Dreaming in Color by rutsky [Reviews - 14] |
This hit me suddenly at work; perhaps my senses were working overtime, but sight, scent and memory have always been closely intertwined for me. I think Rose might understand it. Certainly her nearly-omniscient Blue Friend does.
Just after Father's Day
edited very slightly to fix some tiny inconsistencies that were nibbling at my hind brain.
She sat in her room, looking at the walls, trying to make them change color.
She wanted something other than pink right now. She hated pink.
Seconds later, she amended that thought. Hate was too strong a word. After another moment, she reluctantly admitted to the air around her that she actually adored pink.
It's just that she wished very hard that she didn't like it.
She tried to explain. "Just can't bear it right now. It's like I need, I dunno, something more grown up." She thought for a moment. "Stronger."
Pink was the color of babies, and 12-year-old girls who thought their first crush was the stuff of high drama. It was frivolous. Yeah, that was the right word, she decided. And she was newly determined not to be frivolous.
What hurt was how clearly she'd seen frivolous, petty, unthinking in his eyes that afternoon.
The quarrel had been brief, but brief didn't mean painless. He'd insulted her, called her an ape. She'd gotten angry, of course, and had fought back with her own insulting words. But just before he'd pushed by her in the flat's tiny front hall, she'd looked into his eyes, trying to return glare for glare. And she'd seen herself as he saw her in that moment.
She'd felt the bile rise in her throat at that fun-house mirror distortion of her own excellent opinion of herself.
She was indeed petty and frivolous and selfish and unthinking. Somehow - even before she'd seen the monstrous Reapers try to excise her mistake - she knew. Her foolish babbling in the living room couldn't quiet the cold truth her conscience silently presented. She'd risk the world for her own tiny desires. She wasn't proud of herself or worthy of traveling with him.
Horribly, all she could think of as she trembled in humiliation was her old bedroom at her mum's.
It was all pink, nothing but pink - the walls, her sheets, the counterpane that covered the sheets, the frames on her pictures, the frilly lace curtains. Even the diary on her cheap plastic bedside table was pink; a pink cover and pale pink pages covered with all her silly worries, all her stupid little thoughts, insignificant stories of boyfriends and parties, money, telly stars, celebrity gossip, hair styles and half-eaten bags of chips. Joys and sorrows that didn't even merit the labels.
She almost destroyed the world.
When she'd fled to her bedroom here, seeking rest and comfort after this whole unimaginable day, she'd found instead pink walls and pink sheets, pink blankets, even a pink wardrobe.
She didn't know why the color should still upset her so. Everything was better now, at least with him. She'd said she was sorry and he'd forgiven her. He'd comforted her as she cried on the street outside the church. He'd saved the world again --
-- no, he hadn't saved the world, not this time. It had been another man this time.
That man had been strong, too. He'd been beautiful, with his red hair and kind eyes, his quick mind, his quizzical smile, his automatic and unquestioning love for her, his unbreakable love for her mum, his unblinking understanding of a dreadful and inescapable fate. He'd been the hero this afternoon.
"Dad..." she mourned softly to the air.
The air didn't answer, but it abruptly smelled faintly of lemon and lilies. It smelled, although she didn't immediately remember this, the way her mum had smelled when she herself was a little girl. All she realized at first was that the scent made her feel better somehow. She tilted her head, seeking its source even though she knew it didn't originate anywhere she could actually understand.
Then the bright, sweet perfume coaxed a memory from somewhere in her unconscious...her arms flung around her mum's neck, giggling as she was tickled, hearing her mum's answering laughter.
She examined the memory, surprised at its clarity.
"I was so little then," she murmured, informing the air of something she didn't realize it already knew. "Mum was still working in the salon."
Her mother had tried to keep that job, tried to keep an eight-to-four schedule so that she could earn a decent living for the two of them. She knew that now. But the youngster she was then had been desperately lonely, spending her days in Gloria-next-door's flat, a not-quite latchkey child yearning for contact, stability and safety.
And then one day Mum came home and told her she wasn't going back to the salon. Mum was going to stay home and take care of her. How do you like that, sweetheart? she'd asked, picking her daughter up and carrying her into her bedroom, where their mutual delight had ripened into a fine tickling session.
Her bedroom - it hadn't been pink, at least not then, she realized with surprise. It had been a pale and dingy beige, with second-hand furnishings of unspectacular shades.
Tell you what, her mum had said when they'd finally controlled their gasping laughter and were lying contentedly on her little bed. First thing we'll do together now that I'm going to be home...how d'you fancy making your room all pretty? Pretty as you! How about that?
She remembered how special her mum had made her feel.
Make it pink, she'd demanded happily. And her mum had obliged, begging paint off Gloria's boyfriend the hardware store salesman.
Now, years later, she breathed deeply, getting as much as she could of the lemon and lily, filling her heart as much as her lungs.
She was weary with everything that had happened today, weary with shock and sorrow, weary with her own failings, weary with relief that the universe had been saved from those failings by someone strong and beautiful.
He'd saved it for her, and for her mum. And she and her mum had survived together. And that, she knew all at once, was not petty, or frivolous, or unimportant.
"Tell you what," she told the air finally, just before she drifted off to sleep. "Maybe pink's not so bad."