The Making of Red
If you think this is some kind of love story, you’re wrong. It’s not at all. Does it contain hearts, kisses, and passionate moments between a boy and a girl? Yeah, maybe, but maybe not. It all depends on how you interpret lovey-dovey stuff. If you’d asked me five years ago, when I was a naïve sixteen-year-old, I would have told you this story was leading to all of that. That by the end of my journey I’d be happy and riding off into the sunset with Prince Charming at my side, the love of my life, who always whispered sweet nothings in my ear and told me how wonderful I was.
Because that’s how things are supposed to go when you meet that one guy who looks at you like you mean everything to him. Who looks at you like you mean something. Who makes you feel like you’re the sunshine in his darkness. Who notices you and makes you feel like the center of the world.
Five years ago, I truly believed that’s where my life was going. There were so many possibilities blossoming in the beginning stages of becoming a woman. But I was clueless about love, happiness, life. I was clueless about who I was.
And now I’m lying half-dead on the riverbank, barely able to breathe, unable to move, knowing that if someone doesn’t find me soon, I’m going to die here with my soul sucked away, a skeleton of myself. Left for dead at twenty-one years old, a shell of who I used to be five years ago, when I was sixteen, when this all started.
Looking back, I can see the exact moment my life headed in this direction. The one where I was no longer Delilah, but Red.
It was a hot, record-breaking summer, full of possibilities—full of promise. The moment I put the red dress on, I could feel something was about to happen, felt myself transforming into someone else. The dress matched my fiery red hair, high heels, and a string of pearls. I had a gorgeous tan and my breasts had finally grown big enough that I had cleavage. I felt on fire when I looked at my reflection. Beautiful. Different. There was so much hope. Possibilities. I could actually spread my wings and fly.
But eventually I would crash and burn. Because after I got what I wanted, I lost it all and started my slow descent. And at the end of my journey, I’d go down in flames and pay the ultimate price for my choices.
Chapter 1 Poison Ivy
Delilah, sixteen years old…
Delilah. Seductress. Temptress. A treacherous woman. These are just some of the meanings linked to my name. But am I any of them? No, not even close. In fact, I might be the exact opposite.
My mother, on the other hand, is a prime example of these meanings.
She’s a complicated woman, who has a lot of ups and downs. She likes to look sexy and young just as much as she likes to yell when she’s stressed. Whether it’s over bills, her job, or the simple fact that she can’t find the right pair of socks, it seems like hollering is her way of letting all the anger out. But the one thing she never refuses to yell about is men. It’s her cardinal rule: Never let men own you—own them.
It’s not like she’s a terrible mother. She puts a roof over my head. Feeds me. Gives me clothes and spare money when she has it. She pays for me to take ballet lessons, even though I know she can’t afford it. We used to do things together too, but then my father divorced her after twenty-one years of marriage because he didn’t love her anymore. Those were his exact words.
She was forty-one. After three months of being divorced, my father remarried a twenty-six-year-old. Then began my mother’s desperate search for her fountain of youth. Metaphorically speaking.
She discovered it in bars, cheap dates, and one-night stands with men half her age. I honestly have no idea how she does it—how she manages to wrangle some of the guys home that she does—other than maybe she’s living a double life as Poison Ivy, a seductress with a potent kiss that stuns men into a delusional state so she can lure them into her bed.
My mother’s not bad looking at all. In fact, she’s sort of mesmerizing to look at, although I’ve never been able to pinpoint exactly what it is about her that’s so striking. Her hair is still its original honey blond, her skin has minimal wrinkles, and her boobs don’t sag. But she doesn’t look twenty-five either, which is around the age of a lot of guys that she brings home. Like the one she brought home last night. He’s young, maybe not even twenty-five, with shaggy brown hair, baby blue eyes, and a decent-looking face. He’s wearing a button-down shirt, slacks, and a red tie, but the fabric is wrinkly and the clothes are too big, like he’s playing dress up in his dad’s clothes.
