The Path is Red

by Daisy Jervis. Shortlistee of the Best Short Story for Children or Young Adults competition 2021

Get a move on, Red. Don’t forget the sponge cake in the basket by the door. Useless child. Quit your backchat, the cream won’t melt. No, Blu can’t go, because he’s knackered from working on his essay all night. I swear Red, don’t push me. I mean it.

Mum does my head in. But I suck it up. The last bruise, for forgetting to defrost the mince for dinner last week, hasn’t faded yet.

And so begins the monotonous Friday walk to Gran’s, where I’ll watch her eat half a kilo of cake, spluttering crumbs as she moans about how no-one ever visits her, before reassuring me that my puppy fat will probably flatten out once I turn seventeen next month. Oh the joy.

I wondered what she’d make of my self-dyed peroxide hair. Despite Mum demanding that I keep my hood up – on this horrendous crimson cape that she lovingly gave me for my birthday, that she regifted from her friend at Spin Class – I’m not. I want to show my hair off. It’s edgy, and says, this girl is more than a cake deliverer, this girl is going to one day −

Panic over.

It was probably a rabbit. If I’d brought the gun, I could have impressed Mum by returning with dinner, but no. Only Blu is allowed to use the gun…Blu is the only man of the house now…Blu looks after his old mum… Yeah, when he isn’t hungover from downing cans of stolen cider, down by the old watermill, with his gormless mates who couldn’t even tell the difference between a mole hill and an ant’s nest – yes it was as hilarious as it sounds.

Least Dad trusted me enough to give me his best knife before he died (mainly to skin the rabbits), even though I have to hide it at home.