Violets and Poppies
by Amber Violet Daniel
“Jesus Christ, Violet. This has got to stop. I told you that if you’re going to open something just close it after. It’s that easy.”
My 16 year old sister, younger by four years, Violet, was sitting on top of the marble kitchen counter with her iced coffee in hand. She smelt of Menthol cigarettes and potpourri. Her yellowing index and pointer finger flipped hungrily through an equally yellowing history book borrowed from the public library. History was the only subject she read for fun. It was the only subject I had trouble with.
Once I asked her, out of bored curiosity, why she loved history textbooks so much and she replied, ‘The ending is already written.”
She closed her book and looked at me with the same indifferent expression she wore towards everyone. Her big eyes followed my gaze from the opened cupboard, utensil drawer, and the ever so slightly ajar fridge door.
I resumed, “The front door was wide open too. What if some stranger walks in?”
She shrugged her frail shoulders, “I don’t get why you’re freaking out. I’ll just close them now.”
She slowly brought her hovering feet to the floor. With the accuracy of a tight-ropewalker, she managed to avoid all the creaky floorboards as she methodically and delicately closed all the open doors and drawers. All of which she closed without making a noise, except for the cupboard. The palm of her hand carelessly hit the cupboard door and the ensuing slam of wood on wood made her indifferent façade shift to that of a wince of pain. Like a flashbulb to my eyes, the memory of my parents’ last fight reeled before me. These memories always came in hiccups of images, shuffled footsteps, years worth of missteps, screams compounded into whispers, the slam of the wood door, the thud of my mother on the floor.
She raised her eyebrows for my approval. However, I wasn’t satisfied.
“Stop calling me Violet. You know I prefer Bud.”
“Your middle name makes you sound like a dyke.” I wrung my wrist from the uncomfortable memory.
I hated the word dyke. I used it as a reminder that it’s a word, a word to be used lightly. I can’t let it be a derogatory term that summarizes my love for someone else. It’s only a word. It’s not me. The first time I was called a dyke, it came from the mouth of someone I loved and still love. My profession of love happened a month ago, right before my college winter break started. Dyke was shrieked from the mouth of my roommate. Or should I say my ex-roommate. My unrequited love. A woman. Never will a profession of love come so casually to my lips again. Now the word dyke will arise in my mind before the word love has a chance.
Violet knew I wanted a fight for the hell of it; she was never one to indulge my mood swings.
“You know what? I’m done being yelled at.”
My arm flared up.
Violet reached for her patchwork backpack on the floor.
“Typical. Leave in the middle of when I’m talking to you.”
She paused bent over with her long black hair freefalling. She straightened her back with an envelope in her hand and put it on the kitchen counter.
“Poppy, it’s from dad. Probably some Christmas money. You can open it. Oh and Mom said she’ll be home with the Christmas tree around six tonight; tell her I already ate.”
I stared down at the envelope as I listened to her open the front door and start her car with the ensuing crunch of gravel.
I grabbed the letter and walked through the adjoining living room into Bill’s stuffy office. Bill’s blank canvas of a face was behind a sleek back desk lit by a Mac computer. His hands typed away on the domineering keyboard. The only physical trait that was unique about him was his hands. His tiny little man hands. It was as if his hands were put in a time capsule since the time he was a baby. My mother looked at peace when she held those defective hands; they made me nauseous. I’ve always wanted to see Bill get into a fight just to see him bunch up his little fists like a kid at recess. My dad had giant hands. The kind that could hold a basketball with one hand. The kind that could gather all your hair in a tight fist. That could encompass a throat and eclipse a face in rage. The kind that never hesitated when raised. I forget my dad’s face easily though from the remaining pictures of him I can see he was exquisitely handsome. But more than anything I remembered his hands. Those hands are seared into my skin and only deepen with the years.
Bill’s noise cancelling headphones were a signal he had heard our fight but didn’t want to intervene or impose himself. Being a stepdad to older children must be difficult, constantly trying not to overstep oneself. He did not possess the blood ties of authority, a necessary tool for parents to wield in times of crisis. He raised his graying eyebrows to acknowledge my presence and simultaneously asked if everything was okay. I shrugged my shoulders. I pointed to his obsidian letter opener. He nodded a yes, eyeing the letter in my hand.
I took the letter opener from his office organizer and mouthed, “Thanks.” “Letter opener” is a docile term for the obsidian blade squeezed tight by my hand. It was an antique my father had brought back from one of his business trips and had forgotten when moving out. The day my father moved out it was used to lop off the heads of her prized flowers. The obsidian no longer shone; instead, green stains veined the once pure black blade. I frowned as I considered the metamorphosis of docility this once beautiful blade succumbed to.
As I walked down the hall, I made a swift cut at the top of the envelope with the newly deemed letter opener. As I neared the entryway, I opened the Hallmark Christmas card stuffed with cash, I didn’t even bother to read the printed Hallmark message. My dad’s signature was the only clue he had anything to do with the nicety. I put the card and money back in the envelope and tossed it in the mail pile on the bottom staircase.
I stared at the open entryway to our house and reached to close the door, but then on a whim I took a peek to see if anyone was standing outside. The only thing that stared back at me were the barren stems of flowers my mother once took pride in. Poppies and Violets were my dad’s favorite. Poppies and Violets were my mother’s favorite flowers to grow. Though spring is when they flourish, it’s been five springs since I’ve seen them bloom. My arm started to feel itchy and wet again. I closed the door.
I got upstairs to my room and grabbed the fresh gauze from my underwear drawer. I slowly took off my sweater, careful not to get any blood on the floor. I unwrapped the drenched gauze from my forearm in a daze. These aren’t healing as easily. Too deep this time. Hypnotized by the red blotches against the white of the bandages. I had this overwhelming desire to color in the rest of the white. I took the letter opener from my pocket. Red dripped on the floor. I watched as red poppies bloomed.
My name is Amber Violet Daniel. I’m originally from Honolulu, Hawaii. Currently I’m attending Santa Barbara City College as a second year student and hope to get an English degree at a four-year school. In my off time I read manga (Japanese comic books), draw fanciful creatures, and ponder life’s possibilities. As of now my favorite author is A.S. Byat