Dahlia fed her dolls arsenic wafers to coerce fabric to adjust tone from Caucasian to the porcelain sheen of her mother’s cherished china. Last Easter her mother was setting the table, using care to place the dinnerware gently on the floral patterned tabletop. Dahlia licked her index finger and touched a stack of saucers, arranged near the table’s edge. Her mother slapped her fingers.
“Stop!” She exclaimed. “These are for special occasions only. We mustn’t touch.”
Dahlia pondered on the paradox of eating off special plates she was banned from touching otherwise. She grabbed her doll and dragged it from the linoleum floor of the kitchen, to the carpeted living room. She set her doll like a regular dish on her mother’s couch.
“This is all your fault.” She screamed, pointing her finger at the doll’s anchored ambivalent expression.
Dahlia’s mother walked into her daughter’s bedroom. She patted Dahlia’s head, ran her manicured nails through her daughter’s unkempt hair. Grease transferred from Dahlia’s follicles to her mother’s fingers and she wiped the grease on her sweater, crouched beside her daughter.
“Got yourself a tea party here?”
“What kind of tea are you serving?”
Dahlia rolled her eyes.
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“Why wouldn’t I understand, dear?”
A male cardinal landed on her bedroom window sill. He lifted his wing and stabbed at an invisible nuisance with his beak.
“Mom,” she asked.
“Are cardinals special?”
Her mother peered at the bird, she stood up and crept to the window slowly, as not to frighten the fowl.
“No…dear…” She said. “There’s nothing special about birds.”
“Then what makes something special?”
“If it’s unique. One of a kind.”
“Does that mean I am special?”
“No. Dear.” She said. “You’re just like every other little girl, throwing a tea party for her dolls.”
Dahlia watched the cardinal fly away.