Her Flowers This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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     When Dolores was younger, she was called Doll. When we were younger, in different times, we would curl up together by the fireplace, my sister and I flipping through old photo albums and investigating our mother‘s childhood. She did look like a doll then, before her name returned to Dolores and no one was allowed to call her Doll anymore. In those photographs, when Mother was still Doll, her skin was smooth like a china saucer and a natural flush stained each of her cheeks.

“Of course, I received dolls from everyone for every holiday,” Mother would remark, smiling almost regretfully after we had told her how doll-like she used to be, with her dainty hands and glassy eyes. Then she would laugh and place one of those tiny hands on top of my head and the other on her heart, telling us how she was certain Grandma Jane would have preferred a true doll to a human Dolores. I‘d lift my arm to her and press on my mother‘s knuckles, rubbing my fingers against her thin bones. Rose, still a little girl, would climb behind me and grab onto Dolores‘ small shoulders.

Mother, I learned by the time I was 13, was a woman who loved to believe in and rely on fate. She was convinced that all moments are pre-spun, that everything can be broken down into key events directed in one way or another by some sort of predestination. Once I believed her, but I‘ve since decided that she only thinks this so that she can take the blame off herself. I am quite certain that Dolores is tormented, although I still do not know why.

Mother named me Violet and my sister Rose. As girls, when Rose and I were still small and bendable enough to be dressed by Doll, she‘d lay out stiff pinafores for us to wear each morning. Rose‘s would be creamy pink and mine was always a moody lilac. Once dressed, we would leave our bedroom and walk down to the kitchen just as the sun was rising and starting to reflect off the river. Rose would feel for my hand as we descended and I‘d lend her a finger. Squinting to block the sun, we‘d meet Doll.

“Good morning, my flowers” she would say, and we would sit at the kitchen table. A dark plum with shiny skin and beads of moisture was already put out for me and on an identical plate was a large cluster of pinkish grapes for Rose. After we‘d eaten our fruit, Mother would urge us outside, saying, “Off you go, my small colors!” Rose and I would leave and all that was left on the table was the pit of my plum and the skeleton of Rose‘s grapes.

We would wander around the yard together for some time. Because of her skinny frame, Rose‘s pinafore fit loosely and the hem of her skirts would drag on the moist earth, picking up its colors. Mother always went upstairs to bathe after our breakfast and if we stood by the kitchen window, we could hear the water pipes clanking. When we heard these noises, I would climb up the back staircase and Rose would follow. We‘d peer through the screen door to make sure she wasn‘t in the kitchen, and then I‘d push on it ever so gently so that I could peek inside. If the tray with her china teacup and iron kettle were still on the table, we‘d know it was too early and we‘d go back in a few moments. If the tray was not there, however, I would nod and we‘d enter. Rose always held her fingers between the door and the frame so that it would not slam as I eased it shut.

Once inside, Rose would stand near the hallway listening for footsteps and I would go to the fridge and cut myself a piece of cheese and a slice of bread. Then Rose would ask me to cut her a slice as well, except she liked butter instead of cheese. I‘d reach up and take the milk carton into my hands. We‘d unscrew the cap together and both take a couple of sips. When we‘d both had enough, I‘d put the top back on and place it back onto the highest shelf. Rose would gather our bread and bundle it into her roomy skirt. When the water pipes stopped vibrating, we knew that Dolores‘ bath would be over soon. Not even allowing time for eye contact, Rose and I would glide to the screen door and slip through.

Reaching the porch, we‘d giggle, make our way to the hydrangea bush and crouch beneath it, devouring our bread before Doll could catch us. Every day Dolores would peek her head out of the bathroom window just as I was swallowing my last bite of cheese.

“My flowers, isn‘t a beautiful day?” she‘d ask, smoothing her sandy hair with a tiny silver brush. With a smile, we‘d both nod and stare up at her until she removed her head.

Later in the day, Doll would tell me how my sister and I were saturated with our particular colors. She would say, as we lay in the luscious grass, that names with extra meaning require special attention. She said that Rose and I were special - special for always - since colors and flowers mean forever. “Dolls,” she‘d explain, “are not forever. Their faces became cracked, their eyelids break apart - children grow sick of them. Because of this,” she said, “I couldn‘t keep my name of Doll. Now I am Dolores.” Without moving her head, she‘d fish for my hand and gently take it. “Violet, my little flower, you are special forever, my love.”

