Red Dress Club: Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

Posted on | March 25, 2011 | 23 Comments

Red Dress Club: This week’s prompt is simple: write a piece, fiction or non-fiction, inspired by this delicious shot. Word limit is 600.
I’d really appreciate constructive criticism on this and every piece I attempt! Thanks!!


She was pressed against the glass, dirt-stained fingers splayed out on both sides of her wide-eyed stare.

“That one.”

She repeated the sentence several times and the woman beside her nodded tiredly.

“I know, Alicia. But not today.”

They looked tired, both of them; frazzled and worn to the bone.  The little girl couldn’t have been more than four but when she turned to face me, her eyes reflected none of the youth of her age.  So used to my own children, I smiled at her with the same fatherly appreciation I showed my own girls. Where my daughters would have wrinkled their noses and grinned back, this girl stared, her face a veritable mask, her eyes squinted in distrust.

My instinct was to turn away. Yet something in the slow twist of her head and the questioning arch of her eye brows reminded me of my youngest daughter and I couldn’t turn away.  I let my knees drop until I was staring into the case of donuts from her point of view.

I could see the soft pink frosting and tiny sugar hearts of the doughnut that caught her eye and I again smiled at her.

“You want that pink doughnut, huh?”

She looked at me quizzically and shook her head.

“Not that one? Hmm… which one…” I pretended to search the doughnut case, looking for just the right doughnut.  It was a game I knew well.  My girls were six and eight and we’d played this many a time.  I pointed at chocolate doughnuts and plain glazed donuts.  I pointed to the blueberry crullers and the ones with raspberry filling.  Each doughnut received a solemn shake of her head but with each attempt I could see the distrust creeping away. Finally, I pointed back at the pink one and a grin broke out on her face.

She nodded.

“That one.”

She tugged on the hand beside her and the woman nodded slowly, her eyes never straying from carefully counting the bills placed in the cashier’s outstretched hand.

“Not today, Alicia.” She nodded her head in my direction and stacked the boxes of doughnuts haphazardly on the crook of her arm.   Alicia followed her, eyes down.  Just as she reached the door she stopped and with a quick turn, she ran back towards me, throwing her small frame into my arms.

“I want to give that one to my mom for Valentines Day.” Her voice was soft against my ear.  She put her hand against the glass one last time, staring longingly into the case.

“Alicia?” The woman’s voice was heavy and tired and she motioned with her head for the girl to hurry.

“Okay.” Alicia sighed and turned to leave.  On a whim, I put down the money quickly for the bright pink doughnut and called out to her.

“You forgot your doughnut…” I held it out as an offering of some kind, not knowing why or what it could possibly mean.

Her eyes lit up.  Her smile widened.

She held out  her hand and let me place the small bag there on her palm.   Without a word, her little feet flew over to the door and she tilted her head up to the woman with a smile.

“Can we take it to her, now?” Her voice clinked like glass against the air.

I watched the woman stand there, carrying four boxes of doughnuts like the weight of the world.  And though she didn’t move a muscle, I watched as she collapsed into a million pieces.


23 Responses to “Red Dress Club: Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice”

  1. Erin Margolin
    March 25th, 2011 @ 12:52 am

    This is beautifully written, but I’m confused. And I’m probably supposed to be.

    Is it the money? I don’t know…because she’s already bought a few boxes of doughnuts. They look tired, etc. and I wonder who the “her” is in the end that the little girl is referring to. She tells the man she wants the doughnut for her mom…but who is it for, really? a sibling? a friend? someone important. Someone who’s not there anymore?

    Preggo brain, kill me now.
    Love your description, the splayed fingers, the way you captured her kid qualities so well. And the part after he buys the doughnut for her? And not knowing why/what it could mean? Lovely.

  2. Jennifer
    March 25th, 2011 @ 2:21 am

    I’m confused to. I liked it, but I think I need more information to really get it. It really is beautifully written, but with the missing information I’m just left disappointed, not really wanting more. Sorry. I hope that isn’t harsh. It is written wonderfully.

