This story is by Kayla Ross and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Anne was quiet; absorbing rays of sunshine as she lay splayed out on the grass outside of her small, red brick home. Anne was beautiful, in an eccentric sense, with thick shoulder length auburn hair and electric gray eyes. Her lips, which used to be plump, red, and pouty; settled into a thin, pale line upon her porcelain skin.
She met him when she was eleven. His thick black curls and mischievous demeanor intrigued her. For weeks, she stared at all parts of him…well, the back of him. The thought of risking eye contact with such a strange and foreign creature caused her heart to beat faster and head to spin.
Shortly after the discovery and new found fascination with the boy, Anne found herself dreaming of riding off into the sunset with him on a majestic white horse. Her imagination ran rampant with dreams and illusions of nothing but the boy.
Little did she know, the boy was thinking of her, too.
Who was this girl with the eyes like car headlights and skin so translucently pale that you could see each and every deep blue highway that lead to her heart? His own heart pounded when he felt her gentle gaze on his back, but he could never meet her gaze with his own. He remembered standing next to her in the lunch line where he noticed she smelled of home; worn book pages and apples.
Anne sat underneath a tree on the corner of the playground, squeezing sweet nectar out of bright yellow dandelions and onto the parchment inside her notebook. Using her fingernail, she pushed the puddle of milky white liquid into a circle on the paper, and placed the notebook in the sunlight to dry the excess. She pulled a blue silk ribbon from her pocket and tied her hair into a ponytail.
Across the yard, sitting on a swing, the boy watched her. Why was she playing with weeds? Who plays with weeds? He scratched the back of his neck, noticing the ribbon as she tied up her hair. He pondered upon it, resting his chin on top of his small fist.
The next day, the boy waited for Anne under her tree. He nervously picked at blades of grass as she walked across the blacktop. She froze at the edge of the tree’s shadow; precious shade. Anne made eye contact with the boy for the first time, and saw that they were filled from corner to rounded corner with green fireworks. Her stomach flipped. So did his. For a moment or two, they stared at each other, eyes wide and mouths agape.
“H-hi. I brought you a r-ribbon.” The boy stuttered, breaking the silence. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a fistful of golden yellow ribbon, holding it outstretched toward Anne. She forced her feet forward, sat next to him, and then cautiously took the crumpled ribbon from his hand. “Thank you,” she said. “I’m Anne.” He smiled, revealing a missing front tooth. “Anne.” She smiled and slid the ribbon through her fingers. “What’s your name?” She asked. “I’m Owen!” He turned to face her with gusto. “Do you like the ribbon? I picked out special, you like yellow, right?” She giggled. It was a warm, honey dipped sound to Owen’s ears. “Yes, the ribbon is nice, thanks. And yeah, of course! I love yellow!” And then, simultaneously, they said, “It’s the color of dandelions!”
Anne and Owen became inseparable throughout their years of schooling, and decided to get married on Owen’s eighteenth birthday. “Making you my wife? It’s the best present I could ever think of,” he had said.
15 years later, Anne was laying in front of their small brick home with thin lips and aching bones. She could hear two 9 year old little girls inside singing all of the best songs from the newest Disney movie, a gasp followed by laughter, and then a sliding door being pushed to the side. “Mommy, Darcy spilled glitter glue all over the floor.” Anne sighed as she placed a weightless, feather like hand over her eyes. “Okay, grab some towels and I’ll come into help in a second.” She rose from the ground begrudgingly and rubbed her temples.
When she was inside, she saw that Darcy had indeed spilled glitter glue all over the floor. “Darcy, what in the world were you doing?” Darcy scratched her head. “I was trying to squeeze it onto the paper and daddy yelled at the T.V. and made me drop it.” Anne blew a strand of hair out of her face. “Figures,” she thought.
Once she got the glitter glue out of the carpet and settled the girls down with some crayons, she went to visit Owen.
She pecked on the doorframe leading into his den, peeked around the corner, and softly asked, “Sweetheart, are you busy?” He shook his head and motioned her into the room. “I don’t have very long, halftime is almost over. What’s up?” She sat down in the chair across him, and turned off the television. “Annie, What the hell?” He reached for the remote, but his beer gut got in the way. “Owen, your yelling at the t.v. startled Darcy and made her spill glue all over the floor. We’ve talked about this, must you be so violent over something as trivial as football?” Owen rolled his eyes. “They should be used to it by now.” He grumbled and pressed a Corona to his lips. “Just like how you’ve gotten used to drinking at 10 A.M.?” He shrugged. “I have to start early if I’m gonna have to deal with you all day.” He took another sip. She stood up and snatched the corona out of his hand, pressed it to her lips, and downed all of its contents in a few gulps. She swiped at her lips. “Ditto.” She spat at him.
