This short piece was spawned by a prompt featured in The Write-Brain Workbook, a book of prompts and creative writing exercises that I highly recommend. 

Painted toenails have always reminded me of my daughter. She could never go without a splash of color on those little piggies. When she was young, she’d beg me to paint them, running from my room where she’d somehow wiggled herself up onto my dresser and plucked a jar of pastel from my collection. I’d pretend to be mad, scolding her for getting into things she shouldn’t have, but she’d just grin knowingly. I’d give in, plop her on the kitchen counter and cover those nails, one careful brushstroke at a time. She’d hold perfectly still, a serious look on her baby face, until I blew on them. Then she’d break into a fit of hysterical giggles. There was always a hug and an “I love you, Mommy” when we were finished.

She liked pink back then, a color as vibrant and happy as her personality.

When she got older, she did her own nails, choosing more brooding colors—blacks and deep purples—while listening to heavy metal and shouting, “Leave me alone!”

I knew she was in love for the first time when I saw a bright scarlet peeping out from her sandals.

She left me not long after that. First in the normal ways a daughter leaves a mother. And then in the way all mothers dread and never expect.

When they found her body, her toenails were jagged and the paint chipped. It was some plain color: a mauve or taupe of some sort. It was hard to tell. I couldn’t stop staring at them. Giving her a pedicure was more important to me than picking out a dress or choosing a coffin.

But now that I’m standing over her, a rainbow of glass bottles surrounding me, I can’t decide which color to choose. Not the pink of her youth or the black of her teenage angst. What color represents the woman she had become?

What color do you bury your daughter in?



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