‘What’s your favourite colour?’ Benjamin asked.
Surprisingly, Kadene had not been asked that question since childhood. Instantly, it was as if Mrs. Mason, her pre-school teacher, was standing before her again. She remembered she was colouring in her colouring book, using one colour. Mrs. Mason had offered several other colours to her but she was content. Then Mrs. Mason smiled and asked ‘What’s your favourite colour?’ – That was a memory she didn’t even know she had. Maybe it was the first time she was asked the question. She’d always had one answer to the question, but that was a long time ago. It was a colour she hated now; the colour lipstick her beautiful mother wore every day to work; the colour ribbon she always put in Kadene’s hair; the colour of the most beautiful flower in their garden, and the colour always smudged on her palm when her mother kissed her goodbye.
Benjamin was still awaiting her response, and so many thoughts began to race through her mind.
– ‘Red!’ was what she had told Mrs Mason.
‘Ohhh!’ Mrs. Mason replied as if surprised. She sat and watched her a while. ‘Do you know what red means?’
Kadene looked up, curious.
‘It’s a very nice colour,’ she reassured, ‘but it has a whole lot of meaning!’
‘Red mean pretty!’
‘Yes. Very pretty, of course! But red can mean BOLD!’ she said theatrically, sitting beside her.
Then it switched to high school’s sports day. Kadene attended a girls high school, but it was customary for boys to sneak in. Of all the boys trying to keep a low profile, just one decided to wear a blood red T-shirt and bizarrely play yellow houses’ mascot, during the races, but that was till he was escorted off the compound. That boy was Benjamin. She smirked.
Mrs. Mason’s voice continued, ‘Red can also mean bad, or danger.’
The scene then changed to her mother’s house. After spending the weekend with her father, she walked into her mother’s house to notice the floor was red. The sheets were red too as a matter of fact, and her mother lay on top of them, beautiful and bare. It was a foul. The policeman said she was raped and stabbed.
‘Angry,’ Mrs. Mason was listing.
Angry became her father’s favourite word. ‘It’s OK,’ he said. ‘I know you’re angry.’ She wouldn’t hear. Her mind had been stained, blood red, and she hated it.
She found herself staring at her lap. Just thinking back, had made her heartbeat quicken. She took up the knife and continued to cut the pizza. For a second, she thought she saw the smudge of red lipstick on her palm.
‘Man,’ Benjamin chuckled, ‘I can’t believe I never aks you that.’ He was oblivious to how much had gone through her mind in five seconds. She looked up at him. It seemed out of nowhere a red hibiscus appeared in the window behind him. In her colouring book, she still remembered what she was colouring. It was a cartoon she still loved; The little Mermaid, looking at the prince. Benjamin was her boyfriend of five years. They were both now in their mid-twenties, but last night was the first time he ever told her he loved her, and for the first time, she believed it. She had never felt a feeling quite like it, not since her mother kissed her goodbye. Mushy. She chuckled. She just realized his shirt was red. She sucked her teeth humourously and looked down at the pizza.
‘So? What is it?’
‘Red’ Kadene answered.
-‘Most of all’ Mrs. Mason finished, ‘It means love.’-
AUTHOR BIO: Tiffany Smith is 19 years old; she is a graduate of both the Antigua Girls High School and the Antigua State College. Her story The Colour Red was one of two Honourable Mentions in the 18 to 35 age category of the Wadadli Pen Challenge 2012. It is a story in which a question about the favourite colour sends the main character back to the past and actually helps her make peace with it. She tied for First Place in the same category with her other entry, The Untitled, in which the character finds herself in a mental tug of war about her family situation. Smith told us “I’ve always enjoyed writing and I’m very appreciative of the persons who have encouraged me in this art form. I hope that over the years I will have the patience to stick with it and continue to learn from it.”
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