Since it is nearly winter, I see purple less and less. There are more grays, blacks and browns. The sidewalks and the air both grow cold and Dolores must work harder if she wants my name to receive extra attention.

“Since you don‘t celebrate yourself, my Violet, I will celebrate you.” Little troops of brown leaves tumble across the black roads and they look like many little creatures to me. They are all headed in the same direction and watching them depart for the winter, I think back to Doll and remember how she told Rose and me that leaves too must fulfill their fate and leave.

I smoke unfiltered cigarettes now and they leave their telling perfume on my fingertips and hair. I don‘t know how Doll would react to this because people shouldn‘t smoke and so why should fate force me to?

I believe in Dolores - Doll, Mother - less and less now. Only select instances, such as when I stumble home on a cold sidewalk feeling the tap tap tap of a cigarette pack in my pocket and see dead leaves marching and happen to be listening to the perfect song do I believe in fate because such moments are so perfect that they must be planned. She still believes in fate for Rose and me - promises us that giving up isn‘t an option and that our essences will be here for always. My cigarettes disagree, but I don‘t mind arguing, so I will continue to smoke.

Mother is a doll and I guess she has fulfilled her name - in her outmoded, unchanged state, what child wouldn‘t grow tired of her? Poor Doll, I think, rubbing my hands together and wrapping myself tightly into a violet shawl. She warped herself into fulfilling her destiny.

As it grows even colder I become even sadder and so I smoke even more. They say a cigarette takes away one‘s appetite but smoking only leaves me hungry with a dry gaping mouth in my stomach. This feeling is with me often now and I have become accustomed to being hungry during all these winter months.

“Petal, tell me your problems,” Doll asks. Slight wrinkles have seared her brow. Her round face and long blond eyelashes have infuriated me lately; when she blinks in that rhythmic way, I am convinced that her only ambition is to become a needed doll once again.

I walk more and more now, surrounded in purple wraps and enjoying the razor-blade wind that renders my cheeks a color that Doll would say belongs to Rose. I come home with chilly fingers and that heavy sunken feeling falling down my throat which squeezes and twists my heart like a damp washcloth, demanding over and over that I take another cigarette and extinguish another five minutes of my life. Doll wasn‘t a big smoker at my age, she‘s told me

that again and again. She wouldn‘t be happy if she knew what I did with those matchbooks from restaurants and cafés that she sometimes takes Rose and me to on weekends.

All I feel now is indifference and I don‘t know how much I can blame on Doll before I admit that maybe it isn‘t her fault, that maybe I messed things up. Things are so repetitive; my sadness, my colors, Doll‘s nicknames for Rose and me, and yet I feel as if things are a bit new every day. I am becoming more and more shaky and continue to eat the plum that she leaves out for breakfast and smell the violets that she leaves by my alarm clock but for the first time I can make myself cry and make myself hurt in my own skin on command. Every day my bones, muscles and blood seem to reject me more and push away at my spirit. My flesh has turned into some sort of viscous substance which to my horror is slowly dissolving and fading so that if things do not change soon or fast, all that will be left is a faint purple smudge with no memories or emotions.

I walk to avoid these feelings because I am still self-conscious and don‘t want to let outsiders find out about my instabilities and insecurities. Outside is the only place where I can be at peace. These cigarettes in my back pocket, I‘ll take them and hold them in my hand and wonder how I possibly transformed into this depressed smoker. And my only answer is nothing and that maybe it‘s okay that things are confused and unsteady right now.

I don‘t even know if it is possible, but I try to think forward and imagine the new times when Doll is actually Dolores and when I am Violet all my own - without my associated color - and a time when those cigarettes won‘t matter and a time when it will stop being so cold out and a time when maybe I will be adjusted and settled into my own skin. And when I think about such things, no matter where I am, even if I am outside and it is cold and I know that I should be home, I focus on violet and immerse myself in it, in my own way, in my own style, in me.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the December 2005 Teen Ink Fiction Contest.






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itsjustmeHannah said...
Apr. 19, 2013 at 8:41 pm
This piece is very special. i couldn't take my eyes off it while i was reading it. i really like it and think that you could write more about Violet. This was captivating, your a very talented writer.
 
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