Coloring outside the lines

The woman in the blue dress stood up from her seat. “Stay right there, Jackson,” she told the boy. “I need to get some coffee.”

The boy nodded obediently. As soon as the woman had her back turned, he slid off his chair and ambled over to Annie, his sneakers squeaking on the linoleum. He clutched a box of crayons in one hand. He paused in front of her to show the box to her, his small face solemn.

“Do you want me to open that for you?” she asked, glad to have a distraction. A sense of impending doom was weighing her down like a massive boulder.

The boy jerked his chin up and down. Annie slid a black-polished fingernail under the lid and opened the box. The crayons were new, the tips clean and pointed. She vividly recollected the first time she’d seen these colors. She’d memorized the names long before she’d learned how to read: Canary Yellow, Burnt Sienna, Aquamarine, Sky Blue, Magenta. She’d delighted in the way the words had rolled along her tongue.

She gave the boy an inquiring look. “Do you have something to color on?”

He scampered back to his chair, nearly tripping in his haste, then came racing back with a cartoon coloring book. He spread it open across her lap and sifted through the pages until he found a picture that interested him. It was a big tractor. He pulled a purple crayon from the box and started to color.

“Jackson!” The woman hurried towards them. “I told you to stay in your seat. You’re bothering the nice lady.”

Annie glanced up at her. “I don’t mind.”

“Are you sure?”

She nodded. The woman, obviously relieved to have a break, returned to her chair, retrieved a glossy magazine from her handbag and thumbed through it while sipping her coffee.

Annie selected the orange crayon from the box. “May I help?”

Jackson nodded distractedly, too absorbed in his artwork to look up.

Annie grinned. Once, when she was six, her grandfather had given her a coloring book similar to Jackson’s. She’d tried to color a few of the pictures before eventually hiding the book under her bed. Grandpa’s gift had ended up disappointing her. She’d have preferred a book of blank pages so that she could’ve drawn her own pictures and not have been forced to stay within the boundaries dictated by someone else.

Now she proceeded to draw a sun above Jackson’s purple tractor. The little boy’s hand stilled on the page as he watched what she was doing. She added touches of red and yellow to the sun and a little bit of green. Next to the tractor, she drew a tree. Two baby birds emerged from a nest and peered with wide eyes at the grape-colored tractor. Jackson peeked up at her and chortled with delight. Annie’s grin widened, her spirits lifting a tiny bit. It’d been a long time since anyone had shown admiration or appreciation for her artistry.

A cool breeze stirred through the room as the entrance door was shoved open.

“Hey, Maud,” a man said.

Jackson swiveled his head to observe the newcomer. Annie slowly returned the crayons to their box and closed the coloring book. She’d recognized his voice instantly, the moment he’d spoken, just as she’d known his footfall, sure and steady, moving across the linoleum floor and pausing behind her chair.

“Hello, Annie.”

She set the book and the box of crayons on the empty chair beside her and slowly stood before turning to look at him. She saw his brown leather work boots, his long, blue-jeaned legs, the pale green chambray shirt with the sleeves rolled back from his sun-browned forearms. Her gaze skidded across his silvery-blue eyes and fastened on the thick crop of black hair that sculpted his head.

She smiled cautiously and said, “Hello, Jake.”

An excerpt from  Annie and Jake
Copyright © 2018 Margaret Desmond

This post is in response to the Daily Prompt: Retrospective


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