Friday Fiction: "Black as Night"

This is a story I entered in the Christian Writers forum's Armadillo Monthly Contest.
The winner wins a free critique by Andy Scheer of Christian Writers Guild. Anytime your writing is critiqued, you need tough skin...thus the name of the contest. This is the final form of the story after being critiqued and edited.

Black as Night

“Honey? Breakfast is ready.”

“Don’t come in, Mom! I’ll be right there.”

With a sigh, I stare at the closed door. Trish hasn’t been the same since … since that day. Her hair hangs in her eyes and she mumbles whatever song is stuck in her ears. Even the way she dresses has changed: black pants, black hoodie, and even black nail polish.

“Mom, can I paint my room?” She shuffles into the kitchen.

I pause in pouring milk. “Paint your room?” A change of color—that’s a great idea. I’m sure she’s tired of ballerina pink. “What color, Dear? A pale blue or mint green would be nice.”

She rolls her eyes and gives her RavenSilk bangs a shake. “Do I have to tell you? Can it be a surprise?”

“How can I buy paint if you don’t tell me what color you want? Why don’t we go to town tonight and pick out some nice things for your room —just the two of us—as soon as I get out of work?”

She lets out a long sigh and leans her head on her palm, focusing on the berry going around and around in her bowl.

I resist pushing back that hood and telling her to sit up straight. She looks so sad, so lonely. It isn’t fair that her father died. It isn’t fair that I had to get another job. I can feel her slipping away from me. I want to hold her like I did when she was little.

“Can I just have some money and buy the stuff myself?” Her blue eyes, outlined with too much mascara, plead with me.

“I suppose so. I’ll give you $100.00. You should be able to get a couple gallons of paint and new curtains, plus a little bit more, if you find some good deals. If you go to—”

“Thanks, Mom! I know just what I want to do.” She snatches the bills from my hand and disappears behind her closed door.

Glancing at the clock, I collect my sweater, purse, and keys. It’s going to be a long summer. “Bye, Trish! I’ll be back around 6:30. Will you make supper?”

No answer.

Between customers at Sally’s Salon, I wonder what Trish is doing to her room. Somehow I don’t think it will be a mint green or powdery blue. The seconds tick as I snip, and finally I droop home.

My first hint of the make-over is the sharp scent of fresh paint. In the hallway her white headboard decorated with glittery stickers leans against a dollhouse. I step over a stack of Bobbsey Twin books and around a bag of stuffed animals.

The house is too quiet. I knock at the closed door.

No answer.

I try the doorknob—locked.

I kick off my shoes and toss my sweater on the back of the chair I am too tired to think. Filling the coffeepot with water, I notice the brush in the sink. As the water pours over it, paint trickles down the drain—black paint. Tears burn my eyes and I crumple into a heap at the table.

Black? Why is everything black? “Lord? Please, help my daughter before it’s too late.”

“Hi, Mom”

“Hi, Honey.” I lift my head to see my baby girl, still wearing that black hoodie, her arms loaded with flowery dresses and pastel t-shirts. There’s a smudge of black paint on her chin.

“I should have made something for supper, Mom, but I’ve been doing my room.”

“Let’s order pizza. I’m too tired to cook.”


“So, do I get to see this room?”

“Not yet. It’s not done.”

As she walks by, I catch a whiff of something like herbs or grass. My imagination spins. “Hon?” No, she wouldn’t be doing that …would she?

Alone on the couch, I nibble at my pizza—alternating between praying and worrying. Strange scrapes and thumps come from behind the closed door and… music, real music. Is that a guitar? The gentle strums remind me of times when Jack used to play songs for … No, I don’t want to think about it.

“Okay, Mom. Close your eyes.”

Shuffling and bumping, I make my way to her door. It squeaks open. A waft of the scent greets my nostrils. Maybe it’s a candle. I hear a guitar. Is that water running? Are those crickets or frogs? My toes curl into a shaggy rug. Where did she get money for a rug?

“Can I open my eyes?”

“Not yet.” She leads me across the room and gently seats me in a canvas chair. The door closes again. “Okay, Mom,” she whispers. “Open your eyes.”

It’s dark—black as night. My eyes focus first on some orange glowing embers. “Trish! Is that fire?”

“Relax. It’s just a lamp. Isn’t it cool?”

I look around in the twilight gloom. The guitar and frogs are coming from her CD player. “There’s a tent in here!” I see shadowy plants in the corners and a little fountain on the bedstand.

“Mom, look up.”

A million little sparkles twinkle against a black sky, blurring with my tears. Yes, the stars. I missed the stars, too.

“Mom? Are you okay? I wanted to make it like it used to be, when we went camping with Dad. I wanted to make you happy.”

For more great stories, go to Sharilyn's Dancin' on Rainbows. Have fun!


The FitzGerald Family -- said...

That was terrific! As a mom of teenagers, I appreciated the fact that the daughter had a desire to make her mom happy and to recreate a memory of being with her dad. That would be pretty cool to sleep under stars and still enjoy the warmth of a bedroom. Thanks for sharing!

Debra Ann Elliott said...

Lovely story. A lot of parents can relate to this one.

Sherri Ward said...

I remember this one, Vonnie. It's quite unique, and very well done!


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