The Color of Nothing

Because my publisher is in a state of suspended animation and two completed projects under contract with them are stalled, I’ve started pulling manuscripts out from under the bed and working on them. Something I wrote more than ten years ago, originally entitled “Sneakers” has re-snagged my interest. Back then an editor from Simon & Shuster requested the manuscript and an agent with Authors House read it, which was encouraging, but ultimately did not result in a sale.  I renamed it The Color of Nothing. Here is Chapter One:

I walk in without even trying to be quiet. What would be the point? I’d left at one this morning. It’s now eleven p.m. I hadn’t tried to hide my absence from my mother. Why should I?  She doesn’t care whether I’m around or not.

She’ll yell at me, but I know she doesn’t care whether I ever come home.

Yep. There she is, coming out of the bathroom, ready for bed. “Where have you been? Do you know what time it is?”

I glance at the clock on the wall. “A little after eleven,” I say.

I plop down on the sofa, shove a handful of stuffing back beneath the upholstery and untie my shoes.

“Listen, you little shit, I was about ready to call the cops and report you as a runaway. Where the hell have you been?”

I toe my sneakers off, lean back and stare at the ceiling. I’ll have to listen to whatever she has to say.  Correction. I have to sit here. I don’t have to listen.  Truth is I stopped listening to my mother a long time ago.

“I swear, Darla, if you sneak out of this house one more time, I’m calling the cops. They’ll drag your sorry ass home.”

If they can find me. Most of the time I have trouble finding myself.

I don’t exactly sneak out, either. I simply wait until I’m sure my mother is asleep. Then I open the front door and walk out.

But sometime after I left last night she locked the door. This time she turned the deadbolt, and she knows I don’t have a key.

So I couldn’t get back in. You’d think she’d learn. You’d think she’d just stay in her bed until a decent hour, say eight or nine in the morning. I’m usually home by then, sound asleep in my bed. She wouldn’t even know I was gone. I mean, really, what was the point of locking me out? Truth was I’d returned home around five this morning. But I’d be damned if I was going to knock on the door and beg her to let me in.

The hell with her. I have friends my mother doesn’t know about, places where I can go and sleep most of the day with no one hassling me. You’d think she’d be glad to see me home safe and sound, wouldn’t you?

Instead, she’s glaring at me. As usual. As long as I can remember my mother’s been mad at me. I don’t know what I did.  Except be born. That was my big mistake. If I just hadn’t been born, my mother’s life would be freakin’ fantastic. This isn’t just what I think. It’s what she’s told me about a hundred times a year for the last fifteen years.

I’m pretty sure I’m about to hear it again.

Yep, here she comes, advancing across the grubby green carpeting in those filthy, threadbare house slippers she always wears. Yep, there’s the finger pointed at me, the narrowing of the eyes, the thinning of the lips.

My mother is not an attractive woman.  At least I’ve never thought so. Maybe she was once. In fact, I know she was. I’ve seen pictures. She wasn’t always fifty pounds overweight and built like a barrel. And she didn’t always wear her hair hacked off and clinging to her little head. My mother has sort of a small head, which makes her body look even bigger. It’s kind of of sad. Like someone set a pea on top of a pumpkin.

The finger shakes. “I’ve had it with you, Darla.  Everyone’s had it with you. You’re flunking out of school.  Sneaking out. Doing drugs, drinking. Sleeping around. I’m going to find some place that can deal with a girl like you and I’m going to send you there. Maybe they can do something with you, cuz I sure can’t.

“I’m tired of being woke up in the middle of the night, and I’m tired of wondering where you are and what you’re doing. It ain’t nothin’ good, I know that much. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be sneakin’ around to do it.

“You keep it up and I’ll fix your wagon, girl. I’ll find a place for you. A place with nice high fences and locks on the doors and windows. A place you can’t sneak out of.”

Okay, Mother. Whatever. I don’t do drugs really. Or drink.  And I don’t sleep around. Has she taken a good look at me lately? Who would want me?

I glare back at her, sort of, but I’m too tired to do more than that. Besides, it never does any good. Usually it just pisses her off even more. Then she’ll really get going and I’ll have to sit here and listen to her tell me how worthless I am and how sorry she is I’d been born. Then, if she’s feeling really mean, she’ll launch into a diatribe against my father, who by the way, didn’t marry her, hadn’t wanted me, had in fact, given her money to get rid of me.

She somehow thought that was noble, I guess, that she hadn’t got rid of me like he wanted.  Like she’d show him.  Yeah, he’d really be impressed with us if he ever came around.  Not that he ever would.

What my mother didn’t know was how often I wished she’d done as he wanted. I wish I wasn’t even here. I try hard not to be. But she doesn’t appreciate my efforts.

The Color of Nothing  © 2016 by Barbara Meyers

#young #adult #fiction

2 Comments:

  1. I like this, Barbara, I really do. Do you find that having a fresh look at it after so long has inspired you to make changes to the manuscript?

    • Yes, some, DB. Mostly I see redundancy that needs to be cut. I’m not changing the characters very much. Mostly what I think when I go through my old mss is, “This isn’t bad. I wonder why I couldn’t sell it?” Maybe I just didn’t try hard enough.

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