Violet and the Big Bed
I saw her and I was transported back to the first time. The
first time I slept in the Big Bed.
I don’t know where Mom and Dad had been. I was only six or
seven, not old enough to be left alone. But I had known,
instinctively, that they were not in the house. The details
are hazy. It could’ve been midnight or nearing dawn. Maybe
they had snuck out to an early breakfast, thought they would
be back before I woke up.
I remember rolling out of my twin-sized bed, knocking softly
on their door. It was as if there was an ellipsis hanging in
the air, like the ones in my Manga books that hung over
characters heads to indicate speechlessness. Boldly I
And beheld the revered bed.
King-sized. Fit for a king. Forbidden to me.
It was not a curtained canopy bed. There was no frill or
mystery to it. But it was a behemoth of a bed, big mattress
on a metal frame.
And it was off-limits.
I imprinted my stench on every
inch. I wallowed and rolled in the blankets, religiously.
Obsessively. I drooled on the pillows while asleep and
awake, in blank, stupid thought. I was ten. Rebellion was
not in my vocabulary. Obedience was.
I crept out before they returned. I made the bed with more
care than I had ever made a bed before, meticulously tucking
in the sheets as I had observed Mom doing, confident that I
had hidden the traces of my sleepy mediation. Exhausted from
the effort, I returned to my own meagre pallet.
One rumpled blanket, a shift in the placement of a pillow,
gave me away. Dad huffed and puffed. Mom defended me - my
I knew. And so did Dad. It was a premeditated act, at least
subconsciously; I had been planning a secret nap in the Big
Bed all along.
I couldn’t believe that I was
seeing her now, as I was in line at Toys ‘R’ Us to buy my
spoiled nephew the latest Nerf gun. Sweet Violet. But her
nametag just said, Violet. There was the unmistakable
stringy hair. The defeated shoulders. The wilting smile. It
was hard to believe that the chunky cashier had once been
that skinny teenager. So Violet had never really blossomed,
I thought, wondering if she would remember me when she saw
me up close.
It was funny, I realized, how I had met Violet as a cashier,
at the grocery store on Duneberry Lane where Mom liked to
get half-off milk and day-old bread. Violet was the type of
girl you never looked at twice. Another teenager. Another
If Mom hadn’t been so lonely, she would never have said a
word to Violet. We were new in town, had moved recently, and
Mom had had little success connecting with any of the
neighbors or women she met in the PTA. She craved
“Violet is such a pretty name,” Mom remarked.
Violet’s eyes rose from the items she was scanning, nodded,
I noticed that she had a nose piercing. Goosebumps prickled
up my arms. As Mom took her bags and we walked away, I heard
the woman in line behind us remark that her puggle’s name
It was strange that Mom ever thought to ask her about
“baby”sitting. There were lots of fourteen, fifteen, sixteen
year old girls around. Lots of the good type. Hard-working.
Modest. Pretty. Not that there was anything wrong with
Violet. Mom had no girlfriends around with daughters that
age. She had no girlfriends around at all.
“It’s time I get a job, Richard,” Mom told Dad over dinner.
She expressed her dissatisfaction at being an isolated
housewife in a place where she knew no one. “And I want to
take yoga classes,” Mom added.
“Uh-huh. What’s the problem?” Dad asked.
“Clayton needs a sitter!”
I resented that Mom put an ad in the paper, like I was some
pet for sale. Three people called and were interviewed. Too
old. Too young. Too slutty. Mom fretted aloud. She had been
hired as a receptionist, and she was supposed to start in a
few days. “What am I going to do with you? You’re getting to
be such an awkward age! Too old for daycare, too young to be
left alone …”
The following morning, at the grocery store, in Violet’s
line, I was staring at the ground, avoiding the frightening
glisten of Violet’s nose ring, and Mom burst out that she
wondered if Violet wanted some extra work.
"Why", Violet asked.
Rapidly, Mom explained that she had gotten a part-time job.
And she wanted to take yoga. But what to do with her
precious son? Violet took the bait.
“I have experience babysitting,” she said.
A couple days later, I was left alone in my home with this
strange girl. She smiled briefly, and I saw her stained,
crooked teeth. “Your mom says you like Pokemon?”
I did my ten-year-old best to explain how to battle with
Pokemon. Violet was an eager student of the game. From then
on, we played everyday that Violet came over.
She always forgot to put an energy card on her Pokemon to
attack, or to pay attention to a Pokémon’s weakness or
resistance. She liked the cute, cat-like cards, Mew, Shinx
and Skitty. She giggled at the names of the attacks. Her
perpetually hunched shoulders shook with each squeal.
“Piplup is going to do his Peck attack. He’s saving the
Water Splash for later.” Hee. Hee. “Diglett, I choose you.
Sand Veil attack!” Sometimes she laughed through her nose.
At first I was very quiet around Violet, afraid even to
When we weren’t playing Pokemon, we sat on separate sides of
the couch and watched TV. Or we played games like Old Maid
or Go Fish. Violet brought an arts and crafts bucket. We
made cotton-ball animal farms and popsicle-stick houses. I
even beaded bracelets. (Violet said that her brother beaded
and assured me that it was okay for a boy to bead.) When
Violet got permission from Mom to use the stove and oven,
she made brownies and macaroni and other delicious things.
Violet never talked about herself. It was all about me. I
thought of Violet as a nanny, sister and friend all in one.