  3. Law Momma
    March 25th, 2011 @ 2:57 am

    Yeah… I struggled with this. In my head, the mother had died and Alicia was there with an aunt or family friend, getting breakfast for the rest of the family/friends. I couldn’t make it clear in type, though.

  4. Ilana
    March 25th, 2011 @ 3:48 am

    I was confused too. Although I really enjoyed reading it. It makes more sense now that I read your comment above. I think the fact that the woman she is with is also buying doughnuts makes it confusing. Who are those doughnuts for? And I’m curious why you made it from a man’s perspective. Although I loved the last line. It was unexpected but made me want to understand more.

  5. Lauren
    March 25th, 2011 @ 4:50 am

    Beatifully written.

    I got it or at least followed that you wanted us to think she was with her mom, but by the end, it became clear her mom was dead or no longer around. (I also thought she could possibly be in prison, etc. and the lady could be a foster parent.)
    The lady buying the boxes of doughnuts threw me a little, but I guess I imagined the lady was buying them for someone else, like an employer. Thus, the little girl never gets one.

  6. Galit Breen
    March 25th, 2011 @ 12:35 pm

    I loved that you wrote this from a father’s perspective!

    This line really struck me: “her eyes reflected none of the youth of her age.” It was chilling.

    I’m definitely drawn into the story and want to know more!

  7. Amy
    March 25th, 2011 @ 12:48 pm

    This was a wonderful read. I love how the man won the little girl over.

    I was a little confused like the other comments said as well.

    I know the tired mom thing well 🙂

  8. Katie
    March 25th, 2011 @ 1:46 pm

    I really enjoyed this piece.

    The sadness of the little girl is almost palpable. I found myself wanting to buy her that pink donut if the man hadn’t.

    This was the line that summed up the whole piece for me: “Where my daughters would have wrinkled their noses and grinned back, this girl stared, her face a veritable mask, her eyes squinted in distrust.”

    It shows that she is different somehow from other little girls…that something sad happened.

    I think the end is a bit confusing since we don’t know what happened to her mother, but that is when it also becomes apparent that the people she is with are not her parents. The man is a stranger and the woman is just a caregiver of sorts. So where is the girl’s mom and why does it break her caregiver when she mentions giving the donut to her?

    I want know more!!

  9. Andrea
    March 25th, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

    My heart is in my throat right now.

    I loved this. It was so beautiful. I love that it was from a father’s perspective. I thought that was an excellent change of pace as a woman who is writing and reading! I always have trouble writing as a man, but I think you nailed the fact that parents are parents, and we all have that way about us.

    I, too, thought it was her mom, and thought she was asking the stranger if they could take it to her (the woman she was with), but once I realized that she was asking the woman it broke my heart that the woman was ignoring her when she needed her so much. I didn’t assume the mom had passed away (til I read your comment) but I did think she was not around. How sad. The girl and what she wanted were so real, I could feel it. If I were the person behind the counter I would have given her the doughnut myself!

    I also had no confusion with the woman (mom or not) buying the boxes, she was just tired of the child asking for a particular one, etc. and answering her as many a mom, dad, caretaker have done before!

    A few tweaks to tighten it some:

    – You said, “and I couldn’t turn away.” and had already said turn away, so I would change the second one to something like move. (Sorry, I’m so anal about repeated wording, it just jumps out at me!)

    – In the para where she runs back to him there are a lot of “she”-s. I think you could have left a few out, as we get it’s the girl, so we don’t need them.

    I really hope we get more of this story as I also want to know what happened, who she is with and why. It’ll all change, as it’s not from this father’s perspective, unless he happens to meet the woman and the girl at the store repeatedly. Which could be kind of cool! Great stuff!

  10. KLZ
    March 25th, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

    No fair to make me cry.

