blue is the colour
A series of four flash fictions on the same theme.
Alex remembered when she used to get a big bag of those sweets when she went to the cinema. No, it wasn’t a bag, it was more like a big paper coffee cup, with a plastic lid. They were banned at school because her friend would die if she ate just one, or even if she kissed someone who had.
The last time she’d had any was for her birthday the year before last. She’d gazed at the unopened crumpled, yellow packet with the same adoraration as she did her newborn. After a week, she’d added one sweet to her rations every day. Twenty three peanut chocolates. Six red, four orange, four brown, four green, five blue. The packet was faded and squashed, with an eat-by date of six years ago. Some of the peanuts tasted bitter and the chocolate was greasy with a white bloom on it.
That was her first proper raid. She’d been desperate for so long, but teenage girls were too valuable to lose. It felt odd that after she’d birthed, she was allowed to go on a run, but when the day actually came, she didn’t want to leave him. Two day’s travel there, two back. Seeing places with her own eyes that she’d only ever heard of. The journey home was when you had to watch out for bandits. Why take all the risk when you could just tax someone else?
“Mummy? Mummy? Where are you? I’ve found the cake I want.”
“Just a second, darling.”
Alex’s mum entered the room, drying her hands on a teatowel. “Show me?”
As soon as she saw the photograph, an almost imperceptible flicker of disgust wrinkled across her lips.
“This is the one you like best?” She asked, holding the phone out to her daughter.
The screen showed a photograph of two circular cakes in the shape of a number eight, with smooth, creamy white icing and the number holes filled with bright blue sweets.
“Yes, I’ve looked at hundreds and that’s my favourite one. Please Mummy, can I have it?”
“Let me send it to myself and I’ll have a proper look later.”
Alex’s mum already knew that this wasn’t the cake her daughter was going to get for her birthday. It was far too ordinary. After all, a person was only as good as their last event. She couldn’t afford to slip down the rankings. Not now. Her daughter would have lots more birthdays to have average cakes. This party had to be picture perfect to maintain her benchmark of 400 likes.
“Alex, this is important. You have to pick out all of the blue ones. Every single one. I’ll have to check it before their tour manager sees it”
“Why? Is it because they are a red pill kind of band?”
“No. Well, that’s one rumour. There’s a clause in the contract that if there are any blue sweets in the bowl, the band can cancel at no cost to them. It’s to see whether the promoter has read the terms and conditions properly. They were sick of not being taken seriously and getting ripped off because they were women. Now they get called divas, but at least they’re getting paid. What can you do, eh?”
“You’re not going to choke. I promise. But you have to take your pills. Look, why don’t you practice with these? They’re about the same size. Watch me.”
Alex swallowed a small sweet then said, “Easy. You eat bigger pieces of food than these every day. You can do this.”
The woman’s eyesight wasn’t what it was. She would never have noticed that her nurse had swapped the sweets for her sleeping tablets. They both had the same sugary, crispy shell. They practiced with four now, then a few minutes later, Alex came back into the room and did the same speech again. The woman had either forgotten, or was easily convinced that she was confused because of her illness. About ten minutes later, Alex’s watch beeped. “Tablet time!” she said cheerfully. It was nearly bedtime so the woman was due two sleeping tablets.
“That should do it,” thought Alex.