Everything was Blue and Green
A little girl walked barefoot across the grass.
She carried a blue handbag.
The handbag had a shiny clasp of silver on its front and a loop of blue plastic on its back.
A rolled-up blue umbrella was attached to the handbag by the loop of plastic.
The grass was wet with early morning dew.
The sky was blue, but the plastic handbag and its matching umbrella were more vivid; a blue of such vibrancy that it woke the green of the grass. Green vibrated in all its greenness into the feet of the little girl as they trod upon the cold and spikey grass.
Shiny plastic blue sang to the blue of the sky above. Cotton wool clouds drifted overhead, that they might catch a few soundless notes of perfection.
Light shone in a halo of radiance from the silver clasp on the handbag. The little girl looked from the clasp to the sparkling dew drops, to the sliver of last night’s moon up in the sky, still there because it could not bear to leave.
‘I will remember this forever,’ Clarice thought, ‘today I am five and I have a shiny blue handbag and umbrella. I can taste the sweet clean air and feel it turn from cool to warm as the sun rises higher. I hear the colours singing over the bird song. Today I am five and I am alive.’
Earlier she had woken seamlessly from a sleep which had shown her moving pictures from a story book. A hen with teeth like the ones Nanny put in a glass next her bed, had wanted to bite her. She had run along a path strewn with pieces of bread into a wood, but the path disappeared. She had flung her arms around the trunk of a mossy tree and found that it was soft and furry; it growled and when she looked up she saw the face of the toothy hen snapping its teeth at her. Snap, snap, happy birthday, snap, snap.
The hen lowered its beak closer and closer to Clarice’s face… she opened her eyes widely, to see the yellow of her bedroom walls and the mocking picture of mother goose which was stuck on it. Clarice pulled the bedcovers over her head and consulted Pinkie, her stuffed toy with a zip in its tummy. ‘Do you think that hen will snap, snap, snap us? Don’t worry, Pinkie, I won’t let her get us.’
Clarice listened to the stillness of early morning, but heard no clucking or snapping or any scratching of twiggy feet on the floor boards. She unzipped Pinkie’s tummy and slipped her hand into it to feel the soft satin of his insides. The slippery sensation soothed her.
‘It’s my birthday,’ she whispered conspiratorially into his ear.
Nanny had tucked her in last night and clacked her loose teeth at her, ‘Tomorrow is your birthday. Sleep tight and perhaps you will have more than one surprise in the morning.’
Now tomorrow was today.
It was hot and airless beneath the sheets so Clarice bravely pushed them aside and scouted the room for any signs of a toothsome hen. Nothing.
Clarice pottered across the bare boards of her bedroom and out into the hallway. She pushed Nanny’s bedroom door open and poked her head into the gap. Nanny’s teeth smiled at her from the glass on the bedside table. Nanny’s gummy mouth was slack and open, air breathed into it with a snort and out with a whistle.
Clarice wandered further along the hallway and pushed the door of the next room. The big bed was empty, a tiny one sat next to it, waiting, Clarice knew, for the new baby.
She heard voices coming from the kitchen at the end of hallway and ran towards them with the slap, slap of bare feet on wood.
Her mother was holding onto the back of a dining chair and her father was rubbing her back.
Her mother was wearing her father’s horrible scratchy dressing gown and her face looked cross.
‘It’s my birthday,’ Clarice announced.
Her father gave her a tight smile, ‘Go and wake up Nanny, Clarice, the baby’s coming.’
Clarice knew that this was important, nearly as important as her birthday, but she wanted her surprise. A baby wasn’t a surprise; she had known it was going to come for ages.
Even so, she slapped, slapped, slapped back along the hallway to Nanny’s room and stood solemnly beside her bed, wondering how she might wake her.
She didn’t need to do anything as Nanny’s eyes opened without prompting.
‘The baby’s coming.’ Clarice delivered the message and watched Nanny’s mouth open and close.
‘Gobble, Gobble,’ thought Clarice.
‘It’s my birthday,’ she said.
Nanny’s response was incomprehensible, her mouth was all tongue and gums and breathy grunts and then she was gone.
Clarice looked at the teeth in the glass; snap, snap, snap; she shuddered, looked the other way and saw a parcel wrapped in pastel paper.
Within moments the paper had been shredded and left in a pile of confetti, for Clarice had unwrapped a beautiful blue handbag and umbrella and wanted to show the world what she had found.
She pitter-pattered through the kitchen, ‘It’s my birthday,’ she squeaked at the grownups fussing in a huddle around the table.
Without a glance, she left the confusion behind her.
‘It’s my birthday,’ she called out to the garden as she pushed the back door open and stepped out into the world.
She breathed deeply and the colours came to life.
She shrugged off those people and dreams and everything that was and would be in that house behind her.
Joy blossomed deep within her, for no reason other than she realised that she lived.