More often than not, Riley dreamed of a little pink box. She tried to forget about it. In the morning, she’d distract herself with a book or a shower or a few hours of work. Sometimes, she’d walk barefoot through the grass and dig her toes into the soft, wet earth.
Then she would remember the little pink box. It was soft looking, brown-lipped, and so very tempting. The mere thought of it was enough to make her mouth water.
In her room, Riley pulled out a leather-bound journal and flipped to the middle. She wrote down the date and a bloated zero under breakfast. Then she pulled a sheet of stickers out from under the bed.
Every time she didn’t eat, Riley gave herself a gold star.
The next few days were a haze of rigorous calorie counting. She’d break again, like she always did, and then she’d be back to the strict regime she’d set out for herself ever since that first time she looked down and saw nothing but ugly.
It was easier to dream.
That night she built one of her favorites: a street fair bustling with people, a red summer sun, and cool mint tea sweet on her tongue. The year was set back to 2005, and in the memory Riley walked beside her mom, a matching smile on both their faces.
Spicy aromas wafted around the stalls, reeling in throngs of people, and her mom bought two paper cones filled with fried peanuts and puffed rice. The vendor was a reedy man with a chipped-tooth smile. Her mom smiled back at him as she brushed sweaty bangs from her eyes; she looked so at ease.
“This is fun, isn’t it?” She gently cupped Riley’s chin. “Getting away, not being stuck doing all of that nine to five bullshit. This is what life should be, kiddo.”
She hummed in agreement. It did feel good. Even years later, when other memories would wash away the pretty picture she had of her mom, there was always this, always the dream.
When she glanced back at the reedy vendor, he had a small pink box in his hands.
Riley woke with the salty taste of peanuts in her mouth. She wanted mint tea. Even more than that, she wanted her mom.
After a few minutes Riley pulled herself up and went out into the garden. She sunk her bare toes into the grass, and for a while, she didn’t think about anything at all.
Alyssa Jordan is a writer living in the United States. She pens literary horoscopes for F(r)iction Series. Her stories can be found or are forthcoming in The Sunlight Press, X–R-A-Y Literary Magazine, South Broadway Ghost Society, Blind Corner Literary Magazine, and more. You can find her on Twitter @ajordan901 and Instagram @ajordanwriter.