Friday, 1 January 2016

Finding The Yellow Sky

The sun shone pale shards of light through the gap in her curtain, reflecting off of the wooden floor in a square, like a bright window carved out of darker oaken walls. A splash of alien colour in a room that seemed to be drained of it. The fan whirred above her, rotating in a slow circle that did little more than push stale air around the stifling room. God, she hated summer. A breath escaped her lips and she tilted her head back against the wall behind her, curling her fingers around a fistful of the sheets that lay, still heaped and tangled, on her bed.  

She was wearing a yellow dress.  

A yellow dress with a pleated skirt and a collar buttoned just a mite too close to her throat. It was formal but not... well, Tracy would probably say – dammit would have said – “not depressing” but saying that struck her as wrong. Wrong when the twisting in her heart, the heaviness in her arms, and the apparent absence of air in her lungs all amounted to something that was so unequivocally not happy.  

Truth be told this was depressing. This was depressing and unfair in a way Amanda had never known life could be. Because how could it not be? In what world could she survive this day without feeling as though her heart had been ripped from her chest and every breath she breathed was an insult to the fact that Tracy would – God she still couldn’t believe it – never breathe again.  

Amanda closed her eyes for a moment, holding back the tears that had begun to gather there and blur the world around her, distorting it like an out-of-focus camera lens or a window of frosted glass. Her mind chose that moment to recall the mark on the calendar. The line she had struck through the words “Movie Date” and the black-blocked letters she had scribbled bellow reading: The funeral. She kept her eyes shut. Tears slipped out anyway.   

There was a tentative knock on the door.  


Her mother’s voice came through the door, sounding distant and muffled by the barrier of wood. She swallowed, opening her eyes and pulling off of the wall to sit up on the bed. The calendar - their calendartemporarily forgotten.   

Her mother knocked again.  

“Amanda,” her mother broke off, voice both more gentle and timid than she had ever heard it. “Amanda - sweetheart, is it all right if I come in?”  

She swallowed thickly and croaked out a 'No'.  

There was a creak as the door opened and then her mother's eyes, shadowed with concern, met hers through the crack. The older woman exhaled a weary sigh and stepped into the room, turning back briefly to shut the door, before coming around the sit on the bed.  

Amanda watched her warily but found she couldn't prevent herself moving with the dip in the mattress, swaying to the right to lean into her mother’s side. The warmth and familiarity of the position was comforting but at the same time - not.  

There was a beat of silence before her mother spoke again.  

“You’re wearing yellow?”  

Amanda hmm’d and shut her eyes again, pressing her nose against the fabric of her mother’s shirt.  

“Why that colour?” she asked, sounding hesitantly curious as she rubbed a hand up and down her daughter’s back. “Why not something darker?”  

Amanda opened her eyes to peer at the yellow fabric spread across her thighs, too bright and cheerful for a funeral. She waited a moment before answering, the words feeling like lead on her tongue; like a fist around her heart.  

“It was her favourite colour.”  
And she could still remember that day all those months ago, sitting in the cemetery with the grass damp beneath them and clouds spilling sheets of water down on their heads, when she promised Tracy that she’d never – not under any circumstances – wear black to her funeral.  


Tracy shrugged, leaning down to place the flowers at the base of the headstone; its gleaming surface was slick and dotted with drops of rain.  

"Everyone wore black to my mum's funeral," she sighed and touched a finger to the name on the headstone, "and it just seemed to make everything worse you know? Mum hated black. It was like an insult to her."  

"But Trace..." she fumbled for the right words and ended up with: "you're not going to die."  

Tracy sighed, shoulders slumping forward like a weight had suddenly pressed them down. Amanda considered asking what she did wrong but before the words could leave her lips Tracy rocked back on her heels and stood up, reluctantly pulling her gaze away from her mother's grave. 

"I know," she agreed, sounding slightly hoarse. "Just... promise me? I don't want my funeral to be a sad day Mandy. When it happens. I just - I hate making people sad. I hate making you sad."  

Amanda stared at her, bewildered. What did wearing black have to do with her being sad? She knew, deep down within her very bones, that Tracy's hypothetical death would be like a gunshot, sharp and brutal and devastating everything in its wake. This request made no sense. Not even in the slightest. But the other girl was looking at her with pleading eyes and abruptly Amanda recalled everything Tracy had done for her. The lunch times she gave up to sit with her in the science labs. The notes she left on her locker for months before she even worked up the courage to say hello - and Amanda thanked every deity in existence that she'd said hello.  

She thought of that stupid calendar that Tracy was so obsessed with, and the Friday-night movie dates with the other girl's dreadful obsession with horror flicks.  

It occurred to her that, strange though it was, this wasn't a huge ask.

So she promised.  

And Amanda always kept her promises.   

This is an excerpt of a novel (Finding The Yellow Sky) that I wrote for a competition but I think it could also be viewed as a short story. 

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