For those who aren’t familiar with the blog CAKE.shortandsweet, today’s blog post is an entry in their weekly writing exercise, Wednesday Write-In. Five words are given as writing prompts every week, and participants are asked to build a story around them. For your readin’ pleasure, then, I present to you my entry for the Wednesday Write-In #28. Enjoy!
farewell :: pocketful :: feeding :: thief :: maroon
‘Once, you know, I met the Colour Thief,’ she told me in a confidential tone.
‘The what?’ I said, struggling to pull the sheets across her bed. I could never get them quite straight, or quite tucked, enough.
‘The Colour Thief, darling,’ she chuckled from her chair by the window. ‘Such a handsome boy. But of course, I was a handsome thing myself, then.’
‘Nana,’ I said with a grunt of effort in my voice, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’ She was doing this more and more lately, setting off on expeditions across memories where nobody could follow her. It didn’t worry her doctors, but it worried me.
‘Sit,’ she instructed, waving her hands at the crisply-made bed. ‘Sit, and I’ll tell you.’
I swallowed my discomfort, and sat on the sheets. They wrinkled around me like crows’ feet around an eye.
‘So.’ I said. ‘I’m listening.’
She didn’t seem to hear. She’d closed her eyes, and I watched as she dipped one velvety hand into the pocket of her dressing gown, before drawing it out and waving it gracefully towards me. It looked like she had a pocketful of seeds, and was using it to feed a flock of invisible birds. I tried to remain patient, but my eye was on the clock. I only had thirty minutes before I needed to be back at work.
‘Nana,’ I said, as gently as I could. I would need to speak to the doctor about this. ‘Tell me.’ She smiled, but I wasn’t sure she meant it for me.
‘His skin was blue,’ she began. Her voice was soft, but she spoke with quiet confidence. ‘He was blue as loneliness. He had green eyes – green like sunlight through trees, and like a deep breath on a warm day. He had black hair, down to his waist. It was the shadow of a gravestone, or a child’s nightmare.’ She paused for breath, still repeating that hand movement. It almost looked like a dance. ‘But he was missing one colour,’ Nana continued, speaking barely loud enough for me to hear. ‘My colour.’
‘What colour, Nana?’ I asked, in a breath. Was it me, or was this room cold? I made a note to speak to the nurse about it. I drew my cardigan tight.
‘Maroon,’ Nana replied after a moment. ‘The deepest red, with a touch of purple. He needed it, you see. For his collection.’
‘Collection?’ I felt a sudden pressure on my chest.
‘He had to have one of every colour, in every shade,’ she told me. ‘And what he was not freely given, he would steal. He had to. It was his nature, you see.’ I felt an oily sickness in my throat at her words.
‘Did he… did he hurt you, Nana?’ My vision blurred.
‘He was drawn to me,’ Nana continued. ‘He could feel the colour within me. He knew, you see,’ she said, as if she was talking to herself. ‘He could feel my passion, see the dark twist of it. See that it was just the shade he needed.’
‘So he took it?’ I felt wetness on my jawline from tears I didn’t know I’d shed.
‘He drew it from me like pulling thread from a spool,’ she said – and, as she spoke, she slowly, deliberately repeated her hand movement. This time, I finally saw what she was doing. She wasn’t feeding invisible birds. She was pulling something from the air and placing it in her dressing gown pocket. She was showing me she’d had something taken from her. My mind raced.
‘He prised it from me. My secret. The black-red of it, right out of my heart. He put it in his pouch, and turned to leave me.’ Nana paused again, her eyes still closed. ‘I asked him if he wasn’t even going to say ‘farewell’. So, he…’ she seemed to gasp for breath, and I jumped from my perch on her bed, desperate to help, but not knowing how. By the time I’d reached her side, she’d started speaking again. ‘He turned back just long enough to blow me a kiss. That was his farewell.’
‘Did you ever see him again?’ I wiped my face with the back of my hand. My Nana’s eyes were still closed. I wanted her to look at me, so badly.
‘Sometimes I miss what he took,’ she murmured. ‘But in another way, I don’t want it back.’ She settled into her chair and her hand drifted to her lap like a handkerchief coming to rest.
‘Nana?’ I said, gently touching her wrist. ‘Nana?’
Oh, thank God. She was sleeping. Just sleeping.
I switched my mobile to ‘silent’, and waited by her side until she woke.