In the Key of Red


In response to a writing prompt at:

I guide her hand. Letting her touch the soft, yielding petals. Making sure she doesn’t prick her fingers on the vicious thorns underneath the flowerhead. Her skin is like white tissue paper against the deep and vibrant red of her nails; the blue of her veins hiding the blood that lies thick and no longer courses through her. I can’t remember a time when she didn’t have her nails painted this way. “It gives an air of confidence even when you’re quaking inside.” She used to say. “Never let them know how you are feeling. Never show them your weak side. Look into the lights and take a bow. The camera will close in on your hands as they dance like the wind.”

Now everything about her is weak. Her hands as they grip her walking stick; her back as it bends, forcing her head down; her legs that can hardly carry her, her mind that searches frantically for the right words.

‘Who are you?’she asks every time I come and take her for a walk around the grounds.

‘It’s me, Mum. Jenny.’ It hurts when she asks. But I only have to say ‘Why can’t I go out and play?’ and she sees red, snaps back at me, as sharp as a Stanley knife. ‘You have to practice. You’ll never be a concert pianist if you don’t work hard at it. I don’t want you wasting time playing silly games with your friends.’

It hurts as much now as it did then. She could never understand it wasn’t what I dreamed of. My hands were made for caring for others. I wanted to be a nurse.

‘I have to go soon, Mum. I’m on night shift this week.’ She squeezes my hand, and her cloudy eyes look directly into mine. Her brow furrows and her lips, smudged with lipstick, pucker and gather like a drawstring purse as she tries to find the words.

‘Who are you?’she asks.


3 thoughts on “In the Key of Red

  1. I loved the title ‘Painted Lady’ when it popped up in my inbox, and thought it ingenious… however ‘In the Jey of Red’ is just perfect. I love it. It tugged and hurt in very good ways.

    Liked by 1 person

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