Colour had all been pack.., p.1
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       Colour Had All Been Packed Away, p.1

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Colour Had All Been Packed Away
Colour Had All Been Packed Away

  A short fictional story by Libby O’Neill

  Copyright 2012 Libby O’Neill

  In the beginning, Colette had trouble controlling her face. It would crumble and fall, like a broken jigsaw puzzle, pieces scattering in all directions. It was always small things that set her off, little things, ordinary things that went unnoticed by others around her. She had to be careful how much eye liner and mascara she wore. In fact, there was a period where she did not wear any at all, as her eyes would unexpectedly pool and make a muddy puddle, and then the tears would run, turning into miniature black rivulets running down the sides of her nose and her mouth until they drip, drip, dripped off her chin

  In a self-imposed state of mourning, Colette took to wearing black, or to be correct, more black. Black on black on black. She had always worn black. It was part of her persona. She was young and a devotee of the local music scene, with a penchant for heavy metal. But before Paul had left, her outfits were often infused with a splash of colour here and there. A dark cherry red belt, a deep purple scarf, chunky silver jewellery, an amethyst pendant, a smoky-grey sweater or her dark sea-green suede ankle boots. But as if she could no longer bear to see it, colour had all been packed away, into a cardboard box on top of her wardrobe, wrapped in a length of smooth, velvet cloth as black as a starless night sky.

  Colette’s attire of choice then became layers of black – cotton and denim and wool, silks and satins and suedes. Black accessories – nail polish, black chains and beads of glinting ebony and jet. She was often reminded of that English queen, Victoria, who threw herself into deep mourning over her beloved Albert. She had once scoffed about that royal family and all that royalty stood for. But experiencing her own pain, Colette now felt Victoria to be a kindred spirit, yes, she would have understood.

  Colette cursed her senses, wishing they would all shut down. Everything she saw, smelt, tasted, touched or heard reminded her of him, of Paul, the one, the one she thought was the love of her life.

  Smells were the hardest thing to bear in the beginning. She changed her daily route as she walked to work, to avoid walking past the little boulangerie on the corner of Rue d’Anvers and Rue de la Joliette. That was where they’d chosen their first baguette together, then returned to her tiny loft apartment and made a feast of bread and cheese, salty olives and smooth red wine. That was the day they had first become lovers. No, she could not bear the smell of freshly baked bread wafting out onto the street to tease and remind her.

  Coffee haunted Colette for months. She also changed her route to avoid walking past Le Cafe Rouge so she would not be tempted to glance in through the tiny, dimpled squares of glass at the cosy table for two in the corner. That had been their table, acknowledged by the owner with a discreet nod of his head as they slipped through the doorway, liquidly, as one. They had often frequented the cafe for their small cups of rich coffee, the sharpness subdued by a lump of sugar, the aroma heady and addictive. The light that fell from the little glass windows threw a rosy hue on the pavement in the early morning and again at dusk. The table would likely be occupied by some other couple now, making doe eyes at each other, fingers entwined across the tabletop. No, she did not want to pass that way.

  The lingering smell of yeasty beer on someone’s breath at a gig was enough to send her running to the bathrooms. It reminded her of Paul, of how he would take a long thoughtful sip, swallow, and lean in close towards her, to share some fact with her, make a comment on the politics of the day, to share a joke or simply to kiss her lightly on the cheek. She couldn’t bring herself to drink beer for a long time after he’d gone. In her opinion it had soured and somehow she’d lost the taste for it.

  Then there was the washing on the line. Once or twice she’d stood on her balcony, holding a bundle of dry washing and suddenly burst into tears. She must have looked like a crazy woman to her neighbours. When she pulled the clothing off the line of thick twine, she’d clutched the garments to her chest, still warm from the afternoon sun. Their warmth released into the air a whiff of residual perfume from the detergent that was used, detergent that he had chosen, because it was the most environmentally friendly product he could find.

  Sounds were particularly hard. There were so many of them. Pub bands, bar music, vinyl records, cds, the radio, her iPhone. The music that was played in the supermarket where she worked was not so much of a problem. To most people it went unnoticed, it was dull and repetitious, but to her ears it was soothing in its nothingness. But a riff or a few vocals from a shared favourite song could set her off in a second.

  How cruel and ironic that Gotye’s hit, ‘somebody that I used to know’ had soared to the height of heights across the globe that year. Colette heard it everywhere for a while, and when she did, it cut into her very soul. Paul had, in fact, asked a fellow colleague to collect some records from her apartment. Not all of them, just six albums that he couldn’t bear to live without. But he didn’t come to collect her, not her. Apparently he could bear to live without her. She didn’t know how she would live without him. She stopped listening to her iPhone on the metro for a time. It was embarrassing to have tears suddenly streaming down her face on public transport.

  One night she dreamed of him. Her body ached for him so badly it was a physical pain. She imagined she could feel him, warm and naked next to her, his thick wiry beard, still dark but peppered with grey hairs, brushing against her shoulder, ever so lightly, like the touch of a feather, with every inward breath as he slept. She awoke at two-thirty am. The dream was so real, so vivid, that she gasped with shock when she reached out and found she was alone in the crumpled bed. She sat bolt upright in the bed. But it was not the dream that made her cry.

  It was the sound of a freight truck on its early morning run, slowly grinding along and making its way up the main road, away from the town, toward Lyon, the driver carefully changing gears, slowly picking up speed, as if wanting to be polite, not wanting to disturb the sleeping inhabitants of the town. It was the very same sound, possibly the same truck that she had heard many months ago, at precisely two-thirty am in the morning. She had not been alone then, nor had she been asleep. He had been with her then and they had lain quietly in each other’s arms, happy and content. Or so she had thought. It was the fact that she recognised the low rumbling sound, an ordinary sound in the night, and remembered that he had been there with her the last time she heard it. It was that sound that made her cry.

  Colette felt she couldn’t go on. She was losing weight. But the loss only made her eyes shine and she was beginning to be noticed by other men, no matter how much she tried to conceal herself in a sea of black. She had many friends and acquaintances, but she couldn’t stomach the idea of embarking on any sort of entanglement with someone else, even though there were many offers, both long-term commitments and fleeting trysts.

  Paul had been the love of her life. Or had he? It was clear to her now that the feeling had not been mutual. Oh what a fool I’ve been, she thought. He always told her he would not stay, could not stay, but he would never say why. She had since heard a rumour that he’d had a lover for more than twenty years that he returned to in Paris. Colette had turned deaf ears to all his comments and remarks, choosing instead to believe that he really did feel the same way as her. She hoped beyond hope that he couldn’t possibly bear to leave her. They’d had matching tattoos of Celtic gothic crosses inked onto the top of their right arms. They were black, five centimetres in height and two and a half centimetres in width. Didn’t that mean anything? Was he simply humouring her when he went ahead with it?

  She couldn’t erase the tattoo now
, but she could start to erase him from her life and she began with the record collection. To get it clear in her mind, she had to separate the collection into two piles, the first, before he came into her life, and the second, after he had come into her life. He had helped her to extend her collection, picking up bargains at markets and sales. Paul had once belonged to a rock band of his own, then studied music history and now taught at colleges around the country, so his knowledge was broad and extensive.

  Oh, how she had adored him, enthralled by every word that flowed from his mouth, like thick, sweet honey. She ran her hands thoughtfully over each and
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