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Scarlet, Not Red

'Red is obnoxious and loud,' she would continue, 'but scarlet is beautiful and elegant.'

When I was younger, I thought that the greatest thing in the world was a 1989 Mini Cooper. Specifically my aunt’s 1989 Mini Cooper. She loved it more than anything in the world. The inside smelled of her—rather, smoke—and there was always nail polish in the glovebox. In the summer, we would both get in bathing suits and sandals to wash the car. She would flirt with the man that lived across the street strutting around the car in cloth that could barely be called a swimsuit, even if my uncle Bill was inside. I didn't mind though, it was her typical behavior.

Once the man left, she’d chase me with the hose and I’d run in circles around the car, a mix of giggles and screams pouring out of my mouth. As much cleaning got done as you'd expect. Once we were both tired and out of breath, we would wait for the car to dry while eating popsicles on her front porch. There were alway spots on the car were the paint had faded or chipped away, but my aunt would say that it added character, though there wasn’t a need for any more character, seeing as the the car was bright red.

“Not red, scarlet,” she would say, flipping her identically colored hair over her shoulder. “Red is obnoxious and loud,” she would continue, “but scarlet is beautiful and elegant.”

On Sundays, after mass, mom would drop me off at her house and pick me up before sunset, never wanting to talk to her sister-in-law. “Delilah,” she would yell from her car from time to time, “I’ll be back to pick her up at five.” 

She would watch me until I got to the front porch before driving away. I never knew why she would keep telling her that even though the time she would drop me off and pick me up never changed. Nevertheless, I would run into her house yelling: “Aunt D, aunt D,” and she would greet me with open arms and a tight embrace. She never liked me calling her Delilah, thinking it made her sound old, which I would never believe.

I thought she was the most beautiful person in the world. Long, scarlet hair that was unfailingly pulled into tight curls, a long torso, and bonely arms and fingers. Her skin was pale and flawless, ignoring the freckles that were lightly sprinkled onto her cheeks. I hated my freckles, but hers were like angel kisses. In my eyes, she was perfect.

I would go home gushing about how wonderful she was and one day, mom lost her temper, telling me she was sick and getting worse by the day; that I should never idolize her like I did. That I’d just get hurt.

I was always told the aunt D was sick, and when uncle Bill left, it got so much worse, but I never saw anything that would so much as give a hint of sickness. No matter how long it had been, I've always thought that she was beautiful. When I was still little, I was foolish enough to compare myself to her. Most six-year-olds still have baby fat covering their body, and I was no exception. I had chubby cheeks and round arms that made me feel I like I was an outcast in a sea of beauty, that I was the fuck up, when, in reality, I couldn't look more like everyone else.

And when my aunt D finally died, I blamed everyone around me for not loving her enough, and myself for being the only one who could. Everyone left her and eventually I did, too. I stopped coming every weekend when I was eleven, but there were still holidays and birthdays. She never seemed unhappy or upset, but I never asked, and that made me much more than both of those things.

There was a funeral held a few months later and I cried more than I had in years. No one else did. There were people there that I've never met and people who I wish I hadn't.

It was only after my aunt died that I started to learn what anorexia was. I learned her bony arms were not beauty, but a result of her slowly killing herself. I wanted to be just like her, but the thought now sickened me.

Things got better before they got worse. I was happy again. I could get out of bed without feeling a pit a the bottom of my stomach, eating me from the inside out. Things seemed brighter and I could smile without feeling regret.

But all good things must come to an end.

I would constantly be reminded of her when I looked in the mirror, unhappy with the reflection staring back at me. I tried dieting and going to the gym, but it wasn't enough. I knew I was losing weight and I knew I was losing it too fast. I was getting compliments and they made me feel better than they should have. They fueled me to do things that I shouldn’t have done. None of it would be considered self-harm, nor starving, but it was by no means healthy. Unhealthy, not undoable.

Then, Kyra left.

I lost it. How could I not. I was alone; mom was away on a business trip. I ate and cried and watched Dirty Dancing on repeat because I heard that it helped.

It didn’t.

It was only a few days, but I felt the weight gain. I would stand out the toilet seeing my late meal vanish like it never happened. The blood mixed with the tears and whatever else was in the bowl below me.

Aunt D would be proud.

I heard screaming and alarms. I woke up eighteen hours later in a hospital bed, an IV puncturing my arm. The sound of my pulse echoed in my ears, and for a few moments, confusion rung in my head before memory hazily took over. My hand limply rested over a button that had nurse stamped on in white ink, and I pressed it down lightly with the tips of my fingers.

Within minutes, a woman walked in, shock clearly marked in her features. She seemed to be in her late twenties. She messed with her hands as she talked. An intern, I thought, though I can barely remember the jumble of puzzle pieces that scattered my mind.

“You’re awake?”, she said, almost as if it was a question. “I’ll get the doctor.” The nurse ran out the door as quickly as she came in. “Dr. Lane!” I could hear her as she ran down the hall, her footsteps echoing.

A clear tube stuck out of my mouth and connected to the machine that was not far from my left. I didn’t notice it before. I started to gag, but it only caused tears to form in my eyes. I tried to scream. Nothing came. Shaking back and forth, I tried to find a way to escape, but it seemed useless.

The door opened, a figure glided in as if there was nothing beneath them but air. Their features were blurred by the tears that stung my eyes, and I couldn’t tell their body from the area that surrounded them.

“It’s going to be okay, but I need you to calm down.” Their voice had a sense of tranquility. I stopped thrashing to look in their direction—general direction.

I dragged my hand across my bloodshot eyes in an attempt to wipe the tears away.

Now I sit on my front porch on my eighteenth birthday, my head in hand and tears in my eyes as I stare at the same 1989 Mini Cooper in my driveway with HAPPY BIRTHDAY written on the back windshield.

Aunt D would be proud.

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