/   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
March/April 2006

Margaret Bryan

“Pomegranate, apple, or bunch of grapes?” Mom asked, just asking out of sheer politeness, as she knew what the answer would be.

“Pomegranate, please,” her three daughters said in unison. Mrs. Loft sliced the brilliant red fruit in quarters, passed each girl a quarter and took the remainder of the sphere for herself.

The two younger girls picked the seeds from the white, inedible and bitter “meat” of the fruit, but Elsabeth, the eldest of Mrs. Loft’s three children at thirteen, looked down at her slice with distaste and surprised her mother on a sudden whim.

“Mom, do you have any leftovers of last night’s blueberry pie, or did Lucille and I finish it this morning?”

Mrs. Loft blinked, surprised by her daughter’s sudden inquiry. Shaking her head and regaining her usual calm senses she looked intently about the interior of the hamper. “No,” she said to Elsabeth, “I’m afraid there is none left.”

It was then that Mr. Loft turned his head slightly from his driving. “I’ll have Elsa’s quarter of pomegranate if she does not care to eat it,” Pa spoke in a bittersweet, chocolaty voice, which made Mom turn her head the opposite way to hide the scowl that had shattered her usually composed features. She detested her husband’s voice, because in her opinion, it was too fictional. No voice was like that in real life. But she had made up for her disapproval by being known to say that, other than his voice, Mr. Loft had no other visible faults.

Blue driving highway

Elsabeth swore a silent oath that blue would, until her death, be her favorite color

Road signs protruded from the cold snow every few feet on either side of the vehicle. The wintry white scenery was like a giant blanket spread over a vast expanse of flat terrain, or an electric blue tarp keeping the plants safe from a harsh frost, the heavy wrinkles forming what makes the continental crust of our Earth land: hills and valleys, mountains and even minute anthills.

The Confederation Bridge loomed into sight as Dad plucked a scarlet pomegranate seed shiny in luster and held it up to the light before popping it into his mouth. Elsabeth, slightly paranoid for her thirteen years, looked up in alarm.

“Pa, I would watch closer at where I was going, if I were you,” she said irritably, before adding hastily, “I don’t know much about driving of course, as I have only just reached my teens.” Mr. Loft was very particular about what others had to say about his maneuvering abilities. However, he heeded his daughter’s warning, and placed the remaining pomegranate into the cup holder next to him. He grasped the steering wheel tightly, and screwed up his eyes in mock concentration. Eve laughed at her father’s false expression of serious deliberation.

A claret red car passed the Lofts’ vehicle, its bright hue reflecting off the colorless, almost transparent shade of mystic silver of the automobile’s exterior. Its speed was impregnable, and the crimson car wobbled back and forth on the smoky gray road, every now and then passing a boundary of brilliant yellow, the line that separated the two obscure lanes.

“Well I’ll be!” Mr. Loft said after the clumsy-looking sports car had passed, throwing his hands up momentarily in surprise and causing his knuckles, which were deathly white from clutching the steering wheel, to resume their normal color of rouge. He continued his speech, winking at Elsabeth. “If I hadn’t been watching the roads, I assume that there would have been a horrible accident on this Confederation Bridge.” Something about the tone in her father’s words made Elsabeth think about what would have happened if she hadn’t told her father to watch the roads. Would her corpse be lying upon the frozen icy pavement right now, beside a demolished car lacking in hue, marks of red scattered upon the glistening metal of the vehicle’s surface?

Elsabeth shook herself as if to relieve her head of such a burdensome thought. Such a troublesome predicament was almost impossible to fathom, not to mention quite unpleasant.

At that moment a car the color of the azure sky slowly lumbered past. Blue, it seemed to whisper to the young Miss Loft. Blue. Elsabeth had always liked that color; there were so many names for its numerous shades. For green there was just lush, viridian, and kelly With red there was claret, scarlet, and crimson. As far as black was concerned there was only the elegant phrasing of the adjective, ebony Brown was perhaps of a wider range of choices, with burnt sienna, chestnut, sepia, etc. Yellow had hardly any names of much consequence. Orange possessed the sole vermilion, unless you intended on pairing it with the crayon color name of marigold. Pink could be known as salmon, rouge, and mauve. But with blue—Ah! There was cerulean, phthalo, and indigo. Azure, cornflower, and periwinkle. There was midnight and sky. Oh, there were so many different shades of blue, and at that very moment Elsabeth swore a silent oath that blue would, until her death, be her favorite color.

*          *          *

Elsabeth lived in Sacramento, California, with her parents, Richard and Cladissa Loft, and her two sisters, ten-year-old Lucille and four-year-old Eve. Elsabeth was no straight-A student when it came to academics, but she was somewhat of a genius when it came to computers and could even outsmart her high school technology professor. This remarkable gift had been accompanied by a strong desire in her early years to save the rainforests, and to become an environmental lawyer.