I study him as he eats breakfast at our kitchen table—my mother always cooks them breakfast the morning after—trying to read his thoughts as he eats his bacon and eggs, trying to figure out why he ended up here. Trying to figure out how she does it: makes guys give her that stupid doe-eyed look, because the only looks I’ve ever gotten from guys are the you’re invisible look, the not-interested look, and the you’re-such-a-good-friend look. To almost everyone, I’m Invisible Woman.
“Delilah, get yourself something to eat,” my mother says, rinsing out the pan in the sink. She’s wearing a silk robe that barely reaches her thighs, and it’s untied, revealing that she’s wearing a lacy nightie underneath that her boobs nearly pop out of. It’s not a big deal to me though. In fact, usually she only has a bra and pair of panties on, so I’m grateful for the nighty. Plus she looks good in it. If I looked like that, then I’d probably walk around in a nighty all the time too.
“Oh, yeah, okay,” I say, tearing my thoughts away from her outfit and reaching for the bacon on the table.
She raises her brow, giving me a suspicious look, like she’s thinking I’m going to seduce the guy she spent the last night with, live up to my name. But I wouldn’t even know how to if I wanted to.
“What?” I ask her innocently, stuffing my mouth with bacon.
She rolls her eyes at me and returns to scrubbing down the pan, while the guy across from me wolfs down his bacon. “It’s nothing,” my mom replies, turning off the faucet. Then she turns around and glances at the clock on the wall. “Aren’t you supposed to be headed to school?”
I look over at the time on the microwave. “I have like fifteen minutes.”
“Yeah, but I have some things to do,” she tells me, staring at her latest conquest like he’s the bacon and she wants to eat him up.
The guy looks up at her, ruffling his hair with his hand, and he’s looking in my direction, but at the same time he’s not really looking at me, more like looking through me. I lean to the side, just to see if I can catch his eye and his attention. I fail epically, and in the end he ends up looking over at my mother. And once again I feel insignificant.
It’s like watching a play and my mom is center stage, the spotlights are all on her. Her eyes meet the guy’s from across the room. Lust fills their expressions. I can almost visualize my mom growing vines of poison ivy on her body that slide across the floor and tie around his legs and arms, binding him to her.
He stares at her like she’s the most amazing, beautiful woman in the world, the way I wish a guy would look at me, just once. “You ready to give me round two, babe?” he asks, forcing an overly large mouthful of bacon down his throat.
I scrunch my nose. This is not going to go well. My mother doesn’t like losing control. Doesn’t like giving anything to men, only taking.
My mom ties the belt around the robe and closes it up. “Actually, I was thinking about taking you home. I’ve got to go into work early, and unless you want to take the bus back to the bar to pick up your car, you’re going to have to leave with me.”
You’d think from what she just said she’d be done with him, but she’s not. It’s a routine for her. A seductress routine, full of toxic kisses and mind manipulation. She stands up straight and she’s wearing heels, so her legs look really long as she struts over to the table and traces her finger across the back of the guy’s neck. I catch him shudder. She leans down and whispers something in his ear, then she pulls away, but not before she snatches hold of his tie. His eyes widen as she guides him up, and then he lets her lead him into the bedroom like a dog.
Seconds later I hear the door shut and then music turns on. She always turns music on, either because she likes to listen to it while she has sex or she doesn’t want me to hear what’s going on. “Leather and Lace” by Stevie Nicks and Don Henley flows down the hallway.
The song continues to play as I finish off my breakfast, then put my dishes away and dance my way back to my room, singing the lyrics under my breath, pretending for a moment that I’m center stage.
I change out of my pajamas and get ready for school. Jeans and a T-shirt are my normal attire. A ponytail is my go-to hairdo. Add a little gloss and eyeliner and I’m good to go. It’s not like I’d benefit from trying any harder. Guys don’t notice me even when I try. Like the one and only time I wore a bikini to the town pool. I was thirteen and still filling out a little bit, but still I thought it’d be nice if a few guys looked in my direction. But Sandy Manderlin, the lifeguard, was wearing her bikini that day, and let’s just say that she could give Pamela Anderson a run for her money.