by Sorita Heng, Age 17, Cambodia
Artwork by Lucy Zhang
This touching short story was inspired by the fiction prompt of the month for March: “green.”
Alis wanted to scream, “I don’t have time for this!” but she couldn’t.
“Please, Mom! Let me dye my hair green,” Liam whined, tugging on her sleeve.
“Other kids will tease you,” she reasoned.
“I don’t care. Just let me, Mommy!”
“Liam, please. Mommy is trying to work.”
“I’m not going anywhere––,” Liam crossed his arms, “––until you say yes!”
“Why?” She dropped the bills on the kitchen table, exasperated. “Why do you want to dye your hair green?”
“Because I’m blue,” Liam muttered, his previous energy gone. “Daddy said to be green if I’m blue. And I’m really, really blue. Daddy wouldn’t like me being blue.”
Alis went rigid. ‘What are you talking about?”
“Green, Mommy.” He tugged at his green Ben 10 pyjamas. “Green like the grass of a queen, remember? You’re our queen, remember?”
Her breath hitched. She could hear James, kneeling before a crying Liam, saying just that. His goofy smile as he declared her the queen, arm swooped around her waist.
“Why don’t you miss him, Mommy?” Liam said accusingly, lips trembling. “I thought we’d…we’d miss him together.”
Liam was right. They hadn’t been missing James together. She’d been doing everything she could, immersing herself in whatever work there was, so that she couldn’t miss him. And here Liam was, coping. Alone.
Liam looked down, his shoulders shaking.
“Oh Liam.” She pulled him into a fierce hug, tears brimming. “I’m sorry. I do miss him. So much.”
“Will we ever be green again, Mommy?” he whimpered after a moment.
“We will.” She squeezed him tight, picturing James, his hands on Liam’s shoulders. “We’ll be green like the grass of a queen!”
“And I don’t have to dye my hair green? Because I don’t want green hair.”
She laughed, wiping his cheeks. “No green hair necessary.”
Sorita writes, “I’m just working towards my dream, one step at a time.”
Editor’s Reply: Sorita, with this short piece of fiction you have taken a giant leap, not just a step. Well done!