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Original photo by Raquele Decker
Sex + Relationships

A Wild Fire of Red Flags

You: so sweet and young. With those rose-tinted glasses you wear. All the red flags he gave you simply looked like flags.
You were just happy to get his attention and affection. He showered you with compliments and pet names. He brought you roses at work to show you just how much you meant to him.
He made a swastika out of menus waiting for lunch when he’d meet your friends for the first time. It embarrassed you. That was the last time he was welcomed at the table of friends. You had just wanted them to like him.
You were happy just to be spending time with him.
Remember when he wouldn’t listen when you tried to explain how your family took their burgers. And he told you that this was how he was going to cook them and that was that. He didn’t seem to care if he’d burnt them into rocks because that’s what made him happy.
You were happy to get to spend time with both him and your family for once.
Remember seeing your mom in a coma, knowing she would never come out of it. Remember standing there sobbing. Remember him doing nothing so that the nurse staff had to break protocol and rush a third, not-allowed person in there to hold you, to comfort you as your world crumbled around you.
At least you were not alone.
Remember only weeks after your mom died, him forcing you to go to his family Thanksgiving because that’s what had been decided before she’d died. Remember seeing people who didn’t know you were grieving pushing and prodding about yourself. Remember getting the call that your great-grandmother had passed away from a stroke. Remember neither him nor his family saying anything to you as you tried to push your tears back down.
At least you were not reminded of the hole where your mom used to be.
Remember on your birthday when you sent him out for fireworks with some money. And he came back with bottle rockets except you don’t like bottle rockets. But you reason with yourself: at least he tried right? He likes bottle rockets. And you didn’t want to seem spoiled.
He gave you a thousand other red flags, catching the dry brush around you like the kindling it was. The fire spread so that you no longer knew the way out. Suddenly you were not allowed to do certain things and you had rules you’d never set. By the time the firemen had arrived, he’d burned you to the point, you and the ground around you were no longer recognizable.
But fire makes the soil fertile, so you planted a garden with no rules or regulations. Because you were a wildflower from the start.

Arianna is Texas raised. A junior at Stephen F. Austin in the creative writing department. Having had publications in the charity chapbook Remedy of Water, the proceeds donated to the California wildfires.
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