Red as the vase that the rose slouched in the on her dresser was Anna's face. She cried every time a
flower she received wilted away. What used to be a crisp majestic spectacle in that old crimson vase was
now nothing more than a browning eyesore. That was what upset her so. If in death it could have kept
its ripe red hue, she could have cared less if it died forever. But brown was ugly. This would not do. She
would have to mail herself another.

She looked at the mirror attached to her armoire. A bounty of tender worded cards, adorned by hearts,
completely concealed its reflective surface. Valentines, wedding cards, or just simple every day
sentimental jargon, they were all there. And they all conveyed one simple message: I Love You. "I love
you, too." She whispered back at them, with a pleasant little grin and a wrinkle of her nose. Then she sat
down to brush her beautiful long red hair. As each stroke of the brush passed, she sat and smiled
blankly at the cards. "You're so beautiful," she said to herself. "It's a shame I can't look at you more
often. But you-know-who gets so jealous."

When she was done, she dressed, (in colors one would think that one could guess) and put on her
shoes. Then she sat in her chair and looked at her clock. 11:27. This was the hardest part, the waiting.
She sat there and rocked back and forth, knowing that she would have to go outside soon. She hated
outside. It was so ugly, not at all like her beautiful red bedroom. Oranges, purples and blues. She
cringed at the thought of it all. How could people be so fond of such horrid colors? She couldn't bear to
guess.

This was not like when she had to go to that place that she dreaded. No, today was Tuesday. She would
not have to stay out for hours at the bakery, feeding ugly people their ugly pastries. She wanted to stay
away from there forever, but she had to have money. How else could she afford such pretty roses?

12:30 drew nigh as slow as it could, but finally it came. Anna ran to her front door and bound out to her
mailbox. There was nothing inside. She peered down the walkway, only to discover, to her dismay, that
the man who wore that awful blue suit was still two apartments away. She stared crossly, not averting
her gaze until he approached. The mailman saw her and smiled through his thick black goatee, reaching
some envelopes towards her. "Here's your mail, Ms….." he started, but Anna hastily ripped the bundle
from his hand. "You're late," she hissed, and rushed back into her apartment.

Anna sat down with her mail and rustled through the envelopes. White envelope. Trash. Manila envelope.
Trash. White, white……baby blue. All trash. Then she finally came to the one she was looking for; a lovely
red envelope, sealed with a heart sticker and no return address. She carefully opened it, so as not to
break the red foil heart, and removed the card from inside. On the front was a picture of a red teddy
bear with its arms outstretched, as if to give someone a big paper card embrace. On the inside was the
printed phrase "I luv you bear-y much!" Neatly scrawled below in red ink were the words "I Love You." "I
love you, too," she whispered back. Then she took a pen and carefully inked the days date in the upper
left corner. She browsed the selection of cards on the armoire mirror until she came to the one with the
oldest date. She reached up and grabbed it, and carefully averted her gaze. Quickly, she made the
exchange. With a sigh of relief, she browsed at the card she had removed. It had a picture of a couple
holding hands on a beach, with the words "Dearest Love" scribed on the cover. She smiled, then opened
her dresser drawer and gingerly placed it in good company.

……………….