  11. Maija @ Maija's Mommy Moments
    March 25th, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

    I was confused a little like everyone else and actually had to re-read to get the line “can we take it to her now” meant the woman she was with was not her mother.

    I didn’t understand why she had 4 boxes of donuts but the girl couldn’t have the only one she wanted. Especially if her mom had died and her aunt was buying 4 boxes anyway – wouldn’t she have at least bought the girl who lost her mother the one donut she wanted?

    That being said it is BEAUTIFULLY written. You left me wanting more.

    The last line “And though she didn’t move a muscle, I watched as she collapsed into a million pieces” literally made my heart ache.

  12. Jess@Straight Talk
    March 25th, 2011 @ 3:35 pm

    Very nice. I love your fiction. I figured it involved a lost mother or loved one that she was hoping to get it for. This would be a good story to continue!

  13. Evonne
    March 25th, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

    I love that you wrote this from a father’s perspective.

    Not at first, but I did realize that the woman she was with was not her mother. I was confused about who she was and why she bought all those donuts. Reading through the comments, I understand now.

    Well done!

  14. Amy @HonestConvo
    March 25th, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

    Most of my comments have been said. First, I too appreciate that you told the story from a male perspective. I do that sometimes too and I think it’s a great exercise. I also love the way you get us inside of the little girl’s head from how you show her to us.

    I too was confused about her situation but I thought that was intentional on your part. I loved the father figure playing the silly guessing game with her. Just perfect.

  15. Leighann
    March 25th, 2011 @ 5:59 pm

    Wow. So heart wrenching.
    When she ran back to say what donut and why I got goosebumps.
    Great job

  16. Kir
    March 25th, 2011 @ 8:02 pm

    are you going to tell us who the mom is?

    other than that, it was awesome. It really was, her running to the woman. The woman being so lost in grief, or work, or thougths to see that the donut would make such a difference to her.

    the descriptions of these people were incredible. I thought even if you were keeping the mom’s identity a secret, you did it the right way. Let us know who she is in the next prompt ok?


  17. Mama Track
    March 25th, 2011 @ 9:12 pm

    Love that it’s in a male voice. I didn’t expect that. Love the descriptions–I felt like I was right there.

    Like some of the other posters I was a bit confused on part of the plot. But maybe that part doesn’t matter–that’s not the point.

    Can we see them again?

    Visiting from TRDC

  18. Mandyland
    March 26th, 2011 @ 4:14 am

    I was a little confused as to the identity of the woman. I assumed that she was a social worker or a family member on her way to the hospital.

    But your description of what was really happening made me so very sad.

    I really liked that you wrote it from a man’s perspective.

  19. Lisa @ Two Bears Farm
    March 26th, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

    You had a beautiful opening sentence. It definitely captured my attention right away.

  20. Tanya Tringali
    March 27th, 2011 @ 11:01 am

    This was such a moving story.

    The fact that the father understood the little girl so well even though she was a stranger to him, shows us the kind of father he is.

    Even though I was unsure at first of where the story was going, I didn’t mind because I was already a part of it.

    Great job-

  21. Kelly
    March 27th, 2011 @ 11:18 pm

    I was drawn right in to your story- I loved that you told it from a father’s point of view.

    I was a bit confused at the end…why wouldn’t the woman she was with buy her the one donut she wanted?

  22. CDG
    March 30th, 2011 @ 7:05 pm

    You imagery and language are just gorgeous, and taking the male POV is a great choice.

    Like the others, I was a little confused by the who and why, but most of all, I was just deeply saddened by the whole thing.

    You infuse emotion into the situation beautifully.

  23. Delia
    March 31st, 2011 @ 3:28 pm

    Great piece! I wanted to keep reading. My mind kept going over all of the scenarios in my head as I moved through it – are they poor? Homeless? Then I got to the end and started to tear up? Is the mom in the hospital? Dead?

    You have a talent to draw people in.

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