Dirty Red (Love Me With Lies)
Author:Fisher, Tarryn

I am trying to figure out how to get her to stop crying when something yellow catches my eye. To clarify, yellow is a terrible color. Nothing good comes from a color that represents egg yolks, earwax and mustard. It’s the color equivalent of a disease; festering sores and pimple puss, nicotine stained teeth. Nothing, nothing, nothing should be yellow, which is precisely why I turn my head to look. Immediately, I swerve my car into the far right lane and whip my steering wheel around like I’m on the teacups at Disney World. Choruses of car horns beep as I cut across two lanes of traffic to get to the plaza. I roll my eyes. Hypocrites.

 

Driving in Florida reminds me of navigating a crowded grocery store — either you’re stuck behind an old fart schlepping along at a mile an hour, or you’re being pushed into a cereal display by a hooligan. I am a good driver, so they can go screw themselves.

 

I follow the yellow sign into a strip mall and peer into the empty storefronts as my car edges through the parking lot. Crooked vacancy signs hang in most of the windows. The old store names still tacked above the doors are a depressing reminder that a recession is tiptoeing across the nation. I point a gun finger where a nail salon used to be and pull the imaginary trigger. How many little dreams had hit the dust in this crap hole plaza? In the far right corner near a gargantuan dumpster, sits the Sunny Side Up Daycare. I pull my car underneath the grungy egg yolk sign and tap my fingers on the steering wheel. To do, or not to do? Might as well go take a look.

 

I jump out, head for the door, and remember that there is a baby in the car. Sons of guns and motherfuckers. I retrace my steps, making sure no one has seen my blunder, and creep back to unlatch Estella’s car seat. She is mercifully silent as I haul her through the doors of Sunny Side Up Daycare. The first thing I notice is that anyone can just walk into this crapstablishment and steal a kid. Where are the key card locked doors? I eye the receptionist. She is a frumpy twenty-something wearing blue eye shadow over dull brown eyes. She wants a boyfriend. You can tell by her overzealous use of perfume and cleavage. She has eyeliner on her bottom lid. Everyone knows you don’t put liner on your lower lid.

 

“Hellooo,” I chirp cheerfully.

 

She smiles at me and raises her eyebrows.

 

“I need to speak with your director,” I say loudly, just in case she is as slow as she looks.

 

“What’s it about?”

 

Why do people always staff their front desks with half-wits?

 

“Well, I have a baby,” I snap, “ — and this is a daycare.”

 

Her nose twitches. It’s her only indication that I’ve royally pissed her off. I tap my foot on the linoleum as she pages the director of the daycare. I take a look around while I wait. Pale yellow walls, bright orange suns painted across them, a stained blue carpet scattered with this morning’s Cheerios. The Director emerges minutes later. She is a mid-life crisis blonde wearing a Tickle me Elmo t-shirt, scuffed pink Keds and two melon-sized breast implants. I eye her in disgust and paste on a smile.

 

Before I can utter a word, she says: “Wow, that’s a new one."

 

“She was premature,” I lie. “She’s older than she looks.”

 

“I’m Dieter,” she says, holding out her hand. I take it and shake.

 

“Would you like a tour of Sunny Side?”

 

I want to say “Hell no,” but I nod politely, and Dieter leads me through a set of double doors that she opens with a key card.

 

The place is dingy, even Dieter must see that. Every room has its own unique pee smell, ranging from — Oh my God — to a subtle piney/pee combo. Dieter is either immune to the smell, or she’s choosing to ignore it. I can barely contain my gag. She highlights the student/caregiver ratio, which is six to one and points gaily to a classroom of singing four year olds who all have snot dribbling from their noses.

 

Sharing is caring.

 

“Our playground equipment is brand new, but of course your little one won’t need that for a while.” She opens a door marked “Teenies” and steps inside.

 

Immediately, I am greeted with multiple infant voices all braying like little baby donkeys. It is quite unnerving, and almost instantly, Estella wakes up and joins the donkey chorus. I swing her car seat back and forth, and surprisingly, her crying tapers off until she’s quiet again. It is clean. I’ll give Dieter that. There are six cribs pushed against the walls. Each one has a crocheted Muppet hanging over it.

 

“We just said goodbye to one of our babies,” Dieter tells me. “So we have room for little — ”

 

“Estella,” I smile.

 

“This is Miss Misty,” she says, introducing me to the caregiver. I smile at another dumpy girl, shake another hand with chipped nail polish.

 

In the end, I decide to leave Estella there for a test run. Dieter suggests it. “Just for a few hours to see how you feel — ” she says. I wonder if it’s normal — leaving your baby with strangers to see how you feel. I could slice myself open with a knife and I wouldn’t feel a thing. I nod.

 

“I’ve never left her with anyone,” I say. It is the truth … mostly.

 

Dieter nods sympathetically. “We will take good care of her. I’ll just need you to fill out some paperwork in the front.”