I don’t know why she always has to stick her nose in my business. She tells me I’m an addict, tells me I need to go to some weekly meeting nonsense.” Beatrice held the pipe carefully with one hand, fumbling with the lighter in the other. “I can control this!”
“Mhm.” Maria was lying in a green patch of grass, admiring the mostly clear sky. Her dark hair was spread about her like a shadow.
“I mean really, when was the last time we did this?”
“That’s not an answer.” Beatrice had lit the pipe and took a long drag. A trail of smoke spilled from her mouth.
“Bee, what do you think that cloud looks like?” Maria pointed up to a big fluffy cloud.
“What do you think these clouds look like?” asked Beatrice, as she blew a trio of smoke rings into the air.
Maria sighed and took the pipe. “You still planning on getting your hair cut?”
“Yeah. Super short to freak my mom out. Maybe I’ll dye it red too.”
“Oh don’t do that. Your hair is such a beautiful gold.” Maria turned to face Beatrice. “As for your mother... I’m sure she just cares.”
“Well, I’d rather her not care at all.” Beatrice took back the pipe. “Haven’t you ever wanted to get rid of your family? Just think about how easy everything would be without them. No one to tell us what to do or—”
“When I was 5 years old—” Maria paused to take another long, slow drag of the pipe. The smoke passed through her lips, today painted red. “My parents dropped me off to see my tío while they ‘took care of business,’ or so they told me.”
“Oh yeah, your parents own a laundromat, right?”
“Yeah,” she replied. “Anyway, my cousin Marco was also there. Normally Tío didn’t care what we did as long as we left the place spotless. Let us do whatever we wanted: run around, play with the dogs, watch TV, whatever. That day we decided to play tag. We ran outside in the front yard at first. Marco was older than me and much faster. I think I spent most of the game being it.” She paused, resting on that thought for a second before continuing. “There was a moment where I got really close to catching him. Marco never liked to lose, so he ran inside to avoid me and locked the door. He didn’t expect me to climb through the window.” She smirked slightly at the intelligence of her five year old self. “He was so startled when I got in that he backed into Tío’s favourite vase. Smashed it.”
“And?” Beatrice asked expectantly. “Did you guys get in trouble?”
“Marco had such beautiful blue eyes... They were more beautiful than the sky on a clear day.”
“So what happened? Did you guys-”
“Tío decided they would look better red.”
Maria closed her eyes. She could see Marco, a quivering mess as he repeated lo siento, begging for forgiveness. She could see Tío, his hands clenched, veins surfacing below the skin. She could see his thumbs pressing into Marco’s eyes, the blood spilling down to his cheeks, dribbling down his chin, and staining his shirt. “He gouged his eyes with his bare hands.”
Beatrice looked at Maria, eyes agape. She opened her mouth but could not manage to find the words to respond. Instead, she lay on her back looking up at the clouds.
Maria closed her eyes and took a long drag of the pipe. Around the mouthpiece was the imprint of her crimson lips.