Skin Like Christmas Time

Britten was this many years old. Four fingers. He had eyes like blue marbles. Hair like the sunshine he never got to see. Skin like Christmas time, his favorite. And he was this many years old. Three fingers. Brielle and Brianna were his sisters and were old enough to cross the street. They were like mirrors when they stood next to one another. Same cheeks, same nose, same kneecaps, same toes. Their skin was like chocolate cake just like mommy’s and daddy’s and sometimes they played games with him like red rover, tag, and capture the flag. But mostly they laughed at him.

They covered their teeth like milk, with pudgy fingers and giggled. They flicked names from their tongues. Highlighter. Casper. Invisible. He didn’t know what any of them meant but the words punctured his still thin skin.

Mommy and daddy were nice to him even though they made him stay inside a lot. They held him, kissed him, and let him eat cupcakes. But sometimes they got mad at Britten and would send him to his room. He’d cry and pout and they felt bad. Play with your toys. Play with your plush lamb, the one we bought for your birthday they would say. That made tears drip faster. He didn’t like playing with that toy anymore especially since the red appeared on its wool.

On Sundays his parents and sisters left him with his cousin Larry who could cross the street by himself too, and rode his bicycle without a helmet. Britten hated Sunday more than medicine, more than monsters. He knew it was coming before it arrived. He imagined all of the fun things his family was doing like riding carousels, cascading through clouds, discovering forgotten worlds, and chasing leprechauns. All the while he was hostage inside of four walls; blinds drawn, curtains closed.

Larry liked playing games with Britten. There were no animated action figures, no matchbox cars or play dough. There were promises of going outside to blow on dandelions and fly Brielle’s white kite if Britten played the game without crying.

Sometimes they played in the family room. Once they played it in the garage. It was the only time Britten didn’t cry too much because for once he got to go outside even if it was only for a moment. But mostly, they played the game in Britten’s bedroom. Come inside Larry would say. Your lamb is calling, baah baah. Let’s play with it.

Every Sunday afternoon Britten’s family would return with lots of big bags. No pot of gold or artifacts from their day of adventure. Just those little green trees, the yucky ones his mother said were good for him, and new socks.

Thank you, Larry, they would say, as he tossed Britten’s dirty lamb onto the kitchen table. Brielle and Brianna would hug and kiss him and everyone would stand around forever and squint their licorice eyes, clasp their cocoa hands, and show their milky teeth. Everyone except Britten who was this many years old. Four fingers. Had eyes like blue marbles. Hair like the sunshine he never got to see, and skin like Christmas time, his favorite.

Nobody saw him in the corner of the room, his white skin tugging at black curtains.


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