Poppies are Red

“Rosie, put down Rufus and help me collect poppies. Poppies are red. The red ones with floppy leaves and a black centre.” Earth to Rosie. “The ones that smell like honey and pond-water.” Still nothing. “The ones that taste like bitter lemon and mouldy grass.” Seriously? “The big ladybirds on a stick,” Lily barked to her younger sister.

Rosie slumped Rufus down on the grass with an ample thud and began to study the flowerbed meticulously. She crouched down, reached out her chubby arm and let her hand glide down the fuzzy stem until it reached the flower’s base. Her eyes darted towards Lily for confirmation before deciding on whether it was the right flower after all.

Lily gave a nod and Rosie snapped up the poppy.

A wild grin grew across her face as she began to pluck the rest of the flowerbed.

“Are we going to make a bottle of perfume, Lily?” Rosie said, expectantly.

The girls spent the majority of their time playing in the back garden and making perfume was a regular activity. Jen’s boudoir displayed numerous bottles, all had a unique scent and came in variety of different colours, shapes and sizes. Neither of the sisters were allowed to play with Jen’s things, but that didn’t stop them from admiring. Jen would tease and say that her favourite scent was ‘post-fornication’ yet Lily could never find this flower in the garden and didn’t dare to ask Dad in case it was a ‘grown-up-thing’.

“Not today, Rosie. Today, we are making heroin.”

“What’s heroin?”

Rosie threw the arm-full of plucked poppies onto the grass in front of her and tumbled down into a cross-legged position, panting for breath.

Lily, with her arms folded tight, remained standing and recited the following whilst looking down on her sibling:

“Well, Jen said that poppies are what make it. It’s the best thing ever. It makes you want to sing and dance like Britney Spears, but with the strength of Xena Warrior Princess. Sometimes it makes you a little mad, but most of the time it just makes you brilliant – unless you die.”

By the end of her speech, her arms had moved triumphantly onto her hips. She didn’t include the fact that Dad told her not to listen to Jen’s ‘nonsense’ and that she was ‘bonkers’ – there would have been no fun in that.

“But, Lily…” Rosie began, “I don’t want to be Britney or Xena at all.”

“That’s fine then because you can just be Christina and Danielle and I’ll be those two instead. You can be my assistant.”

Rosie’s dark brows furrowed, “Do we have to die if we have heroin?”

“Don’t be silly. We don’t have to, but we can if we like. I’m not going to though and I don’t think you should either. Dad would be mad if you did.”

This seemed enough to convince Rosie that heroin was a good idea. Her eyes looked down and scrutinised the flowers in front of her, without much conscious thought she began to line them up in order. In order of what is unknown, but there appeared to be a method. Lily sat down and helped to wade through the bunch and position them accordingly.

“Lily?”

“Yes?”

“How do we make it though?”

Lily hadn’t expected this question. Jen never mentioned specifics of course. She stroked her chin studiously and looked up at the sky, praying for the answer to appear to her in the clouds. After a couple of moments her eyes settled onto her sisters and she scrunched her lips up tight.

“Rosie, don’t be so stupid all the time. Just do what I say and don’t ask questions.”

Obviously ignoring her sister’s outburst, Rosie replied, “How did Jen say to make it?”

“We can’t call her that! Dad’s just inside and will hear you.” Lily snapped back.

“I forgot; don’t be mad,” Rosie pleaded. Lily turned her head in order to look away and try to come up with a definitive answer. This only agitated Rosie further, she hated being ignored more than anything else. “What did Mum say to do next?”

Lily’s head spun back around as she answered quickly, “We mush it up and eat it like cake-batter of course!”

It was the most logical way that an eight-year-old could imagine ingesting drugs, if she even knew that heroin was a drug, but I highly doubt that. Nevertheless, you try telling a child that addicts inject drugs into a vein through a needle. They would look at you like you were the most preposterous person on the planet. As for Rosie, the promise of cake-batter was enough to have her hooked.

The following twenty minutes were spent smashing petals whilst singing the latest hits of Britney and Christina.

Eventually the mixture transformed into a bowl of thick black porridge.

“I think we made it wrong, Lily. This doesn’t seem like cake-batter at all.”

“Don’t be so silly. We’ve done everything else right so far. And this is exactly how it always is on telly. All of Mum’s favourite celebrities eat it and this is always how it looks,” Lily lies. “Now, you’re the youngest so you have to go first,” she said, thrusting the bowl towards Rosie.

It wasn’t enough to convince her fully, but since Lily pulled the older-sibling-card there was nothing more to be said. Plus, she wanted to seem cool, so she had to eat the heroin first.

All Lily could do was watch her sister as she wiped her fingers around the edge of the bowl and dragged the paste along her pink shiny tongue. Rosie’s eyes squinted, her face screwed up tight and a piglet-like squeal erupted from her throat.

It tasted disgusting – like lemons and mouldy grass, with the texture of a thousand crushed up ladybirds.

She swallowed hastily and then awaited her big sister’s approval, completely disregarding the substance that was momentarily-consumed and the repercussions of such. In that instant, all that mattered was their bond.  She did it. She ate heroin. Cool.

“What the heck are you girls doing out here? How dare you kill Mummy’s favourite flowers? The garden is an absolute mess!” Dad said as he walked over, shaking his head.

Jen was at the kitchen window cradling a glass of wine, looking out into space with her fragile panda-stained eyes.

“Sorry Daddy, we were making heroin,” Rosie said.

Dad turned and looked back towards the house. Jen smiled and then retreated further inside. He sighed deeply, then turned and faced Lily. She already knew that what they had done was wrong. She had that achy-feeling in her stomach, and she wasn’t even the one who had eaten the heroin! Maybe heroin was one of those ‘grown-up-things’ that Jen was always tricking them with?

“Don’t you ever talk about that again! And stop forcing your sister to tag along with your crazy ideas. Little girls shouldn’t be doing this. It’s very bad. You’re supposed to be a role model for your sister. Why don’t you go inside and play with your Barbies instead?”

“We were just playing. Gardens were made to be played with, like Play-Doh. Anyway I’m far too mature to be playing with dolls, Dad,” she said triumphantly, with her head held high and her eyes fixed on his.

Rosie moved her eyes between the two of them, opening and closing her eyelids like horizontal butterflies. A few metres away, she spotted Rufus lounging by the swing-set and promptly darted over to bury herself in his fur and inhale his bacon-scented fur.

Dad’s eyes narrowed in fury as he lent back and smacked Lily hard across her back. She searched around for Rosie, but she was several yards away trying to jam Rufus into a swing-seat.

“Don’t listen to a damn word your Mother says. She is very sick. Poppies are nothing more than flowers, Lillith. Poppies are here to bring joy to the world. Poppies are red, and no more.”

Lily peered over to her sister, kicked at the ‘heroin’ remnants, and walked away.

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