Dark Hat (FFC52)

Flash Fiction Challenge
flash-fiction-badge Writing prompt: “While scrolling through Facebook, a women sees a picture of herself in a post about fashion victims.”

“Dark Hat”
By Thain in Vain

Sherrie held the big square box her Aunt Tessa had handed her. Sherrie thought it might be one of the most beautiful things she ever held. The royal blue wrapping paper glimmered under the severe overhead lighting. Sherrie marveled at the enormous crimson bow that flopped over the top of the box.

“Open it, Sherrie. I can hardly wait for you to see it,” exclaimed Tessa, clasping her hands together in anticipation. Tessa had always been there for Sherrie, protecting her from her mother’s darkness. Tessa was familiar with the darkness.  Her own childhood faded into the rear view dimness of it.

Sherrie gingerly untied the large bow, making note of how to re-tie it. She planned on adding it to her cork board of memories. Tessa had brought the cork board to the hospital for Sherrie. It leaned against the wall next to her bed. Sherrie looked at the board, planning the best spot for the bow. The board was full; Chinese fortunes predicting love and riches in Sherrie’s future; a picture of her on her first grown-up bike, her father letting her ride on her own for the first time; ticket stubs to the first Harry Potter movie. Sherrie’s eyes settled on the card in the centre. On it a cartoon baby elephant with droopy ears used its trunk to blow out four candles on a birthday cake. It was from her mother. Tessa had asked if she wanted another cork board. Sherrie had told her she no longer had anything good to remember now that her own darkness had settled around her.

She lifted the lid of the box and peered inside. A hat sat in the box. Sherrie lifted it from the box. Like the bow, the hat was crimson, like blood. Sherrie marveled over the softness of the suede, as she left crimson fingerprints behind. The top of the hat flopped over like the dorsal fin of a captured whale. On the side of a hat perched a large sunflower, open-faced and wanting. It reminded Sherrie of the Sorting Hat from Harry Potter. She immediately loved it.

“It’s a lazy top hat,” exclaimed Tessa. “Do you like it?”

Before she could say anything, Sherrie burst into tears, hiding her face with the hat. Nobody has been nice to Sherrie except Tessa.  “I love it,” she croaked through her tears. In that single moment, Sherrie believed in the good of the world for the first time in her life. She glanced at the birthday card with the elephant. It was the only card her mother had given her before completely letting go of the reigns and letting entropy direct her life.

“I knew you would! Now let’s slip that baby on your head and get the hell outta this place.” Tessa helped Sherrie get the hat on her head and then set about the task of collecting Sherrie’s stuff.

***

After they had done some shopping, Sherrie nestled into the comfortable, sectional in Tessa’s living room. She opened her laptop, listening to Tessa sing in the kitchen while cooking a meal for her family. Sherrie’s therapist had told her to avoid social media during her recovery, but she opened Facebook anyway. She hadn’t heard from any of her friend during her dark escape, but couldn’t help but be curious about their lives. Scrolling through her news feed, she found herself chuckling at the status updates and links her friends had shared. It felt normal to her. Maybe she was mistaken, but she felt the dense fog release its genetic hold on her. A newsfeed post caught her eye. It said “People of Walmart.” The feature picture showed an obese white man dressed in a mini skirt and halter-top topped, his shopping cart full of toilet paper. Sherrie clicked on the link. A slideshow of pictures started. She laughed at a guy sporting army fatigues and a gas mask, smelling cantaloupes; she gasped at a women an outfit so unflattering it defined unflattering. She clicked to the next picture and immediately recognized the hat. She recalled the instance in time the picture captured. She was picking new flowers for the living room at Tessa’s. The caption read: Chubby girl buys flowers . . . for her hat?!?!” There were tons of comments, echoing the same. She slammed the laptop shut.

She started the breathing exercises her therapist taught her, but the darkness was coming. Unlike her mother’s darkness, which discharged into the world, Sherrie’s darkness turned dangerously inward. The wounds on her wrists started to itch beneath the band aids.

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