By Calissa Treat
“I like the taste of my own blood.”
This was the first thing Violet Lejeune said to me the first time I ever laid eyes on her. She flew through the classroom door, twenty minutes late, and threw her purple purse on the table. Her keys clashed against what sounded like a glass bottle in her bag. She smelled like day-old rum and Cokes, and her dark hair stood up straight, being pulled by the static from her shirt. Her dark, stubby bangs hung in her eyes and made mine start to water. Our Home Ec teacher glared at her and started walking toward our table, rolling pin under her arm, her hands white with flour.
“See, I like the taste of my own blood,” Violet said, rolling her black sleeve up, shoving her wrist in my face.
Thin red lines criss-crossed over one another and ran all the way down to her elbow. I almost wanted to lick the cuts, tasting the crusted, sour lines to see if I liked the taste of her blood. Her big eyes reminded me of blue bubbles as they bounced around her face, anticipating my reaction.
“Violet, you need to head down to the office,” our teacher said, and grabbed her by the shoulder, slamming the rolling pin against the table.
“Fine by me.”
Violet rose from her chair. Her stomach was as white as the school walls, and her fat hung over her black jeans. Red stretch marks carved their way along both sides of her waist. She grabbed her bag and winked at me as she turned and left the room.
Violet didn’t show up to our two o’clock Home Ec class for the next five days. I would set my books down and watch the clock as the hands slowly inched their way to the two. The bell would ring and everybody would go about their day like normal, cracking eggs into bowls, rolling oven mitts over their arms to “safely” remove their casseroles.
No one seemed to notice her absence but me.
“Hey Layne, have you seen Violet around lately?” I asked the dirty blonde skateboarder who sat at the table with me. “It’s been five days,” I said after he gave me a confused, wait, who’s Violet? stare
“Nope, haven’t seen her, nor do I care to,” he said as a loud Ding! sang from the oven. He jumped up to go check on our burnt chicken breast.
On the sixth day of class I watched the clock carefully, two minutes to two, one minute to two and Braanng! The bell rang, rushing all kids into their classrooms. Violet came rushing in, panting, her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth like a thirsty animal’s. She sat across from me, and her lips were smeared in a red lipstick. It looked as though she had drawn a circle around her lips and then scribbled it in vigorously with the red stick, making sure she used every last bit. She was wearing a dark violet shirt with a hole cut in the middle. The opening was crooked, and the top half appeared thinner than the bottom, making it apparent that she had cut the hole herself.
She opened her red mouth and rubbed her finger over her chipped tooth; she clenched her teeth together and waved at me. I waved back, a little frightened by her menacing smile.
“You know what you remind me of?” she asked me through her teeth which were still clenched together.
“What?” I asked, now curious.
“A straaaaawberry!” she said, now banging her head against the table, laughing hysterically.
“Why’s that?” I asked, wanting to grab her head and force her to sit still.
“Cause you’re so pink and perrrrty!”
Layne shook his head and turned away from us. He was not going to participate in this conversation.
“You know what you remind me of?” I asked her.
“And what’s that?” she asked, her face now lit up.
“A sugar plum, because you’re so purple and sweet,” I said, almost unsure if it was even me who had just said such nonsense.
She smiled and we didn’t speak for the rest of the class period.
I would go home many days thinking about Violet, wondering what she was doing and which alley she was lurking in. I would go to class every day, hoping I would
Towards the end of the year she became quiet. She quit telling me her stories.
see her burst through that door. The days she didn’t show up I wanted to run to our teacher and scream out, “Call 911. Violet is in DANGER!”
Whenever she did come to class, she would tell me make-believe stories about unicorns or fairies. She once told me, “I heard someone giggling in the woods last night. It was echoing through the trees. A happy kind of giggle, though. I saw a small, white light moving around behind a tree branch. I followed the light until I found this little blonde fairy, sitting crossed-legged on a tree branch. She wiggled her finger to come closer, so I did, and she whispered, ‘Follow me.’ So I did. I followed her all night.”
I would listen to her stories and go along with them, asking where the fairy ended up leading her to, or why the vampire from her closet let her survive all these years without sucking up every last drop of her blood. I entertained her and she entertained me.
One day I noticed that all of her upper teeth were chipped; they ran along her mouth in a jagged, crooked line.
“What happened to your teeth, Plum?” I asked, interrupting her story about how she found an elf hiding in a department store last year.
She ran her tongue along the edge of her teeth, which probably cut her like the broken edge of a glass bottle.
“My dad hit me with a golf club, Strawberry,” she said and continued on with her elf story.
There were days she would come to class with bruises down her arms or a black, swollen eye. I knew if I asked what happened to her, she would tell me some made-up fairy tale version, where the big bad monster under the bed did something to her, but that it was okay because the fairy saved her in the end.
Towards the end of the year she became quiet. She quit telling me her stories. She would come to class and just stare at the wall behind me, never making eye contact with me. Time would slowly tick its way to three o’clock, and when the bell would ring, she would grab her bag and run out of the room. I would go home wondering if I said something wrong in the past that just hit her, or if maybe she finally realized that I didn’t believe in fairies, unicorns or vampires. Maybe she was finally calling me out on my bullshit.
The last day of class she set her bag down and stood there, hovering over her chair.
“I’m pregnant,” she said, staring at me.
My mouth hung open and I looked down at her chubby stomach. I wanted to say I was so terribly sorry, but I knew that wasn’t the right response.
“I am so happy for you, Plum,” I said, rubbing my hand over her stomach.
She smiled and sat down.
We both left class that day wondering about each other. I wondered who the father was, and if she would be able to raise the child all on her own. She wondered why I listened to her nonsense the past semester, and why I said I was happy for her when she knew as well as I did that the baby growing inside of her had no future ahead of it.
After we graduated, I thought about Violet from time to time. I wondered if she ever had the baby, and if she did, how they both were doing. I prayed for her some nights, hoping that she was sound asleep, safe somewhere in a warm bed.
About three years after high school was over, I got a Facebook message from someone named Sugar Plum. The message was written in a gothic-looking font, and it read, “Thank you, Strawberry.”
Calissa Treat is a dorky, awkward soul; she usually leaves a mess wherever she goes. Most people forgive her for this, though, because she is always kind and is very determined. She always shoots for the moon, never counting the stars along the way.