Anne was a very introverted person. She needed alone time to charge her battery. Owen’s bright and extroverted personality was what had first attracted her to him, though nowadays he was more of a recluse than she was.
The drinking started off as something he only did socially. Owen was adverse to alcohol, and had never had a drop until he was 25 years old. He’d gotten a new job and was trying to fit in with his colleagues. They went out to a bar one night and got drunk, and Anne had to go pick him up from the bar. Shortly thereafter, he threw up in the front seat of her car.
The drinking became a weekly, then a twice weekly, and eventually an every night occurrence. He was fired from his job, and now he worked odd jobs to put food on the table and poison in his liver. Alcohol ruined his spirit and extinguished his light every time it touched his tongue.
At the table a few days after the “Glitter Glue Incident”, the girls were bickering over who got the last slice of bread. Darcy snatched it out of the bread basket and was spreading butter on it, when her twin punched her in the arm and grabbed the bread right out of her hand. “Dandelion!” Anne chastised. “We do not hit each other at the dinner table. Tell Darcy you’re sorry.” Dandelion shook her head. “Daddy takes food off of your plate, why can’t I take food from Darcy?” Owen took a sip of wine and leaned over to her, whispering, “Well, you’re mother is starting to get a little chubby around the middle, so I’m actually helping her out by taking her food. Darcy is still skinny, so she needs all the food she can get.” Although it was meant to be said in secret, Anne heard every smug word, and her heart fell, a feeling that she had become accustomed to. Dandelion looked back and forth between her mom and dad, ripped the slice of bread in half, and handed some to Darcy.
Anne was tucking the girls into their beds when she heard Owen come stumbling in through the kitchen. “Annnnnnnieeeee!” he slurred. Anne quickly kissed Darcy and Dandelion’s heads and locked their door behind her. “Owen, come on, let’s get you cleaned up.” She never bargained for three kids, but here she was with two girls and an overgrown man child. Owen flopped down unto the edge of the bathtub as Anne scrubbed his face. Anne got a bit of soap in Owen’s eye. “Yowch!” He yelled and grabbed Anne’s wrist, digging his fingernails into her thin and fragile skin. “Ow, Owen let go!” He held on tighter as he rubbed the soap out of his eye. Anne yanked and yanked at her arm, but the pain of his fingernails drawing blood was clouding her judgement. She elbowed him in the chest with her free arm and he fell back, landing in the bathtub. “Ouch! Damnit Anne!” He kicked at her, but she was out of reach. Her wrist was bleeding and she couldn’t focus on him. She shut the door behind her and went to the kitchen to clean up and bandage herself. When she went back into the bedroom, she found Owen passed out on their bed.
Anne snuck into bed with Darcy and Dandelion as she had so many nights before. “Hey, scooch your little butt over.” The twins moved to the side in their shared bed and Anne laid down between them. “Mommy?” Dandelion said. “Yes my flower?” she crooned. “I think daddy was lying about you being chubby. Even if you were, you’re the prettiest lady in the world.” Darcy nudged her. “Yeah mommy, you’re pretty like the sun.” Anne held back tears and wrapped her arms around her girls. “Thank you my dears,” she nuzzled them, “I am the luckiest woman in the world.”
The next morning, Anne found a note on the kitchen table. “Hung over—in den. Come see me. –Owen”
Anne crept into the den, smoothing her hair and, subconsciously, sucking in her apparent gut. “Hey babe,” she said.
Owen sat up off the couch and rubbed his face. “I’m sorry,” he stood up, “I’m so sorry.” He gently took her wrist into his hand, brought it up to his mouth, and kissed it. She softened, and held his hand. “You need help.”
The following week, Anne checked Owen into a rehabilitation center. At the door, she kissed him and tasted beer on his lips. He rested his forehead against hers. “You are the sunlight that brings happiness to the dark places inside of me.” Tears stung her eyes. “I love you, Owen.”
She left with the girls in the back seat waving at the building. “Can he see us mommy?” Anne felt a weight lift off of her shoulders. “Yes dolls, he can see you.”
Owen suffered in that center. He couldn’t keep food down for the first four days, and the first thing he was able to keep down was apple sauce. Freaking apple sauce. He wanted a steak. He shook and sweated all the time.
He cried for her when the lights went off; longed for her when the lights went on. He had noticed her changing over the years, but he didn’t say anything. He noticed that she stopped pressing flowers into archaic looking notebooks, stopped electrocuting him with her eyes, tying her hair up with a ribbon…
On release day, the sun streaming through the window blinded him; no doubt it was Anne. She was an angel; a masterfully crafted lantern illuminating a dark sky. He ran to his girls, kissing and caressing each of their cheeks. He looked up into Anne’s face, and her smile ignited a fire in his soul. When she held him, all his broken pieces molded together to form a whole man. He silently promised himself that he would never go back into the darkness again as he kissed the golden ribbon in her hair.