Painting Over Mother is my entry for this week’s Mid Week Flash (week 242!), which is run by Miranda Kate. The picture this week was taken by her. Anyone can enter this weekly flash challenge. The General Guidelines can be found here. Come and write!
Painting Over Mother
It was no good trying to put it off any longer. The hallway, stairs and landing hadn’t been painted since she moved in, 10 years ago now, and it was looking filthy and tired. Far from home feeling like an inviting sanctuary, Lucy found herself getting depressed as soon as she opened the door. It had to be done.
On the way to the DIY store, she pondered what colour she should paint it. She hadn’t really thought about it last time, just picked up the blossom white – white with a hint of pink – because that’s what her childhood homes had always been painted in.
“The pink tinge make you look younger” Mother said. She was always worrying about looking old, despite being fairly young to have an adult daughter. Lucy wasn’t keen on pink, and didn’t really care if she looked old, but I had gone with it last time because it was just…expected. Easier. But maybe a light buttermilk would be more welcoming?
“That’ll make you look sallow.” Mother retorted. “And it’s dirty looking, looks like nicotine bleeding through.”
Lucy rolled her eyes and sighed, and pulled into the parking space before heading into the store.
She toyed briefly with the idea of pale blue. Mother snorted.
“You’re far too messy for that.” She said “You’ll get it all over the skirting boards, you know you will. You can’t do anything properly.”
She was right, of course. Lucy had always been a klutz. Mother used to say she could mess up an empty room. If it could be spilled, she would spill it.
“That’s just who you are,” Mother went on. “Dirty, clumsy, messy. You’re just so unladylike.”
Lucy picked up the huge can of blossom white and hefted it into the trolley, then headed down the aisle to find rollers and masking tape.
An even bigger can caught her eye. Pure brilliant white.
“You’re never thinking of doing white, are you?” Mother laughed like a hyena. “You?! Thats just ridiculous.”
Why is it though? Lucy wondered. The can said right there in big letters that that paint was scrubbable.
“White is for actual grown ups, Lucinda.” Mother said witheringly. “It’s for people who know how to take care of things. Sophisticated people. It isn’t for grubby little things like you. You’ll mess it all up.”
Lucy had always wanted white walls. Crisp and bright, that would go with whatever colour curtains she settled on that week.
“It’s a waste of time, and money.” Mother said. “You’ll only have to redo it all again with a proper colour in a few months when you ruin it, like you do with everything.”
Lucy made her choice, shoved the can of pink in amongst the brilliant white paint on the shelves, grabbed the white, and headed to pay before she could change her mind.
Mother kept griping all the way home.
“To not want pink is one thing, but white? You’re just being silly. You’re doing it to spite me. Take it back and get some magnolia or something.”
Lucy turned the radio up.
She started as soon as she got home, half worried that if she didn’t she would find herself driving back to the DIY store to exchange the paint, her mother’s smugness accompanying her all the way. She couldn’t stand the idea of it. As soon as the can was open she dipped the brush in and slapped a huge stroke on the wall. No going back now.
“You are a wicked, wicked girl.” Mother complained. “You’re doing all this just because I said not to. You’ve always been a wilful brat”
“It’s my house.” Lucy said, out loud. “I can paint it white if I want.”
“It’ll never cover.”
“Then I’ll do more coats.”
“It’ll need redoing all the time, You know what you’re like.”
“White paint is cheap. I can touch bits up if I need to.”
“You’ll be painting every 5 minutes, you stupid lump! It’s a huge waste of time!”
“It’s my time to waste.”
She never would have dared speak back to Mother before. She almost braced herself for the inevitable slap, but of course it didn’t come.
Lucy painted long into the night. Mother was right about one thing, that pale pink took an awful lot of covering. Every time she thought she was finished, she saw another brush stroke letting the tell-tale pink through. The faint sounds of birdsong were filtering through the window before she washed the worst of the paint off her hands and arms and collapsed into bed.
It was late when she woke up, the bedroom was hot and stuffy. Mother would have said she was lazy but Lucy forgave herself her lie-in, feeling the dull ache in her shoulders and throbbing right hand. She had given herself a blister from gripping the roller, but it would heal. There was probably no saving the shirt she wore yesterday though. It would have to go in the bin.
She threw on her dressing gown, and opened the bedroom door. Light cascaded in, bouncing off the bright walls. It all felt so fresh. Like a new page. She inhaled deeply, as if she could fill her body with the intense light.
She expected some grumbling from Mother, but she was silent. Instead she heard her therapist, in their last session, when this idea was born.
“Lucy, your mum has been dead for five years now. She can only control you if you let her.”
And then there was only silence, and light, and the sense of a new beginning.