Title: The Colour of Broken
Author: Amelia Grace
Publisher: Lilly Pilly Publishing
The streets of Tarrin woke to a beautiful morn. Flowers for Fleur opened, gifting the township with its colourful blooms and magical flower fragrances that convinced people the world was indeed a beautiful place, filled with love and light. Except, it was a lie. There was darkness within. A darkness that sought to rise and consume the light of two souls. Two women. Two tragic tales. Broken lives. Broken dreams. The loved and the unlovable, bound together by blood.
‘FLOWERS, TEA, COFFEE, OR BOOKS?’ I know I didn’t need to ask the question, but I was trembling inside when I saw him … and Gram did want me to ask that question, each and every time.
‘Flowers … for Fleur,’ Gramps answered, not blinking. I had watched him walk toward the sales desk, with a stooped posture. I looked into his red eyes and swallowed the lump in my throat. He was the colour of orange smoke, like a flare. It was his distress signal.
‘She’s bad, Landi. Real bad. I want to fix her. But I can’t.’ His voice cracked, and my throat constricted once again.
Any ounce of happiness inside me evaporated. ‘Peonies are her favourite,’ I said, my voice flat.
‘I know. Make it a white bunch. Pure, like her heart.’ Gramps hung his head and walked away from the sales desk and over to the workbench. I followed him with slow steps, my heart crying in silence.
Gramps ran his hand along the timber bench. ‘There was one test that was brutal, for Gram. The doctor said it was usually well tolerated … but not for Gram.’ He looked up at the ceiling, trying to stop his tears, I suspect. ‘The fear in her eyes was—’ He stopped talking and swallowed. ‘She was so brave …’ He leaned his elbows on the workbench and put his head into his hands. ‘I want it to be me, not her. Not my love …’ Gramps lifted his head and looked at me with wet eyes.
A tear slid down my face. On that side. The side of my face that always betrayed me. And I ran. In my work boots.
The door to the powder room banged when I pushed it open. I didn’t mean to push it so hard. I swooped down and grabbed my concealer makeup. I wanted to sob. Deeply. But this wasn’t the time, or the place. I had to hold myself together to serve at the flower store. For Gram.
I stood tall and looked in the mirror. I held my eyes in my own before I looked to my right cheek. And there it was, partly exposed from my tear. The scar. The scar of terror and broken dreams. I lifted my chin in defiance and applied the make-up. I was good at making the scar look invisible. Three years’ experience works a treat. I moved my face from the left to the right, checking my scrupulous application.
I took a deep, calming breath and left the powder room and walked back to the workbench. Gramps was sitting in the corner on a chair, his hand under his chin. ‘Sorry,’ he mouthed.
I gave him a thumbs-up. I couldn’t speak to him. Not yet.
I gathered the white peonies, blinking away my tears. Gram didn’t deserve this. Bad things aren’t meant to happen to good people. And Gram was the best. I grabbed a white square tin as a vase and placed the peonies into it. White on white. Pure white. Pure. Like Gram’s heart.
Gramps was in front of me then. ‘Beautiful. Thank you.’
‘Created with unending love, for Gram.’ I sniffed an ugly sniff, trying to stop the flow of tears. ‘I want to know the details of the tests … when it’s just you and me. Come at closing time.’
Gramps swallowed. ‘That would be best. I’ll be here.’
I walked around the workbench to Gramps and pulled him into a tight hug. ‘Good things are coming. We have to believe it.’
‘Give my love to Gram. Tell her I’m thinking of her every minute of every day, and sending healing, Godspeed.’
Gramps pressed his lips together and picked up the peonies. ‘I will. Love you, Yolande.’
He left through the front double doors. He stopped at the bicycle and ran his hand over the handlebars with a look of despair. He shook his head, took a deep breath and walked off.
Flowers for Fleur. Love for Fleur. A cure for Fleur …
I brushed my hands down my apron and closed my eyes. I had to be strong. For Gram. I walked to the sales desk. Jobs to do. People to serve. With kindness and a smile. Like Gram. For Gram.
‘Flowers, tea, coffee or books?’ The man who stood before me was in good physical shape. A gym junkie to be succinct. He was the colour of dark orange: deceit.
‘Since I’m florally repenting, I’ll need flowers,’ he said without blinking.
‘Florally repenting?’ I asked, filled with disbelief at the words I heard.
‘Aaah … yes.’ He placed his hands into his pockets. He wasn’t florally repenting at all.
‘Really?’ I narrowed my eyes at him.
He touched his mouth then frowned. ‘Yes … yes I am.’ He pointed as he spoke. Liar. He needed a good dose of flowers for a fibber.
I looked down and nodded my head. ‘For him?’ I knew it would be a she, but I wanted to stir him a little.
His eyes bulged for a fraction of a second before he stepped back, looked away and shook his head. ‘Always for a woman,’ he said, his voice stressed.
‘Repenting, as in an apology?’
