Displaying items by tag: fiction
1. The color pink
2. Dyed hair
Reagan ran a hand through his blond hair one last time. “I’m ready,” he said.
Kirk frowned. “Reagan, if you don’t want to….”
“Okay.” Kirk slipped his hands into the gloves and squirted the dye into one palm. “Last chance?”
“If you don’t want to ruin my life for me, I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself.” The words stung in Reagan’s throat, but he let them out anyway.
Kirk lay his non-dye-covered hand on Reagan’s shoulder. “If that’s how you see it, we definitely shouldn’t do this. I’m okay with waiting. I’m not saying I don’t want you to do this, but I’ll wait for you as long as you need.”
Reagan looked at the two of them in the mirror. Kirk shone. From his bright green eyes to his soft smile, it was clear he was happy. Reagan, on the other hand—his brown eyes were accentuated by dark circles like bruises from the nightmares of this day coming before he was ready. “It’s tearing me apart, K. I need you. I need this.”
“All right, then.” Kirk’s smile widened as he put his other hand into Reagan’s hair. As the pink color slowly covered the blond, Reagan’s smile slowly matched Kirk’s. “What do you think?” Kirk said.
Excerpt from Adamson Wood's upcoming book My Colors and I
When you’re a Latina growing up in West Virginia, population 93% white, Hispanics too few to count, blending in is hopeless. Especially when the differences between you and everyone else are more than just your dark skin, or the fact that your mama makes her own tortillas de harina because the supermarket ones are too pale, undercooked she says, like White people in general.
My first day of kindergarten, I knew less English than my fellow kindergarteners knew Spanish. That is to say, nil, nada, fewer words than fingers to count. We lived in a converted garage at the time. Just me and my mama. And since she, a Honduran immigrant who worked two jobs just to pay the rent—Dios le bendiga—initially knew little English herself, and the old lady who normally watched me during the day was Brazilian and spoke Portuguese, I didn’t exactly enter that classroom as a star pupil. That first day and week, whenever students asked how I was doing, I answered five. My favorite thing to do. Blue. I felt more lost than Cristopher Colombus “discovering” America. That's not to say I was the only person in that room struggling with my differences.
"Ms. Carta-jenya," said my kindergarten teacher on my first day till basically the end of the school year, not the way my mama said it, the way it was supposed to be said, the way anyone who took a Spanish class to learn the language rather than just to graduate from high school and go to college would say it. Cartageña. The letters lovingly sewn together like the patches in my worn-out jeans. Laced into one word, one name, one identity. Me. And not this Carta-jenya person, which took me five minutes of awkward silence to realize meant me.
** Trigger warning: Male character stalks and kidnaps a female.
The hills are burning again.
They begin where our backyard ends. Past the empty rabbit hutches, the trampoline, forbidden after my cousin broke his leg, the pool and its chlorine miasma. The slopes roll for miles, golden, thick with sunburnt grass that rustles as sparrows and finches hunt for larvae and seeds. Their small chirps punctuate the predawn air, most days. Days when the patio door glass is cool against my cheeks, fogged from water collected between the panes. The dogs run over, push my legs with their long snouts, paw at the door. On those good mornings I let them out.
But today the glass is hot, threatening to blister my fingers. The hills are crested with flames which span the ridge in a flickering wall. The air is thick with grey particulate, the pool a vile slurry, the sky an unsettling orange. The dogs bark and whine.
Mom is in the kitchen. I hear the coffee grinder whir just as the electric kettle clicks off.
“The hills are burning.” I get as close to the glass as I dare. A thin tendril of fire breaks off, slithers toward our fence. It’s hundreds of feet away. I’m not worried yet.
“Saraiyah, come away from the window!” Aunt Meryl called. “It’s not safe during a lightning storm!”
I pretended I hadn’t heard and leaned up against the glass, watching the wind whip the tree branches and listening to the rumble of thunder. Rain poured down in torrents and was quickly turning the bare spot my uncle had cleared for an addition to the garden into mud.
As my finger traced a water droplet’s progress down the window I thought of the first time I could remember standing at that window during a storm, years ago--my first real memory, actually. It was when I had found out that I was unwanted, had always been unwanted.
I could still imagine exactly how I felt then, when I suddenly stopped the game I was playing with my cousins and asked my aunt why she was Emily’s and William’s mom, but not mine? Why didn’t I have a mom?
She had told her children to leave the room and then turned to me and told me I did have a mom, she just couldn’t take care of me. I had a dad too, she told me I must look like him with my tan skin and dark hair, but she had never met him, and didn’t think he had ever even seen me.
“Your uncle and I have been very kind to take you and care for you, don’t ever forget that,” she had said. Not that I would have ever been able to—since then she had reminded me on every possible occasion.
Wincing, I looked over my shoulder at the figure silently mimicking my every movement. What looked back at me was an echo of my own face, down to the contorted lines, scrunched nose, and furrowed brow. She looked in as much pain as me and who could blame her?
My eyes traced the curves of the reflected body in the mirror past the valley of her narrow waist as it opened wide into a dark sea of denim blue--the culprit of my pain.
