People are colours.
If I had to describe dad, he would be camouflage green. He would wear the scent of tea-tree and transform spontaneously into Kermit the frog. It's fragments of people that cement the foundations of a life that we lay, the people that guide us step by step up the ladder rungs of childhood.
It was whilst climbing such a ladder rung that I swallowed the perplexion of something i'd never had to stomach before. Secrets. A word that grins a cardboard smile and taints the relationships we build. I hadn't realised of course, but I was seconds away from being eaten alive by this concept. Devoured by ideals and adult morals that had never hit me until that Monday. It was a frozen day, the air was skulking up my eight-year old flesh and burrowing into my unformed bones. I was standing beside a doughnut stand with a school friend, my auburn curls in ironically-innocent pigtails; my torso so bulked in layers I could barely inhale. I was kicking sludgy-snow with my heel whilst deciding whether to punt for a custard or chocolate filling for my carbohydrate-disc of childlike wonderment. After asking in my best polite voice for a custard centre, I turned from the man who smelt of stale cigarettes and carried disappointment on his breath; anticipating the virginal nibble from my treat I glanced across the snow engulfed street, as if gazing through a snow-globe. My eyes caught a glimpse... but surely not?... he was at a work conference in Swindon... my father, buttoning his beige jacket, puffing wisps of billowing cigar smoke that ascended to the sky as if they were painted with oil paints. I was about to call out, to run across the tarmac and return to the safety of his grasp when a woman walked, no practically swayed, up to him. They exchanged words I couldn't decipher, he held a look in his eyes. A warm immersing glow that I had only seen him exude when staring down at me. In trepidation, I kept watching; awe-struck, unable to turn my mind to something of a different nature. To dismiss the simmering emotions and boiling concern that was rising and stamp it with a perfectly reasonable explanation. But there was no explanation, not reasonable anyway, his rosy head lowered and their lips intertwined. My stomach flipped, my breath became cluttered, I was frost-stricken.
"Mum..." I began cautiously, my fingers picking anxiously at the quick of my nails.
"Did you know that they're building a tattoo parlour next door? I said to Maureen, I did, I said they'll turn us all into reckless Neanderthals if they force all these drugs and ink-splattered bodies into our streets." She began, pacing up and down the kitchen; returning crockery to their snug wooden homes.
"Mum!" I barked, taking both her and myself off-guard.
"What?" She turned to me and levelled her serpentine pupils straight at me, they were so sharp and hot they seared you when you engaged in eye-contact.
"I saw daddy today..."
"Where? Of course you didn't silly, he's in Swindon. You monkey that's over a hundred miles away..." Her voice was so sure, so unstirred that it made me feel like the executioner.
"He was in town mum. With a lady...."
"Stop these disturbing lies young lady or you're grounded...."
"HE KISSED HER! On the lips... Like Leonardo and Kate...." My puerile knowledge of kissing, spat out at her like venom.
"In this family we do not tell lies, now you go sit up in that bedroom; you sit that bottom of yours on whatever you're feeling and you gulp down whatever lies you feel like telling next; you hear?" Her voice was a siren, piercing and shrilling until it sent me scurrying upwards.
It makes you wonder, how far some families will go to keep up appearances. Whether she hid from reality to protect my eight-year old queries or simply because she couldn't face the truth in the ring and fight. All I could tell in the haze of frozen clouds, was the brown-shirted man and the red-lipped woman were certainly happy with the truth; it was just a different version than mum and me had been a party to.