‘Hmmm … no. I’m not sorry for what I did.’
I tilted my head to the side a little and frowned at him. ‘I’m confused … you’re … florally repenting, but you’re … not sorry—is that correct?’
‘Exactly.’ He raised his eyebrows at me.
‘So … these flowers are to—’
‘Say sorry for what I did, even though I’m not sorry. But I need to act sorry for hurting her feelings,’ he explained.
‘To look good in front of her friends, and to make her look good in front of her friends. It’s simple.’
‘Clearly.’ Not. I frowned. ‘You’re in luck today. I’ve created a display of “sorry” bouquets, over in the right corner of the store.’ I pointed to the colourful tulips, perfect for apologies.
He looked over and smiled, then pulled out cash to pay for his floral repentance.
‘Thanks,’ I said, and watched him sashay over to choose a bunch of tulips. He chose white, and left the store.
Arms wrapped around me from behind and I stiffened. ‘Are you okay?’ It was Charlotte. I hoped my chest scar couldn’t be seen.
‘Yes, just confused,’ I said, and pulled the top of my dress over my chest higher to make sure my scar was hidden.
‘Confused?’ Charlotte repeated.
‘Yes. That guy wanted to say sorry for what he did, even though he wasn’t sorry. He said he was “florally repenting”, to use his term … can you believe it?’ I shrugged my shoulders. ‘He’s bad news!’
‘Hmmm … wouldn’t it be good if women saw a warning colour or something with those types,’ Charlotte said.
‘Yeah,’ I said, and raised my eyebrows. What would she say if she knew of my colour visions?
‘And then we would all stay away from those deceitful “bad boys”,’ she said.
‘Absolutely,’ I agreed. Mia liked those smooth, deceitful, bad boys. She revelled in playing the flirting game with them. That’s how we got into our situation on that terrible day of the scars. Only, she didn’t realise how truly bad those two men were, until it was too late …
‘Thanks for coming in again, Charlotte. If it was just me and Darcy, I’d go insane!’
‘I don’t know …’ Charlotte looked over at Darcy. ‘A good-looking man in the kitchen who can make a killer coffee and bake cakes is a win-win, I think.’
I looked over at Darcy. He was a keeper. My protector in the store and therefore my hero. ‘Yep. He has all the boxes ticked for husband material,’ I said.
Charlotte looked at me. ‘Your husband?’
‘No.’ My eyebrows snapped together and I shook my head. He knew too much about me and what I had been through. ‘He feels like … a big brother to me.’
Charlotte tilted her head to the side and considered him. ‘Maybe for you, but I think he’s rather cute!’ She waggled her eyebrows at me.
I smiled at her and picked up a piece of paper. ‘Here’s your list of jobs to do between flower sales. It’s considerably less than yesterday—so it’s a bit of a cruisy day!’ I smirked at her, then walked away to the workbench. It felt like I had a trillion orders to make and have delivered.
* * *
The rain started its gentle pitter-patter when I closed the store doors at 5pm. By the time Gramps arrived at 6pm, it was a heavy and burdensome deluge, apt for Tarrin’s “more”.
Gramps shrugged off his coat and hung it in the wet room. I walked over and embraced him. When I stepped back, I watched as he wiped a tear from under his eye.
I felt an ache at the back of my throat as I tried to stop my sadness from surfacing. ‘Tea?’
‘That would be best.’
I walked over to Darcy. He should have left by now. But I had been here long enough to know that he never left before me—like my security guard. I assumed he did that for Gram as well.
‘I’ll bring you a large pot of tea, two teacups and cupcakes. Sit by the window,’ he said with soulful eyes.
‘Thanks, Darcy. Are you a mind reader?’
‘No. Just observative. When your Gramps walked in at 6pm, he could only be here to have a conversation with you that can’t be said on the phone … tea is liquid wisdom, it will help you through the conversation …’
My stomach quivered. I had invited Gramps back to the store because I needed to face him and read his emotions while he spoke. I twisted my fingers together. ‘I’ll clean up after we finish. Or maybe … I will sit and wallow and scoff the rest of your cupcakes …’
Darcy raised an eyebrow at me. ‘You know that Yolande with a belly full of cupcakes is bad news. I suggest you refrain from over-indulging on my baking, for the sake of everyone you know.’
‘Advice heard and considered … time for tea with Gramps. See you tomorrow!’ I placed my hand on his arm. His skin was warm and sent me a strange soothing comfort, like having a warm blanket wrapped around me on a freezing winter’s day.
When I turned to my preferred table, Gramps was already sitting there, looking out the window, lost in his thoughts. I took one step towards him and stopped. Anxiety rumbled in my stomach. I stretched my hands to use some excess energy from the anxiety, then continued my path to sit opposite Gramps.
Darcy placed our teapots, teacups and cupcakes onto the table once I had sat down. Gramps turned his attention to the teapot. He turned it three times to the left, and three times to the right, then poured our tea.
