She pulled on the ribbon scratching her chin. That grape-colored bit of organza was no friendly ornament. Like the faux art on the wall of the midtown pizzeria, that thin band of material was illusion.
She was not attending a steeplechase or dressing up for holiday prayers. Rather, Yaeli was posing, literally, for family pictures.
Again, the girl pulled at the double knot. It pressed against her face like Father did when he crept into her bedroom.
The purple was not a pretty hue like that on the toenails of Sue Beth’s poodles. It was not the color of the shag on Randy’s carpet. She had lain bare-backed on that carpet many times since they had begun going out.
Moreso, her headpiece was like the fender that stuck up out of the junkyard two doors away from her front yard. Shiny and cheap, it caused passersby to look away from other aspects of the housed wreck.
Of the range of hues occurring between red and blue, that which painted Yaeli’s topper was more like the allergy medicine that Patty was spooned twice daily than like the stuffed platypus, which Sue Beth let her cuddle whenever she visited that friend’s home. There would be no more visits, though, since Yaeli had almost completely stripped a ring of bark from an aspen in Sue Beth’s back yard. Her friend’s mom had seen malicious destruction, not hopelessness or fury possessed of no outlet.
Patty sucked down that drug because Father visited her, too. She did not kill trees, but wheezed and hacked up her pain. “Allergies are hereditary,” the doctor had said.
Yaeli collected purple things like squeeze toy hedgehogs meant for dogs, and like wooden Dalmatians meant to be used in dress shops’ window displays. She was not afraid of the junk yard and often ran there after an interrupted night.
Father had bought each daughter a new beach towel. He had bought Patty bright red with blue flowers. For Yaeli, there had been one with a purple on purple design. The girls, in their bathing suits, had had to stand for pictures in front of their new gifts.
Yaeli had gone to prom. Her taffeta dress had been purple. Randy had only cared about her new, purple bra and tap pants set, though.
Purple was the color of her dead baby, born when she had been “sent to visit an aunt.” Father had bought her a ring with a purple stone when she returned. Randy had bought her additional frilly, purple undies.
Later, after she removed her bonnet and ran fast, fast, fast away from that family, Yaeli came to Sue Beth’s street. Her friend’s dogs were in the yard. Alfred rested his curly head on Yaeli’s feet. Winnie edged her head onto Yaeli’s lap. Both slitted close their eyes. Yaeli remained there until Sue Beth’s mother, protected by a purple apron, stood on the front porch and screamed Yaeli home.