DEE ARNOLD - RED IS BETTER
Dee Arnold lives in Denver, Colorado with her rambunctious children, loving husband, two dogs, saucy cat, and five chickens. Dee's appetite for reading is insatiable, she loves recommendations. Currently she is working on a full length novel. To reach her, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
RED IS BETTER
Alice woke up to her blush painted ceiling, the early birds chirping, and soreness in her biceps that was delightful. She finally had opened her bakery, Frosted Mad-Caps; a dream that became a reality. Alice hopped out of bed and threw off her blue flannel pajamas, and put on her baking sweats attempting not to look at the scars Alice had given herself in her youth. She had suffered at the hands of her mother – a woman so tortured by her own regret at how her life had turned out she had no choice but to lash out at her daughter. Alice had grown up in fear of saying the wrong thing or breathing the wrong way. Alice’s mere existence infuriated her mother. The bakery would have incensed Alice’s mother; that Alice would have the gall to own something of her own or that Alice would dare to attempt success would have set her mother on fire.
She had tried to escape all of the abuse first in her dreams. Alice’s mother would give her “night-night medicine” at bedtime and Alice would go to the most beautiful places when her eyes would close. In her dreams, the air tasted sweet on her tongue and merely breathing was addictive. In her dreams, the tree leaves were emeralds, and the tiny shoots of grass were soft on her feet like chartreuse feathers. Alice spent her sleeping hours talking to singing posies and daisies and telling riddles with a silly amethyst colored cat. Regrettably, the medicine would wear off, and Alice’s eyes would open to her waking world of dulled grays and smoke-filled air. Alice’s feet would drag through the house on the wiry carpet, and she would look at the vomit green painted walls that her mother loved, wishing she could be asleep forever.
Alice’s second escape had been an attempt to make her dreams place of permanence. Alice had sat down on the cold salmon pink tiles in her mother’s bathroom that smelled like bleach and decided it needed a bit of red. She cut her legs with a pink lady’s razor over and over, not feeling the pain. Her legs had the pin-prick feeling of numbness like a thousand tiny needles were poking her calves. When she felt her legs had been sufficiently cut up, they looked like red butcher meat and not like her legs at all. Next, Alice started on her forearms. Cutting there took strength – lady razors don’t cut very deep. Each little slice bloomed red and stung like an oven burn so bad it’ll blister. The flat, dull pink tiles under her freckled with big and small circles of red. Alice had felt joy at the vibrancy. The red rubies made the tiles sparkle like pink tourmaline jewels. When Alice fell asleep, she had been smiling, and when Alice woke up to her gray ceiling, she cried for the first time in her life. Alice ran away from home the next day and had never looked back.
Alice smiled at her reflection in a gold-plated mirror, in her robin’s egg blue bathroom before going down the stairs to the bakery kitchen. As she rounded the corner towards the kitchen painted in pastel versions of every color, Alice heard a rat-ta-tat knock at the back door of the bakery. Alice hurried around the stainless-steel island, passing the soon-to-be-filled baking carts on her left, and swung open the door. Alice’s short black hair fell into her dark eyes as she shouted out a thank you to the delivery driver climbing back into his truck. Tucking her hair behind her ears, Alice looked down at an average brown box.
The square box was two feet high and wide with “Open Me,” written sloppily with black Sharpie in large block letters. When Alice went to pick it up, she discovered it wouldn’t budge. Alice’s brow furrowed in frustration as she huffed and said to the box, “How am I supposed to get you inside if you’re so heavy?” She stepped back into her kitchen to grab scissors and returned to the package. Alice paused and looked for a clue to as to who would have sent it but there wasn’t a return address on the outside that she could see.
Carefully, Alice cut the flaps on top of the box and pulled them aside to open her mystery present. There was no bottom that Alice could see; it was dark. She reached her hand into the box, and down, down, down she fell.
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