Scarlet has been in my life for as long as I've been alive. The early years are hard to remember, those images are faded by time and age. What remains are fleeting snapshots snatched from childhood with the corner of my eye. A ghostly figure built of fairy dust, starlight wishes and hope. I remember raucous laughter while she was chased during tag and I recall an image of whirling limbs as she attacked sun warmed ocean waves. Mostly I remember her shoes. Patent leather and ruby red. Of all the things I remember about her, those shoes are the clearest.
Time is cruel, the way it takes a perfect moment and moves it along. It happens slowly, like the tiny drip destined to reduce an iceberg to the size of an ice cube. Ironically, the passing of time instilled, even more, sparkle in Scarlet, if such a thing were possible. She was kind and welcoming, familiar and mysterious, she was one of us but yet she was apart. All the girls wanted to be her friend while the boys, well, we didn't know quite what to make of her, but we knew she was special. As her years moved into double digits, she was rarely seen without a wine-red coat which had a hood framed by a band of white fur. Homage to her name I guess.
It was during my college years that Scarlet really bulldozed her way into my life. It was a time filled with excitement, adventures and new experiences. She rose like a shooting star to become the queen of all she surveyed as well as queen of my heart. Every dance she attended was more ecstatic for her presence, every conversation she took part in, more memorable. It was like she infected the people around her with exuberance. To say we were friends would be stretching the truth a long way. I was more like a Moon, slowly circling her distant friends while she was the Sun, the great hot centre of all existence and how I wished to crash into that Sun and feel the burning magnificence of her beauty.
I watched her from afar and became more and more enamoured. It was hard not to notice how the steady drip of time gifted her previously slender body with curves designed by a genius. It is said that hunger is the best sauce and for her, I was starving. I imagined how it would be to taste her full red lips, a sensation only a dream could do justice and a dream I would never wish to wake from. I fell deeper and deeper in love with her without even realising it. That was until the terrible day arrived. It was the day she turned her gaze on me, terrible in the most magical way. At first, I thought I was mistaken, a hallucination of my own making but I was wrong because a few days later, it happened again.
I am not sure how to describe what happened between us, I guess the best way to put it is that she was my everything, while I was but a distraction. I should have seen it, but I was blind, blind to everything but her. What started, started innocently and oh so slowly. A sideways glance, a half-formed smile, a nod of recognition, a passing touch and then disastrously we spoke.
Even on those lucid moments when I felt my feet skidding on a dangerous path, I dismissed the notion. How could I not, the ride was so thrilling. She would copy her notes from me after skipping class and repay me with a smile. She would eat half my lunch before parting with a kiss on the cheek. Along with another thousand tiny things I felt blessed to be included in. What did sting were the nights out at a movie or a club or a pub. These were always crowded affairs, and I hated them all for encroaching.
It seemed we were never alone and I would always have to share her attentions with the world. Slowly a cold thought began to prod my mind. Was it real? Was she my one? I wanted to listen, but I was in too deep. I kidded myself that I was equal to the challenge and one day it would be right. I had no idea this dream was spiralling into a nightmare.
It was a Saturday, and Scarlet wanted to see a rock band in a neighbouring town. I begged my Father, and eventually, he loaned me his car. I never felt so proud as I did the moment I drew up at the club with a goddess by my side. As the engine died she twisted the rearview mirror toward her so she could apply a fresh coat of lipstick, red of course. Her tongue made lushes sweeps over the gloss, and I would have died for a taste. When we walked through the doors of that club the world changed, nothing would be the same again.
The music was thunderous, and the room was jammed with people. Scarlet let out a little yelp and dashed into the throng on the dance floor. For the rest of the night, I caught glimpses of her as she danced wildly before the band. She would come back to me when she was thirsty but her eyes never tired of sweeping the room. By the end of the night she was amid a crush of new found friends, some girls, mostly men and she bathed in their reverence. When the last encore was played and time had been called she appeared dragging a hesitant girl and two eager men in her wake.
"I told them they could come back with us. It's alright, isn't it?" It was now she chose to unleash her full power on me and resistance was futile. I nodded my assent and felt something die inside the way it did every time she did this to me.
The road home was dark, and bushes whipped at the passenger door when misjudged a bend. I lifted my foot slightly off the gas and let the car coast through the turn. Scarlet sat half turned in her seat so that she could yammer drunkenly with the strangers in the back. All the words were slurred and spoken far too loudly. I had nearly stopped listening when the guy behind me said, "Hey, is this as fast as she goes, Driving Miss Daisy?"
The comment stung, and I felt my ears go hot, but I resisted the urge to press down on the accelerator. I was going fast enough.
"YEA! Miss DAISY!" howled Scarlet into my ear and followed it up with a high pitched cackle. They were all laughing now, and I looked across at her, my dream, my nightmare.
Her lips were still as red as they had been at the start of the night but the beauty was gone. Before my eyes, she was transformed into a horror, a witch or a vampire. She was a demon that was sucking the life from me, and the realisation snapped something inside my mind. I gripped the wheel tighter and dropped down a gear. The engine revved high, and I slammed my foot all the way to the floor. Under the car, I felt the tyres shimmy then grip. We shot forward, and all four in the car cheered.
The rev counter hit red and slammed her up a gear. Scarlet rocked in giddy abandon banging on the dash while screaming, “Faster." I slid the car into a bend letting the bite of the tyre's draw me round where we should have tipped over. The people in the seat behind me were stunned into silence, and the only thing that could be heard was Scarlet's manic laughter above the screaming engine.
‘Who's Miss Daisy now’ I thought as I drove the speed even higher. Pleas to stop came from behind me, but it was too late. They'd forced me, and now they were going to pay the price. I do believe I'd gone a little bit mad and it was only when a solid wall of hedge appeared in the distance that sanity reared its head again. I was going too fast to make the turn, and I knew it.
I slammed on the breaks and locked out my arms trying to control the wild animal the car had become. I felt the back slide out and slam into the mound of earth that bordered the road. Time slowed down as the rear wheels rose into the air. I was sure it was going to flip over when it stalled, seeming to float for an age. When it came back down, it came down hard rattling my eyeballs. I blindly fought the wheel and felt another huge jolt followed by a third. Mercifully all movement stopped, and I sat there paralysed by fear. There was no sound, nothing, all I could see before me was a spider web of shattered glass. Slowly I looked to my left, and Scarlet had her head thrown back, her mouth agape, pointing at the roof. Why was it so quiet?
Slowly my brain began to leave in new sensations as it came to terms with what had just happened. If I'd not been crazy before I surely was now. When the sound returned, it was a gale of laughter that filled my ears, not screams. It was then that I finally accepted that Scarlet was insane, deep down, drag you to hell, crazy.
The years following that night have not been easy. I know Scarlet, my Scarlet, nearly destroyed me. In my bones, I know she'd do it again if I gave her a chance, but it’s not easy. She's deep inside me, part of me, always there. These days when I catch a glimpse of her on the street or in others arms, I make myself see her for what she is, a great red dragon waiting to rip me apart.
Even now, there are times I dream of impaling myself on her razor-sharp claws but resist, just.