Life in Pink
Life in Pink
A Short Story by Liv Francis-Pape
There’s a distance to the wind, a frailty, a concern. It flicks the window panes like an insistent castanet. She waits. She waits with the fidgeting wind, the trickling of spots of rain down the mildew-licked glass. She reminds herself she needs to clean them. She forgets this note-to-self within five minutes. She stares instead at the sooty fireplace, she considers making a fire but then the door clatters open.
She holds her breath, shuts her eyes and counts to ten.
Then she counts to ten again.
“Heeeyy!” That tone, that desolation encased in hyper hysteria.
She counts to ten.
“You’re back.” She says calmly without opening her eyes.
“Yes, back here and, yes.”
A bag is dropped to the wooden floor, the zips clicking against it.
“I told you i’d be back soon.”
“What’s got your knickers in a twist?” She laughs too hard at her own voice.
“Oh pfft. I’m only a few hours late.”
She opens her eyes and notices that she’s scratched a wet wound into the back of her hand, “You’re three days late, mum.”
“What are you on about?” She totters a little as she tries to make her way to the chair opposite her daughter, weaving and giggling at her instability.
“Three days. Seventy two hours. You know, three circuits of twenty four. Those things called days that us humans live in.” She doesn’t look at her mother.
“You’re crazy, it’s Monday.”
Silence. Heated silence, a feverish lack of noise.
“I’m sorry.” Tears dance away from her face like gravity has forgotten about the room. Briana half expects her mother to suddenly float up to the ceiling.
“You’re always sorry.” Briana says flatly, standing up and placing a vinyl onto the deck next to her mother. ‘La Vie en Rose’ comes on with a crackle.
Her mother hides her face with her hands and emits animalistic sobs, sobs with a life of their own in some dangerous universe. They talk to each other like they’re rapping, like they’re scared - clutching onto any form of life they can for oxygen.
Briana stands staring at this shrivelled woman in front of her. She wants to grasp her arm and tug her sleeve up, shout. She wants to cry too but she is frozen, stuck to the floor with cellotape, she thinks it might be easier if she could cry as well but her eyes laugh and tell her no, the tears are happy, they’re sleeping.
“Sorry, sorry. I’m sorry. So sorry. Please -” the words tumble into each other, not coming out quick enough, “SorrysorrysosorrypleaseIloveyousorrysorrysosorrypleaseiloveyou”.
“I’ll put some toast on.”
“I’m just going to make some toast. You need to eat or you’ll get pneumonia again. Have you had any water?”
She shakes her head, face still stuck to her palms.
“I’ll get some. Or juice? Do you want juice?”
“Water is fine, thankyoui’msorrypleasethanks.”
Briana struggles past the humid sorrow that blocks the doorway to the kitchen, she pours one large glass of tap water, anger dispersed like a berocca at the bottom, a smaller glass of orange juice and places two pieces of wholemeal into the toaster. She holds onto the island unit and breathes in the sorries waltzing in the other room. She could spread the toast with the fury burning her lungs, cooking them to a crisp. She can feel holes burrowing their angry little way into her flesh, like a candle nearly burnt away. Melted, she feels melted. She feels like the word desperado. A pool of upset on the grass. She begins to roll two cigarettes, walking into the lounge and handing the juice to her mother along with the cigarette. She lights it for her.
“Thank you.” She grabs hold of Briana’s palm and lays her forehead on it. She feels hot under her hand, like she may spontaneously combust at any given moment. Briana feels her own tears at the moment, hotter than her mother as they skuttle their way over her pale cheeks. She was always bullied for how pasty she is, told she was an albino that God got a bit wrong. But at this minute her mother is at least two shades of foundation whiter than her. Maybe God got her wrong too. Their blueprints were put into the wrong boxes, placed in that gene-splicing machine from ‘The Fly’ and muddled up with creatures not yet to know humanity.
There is too much humanity in this room. So heated and thick Briana can hardly inhale. Trying to breathe through a plastic coating, a bag over your sinuses, a snake coiled around the neck and fangs drilling into the edges.
Briana takes her hand back, “Finish your juice and go to bed, i’ll bring the toast up.
“I don’t want to live like this anymore Brie, I don’t think I can.” The sobs are fast and reckless now, slapping down everything in their path, sticking fingers in pots, spitting at the ottoman, the vinyl, the drum set in the corner with a thick layer of dust designing patterns on the cymbals.
“You can. You’ve been through worse than this before, mum. I’m going to phone doctor Richards and he can give you some -”
“No, no - please Brie, please don’t phone him. I can’t see him like this. He’ll lock me up, he’ll take you away from me, please. Not...him, please.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll wait. But you need something before the withdrawal sets in.”
She nods like a child on the naughty step, caught red handed.
Briana used to call withdrawal The Sickness. ‘What’s wrong with mummy?’, ‘She’s just got the sickness again, darling. She’ll be better in a few days’. That was before her dad had given up the ghost and left with his editorial assistant. She gets birthday cards from him, still, telling her she is strong, stronger than The Sickness, stronger than the Nasty Medicine. Telling her she needs to take her mother back to the hospital. She never does though. She acquises too easily. It’s a softer plumage than loneliness. But she is more alone than she has ever been, trying to plug holes in her sinking mother. Trying to make ends meet, trying to not keep life too hardcore. Trying, tiring, trying.
“I’ll go and get a script for you tomorrow.”
“They won’t be open now. It’s midnight mum.”
“But I thought the sun was up.”
“No, that’s the moon.”
“Oh. It’s pretty tonight. Today. Tonight.”
“Yes it is, mum.”
“I love you, Brie.”
“I’ll get your toast. Jam?”
She nods and Briana steps off of the diving board, landing in a pool with no water. She wipes her face and looks at the ceiling. She asks the spider’s web to look after them, to drag them from the deep end, to erase the Nasty Medicine from her mother’s veins. To make her organs new, fresh, slippery and moist, not blackened, not trying to crawl their way out of her one at a time. Or two by two. Di-dum-di-dum. She begs the light fixture to change the rhythm of the night, to smash against her face and slice her cheeks into strips of bacon.
The spider’s web laughs.
The light fixture tells her she is alone.
So she asks Edith Piaf, she cries to her, to let mum stay this time. Just for a little while.
Edith smiles a sedated smile and bends down to Briana’s ear and whispers, “Les ennuis, les chagrins, s’effacent, heureux, heureux à mourir”.