‘Meniere’s disease,’ Gramps said, stirring sugar into his amber brew.
‘Many what?’ I picked up my teacup and wrapped my hands around it, absorbing all the warmth I could while a shiver ran down my spine. Gram has a disease …
‘Meniere’s disease,’ Gramps repeated. ‘There’s no cure.’
Everything inside and outside of me froze. Except the tear that slid down my face. On that side of my face, revealing my past. ‘No cure!’ I said in a whisper that cracked my heart. I put my teacup back onto the table.
‘Debilitating vertigo, hearing loss, tinnitus, nausea, brain fog, loss of balance, depression—’
‘Gram will go deaf?’ I stood with an abruptness that caused my chair to fall backward onto the floor, landing with a bang. ‘She can’t, Gramps—she lives to hear your voice. It’s how you met. When you sing, she floats around with a beautiful smile on her face and … and—’
‘That’s enough, Yolande! Sit down and listen.’ Gramps ran his hand over his face.
My expression fell as I up-righted the chair and sat on it gingerly. I wrapped my hands around my teacup again, lifted it to my lips and took a sip. A long sip. My erratic heart rate returned to a calmer beat, and I watched Gramps stir his tea, unnecessarily.
‘How did Gram get this … this … Meniere’s disease?’ I asked.
‘No cause,’ he said. His voice was low.
‘No cause, no cure!’ I pinched my eyebrows together in frustration, then wiped a tear from my face.
‘Yesss …’ It was an exasperated yes from Gramps. He put his hands over his eyes. ‘One of the tests was brutal, Landi …’ He dragged his hands over his nose until they rested together in front of his lips, like he was praying.
‘What did they do?’
‘It was an electronically controlled chair that rotated from side to side … Gram had a severe vertigo episode because of it.’
‘But that’s good … right?’
‘I guess so. The doctors could truly see how debilitating her vertigo was.’
‘Where’s Gram now?’
‘In hospital. She’s been started on some new medications to see if it helps alleviate the symptoms.’
‘And if it doesn’t?’
‘Once they have exhausted all oral medications, comes the invasive intervention—grommets, injections into the middle ear, a vestibular nerve section, where they cut the balance nerve to the affected ear … or they remove the inner ear, Yolande … remove it!’ Gramps frowned and shook his head, then continued, ‘A labyrinthectomy—’ He stopped speaking and looked out the window. ‘Why has this happened to my beautiful Fleur? Why is this … this … Meniere’s disease even in existence? Why can’t the doctors fix it?’ Gramps took a long, deep breath, and looked back at me. ‘What are we going to do, Andi?’
There. Right there. That is when the heavy weight fell onto my shoulders and crushed me, and any hope I had of returning to my career. I looked out at the storm. I missed my old job. I missed the high security. I missed my uniform. I missed my dog tags, and I missed everyone I worked with. I especially missed the intense meetings at the round table.
After an almighty boom of thunder, the rain stopped. The storm clouds broke, and a rainbow appeared. Perhaps it was a sign. A promise. Gram would make it through her storm.
What are we going to do, Andi? I looked back at Gramps and put my hand over his. ‘We give to Gram what she has always given others—love, care, kindness and hope. We take each day as it comes and work together to get Gram well again, even doing our own research to find something that will help her. She needs to know, above all else, that we are here for her, fighting the battle with her, and that she’s never alone,’ I said with resolution.
A tear rolled down Grampapa’s face. My chest tightened, and I swallowed the sob that rose from my chest. He looked into my eyes and gave me a nod.
‘Let’s celebrate, Gramps,’ I said, eyeing off the cupcakes.
‘How can you even think of celebrating after this news?’ His voice cracked.
‘The doctors know what Gram has, and that means we can educate ourselves about the disease and start to work towards her wellness. That’s what we’re celebrating!’ I handed him a cupcake. He held it up and I touched my cupcake against his. ‘To Gram!’ I said, then shoved the entire cupcake into my mouth.
A portion of sales from this novel will be donated to Meniere’s disease research at Meniere’s Disease Research Fund Inc.
Formats and Editions
Trade paperback (print book)
March 28, 2018
Lilly Pilly Publishing
March 28, 2018
Lilly Pilly Publishing
March 28, 2018
Lilly Pilly Publishing
The Color of Broken
ORDER AMAZON US
March 28, 2018
Lilly Pilly Publishing
Amelia Grace is the pen name of Julieann Wallace, who is a published author of multiple, sort after stories. She writes novels (under her pseudonym) and is an author and illustrator of numerous children’s picture books, written under her own name. Prior to her career as a writer, Julieann was an educator with Education Queensland (Australia) for 25 years, and was nominated twice for the National Excellence in Teaching Awards.
Julieann is continually inspired by the gift of imagination and the power of words that can create change to reach out to others. She is a self-confessed tea ninja, has a quirky cat named Claude Monet, and has a passion for music, art and sport. She lives in
Queensland, Australia, and is a paper cut survivor…
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