"Anna, what the hell are you doing?" Mr. DeLowder barked at her. Anna jerked with a start. She looked
at him with a blank stare, and then looked back down at the beautiful cake she had just made. Her days
away from this ugly world seemed so short, and now she was once again out from her hideaway, her
perfect apartment with her beautiful red velvet comforter on her bed. "Damn it, Anna, that customer will
be here to pick up his Tiramisu any minute! Where the hell is it?" Anna looked sadly down at the red
velvet cake she was holding. She couldn't even remember starting to make it….. "Anna…..this is the
second time it two months that you've completely screwed up an order for a customer. I'm going to
have to suspend you for a week without pay." Anna didn't even look at her boss. She just stared sadly
at the cake she held, thinking what a shame it was that there was no one to buy it. "Anna……just put it
down and go home. I'll cover the shift until I can get one of the other girls here to finish it."
"I'm OK, Mr. Delowder…..um, can I still have my tips for the day?"
Mr. Delowder grimaced. "No. I'm keeping your tips to pay for this cake you baked that I won't be able to
sell." Anna looked horrified. "But…..I need to buy flowers and a card……."
"Sorry, Anna. Maybe this will help you learn your lesson."
"But…..Mr. Delowder……please……I have to buy a card……at least let me have two dollars…….."
"No, Anna. Go home." Anna started to well up with tears. "Please…..PLEASE, MR. DeLOWDER. I
just……need to buy a card." As she started towards him, she slipped slightly, sending the red velvet cake
smashing to the floor. Anna collapsed on the ground next to the fallen pastry in a sobbing heap. What
had she done? She had destroyed something so wonderful! Somewhere in the background, Mr.
DeLowder was cursing, but Anna could not hear. All she could do was run her hands miserably through
the remnants of the dessert and weep.

The small grocer on the way home was Anna's favorite place. The clerk was a plump Russian lady who
knew Anna by name. Or by the name they had silently agreed she would be known to the clerk by.
"Hello, Lady Scarlet" the clerk said as she walked in the door every day. Today was no different. "Hello,"
Anna usually chimed in a friendly tone. Although the clerks name was on display just above her left
breast for everyone who cared to see, Anna had never noticed it. Today was different for the clerk,
though. Anna slunk by her without a word to the greeting card section. "You do not seem so happy
today, Lady." The clerk said as she moved towards Anna. Anna did not look at her. She stood in front of
the cards, staring longingly. She ran her hand across the front of the one she had picked out for the
day. It had a smiling cherub on the front, but other than that was plain. No words were on the inside,
but the card was a brilliant deep red through and through. "That's a nice card, Lady. Are you going to
send it to your friend?"
Anna did not look away from the card as she spoke. "I…..have no money today." A bald man entered the
store and approached the counter. When the fat clerk did not approach, he glared at her, annoyed. If
she noticed, she did not respond. "Awww, little Scarlet. You buy so many cards; do you think your friend
will miss it for just one day?" Anna still stared long at the card, then finally looked up. "I….I need to send
a card today."
"Woman, I need a pack of smokes," the old man at the counter spouted rudely. "Be patient, you mean
old thing. Can't you see I am helping the girl? You can wait to kill yourself for a few minutes." The old
man snorted and crossed his arms. "Scarlet, I cannot give you the card, but you can have one of the
pretty roses that you always buy. From me to you." The clerk presented a flower for Anna's inspection.
Anna took it from her pudgy hand, and managed a weak thank you. Then she went back to staring at
card which she could not send that day.

……………….


When she arrived home, she put the rose in her red vase, and stared at it. "It is a pretty rose," she
sighed. Then she sat in her chair at the card covered mirror and stared blankly until she was too tired to
hold her eyes open. "Such a pretty rose……" she mumbled as she slipped into a crimson colored
dreamland.

Anna awoke in her chair the next morning. The first thing she saw was her beautiful flower…..it had
already started to wilt. A glance at the clock revealed that it was 12:44. Not that it mattered. There was
no card coming today. She stared at the dying rose. Anna swore that she could see its pretty color
receding into a horrid brown before her eyes. Then a lone petal fell off and slowly drifted down to the
dresser top. Anna put her head down on the desk and cried. "I…..just wanted a lovely card," she
sobbed. And as she sat there, face down with only her own arms to cry on, she heard a small thump by
her head. Slowly, she looked up. As her vision, blurred with tears, cleared itself, she realized that the
card, dated the oldest, had fallen to the armoire top. And in its place was a bloodshot eye staring back
at her.

