Author: Natalie Rae Mueller
Grade: Freshman at Greenville College
1st place Live Arts Contest
They always paint nursing homes yellow. That yellow color of sunshine, or that new margerine that the world cannot believe is not butter. Everyone knows the color is a futile attempt to make the last place on earth any person wants to be seem happy and inviting. If anything, it makes all inhabitants feel more depressed. They realize with their God given brains (which to the utter surprise of all are still working and creating thoughts) that they are being caught in the web of a lie.
Yesterday I was nineteen. Charlie would come home from work and spin me around in his arms, dip me like a tango and kiss me with those soft lips. “Hello, Mrs. Fancy,” he would say, before kissing me again. It took him years to get over the wonder that I, his young starry eyed lover, shared his same name. That first year we moved into our new house. It had two rooms: a bedroom and a kitchen. We were fortunate, as our cozy home had a little front porch held up by twin white columns where we could place two wooden folding chairs, one on either side of the door, and sip our sweet tea as we watched the sun go down. Side by side Charlie and I painted our tattered grey home a warm yellow. Charlie picked it out, said I was his sunshine and the color reminded him of me.
Yellow doesn’t bring back fond memories any more. No, rather it mocks me, mocks my dilapidated body and my lonely mind.
Earlier today the women next to me died. Yes, just sat down next to me for her morning coffee and before I could say, “Good morning, Earla,” she was gone. The light went right out of her eyes, her chest heaved as if she were going to cough but instead of releasing the pressure inside it paralyzed her. Heck, it paralyzed me too. Everyone just expects that once you have begun to expire in your retirement you should be emotionally fine with sharing a home with a hundred others on the verge of death. Let me be the first to tell, fear is not forgotten by the wise. Not all may fear death, but not one does not fear loss. Dying in peace. What a joke. Poor Earla.
Yesterday I had a daughter. Charlie had always hoped for a son, but my heart rejoiced when the nurse wrapped her in that pink blanket and cradled her in my arms. My mother was cross when I told her my little angel’s name. “Merigold?” she exclaimed. “Are you trying to be one of those bohemian people?” But the name suited her, she was the golden flower that lit up our lives. We moved from that tiny yellow house with the porch and she grew into a beautiful young women. But passion took her, and as I pulled off those petals, loves me, loves me not, I did not like the answer I was left with.
It was my niece who checked me into this home. My only remaining relative, a blue eyed woman with a dozen children clutching to her arm and leg. She didn’t have time to worry about her mother’s favorite sister dying on her watch, so I don’t blame her. She and the children visit from time to time. Other than that, I’m alone. Just me and my memories. The young nurses and attendants try, they really do. Wearing sugar coated enthusiasm in their voices, they try to excite the walking dead about bingo night, or whatever other activity deemed “age appropriate” is being sponsored. ‘Art for Arthritis’, that one cracks me up. My Marigold was an artist…
Clearly I see him, standing in the kitchen by the back door of our home for three, two neatly packed suitcases lay in front of his brown suede shoes. An expectant expression personified his tired face. “We are getting away for a while. You need to get out of this house for a while and breathe. Are you ready to go, dear?” I was always crying those days. Some days I never even got out of bed. Sniffling, I nodded. The knowledge that my love was right overshadowed my surprise at the abrupt departure. Had Charlie not conspired and packed my bag for me I would not have taken a step out of that lonely house. I squeezed his hand until it turned scarlet when my stomach conquered gravity and rose with the wings of a plane for the first time. He stroked the hair out of my eyes and kissed my forehead. Always he loved me like our love was new.
I do a lot of staring out the window these days. In the window box golden nectarine shaded marigolds taunt me as they show themselves to the afternoon sun. My mind wants to rise up and run, run, run! Far off into the trees beyond, beyond these yellow walls and horrid flowers. My skeleton isn’t up for my brain’s desires anymore.
My baby knew a lot about running. Every time Charlie and I turned our backs she had disappeared. “Meri! Meri! Get back here this instant!” we would cry, trying to avoid running into each other as we searched frantically. Impulsive was an understatement, quite frankly, every adjective describing the girl was a euphemism. So when I woke up one morning before that sun had risen to make a special breakfast of blueberry pancakes for her sixteenth birthday. I shouldn’t have been surprised her blue slippered feet did not skip down those wooden steps. I still keep that tearstained note written in voluptuous calligraphy in my dress pocket. What a pithy explanation, young and deceived by pictures of love.
Charlie’s weakness was that he loved too much, with too much of his heart. He loved me, his grief stricken bride, with more patience and passion than I, a mere simple woman, could ever deserve in a thousand life times. Sometimes I would catch him crying when he thought I wasn’t around. In nursing me back to health he never had time to heal. I still blame myself.
“Why are you crying, Mrs. Fancy? You have a visitor!”
Snapping back to the present moment (so easily forgotten at this place) I quickly grunt that I am not crying and ask the woman dressed in a white uniform if she is joking. No one is here to visit me, my niece is out of town.
The attendant smiled, “I think you will be most happily surprised.”
I raise my eyebrows as she walks away, suspicious. Everyone I love is gone, so this had better be Elton John.
At the sight of the face my jaw drops. I blink my sagging eyelids a few times, making sure it is not cataracts or a hallucination that this phantasmagoric figure stood in front of me, looking awfully apprehensive.
“Hi mom, remember me?”
Do I remember my own daughter? “Merigold,” I say softly. I scan over her little body, still small although softer and her golden hair fading to silver. Wrinkles crease her eyes, those pale eyes that are all that remain of my Charlie. And I still love her.
Hesitantly she walks towards me, looks around nervously at our surroundings. She whispers now, “Do you want to come live with me?” She outstretches a worn hand. I take it.
Author Bio: Natalie Mueller
I am an aspiring Art major from St. Charles, MO, who has recently decided to consider a career in secondary art education. “Yellow” is the first short story I have published. I am delighted to be able to share this piece inspired by one of the souls dearest to my heart, my great-grandma Lucy, with The Scrib. I spent a great deal of time as a young child closed up in my room, bent over a desk, furiously scribbling into notebooks what I was convinced would be the greatest novel ever written by a ten-year-old. Dreams change as you grow older, but writing remains an old friend to be revisited from time to time.