Rell had mixed feelings about the attic. His siblings did not know why he continued to visit so often. His sister was flat out concerned. It wasn’t that he didn’t know why he went, he simply didn’t want to explain his visits to anyone else.
A bouquet of fresh flowers tucked in the crook of his arm, he knocked on the attic door. He waited a beat, took the key from his pocket, unlocked it, stepped in, and smoothly locked the door behind him. “Hello Mother.”
The room seemed to wrap him up and swirl him into the paintings that were stacked against the walls, piled on the floors. The reams of loose paper covered in sketches, smeared with charcoal, or dotted with spilled paint filled the cracks between the canvases like waves around rocks. The paperscape was framed around open floor, giving way to the space demanded by arm chair, bed, and tray. His mother was not in the civilized hollows. She was standing near one of the few high windows staring at her easel. Paint was dripping off of the palette and onto the side of her dress, neatly missing the protective apron. Rell moved along the path to the tray and settled his flowers into the blue vase. “I brought you a few late bloomers. They smell lovely.”
“Everything blooms and blossoms and burns out,” his mother said. She turned from her canvas. Rell came up beside her and looked at her painting as she looked up at his cheek. She’d gone through a lot of red again. There was no image to be seen, shades of red, orange, and yellow violently slashed and splashed across the canvas with occasional thin suggestions of black lines or green and blue specks.
“Rell, when did you get so tall?” she asked. Her brow furrowed like his sister’s when she was working out a puzzle.
“I’m not sure, I wasn’t paying attention.” Now that she was looking at him, he led her over to the arm chair and gently took the palette from her fingers. Her hands and forearms were streaked with paint – like fire twining up her wrists.
“You know you should always pay attention. Inattention leads to knitted socks in the steeple chase.”
Rell nodded like that had made sense. He sat down on the edge of the bed and took his mother’s hand. “What kind of day is today?”
“Purple. Deep and warm and floating like violets in the smoke.” She smiled and her free hand pushed Rell’s hair back from his forehead, smearing a little bit of paint in its place. “You’re so sad Rell, what’s wrong?”
Trust his mother. “I lost my cat yesterday and she hasn’t come back yet.”
His mother looked at him, understanding. “She dead, dear.”
Rell nodded slowly. “I was afraid of that.”
“We’ll all be dead. The spiders are coming for our heads, but you mustn’t worry. The fires burn bright enough to chase the shadows with them. Don’t sleep in the shadows. They will steal you away and all you hear is screaming…”
Rell sat and talked for a little while longer with his mother, edging around the raw, the dark, and the truth. He stood when she grabbed a paint brush and set up a new canvas.
“I’ll see you next week, Mother.” She didn’t seem to hear him. She started singing, off key and intensely as he left and locked the door behind him. He leaned against it for the space of a breath. Pulling the edges of himself back under his skin and dusting the dried paint from his temple. No, his siblings did not understand, and that made it all the more important that he keep going. Maybe one day they’d figure it out.
I’ve been robbed. Repeatedly – by a ring of first line thieves. Take a look at what they put in their attics.