Grey not pink

It was grey not pink the day I ran the race for life. They said it would be pink, they lied. She said she'd always be here, she lied.


1. Grey not pink

She died 7 months 23 days ago. I’m doing this for her.
It’s grey here. They told me it would be pink. They lied. It’s funny isn’t it, how people do that – lie? They make promises that they can’t keep; they tell you that they’ll always be there. And then they’re gone, slipping away from you like a tiny white feather being tossed around on the wind that you can’t quite hold on to. Gone.
At least it’s not raining here, not yet anyway. It probably will, things seem to have a habit of turning out for the worse don’t they? Maybe it’s just me. There are lots of people here. I don’t like people. Especially not like this; cramming in on all sides. I don’t want them near me, I don’t want their skin near mine; it reminds me.
But I can’t escape reminders today; everyone, everything is here for that one word, the big one, the one that everyone is scared to hear yet so many people do and will: Cancer. My mum heard that word, she wasn’t scared but she should have been. Maybe that’s why it took her, like a thief in the night, because she didn’t show it the respect that it deserves. I think that a lot. When I say my prayers at night I don’t talk to God, I talk to it. I apologise for my mum’s lack of respect. I ask that it’ll forgive her. It never does. She doesn’t come back. So I’m giving up that strategy and turning to science instead of faith. Faith got me nowhere.
There’s a loud shrieking from somewhere behind be; the whistle. Someone with a microphone shouts “and they’re off”, and we are off, he wasn’t lying, not this time. I start with a gentle jog; it’s hard to do much more with the crowd around me. Eventually the concentration of bodies seems to thin and I can run, properly run. But by starting running I seem to have unplugged my mind, like the thumping of my feet has dislodged something in my brain, my brain that I have tried so hard to keep blocked up these past 7 months and 23 days. And the memories start flowing.
It’s my first day at school. I can see it as if it was happening right now. I’m wearing a purple cardigan, the purple cardigan, my best one. I’ve had to beg to be allowed to wear it but eventually she gave in. I’m nervous, I can feel the butterflies hunting each other round my stomach, but she squeezes my hand and I can feel its warmth so clearly. She always had the comfort.
I’m twelve and crying, crying like there’s no tomorrow. Hot salty tears trickle down my cheeks. My friends had laughed when I said I wanted to join the choir, laughed and said I couldn’t sing. Their words sting, how could they be so mean? She drives me to a drama society a few miles away, there are girls just like me there, there to sing in secret. She always had the solutions.
I’m sixteen sat in the waiting room at the doctors. It smells like old people in here, I wrinkle my nose. The light on the ceiling is broken, it keeps flickering annoyingly, I try and ignore it. She comes out saying that it’s fine, she’s fine, the lump is fine, nothing that the doctors can’t fix. She always had the optimism.
I’m seventeen, just like I am now. Except whilst it might feel like today, it’s not, it’s not yesterday either, it’s 7 months 23 days ago. Her skin is grey, it should be pink but it’s grey. All her hair has fallen out. You would be scared if you could see her like this in her hospital bed with tubes poking out everywhere. But she’s my mum and as she squeezes my hand and says “everything will be fine, I’ll always be here” she still has the smile to prove it. She always had the smile.
I’m at the end, the finish line. I don’t even know how I got here; I don’t remember anything about the run though the aching in my legs and lungs tells me that they do. They’re giving out medals. I don’t want a medal. I don’t want a reward. I just want a miracle, and no one can give me that.
I look for somewhere to sit. I find a precarious-looking stone wall. It’s grey what a surprise. I haven’t been sitting here long when someone sits down beside me. I feel the wall shudder under the weight.
“Well done Gemma.” My brother says quietly.
“They said it would be pink.” I say. “They lied.”
“They didn’t mean to.” He says. “Neither did mum.”
“But she still did, she said she’d always be here.” I mutter. “She was grey too, she should have been pink.”
“Just because you can’t see her doesn’t mean she’s not still here.” He says. “She’s in your memories. You just have to remember her being pink. And you can remember today as being pink too.” He hands me a bunch of pink balloons, pink like today should have been, pink like she should have been, and pink like I will remember both of these things as.

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