Rock Candy Sweetness

Image of Long Story Short Award - 2022
Image of Short Fiction
My bloodless white fingers grasped my thighs, squeezing away like Sunday lemonade. I gasped, letting my head fall back. I thumbed the lining of my shorts, finding a loose thread and pulling hard. No distractions. I collapsed in on myself, letting my chin sink to my chest.

"You may stand," she said as she left the room. The sun said her goodbye's for the day, setting the yellow walls aglow.

I jumped to my feet, only for my legs to buckle. Knees hitting linoleum, I bit my cheeks to hold back a scream. Blood filled my mouth, staining my mismatched teeth. I had spent 2 hours kneeling on the air register in the bathroom. It was my seventh birthday.
Uncut spiky grass poked the backs of my calves. I stood next to the small grave marker that read "Jeanette Claxton". There were no superlatives of being a beloved daughter or doting mother. My mother laid dead with no stone-carved remembrance of who she was. Every memory left of her was a jagged scar marring my skin.

I speak no words of resentment, no words of grief. Year three of visiting this abandoned plot of land, wishing I could abandon the woman that laid beneath it.
I laid on the threadbare carpet, underneath the dining table. My cat, October, curled up in the crook of my neck.

When mother wasn't home, I laid there and drew stick figures underneath the table. Some rode skateboards, others fought with swords. Their rebellions became my own.

I reached my arm up, pencil in hand. Today I'd draw a wizard. He'd have a spell book that could turn mothers into frogs.

A noise outside jolts me; I hit my head on a chair leg. I scramble out from under the table, stepping on October's tail. I run to the window. No car.

My heart doesn't stop its wild dance. I sit crisscross on the couch, in front of the window. I watch the street, waiting for my intuition to tell me I wasn't wrong. Nobody is coming, it's only noon.
I walk to my car and sit for a while. I stare out at the full, bright green trees surrounding the field. A summer breeze comes through the window, cooling my sun-reddened cheeks. I lay my head against the seat, inhaling the fresh air like I'll catch a whiff of my mother's perfume.

I turn the car radio on, seeking words of comfort. A Lynyrd Skynyrd song plays and I decide that's good enough. I flip open my visor, pulling out the birthday card I'd received that morning from my boss.

"Happy Birthday Julia! Hope 25 treats you well."

I look at the country road that led me here, the dilapidated farmhouse on one side of the field. Why do I return to this cage that I am free of?
Hearing the car pull out of the driveway, I run into my room to open the bottom drawer of my nightstand. Inside is a mason jar, filled with red sugar crystals. It was day 5, meaning the rock candy was ready to eat.

October follows me in, sniffing the candy and turning his nose up.
"It's not for you anyway, punk," I chide as I give his tail a gentle pull.

I bite a chunk of the hard candy off, feeling like my teeth are going to chip with each crunch. Sugared sweetness fills my mouth and it is joyous. I laugh, bits of sugar flying from my mouth.

I don't think about the fact that my mouth will be stained red afterward. I don't think about the switch that will later strike my bottom to stain it red.
I press my foot to the brake, ready to reverse back onto the road. I pause, looking at my old bedroom window. I rub the tops of my thighs, soothing an old ache.

I turn to the passenger seat and open my purse. I reach my hand in to grab an errant Jolly Rancher. I unwrap it, popping it in my mouth. I stick my tongue out, looking at the bright blue color.

I put the car into gear and turn my head, looking out of the back windshield to reverse.

"See you next year bitch."