It All Starts Somewhere

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My grandmother used to tell me that purple was the color of kings.

"Purple, darling, is rare, is power, is special," she'd say, "I named you Lavender cause I could tell from the first time your mama placed you in my arms that you were going to do great things."

Purple was a sign of good luck in my town. We painted our houses in shades of plum and grape. We ate purple potatoes for dinner. And when we died we placed purple flowers on our graves.

It's ironic that my town ate up the only other purple girl there was.

Violet Byrd moved across the street one day when I was four and was gone again when we were seven. She was the type of girl that seemed to hold the entirety of summer in her smile. You'd look at her grinning at you and felt like the sun was living in your chest. Her presence filled you with warmth and comfort and love. Joy couldn't help but bubble up inside of you when Violet looked your way.

She had long brown hair that her mother always straightened into two little braids that fell down her back. And she had these big dark eyes that crinkled around the edges whenever she smiled at you. I remember the way they always seemed to be holding laughter within them. I even remember how she was always dancing. She loved to find a rhythm and trod all over it. The way she threw back her head and danced like God had made music just for her made you love her, just a little. Had made me love her, just a lot.

She had a way of lingering in your mind long after she was gone like a stubborn storm that refused to break.

She died on a rainy day in August. 

Her death lingered too. It dragged out from the day she disappeared to the day her parents finally decided to bury an empty coffin and leave our town for good. She died in small steps. Like she was dancing even after she was gone. Disappearing a little each day as we all forgot her. It started when the police stopped looking for her body and continued when her parents gave away all her things to goodwill and ended when we stopped speaking her name for good.

It became a sign of bad luck in our town, her name.

I remember the day before she disappeared.

It was a warm sunny day. It was one of those days that movies always showed summer being like. The perfect day. The sky was so blue it looked like you could swim forever in its depths. My backyard seemed capable of fitting whole words within it, a paradise for a small child. And Violet Byrd was by my side like she had been since the day she had walked across the street and introduced herself to me.

I remember the fluffy pink tutu she was wearing. I remember the beat up, scuffed ballet shoes she always wore. The ones we'd later find covered in blood hidden in the sugarcane fields. I remember the way her fingers tugged at the grass like she was combing knots out of her babydoll's hair. I even remember how her mouth was stained raspberry blue from the popsicles we had just eaten.

We had been talking about all the great adventures we were going to have when we grew up. I didn't know she'd never get the chance to grow up. She was going to be a dancer, a ballerina. She was going to be the first black prima ballerina the world had ever seen. And she was going to take me with her she promised.

We didn't know we'd never get the chance.

"Where I'm going, you're going," she had told me.

It was a big promise for such a little girl to make but that was Violet. She had a way of telling you things about the future like she saw them happening right before her face. You couldn't help but believe her.

We had stayed there in my backyard for hours, laying in the too-tall grass that my grandmother hadn't gotten around to cutting yet. We talked about how school was just around the corner and where we thought ladybugs went in the winter. We talked about the shapes in the clouds and her older brother, Indigo. We talked about how sometimes I could hear the flowers in the garden whispering secrets to me like they were people and how good ice cream tasted.

My grandmother had come out of the house and smiled her weathered face down at us and asked us what we were talking about. I remember telling her how Violet planned on being a dancer and I was going to see every show she starred in and bring her the best of flowers.

"Lavender can hear the flowers talk," Violet had explained to my grandmother grinning the entire time, "So she'll know the best ones to bring me."

My grandmother had smiled at us the way old folks always seem to smile at children, like something we said was funny even when it wasn't supposed to be. She told us to hold on to our friendship, that it'd take us far.

Then she sent Violet across the street, back to her house for dinner.

I remember how she bounded off towards the gate, stopping right before she was out of sight to wave one small, brown hand goodbye at me, then she was gone.

That was the last time I saw her.

I don't remember much of what happened after that, just that she went missing the next day. Maybe I took those memories and pushed them into a closed little bottle and threw it into the ocean of my grief. Maybe they just faded as time passed and her family moved away to escape their own pain.

But I remember the way her brother sat in the backseat of their car when they were getting ready to leave, staring at our house with his dark, serious eyes until he finally waved one brown hand goodbye looking so much like Violet that my heart still clenches with the memory.

I hadn't known, yet, that dreams could die with people.

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