I had to be honest though. Despite the circumstance I was in, these skinny jeans really did look good on me. Too good in fact. They accentuated curves I didn’t even know I had, especially my butt, which now resembled two large bulbous pads.
But now, if only I could get them off.
I sucked in a deep breath, my ribs rising to create a cavity of space where the button was situated. However, the stubby fingers that fumbled with the button weren’t even able to get it through the hole that held it in place. Was that opening always so small?
After another minute of tugging and pushing, I gave up when the redness in my fingers matched the color of my face. Defeated, I waddled over to the toilet bowl only to find that I wasn’t even able to bend my legs to sit down. Somehow, I managed to make it work by keeping my legs extended and reclining my back so that my spine was as straight as possible.
Painted a shitillion times and in a perpetual state of latex molting, The Pelee Islander was a floating tin can. Mr. O said to pass the trip across Lake Erie writing in our journals: observations on nature and over-consumption and our plan for saving the planet from corporate greed and political corruption. And as an aside: what did we want to change about ourselves?
We were about to graduate from high school.
I passed the trip nose-in-phone, absently peeling paint scales off the seats and rails. Two hours of sitting did nothing for my especially-achy left leg. To distract myself from the pain, I drooled over the picture of Mason. It had been a week. Why could I not remove his picture? Why hadn’t I changed it to him with horns on his head and warts, or a mustache and angry eyebrows? Keeping Mason’s pic as my home screen proved I wasn’t over him, that I hadn’t moved on.
Scroll…scroll…I stopped on the image I’d posted two minutes ago. Jack Peters liked it already. I scanned the deck. There was Jack, by the stairs. He smiled into his phone, possibly, hopefully, at my cleverness. The pic was me, holding Mason’s necklace over the rail of The Pelee Islander with a malevolent grin and the caption: a woman’s heart is full of secrets. I shouldn’t have done that. It was mean. But I didn’t actually drop the necklace into Lake Erie, so it was only theoretical assholery—all I had the courage for.
Jack caught me staring. I was actually staring through him, thinking about Mason and that look of revulsion on Mason’s face when he found me out. The one right before: “Why didn’t you tell me?”
No troll could stop me from making the team. Tryouts, shmyouts. Nobody outplayed me, not after all the hours I spent gaming. And if anybody dared to say different I would punch them right in their troll throat.
I pulled out my phone and leaned back in the squeaky plastic chair. Several of them lined the hall on both sides. Not a single seat went empty, not for Xhale tryouts.
I swiped through my emails to read and reread the requirements to qualify. No commitments on weekends, check. Grades at or above average, check. Gaming system to practice on, check. They didn’t specify whether that meant at home or the library. Everybody knows those who can’t practice at home never make the cut. It's unfair, but true. Its stupid, but I get it-
The echo of my name bounced down the hall until it seemed to knock the phone out of my hand. The phone felt like butter as I tried to prick it off the stained school floors.
“You’re up! Let’s go, you have one five minute PVP match that’s quickly turning into four.” The coach glanced at his watch.
Two high school aged boys stood over the motionless corpse of their companion.
“I think we need to do something with the body.”
Tim looked at his friend, confused. “What do you mean?”
“Well,” replied Mike, “his body is dead. It’s not breathing. It won’t be long before it starts to get rigor mortis or whatever that’s called.”
“Oh, we didn’t think about that, did we?”
Mike shook his head. “There’s a lot we didn’t think about.”
“We can’t tell Joey about this. He’d go crazy.”
Before Mike could reply, the nearest wall began to shimmer. A puff of dark smoke emerged from the torn wallpaper and slowly took the form of a teenage boy. The transparent figure floated near Tim and Mike.
“What are you guys talking about,” asked the apparition.
Mum was baking again. Awaking to the smell of fresh bread and cookies, my mouth watered. Anxiety surged through me; she was doing this on purpose.
“Morning, sleepyhead,” she said, as I walked into the kitchen.
“Mum,” I said. “We talked about this.”
She sighed. “But they’re healthy. It’s wholemeal bread. And no chocolate this time. Just fruit and nuts in the cookies. All good stuff.”
I ran my fingers through my hair. “Do you know how much fat there is in nuts?”
“But, Ellie, it’s good fat. Come on, you know what your counsellor said. It’s necessary to have some fat in your diet.”
I stayed quiet as I reached into the fruit bowl for a banana and began to unpeel it.
“You can still change your mind.” I shake the sweaty tendrils of hair out of my face. They annoy me. The heat and the exhaust smell from the buses annoy me. He annoys me.
Derik lifts those steady brown eyes to meet mine. “I need to go, Rissa. He asked me to come.”
“Yeah, you. Not me. I’m his kid, too!” As I cross my arms and jut out my chin, I realize how silly I must look—like I’m 10 and not 16—and that makes me even angrier.
Derik looks up from the bus schedule on his cell phone and sighs. “Rissa, can you blame him? For not inviting you?”
Well, yes, I can. I can blame him for a lot of things. For leaving Mom and us. For starting over with his new family. For making promises and not keeping them.
Derik reminds me, “The last time we went, you were so rude to Angela.”
Angela. The new wife.
“You didn’t even hold the baby. Nothing is her fault, you know.”
Yeah, I know, but I sure won’t admit it.