It was my wife, Esme, who suggested we get a pet for our children. “It will teach them responsibility,” she said. “Sounds good,” I replied. However, I was not actually paying attention when she bro…
I am not afraid of heights, except for that unsettled feeling I have on a bridge when I look down and wonder what it would be like to jump.
I am not that person who gets lost or turned around and can’t find their way out, although there are times I wonder why I am here.
I feel painful pressure in my ear, the kind associated with air flight, except I am firmly attached to the ground.
I stand up too fast and fall down, stand up, fall down again; I stay down, just for a while, so I can marvel at the spinning lights.
I remember when I knew the cause of this sensation; too many rides on the carousel, too many drinks at the party.
I refuse to succumb to the fear that every headache is caused by an undiagnosed brain tumour, but the germ of the idea, like a tumour still grows.
I feel old, and suffer the vertigo of age, unbalanced just a little by the journey to the tipping point between life and death.
“I want something in a colour between light red and and dark pink,” said the teenaged girl.
Sharon felt the migraine start behind her eyes as bright shards of light radiated outwards to cast the girl in a sparkly halo that melded with the harsh fluorescent lights of the store. If she did not take more Aspirin soon, it would be too late. Dear Lord, what had possessed her to find a job in a clothing a store? No sane person should have to deal with adolescent girls carrying a hefty allowance, or worse yet, Daddy’s credit card. Usually the father’s money was bolstered by the extra cash from a mother striving to compete and be the “nice parent” and curry favour in the custody battle of a wilful daughter’s mind.
“Are you trying to match a particular outfit?” asked Sharon, pressing a finger against her temple to stave off a stroke.
“Nah,” said the teen. “My friend Ginny over there just thought a pinky-reddish colour would look good on me, ya know.”
“Of course,” said Sharon, staring daggers at the offending Ginny. “Something in dark pink would match your hair. A scarf maybe?”
“Gawd No!” said the teen. “It can’t be all matchy, matchy with my hair. I better get something more red then, and not a scarf because scarves are kind of old fashioned don’t you think?”
Sharon smiled—her descent into retail Hell complete, as she thought about the scarf draped around the shoulders of her jacket hanging in the staff room. “It’s nice, Mom,” Kara had said, when Sharon brought the scarf home—bought on deep discount with her first pay cheque. Bought to indulge herself and prove she was not just working to cater to Kara’s ‘Dad Loves Me More’ guilt trips since the divorce.
“You don’t think it’s too old fashioned?” asked Sharon, modelling the scarf in the front hall mirror.
“Well, it’s not my style, but it suits you.”
Sharon had not pressed the matter further. Mothers did not really need to know every detail of what their daughters thought. At least Kara had approved when her mother got the job, although Sharon suspected it had to do with the employee discount.
“What do you think about a scarf Ginny?” the girl asked her friend.
Ginny glanced up from where she was systematically disorganizing a display of chunky bracelets. “No way Teena, too old fashioned. Do you want to go look somewhere else?”
Teena answered with a shrug, the kind of shrug that meant the girls would spend another ten minutes in the store messing up displays before leaving without buying anything unless Sharon intervened.
“Your friend says she wants something red,” Sharon called back to Ginny. “Nothing too pink because of her hair, I’m sure we have something in sweaters.”
“Oh wait, that colour is perfect,” said Teena, pointing at Sharon’s top. “What’s it called?”
Sharon looked down at her white blouse. A dark red bloom spread across her chest, the edges fading to a colour somewhere between red and dark pink as a steady stream of drops added to the pattern.
“Wow, your nose is bleeding really bad,” said Teena.
Ginny rushed over and said, “Hey Teena, that’s the colour of red you were looking for, and the pattern is cool too. We shoud get a picture.” Both girls whipped out their phones and began snapping photos.
“Excuse me,” said Sharon, pinching her nostrils. “I’m going to have to take care of this. Maybe one of the other clerks can help you find what you need.”
Ginny and Teena stared at their phones while Sharon stumbled off to the staff room with her head tilted back. Maybe the pain in her temple was not a stroke after all, merely an aneurysm—a fortuitous aneurysm it would seem, since it satisfied the fashion sense of a couple of teenaged girls while simultaneously ruining a perfectly good blouse. It took a box of tissues and trip to the medical clinic at the far end of the mall to stop the bleeding.
“You look like a murder victim,” said the store manager when Sharon returned an hour later.
“The doctors blame the Aspirin I was taking for my headaches. It’s a blood thinner.”
“Well, you can’t finish your shift looking like that, so you might as well take the rest of the day off.”
Sharon hung up her jacket and scarf in the front closet at home and stared at her ruined blouse in the hall mirror. If she got it into the wash quickly she might get the stains out.
“Hey Mom, you’re home early,” said Kara, glancing up from her phone as Sharon hurried past. “Cool shirt, by the way, much better than that scarf you brought home last week. I’m glad you finally figured out what’s in style.”
Sharon stopped short on her dash to the laundry room. “You think this shirt is a fashion statement?” she asked, pointing at the blood splatter across her chest.
“Of course,” said Kara holding out her phone so Sharon could see. “That’s the latest design trending on Instagram. It’s called Blood Rose.”
Sharon stared at a picture of her blouse, artfully cropped to cut off her head and colour enhanced to bring out the pinky-reddish tones of the blood splatter which vaguely resembled a flower.
“I’m impressed Mom,” said Kara. “It’s totally new, you must have got the first one.”
this story is the revised and edited version of a writing prompt entitled ‘somewhere between light red and dark pink’ and the original freefall version can be viewed on the blog Free Fall Friday Fragments (see side bar) where I, and other writers submit the raw material that comes out of our freefall writing sessions.