Anna fell off her chair with a muffled scream. "Stay away…….." she gasped as she awkwardly crawled
away from the dresser. What was she to do? No card would come for days. "I….just…..needed…..a
card….."
Anna scurried to the trash can. As she looked inside, she scowled at all of the ugly refuse the mailman
had given her over the week. But she had no choice. She picked up a powder blue envelope in her
shaking hand. Averting her eyes, she made her way back to the mirror. Then, gathering up her courage,
she looked. There was the eye, staring back at her hatefully. "Please……don't……" she sobbed, and held
the envelope over the open space. She continued to do so the entire night.

.................

There was a knock on the door. When Anna opened the door, a small girl stood with a bouquet of
flowers. She was taken aback, as the woman before her looked wild, with stringy red hair and smeared
red lipstick. "Those are pretty flowers," Anna said. "I like the red ones."
"Um…..I'm selling them, miss. People told me you like flowers…….um…."
"I like the red ones," Anna replied, "especially roses."
"I……would you like to buy one?"
"I……don't really have any money."
"Oh," the girl replied. She shook a little, as if she had a cold chill. Her brown pigtails wavered slightly.
"Maybe I should come back another time…."
"No, wait!" Anna said desperately. "I want a flower! A red one……would you like to come in? I think I have
some change in my couch……"
"I……don't think I should. I could come back tomorrow….."
"No, please……I'm sure I have some change in my couch. I really would like one of your red flowers."

The girl stopped inside the small apartment and stared in awe. It was if all colors but one color had been
flushed away from this strange world. Anna came back with a few small coins in her hand. "Is this
enough to buy a red one?" The girl said nothing, but handed Anna her flower of choice in exchange for
the mediocre ransom. Anna started off towards the vase and beckoned to the girl. She followed, in an
almost trance like state. "I want you to see how pretty this flower is in my red vase." The girl, however,
could not focus on the vase. She stared at the mirror in front of her. Tattered pieces of paper were
matted to the surface with a thick brownish crimson substance in a collage with a few cards. Anna
noticed her staring and frowned. "It's drying already……and I'm so tired today." The girl looked up at
Anna, and gasped. A small trickle of red was flowing down her leg. "It's OK," Anna said, smiling wearily.
She lifted up the edge of her skirt to reveal several massive jagged cuts on her outer thigh. "I've just
had to use a little too much today. But now I can rest and look at the pretty red flower you gave me."
As the girl started to back away, a card fell from the mirror. Then another. Anna looked at the girl in
terror in grabbed her arm. "Don't leave me……please….she's going to kill me!" As the girl started to
struggle, Anna started to cry and look about the room wildly. "Please," she wailed, "you don't
understand! She hates me! She's……going to……kill me!" As the girl started to cry, Anna looked at the
mirror. "She's going to kill me. I don't want to die! I'm so beautiful….." Anna turned and looked into the
face of the terrified girl, streaming tears. "….and you're…..so……ugly……."

……………….

When the police arrived, Anna was dead. She was slumped over her desk, and had lost most of her
blood. The body of an unidentified girl was propped in the corner, holding a red flower, had been dead at
least two days. Both wrists were slit, as was the throat. The face had been peeled away, and was lying
by Anna's corpse, waded in a ball. It was later found that it was used like a rag to apply several coats of
blood to the mirror of the armoire. Anna's frantic 911 call had come less than 20 minutes before. The
only words she spoke on the phone were "Please, she's going to kill me…..I just need a card….." Her left
forearm was slit from wrist to elbow, bone deep. Her blood, still wet, had been applied as a fresh final
coat to the grisly mirror. The mystery of it all, though, was it appeared Anna had died from
strangulation. Although it was determined the bruise markings on her throat were most likely of feminine
origin, no suspects were know. The only other clue was a message, scrawled on the wall in Anna's blood,
barely readable red against red, which simply said:
"uoy evol I"
I LOVE YOU
.by Rikki Lee Blevins