Elsabeth swept her bushy, rather tangled locks of short auburn hair out of her placid face. Prince Edward Island in the winter seasons looked like a jewel-encrusted pendant, all covered in quartz crystal and zircon. Elsabeth was no favorer of diamonds. Their abrupt transparence made them seem like they were not in existence at all. They seemed like sheets of glass scrubbed clean; so clean that one could not make out a single speck of dust or dirt to decipher the glass from the things seen through it. No, in Elsabeth’s opinion, diamonds seemed to have an emptiness about them, and no matter how much bright hue and artificial (or natural) coloring was added, they would always possess that aura.

Blue inside a car

“Pomegranate, apple, or bunch of grapes?” Mom asked

Now zircon and quartz crystal were another story. Their beauty was one of impenetrable value, and the glistening, snowflake-like structure of quartz was nearly identical to the small speck of whirling blizzard on a bitter winter’s night. Zircon, though imitation diamond, seemed to contain an invisible tint of beauty and distinction, and reflected the slightest bit of aquatic atmosphere in its depths.

They had reached a series of uneven terrain on the bridge, though the slow elevation was so subtle that Elsabeth barely noticed that they were ascending about thirty feet.

Then, there! A perfect view of Prince Edward Island; the zircon and crystal was scattered about the stunning red soil, like a long bolt of crimson cloth garbed with sequins. Where the island had supposedly blushed under the glance of God, what gave the appearance of potter’s clay remained. Though it was winter, the island still gave the impression of residing in the cadet-blue sea. Mrs. Loft looked back at her daughters’ astounded faces. Her dark, flowing brunette tresses were in perfect contrast with PEI’s elegance. Though nearly in her forties, Cladissa Loft gave the distinct impression of still being in high school. Her startlingly blue eyes, like teardrops of aquamarine, hid nothing. The mother of three believed not in secrets, but in sharing her vast knowledge with the world.

“Well, here it is,” Richard’s voice sliced the air like a knife on butter, and at the sound of his bittersweet voice Elsabeth had a sudden craving for a box of chocolates. “Prince Edward Island.” The words were said in unison by both mother and father. One more change of pavement from dusty, worn, slate gray and blackened tar, and they were actually on the island! Days of ceaseless traveling, stopping only to fill the car with gas, run inside the nearest McDonald’s for a bite to eat, or to pull up to a dingy old motel with chipped yellow paint and peeling green lettering.

“Aunt Prudence lives in Kensington,” Mr. Loft said, “about thirty kilometers from Cavendish, the setting of L. M. Montgomery’s acclaimed novel, Anne of Green Gables. Really, Elsabeth, as long as we’re here, you should really take the time to read it. There are about seven or eight books in the series, I reckon.” He started ticking off names. Lucille was hanging on to her father’s every word, already taking out her notebook and flipping to a page that said, “To Read,” already with five or six pages following the title. Lucille read everything that she could get her hands on, and whenever she heard of another book, whether it sounded interesting or not, the ten-year-old would scribble out what ranged from one to ten words, usually.

“Then there’s Anne of Ingleside, Rainbow Valley, and Rilla of Ingleside.” Father finished the last three names and ended by thrusting a handful of pomegranate seeds into his gaping mouth. “All right, you three,” he said in a businesslike manner, “we’ve got a long drive ahead of us still to come before we reach Kensington. I’m assigning some work for you all to do to ensure that there will be no boredom on the remainder of this trip. Elsa, you write the entire alphabet in the finest cursive you can muster, both capital and lowercase, each letter written three times. When you’re finished, I want you to write a list of places that we want to go on this weeklong vacation. For our fastest reader on the planet, pray do read The Little Prince. Shouldn’t take you that long. When you’re done, help Elsa. And you,” Mr. Loft winked at Eve, “me, you, and Mommy are gonna play the color-car game.” Mr. Richard Loft assigned a job to everyone on a long car ride. It made the waiting easier. And since no one in the family ever got carsick, there was no fear of reading or writing. Lucille was already rummaging around her book box, groping for the novel that Father had suggested. Elsabeth bent her head down to write.

“I’m blue!” The eldest of the three daughters felt a little squirm of a mixture of gratitude and resentment as her parents and younger sister decided on the colors that they were going to be in the color-car game; a game played on the road where each player counted up how many cars they found of a certain color and the person with the largest sum won. Quite simple, really Eve was the well-worshipped blue, Father, the pernicious black, and Mother, the mysterious white—color of the snow and the snowman, if you could call it a color, that is. Mrs. Loft was sporting a white wool hat upon her chestnut head, making her chosen car color appropriate in both hue and contrast.

At that moment Elsabeth realized that she had been working so slowly that she was only on the letter B, whilst Lucille was already on page 20 of The Little Prince. The young Miss Loft, filled with satisfaction, bent down over her paper once more, and when the next blue car passed by, Elsabeth smiled at it in recognition, for once again, she had the distinct impression that the aura of blue was around her, and that she was forever in its debt.

This story is an excerpt from Margaret’s novel, The Pomegranate.

Blue Margaret Bryan

Margaret Bryan, 11
Holden, Maine

Blue Haluk Akay

Haluk Akay, 11
Sewickley, Pennsylvania

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