For eleven years there was innocence.
A white teddy bear swathed in baby-pink ruffles. Story books both old and new piled high, a myriad of worn yellow and rainbow covers. Fear of shadows that swept along the windows at night- the knarled, dusk-blackened fingers of curious trees.
And then there was red.
Rusty. Pungent. Alien.
Between the trembling thighs of a child who was one no longer.
She was a woman now, she'd been told. It would be alright.
There was supposed to be trust.
Stomach upturned, she'd been left with him, because there was.
Trust was there when he'd given her hot chicken soup, salty and scalding. When they'd chatted placidly for hours. When she said she was tired and ready for bed.
It waned when he wouldn't let her sleep on the couch by herself. She needed to be watched, he'd said. Her fever was worrisome. She obeyed because though it had faltered, trust was still there.
And then it was gone.
Then there was what she thought had been the chalky white pills that would make her feel well again. A can of what she thought was juice or soda, whose bitter ale she should have been too young to taste.
Then there was red.
Panic on the edges of blurry eyes.
Touches that she never wanted, bitter and ugly and unstoppable. There was no where to run. No one to go to. Nothing she could do.
She told herself that it would be alright.
It never was.
Once the walls of the world were happy.
Bright green, like a scoop of mint ice cream on a hot summer afternoon. Light blue; the sky on a cloudless day. Yellow- the sun, dandelions, or Marshmallow Peeps on Easter Sunday.
Then one night they were red. Orange. Yellow. Glowing. Licked by flames that took everything.
They left the world peppered black with ashes. Smoldering from floor to ceiling.
Drowning in tears that everyone else but she could find.
They had nothing now. Would have to live with that man. Would be forced to suffer together.
Even then it seemed best to think that it would be alright.
There was a gift she'd been born with that had almost been stolen. Something she longed to bestow.
To place in the hands of the right person.
Of someone who would have no ties to her heart. Who would show her only pleasure. Who could touch her body, and perhaps her mind, but nothing else. Ever.
One day she knew she'd found him. For many more, she'd waited. He began to teach, to take, to give. Tearing the wrapping here and there, until all that was left was for him to open it. A present that could never be returned. Untouched, and whole, and beautiful.
Then it was dyed red.
Lines of crimson connecting the two as she broke. The flush of their lips as they bit too roughly. The glow of their sin-soaked skin. The flash of sunrise peeking through the curtains as she closed her eyes, alone.
It was cold when they parted. Frigid as she slept. But it would be alright.
Red is everything.
Looks of scorn on the faces of strangers. Fallen leaves scattered throughout the autumnal city. Sin in the eyes of every man that she glances away from.
It stains her memories. Flecks her emotions. Swallows her torn heart.
A thing whose incessant beating she tires of but doesn't hinder, because when there is no one there, it whispers. When the world is only red, it reminds her:
It'll be alright.