that these women are so clever, but their intelligence are being trained into a wrong direction and they spend their time on useless things–sort of like Hyacinth in ‘keeping up appearances’ and their highest aspiration is showing themselves off.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, overbearing parents are quite common in the immigrant community for some reason. Probably insecurity makes people more desperate in holding onto something and being more inflexible.

          Liked by 1 person

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