Delilah gazed upon the box of dreams, wonder and longing invading her hazel eyes. As her mother wandered the clearance section for anything that would bring her wishes of owning any high-end possessions closer to her grasp, the child wandered to the one section where she felt at home. So sparked her star-crossed affair with a wondrous box of the finest colored pencils her thoughts could ever conceive resting firmly in a price range she knew would take at least a month of boycotting groceries to afford.
A loving hand stroked her soft black hair as her mother entered the scene, releasing a sad sigh at the unreasonable price tag. “Ready to go, Lila?” They wore smiles to each other as if at a masquerade, walking out the glass doors hand in hand. Her eyelids growing heavy at the steady hum of the car engine, Delilah rested her forehead against the cold backseat window as her mind took her elsewhere.
Soft pink pigs gathered around a trough, their hooves indenting the green grass wherever they traveled. Next to them, brown horses congregated in a vibrant red barn. An orange tabby cat roamed the mustard fields adjacent, stalking a little grey mouse who found shelter in the tall grains. A brilliant blue sky surrounded the scene, made lighter by the yellow sun suspended in the center. Most of all, though, Delilah dreamed of drawing a rainbow, making the hues flow into each other seamlessly, filling the page with intense color. A wistful smile found home on the girl’s lips, washed away as her head jolted forward with the car pulling into the driveway.
Before she could escape to her room after assisting with the groceries, her mother blocked her path, hand on her shoulder and down on one knee to meet the child’s eyes. “I know this is hard now,” she apologized, “but things will change soon. Once I find a better job, we’ll be back on our feet again. Don’t worry, okay?”
Black locks bobbed as the girl nodded in affirmation. “Okay,” she got out, offering a small reassuring smile before ducking out as soon as possible. Shutting the door to her refuge, Delilah took a seat at her second-hand desk in a street-corner chair, reaching down to open a broken drawer. The ghost of an aroma escaped the container, filling the room with a faint scent of a pseudo-fruit confection from its past life as a candy stash as small hands rummaged around boxes of pencils. She used to savor the smell, closing her eyes to sharpen another sense until it became too faint to decipher, but now the magic had disappeared, blending in with the room around her.
Lila pulled an old, leather-bound sketchbook onto the desk, a pencil fitting into her hand perfectly as she opened to the next blank page. Her hands were skilled despite her youth, and this became evident as she masterfully guided the utensil on the paper. The soft graphite bruised the paper at her command as she manipulated meaningless scratches to create something beautiful. At her touch, a small black and white rabbit came to life on the paper, sad eyes mourning for its lack of pigmentation.
A small knock at the door stirred Delilah from her trance, her mother’s head peeking into the room from a crack in the door. “Hey, I realized I forgot something at the store. I’ll only be a minute, do you feel comfortable staying here or do you want me to call a sitter? Again I shouldn’t be too long at all, but it’s up to you.”
“I’ll be fine,” she said, knowing in the back of her mind the secret that the babysitter charged by the minute.
The mother smiled at her brave girl. “My phone number is on the fridge if you need anything. I’ll be back soon.”
The door shut quietly with a nod from Delilah, her attention returning to the book in front of her. She gave the rabbit a home, shading in some dark grey grass at its feet. After adding some finishing touches, she signed her name at the bottom, the immaturity of the font the only feature on the paper indicative of her age. Folding her arms over the open book, she rested her head, eyes scanning the wall above covered with various images birthed from idle hands mixed with a creative spirit. The art danced in and out of focus as she quietly drifted into colorful dreams.
“Lila.” A surreal whisper echoed in a state of semi-consciousness. Delilah’s eyes fluttered open to see her mother crouched in front of her, one free hand resting on the desk to keep balance. “Hey, wake up,” she coaxed as the girl sat up, rubbing her eyes. A knowing grin crept onto her guardian’s face as she slipped a white box onto the surface in front of her daughter, a little red bow stuck on the lid like an odd growth.
Delilah blinked deliberately a few times before looking at her mother. “What’s that?”
“Well, Christmas is coming up. I thought you might want your present a bit early this year.” She bit her lip in futile efforts to battle the telling smile invading her secrecy as she watched the confusion adorning her daughter’s face morph into shock.
“I told you not to get me anything this year, though,” she started, curiosity compelling her slowly forward to the mysterious box.
“Oh, come on, I’m your mom, of course I’m getting you something.” Surrendering to her emotions, she smiled at the astonished child. “Go ahead, open it.”
Slowly pulling the box towards her, Delilah gingerly removed the lid as if expecting something to come out and bite her. After peeling away a layer of tissue paper, she carefully maneuvered the priceless treasure so that no tears would find a way to taint the gift. Before even removing the present from its wrappings, Delilah jumped into her mother’s arms, face buried into a pile of soft hair as her small hands wrapped around the woman like a necklace. It didn’t matter that she couldn’t find the words to thank her mother for giving her the power she most desired; in fact, no words even existed to convey such gratitude. Now, she could make the grey pigs pink, the charred grass green, and the lifeless rabbit any shade of brown she desired. Now, she could truly draw a rainbow.