OH! Press recently held a writing contest in celebration of our 3rd anniversary. This short story titled Olive Green, written by fellow OH member Terra won the grand prize. Without further ado, this is her beautifully written tale.
For as long as she could remember, the colors burst forward, vibrant and bold, every time music surrounded those with her. It made hardly any sense, but she never felt the need to address it.
Her parents had worried, frown lines etched into their wide foreheads as deeply as the ones near the corners of their mouths, when she asked them why her father had erupted into a brilliant vibrant light red, while her mother had stayed enshrouded in a mixture of dark purple and orange during their anniversary dance. She knew what the colors had meant, of course; only the lack of hindsight prevented her from announcing it in a more casual setting. The light red, borderline pink spoke of her father’s unwavering love but the dark purple and orange depicted a different story from her mother’s side.
It spoke of unhappiness, deceit. It spoke of sadness and frustration, of things left unsaid, of ambitions being lost somewhere along the way of becoming a mother and a wife. It spoke of a unhappiness, unbidden, of yearnings for things far away, and most importantly – far away from her father.
When they separated, speaking to her softly as they sat in the cafe, all she could see was the slow vining of green hope climbing up on her mother. She concentrated on that, ignoring the dull yellow of sickness that began to creep up on her father. Excusing herself to the bathroom, she ignored the dismayed looks cast her way and found herself staring at the mirror before her.
It showed nothing, despite willing some color to be added to her. She brought up her hands, desperately looking for signs of aqua to softly halo the fingers, to show that there was a chance of healing her heart in the future, that she would get through this, but her hands remained free of any other colors.
As it always had.
So she simply stared back at the mirror, counting her breaths instead. It was only after she counted to 30 the second time that another person stepped into the bathroom, a feminine voice speaking on the phone, saying that they were indeed going to be busy, that they wouldn’t come back until later, that they loved whomever they were on the phone and that they would be home as soon as work permitted them.
All while the red orange of passion followed the speaker, as she carelessly tossed her purse onto the counter. Vestiges of darker hues of grey caressed her every word, the last words spoken of love and faithfulness at par with the colors of the deceit underlying them before the lady disappeared into the stall to tend to her business.
A pair of opaque and gaudy sunglasses hung from the strap. The girl took a glance at the stall, at the mirror, and finally, the glasses. She swore she could see the olive green of peace illuminate the dark glasses.
She placed them on her face, welcoming the darkness that stopped the colors before exiting the bathroom. She bid farewell to her parents, calmly packing up her belongings in front of their grey tinged figures.The tinkle of the bell announced her arrival on the street, but the sunglasses announced her arrival into the new shaded world as she walked alone; one, lost among the many.
The sunglasses proved to be exactly all of the peace she could have ever dreamed of. After years of seeing the colors of people as they spoke, as music surrounded them, of seeing exactly what parts of their souls they wore on their sleeves, the words they spoke that belied their true intents. It had grown to be too much, so she retreated. She only regretted not thinking of using sunglasses before.
Now, it seemed as though she had all the time in the world. Several of her acquaintances looked at her with pity in their faces, from what she could tell, when she began to use the sunglasses all the time. Whispers of a traumatic accident began to spread, and one by one, the only ones who were left to interact with her on a daily basis were those who commissioned her to paint for them. Cliched as it was, it was still the only way she could see color and feel peace at the same time; locked up in her studio all at once.
It worked for her. In the privacy of her studio, with only the paints around her, she was able to create some of the most beautiful images she could’ve possibly done. Her reputation grew, while her presence in the outside world faded. She worked, tirelessly, sometimes opening a window for brief inspiration from those wandering the streets below her. The colors of their souls would mesh with the colors they wore proudly to define themselves in their daily lives, but she could see through it all.
She could see through their masks, see them for who they really were. Sometimes, she enjoyed playing games with them, like when the sad purple that followed her older client turn into a soft light blue of tranquility when she carefully stirred in the azaleas that he himself had brought to her as a gift. She could only smile serenely as she thought of his future, of how he slowly succumb six hours in the future.
There would be nausea, of course, and discomfort, as well as pain, but it would take place far away enough from her that she would be only be able to remember his tranquil blues, instead of the darkness of death and sickly yellow she knew would would be his soon future.
She wondered, briefly, if she would shone the bright orange of unparalleled happiness as she offered him an extra biscuit.
He smiled softly, shaking his head pleasantly as he declined and finished his cup.
When news of his passing came to her, she feigned surprise and grief, and even brought out her best dark dress to adorn herself for the funeral. Her public appearance made, her hands exchanging touches with those in the funeral home done, she carefully took off her sunglasses to wipe at the tears that had pooled beneath them.
The dark orange of deceit was almost missed under the bright yellow of profound joy, the two colors mixing together in such wonderful harmony that she briefly entertained the thoughts of leaving the supposedly devastated son alone.
Instead, she walked to him, requesting his presence at her studio, gently placing a palm on his arm as she whispered information about his father’s last commissioned painting from her. He grew still, and she could faintly make out the dark greens of ambition and greed through the edges of the sunglasses.
When he showed up two days later, his inner self had the sense to faintly illuminate him in a lovely orange that showed his distrust of her. She appreciated the color.
What she appreciated more, though, was the dark greys of fear that began to seep through when he cried for freedom, cried for his sins, cried for forgiveness, and most perversely – cried for his father as she methodically took him apart. Bit by bit, until there was nothing left of the soul, until he was just as colorless as his freshly buried father, and as her. Until all that was left was the red of his blood, that seemed to richen with the dark blacks of death. She took that and carefully added it to the painting she had been asked to do for his father.
Afterwards, when she was asked how she could have created such a piece with such depth and horror, while remaining simplistic on the surface, she merely shrugged. She took off her glasses to wipe at her brow, sweating slightly under the bright fluorescent lights of the gallery. She glanced at the gallery owner’s daughter, her siren red dress at odds with the whiteness that enveloped her like an angel, before turning back to the gallery owner.
The gold of his own wealth, the dark red of his wrath, jealousy and malice and the dull yellow of his jealousy danced about him. She regarded the owner carefully, before she righted her sunglasses, the sunglasses that gave her peace all those years ago.
“Would you like to come back to my studio?”