Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Orange (the color) (11/19/09)
- TITLE: Ember
By Jan Ackerson
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“Be the violets, my friends…” Sienna’s voice was low, husky—unlike most public speakers, she ended quietly, then slipped off the stage before the startled audience realized she’d gone.
On the screen, hundreds of violets gradually obscured the face of the angry young man.
A taxi waited to whisk Sienna to the airport; on the way, her publicist prattled on about upcoming dates. A daytime talk show…an interview with a national magazine…an appointment with the ghost writer for her next book…Sienna closed her eyes and breathed deeply, still shot through with adrenaline from the conference.
It was a longish flight; Sienna shook off a headache and tapped out the introduction to Finding Your PATH: Positive Awakening of Transformational Health. When the flight attendant came through first class with wine and chocolates, Sienna smiled. Strange that this is where my path has taken me…
“Miss Jamison?” The attendant held out a linen napkin. “I just wanted to tell you how much your book changed my life. I never thought I could forgive my ex-husband for what he did to me…well, I won’t bother you. You probably get this all the time. Just…thanks.”
Well, yes…yes I do. ‘I’ve forgiven my assailant…the bully who made high school hell…that drunk driver...’ Sienna displayed her famous smile. “You’re welcome, dear.”
She drove home from the airport, longing for her down pillow but hindered by a miles-long construction zone; orange traffic cones and barrels lined the highway. They wound, snakelike, for what seemed like forever, while Sienna’s headache returned and set up residence.
Finally the construction zone ended and she nudged the gas pedal of her Mercedes—only to have to slow down again when the car ahead of her dropped below the speed limit. She looked beyond the car—what’s going on?—and caught another glimpse of orange. More construction. Wonderful.
It wasn’t construction; as Sienna slowed, she saw that a group of trustees from the prison were picking up litter on the shoulder of the highway, dressed in orange jumpsuits.
Why would that car slow down here? And I can’t pass him…just go, please go...
But the car ahead had slowed to a stop, putting Sienna right next to a pair of orange-clad prisoners. She turned her head, and looked into a face that she knew very well.
Sienna opens her apartment door and gasps; someone has ripped open all of her furniture and shattered every breakable item in the room. She heads toward the phone, trembling, when she hears a sound from the bedroom. He is still here. A whimper escapes her throat, and then he is in the room with her, holding her grandmother’s fire opals and her father’s pocket watch. He is just a boy, and she knows him; he failed her sophomore English class just weeks ago. They stare at each other, and Sienna says “Darrell…” He drops the necklace and watch and pulls a ridiculous, small gun from his pocket. Stupidly, she takes a step forward and repeats his name. Darrell shoves her to the floor and stands over her with the gun, then runs out the still-open door...
The car ahead of her finally sped up again, and Sienna saw that the driver was waiting for a brightly colored box turtle, patiently making its way across the highway. She looked again over at Darrell; he was already back at his task, dropping a crushed soda can into a white trash bag. Sweat trickled down her sides. The ember that had been smoldering in Sienna’s gut for the past seven years flared, re-ignited, burned bright.
Sierra pictures the final slide of her presentation—Darrell’s mug shot, slowly being buried in violets. She swipes the flowers aside, and imagines the boot, the army boot, grinding Darrell’s picture into the earth.
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