I was no longer scared by her nose piercing or ugly teeth. I
felt bored when it was just me and my parents. They never
played games, did crafts or baked.
“Do you like Violet?” Mom asked.
“She’s nice,” I muttered.
Violet was my savior.
Violet looks at me. Smiles.
Crooked teeth. Receding gum-line. She smells like an
ash-tray. I consider asking her if she still plays Pokemon.
I feared the end of that summer. I was going into fifth
grade at a new school. I feared school. The long days. The
rules. The noise. And this year - the loss of Violet. It had
occurred to me to ask Mom if I could still see Violet when
“At the store,” she replied. “And there’s a latch-key
program after school! You’ll get to play with kids your
“But I like Violet,” I protested.
“Aww. My lil’ boy’s got a lil’ crush!”
“No Mom. I just like her.”
Mom said that maybe Violet could watch me some weekend if
she and Dad wanted to go out. I sighed in relief.
That “some weekend” that Mom referred to came before the end
of summer. One of Mom’s new friends from yoga had invited
her and Dad on a camping trip. “It’s more of an adult trip,”
Mom explained to me. I could care less. I was happy to spend
a weekend with Violet.
Mom and Dad had Violet arrive Saturday morning. It was just
a one night trip. Violet would house-sit and spend the night
with me until they returned Sunday. “Clayton knows the
rules,” were Dad’s final words before he closed the door,
and he and Mom were gone.
Violet seemed extra giggly that day. She had brought a whole
case of Mountain Dew and said that she would share with me,
if it was okay with my mom and dad.
“It’s okay,” I lied.
Violet said we should make headbands to wear when we were
“Pokemon fighting.” I wondered if she was making fun of me,
but I played along. As she was rummaging the craft bucket
for headband materials, I scurried to my room and returned
with two pairs of my underwear.
“We could use these!” Violet laughed and laughed, mouth open
to reveal saliva pooling around her unsightly teeth. I
Violet made rainbow sugar cookies. It was sunny out. She
called Mom’s cell and asked if we could walk to the park.
That night, way past my bed time, I reclined on the couch,
sipping my third Mountain Dew and staring at Violet on the
other side of the couch. I noticed for the first time; she
had scratches and bruises on her arms.
“What are those marks? On your arms?” I asked drowsily.
“Cat scratches,” Violet snapped.
As much as I had hoped to stay up all night, I was suddenly
overcome with fatigue. Something big and dark, yet inviting,
beckoned to me.
“I think I’m going to sleep in my parents’ bed,” I
“Is that okay?”
“Yes.” I shuffled to the coveted Big Bed, swathed myself in
heavy blankets and fell asleep, too tired to imagine what
could be in the darkness of my parent’s big closet, and feel
When I opened my eyes, there was light. There was breathing,
not mine. I flipped towards the direction of the breathing.
Was I in a dream? There was a girl. She had fallen asleep on
the bed. Her hair fell over her face, and she was flopped on
her stomach. Why was she in the bed? I wondered. Then the
answer came to me suddenly and explicitly; this big bed held
the same spell over her that it held on me. I remembered
that I was in the Big Bed. The bed that my dad would get
upset about if I even sat on it or touched the covers. I had
fallen asleep here last night. My parents were gone for the
night. That girl was Violet. Violet had fallen for the bed
like I had. I looked at the red and purplish marks on
Violet’s arms. Sitting up, I could see that she had a star
shaped bruise on one puny tricep. I wondered if Violet had
gotten in a bike crash. I recalled that I had crashed last
summer and had had to go to the emergency rooms for
stitches. I was only going into the fifth grade, but there
were some things I knew. And I knew a cat couldn’t have done
that to Violet.
I put my arm against Violet’s, feeling our skin touch. Her
warm arm against my cool one. I found myself imagining that
Violet and I were the Pokemon Plusle and Minun, inseparable
And Mom walked in. Like the abrupt end of a happy dream. I
hadn’t heard them get home.
“Clayton Kelly!” Dad followed.
Glared at me, awake, wide-eyed and terrified, fully-clothed
in the same clothes I had been wearing when they left the
previous morning. He grimaced at Violet, still face-down,
who snorted in deep sleep. Dad left the room.
“Did you brush your teeth last night? What is going on? You
know better!” Mom sent me to the shower and began shaking
I didn’t get to say goodbye.
I heard my parents talk.
“She was very embarrassed. Very sorry. She said she thought
it was okay for Clayton to sleep there.”
“What about her? That gross, weird girl on my bed! And even
at that age …”
I felt exposed, ashamed, humiliated. Violet and I hadn’t
really done anything wrong. A kid couldn’t help but want to
sleep in a big bed, the Big Bed.
And her arms…
But I knew Violet wouldn’t be allowed to watch me anymore.
It was something about kids drinking Mountain Dew late at
night that was wrong. It was something about a boy and a
girl alone in a bed that was wrong.
I saw Violet at the grocery store a couple weeks later. I
glanced at her arm, extended to hand Mom change, from the
corner of my eye. She was wearing long sleeves. She smiled.
Mom was polite and asked how she was doing. She replied that
she had gotten an infection in her nose piercing, but other
than that she was good.
I studied Violet now. She
still had her nose piercing. No ring on her left hand. She
was wearing a short-sleeved shirt.
“Violet’s a very pretty name,” I said.
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