show your true colours ~ {amazing cover by Bia}


2. red




 There's blood on the canvas. A hot gash, oozing crimson, staining red. The brush is flashing before me, slashing deeper and deeper, murdering the white background, poisoning the crisp snow.

It's so hot, the burning scarlet trail I'm striking out, so wild and awful and fiery. It's a warning, danger, heat, a fever. It's scratching, scorching, a slaughter of innocence and it's sent the canvas up in flames.

I'm wildly carving cuts and scars, vision cloudy and head fuzzy. Everything's slowing down, my heart racing until it's barely beating at all.

Slower. Quicker. Slower. Quicker.

Slower. My arm's fizzing, fingers gripping too tightly. My mouth's dry, my breathing ragged. 




The hot, hot red is fading.

My brush clatters to the floor. 

Stumbling slightly, I walk backwards, away from the hideous sanguine massacre in front of me. It's sickening. So gory and bloody and angry. 

It's all dark, the different shades of red jarring against each other, jostling around before my eyes. A battlefield. 

Gross- gross, gross grossgrossgross-

A warm hand grips my shoulder.

"Goodness gracious me." Ju sighs, stepping past me where I'm stood, trembling, in the centre of the boxy art room.

She's wearing a baggy white t-shirt that, frankly, resembles a bed sheet, and loose bootcut jeans that hang by her ankles. Her shockingly blue hair is unkempt, tangled in clumps behind her ears. Somehow, she pulls it off.

"I, er, I..." I swallow, choking on my own throat. Ju stands in front of the canvas, her immense height dominating the tiny room. Hands on hips, she turns back around to face me.

"Stand here." She orders, pointing downwards at the spot right by the canvas. 


"No arguing!" 

I surrender, shuffling over to the spot. Ju smiles, satisfied.

"Right, now, take the brush," she says, and I pick it up from the floor, ignoring the patch of ruby paint smeared where it fell, "and the palette." 

I take the palette.

"I don't-"

"Now," she continues over me, "get a massive blob of blue on your brush. Not red," she adds, as my hand instinctively moves towards the forbidden colour, "but blue. Blue. Yes, good, okay." Reaching out, her hand grips my wrist firmly, guiding my arm to the stained canvas.

"Ready?" She asks, grinning. I don't reply, mainly because I know that it won't change anything anyway, but also because I'm confused.

Am I supposed to be painting over the red - because that doesn't work. I've tried. When that colour was staining every thought and memory I had, I tried to paint over it, cover it, change it. But the colours I tried to use over the top didn't show up, didn't make a scratch. I haven't tried since.

Ju ignores my silence: "I'll take that as a yes - here goes!" she laughs, and with that, yanks my arm forward, the brush smushing into the still-wet red paint that's already on there.  

A burst of blue erupts from the bristles. My hand twitches, and the brush falls from my loose fingers, streaking blue all the way down the painting. It...shows up. 

It's - it's - it's-

It's strange? It's good? 

"You're stuck in red, Jenna. This is the first step out." Ju reassures me, twirling the brush around her fingers. Her emerald eyes shine in contrast to her dark skin and electric hair. 

But I don't feel right. I don't like it.

It's still red.

I was referred to Ju from the mental health clinic four months ago, a stone statue - ash grey and silent. We talked together for an hour. I didn't tell her much. She already knew why I was there, after all. We met again, and I said even less. I felt hollow. Empty. But when she asked me how I felt, I told her I was fine. That I'd manage. Then she asked me what I liked doing. I said I didn't know anymore. I said I didn't care anymore.

And so she handed me a brush, set up an easel and squeezed some cheap colours onto a palette.

"All yours." She said.

I stood still. I didn't understand. She led me to the canvas, held my arm steady as I dabbed paint onto the brush. I remember how she took a step back - like she knew it was coming, like she'd been waiting for this moment since we'd met. I was shaking slightly. My brush touched the canvas, started to swish back and forth over the textured surface.

"Go for it." She whispered.

I burst.

Pain and grief and burning anger stormed through my soul, exploding from my body in great slashes of fire and blood and heat. She let me rampage, let me scream and cry until my eyes stung and my throat closed up and my mouth wouldn't open. She let me let go.

"I saw it when you first came in the door," Ju explained, "that stone-hard anger that you thought was emptiness. You seemed to think you were past it - past that grief. But Jenna, honey, I think you can see it now, can't you? All that emotion inside you. All that turmoil, all that anger, hurt, hatred. Your mother's suicide is tearing you apart, shredding you up. But I'm here. The paint's here; the easel's here. I can't bring her back - you know that - but...well, I can help you move forward. If you're willing to face it, to let out all of those colours inside you, then I know we can do this."

I didn't answer her at the time. I just sort of cried until my dad picked me up. 

"Ju?" I ask, looking down at my socks, the paint splatters ruining the little picture of a cat's face on each toe.


"I don't, um, I don't like it? I don't-"

"Hey, hey, no worries. No worries. This is the first step, remember? Take your time, don't panic."

"No, no, it's not that. I just...I don't...I, um, I dunno, blue, blue isn't...I can't use it - I don't feel blue; I'm all red, like-  like anger, angry.'s not me. I..." I trail away.

I can't form the words, the sounds clagging together in my windpipe and sticking under my tongue. Red's all I have - whatever other colours are buried in me are lost. I open up and all I see is red - blue's calm and sad and I'm so angry all the time, the way Mum left me and Dad's leaving me and I thought Ju understood but even she's losing touch with me and at school no one gets it and I don't understand and I just-

"Shh, shh, Jenna. Don't cry, honey. You're safe; you're okay. Today's a red day? That's alright; that's alright. We'll find you some blue, some yellow, some green. We'll find your other colours, yeah? All in good time."

I wipe my eyes furiously, rubbing away the sticky tears that are drying on my lashes. 

"O-okay." I choke, and Ju pulls me into a hug, holding me tightly until my legs stop wobbling and I can hold my own weight.

"Want to talk?" She offers. I'm about to shake my head when the words slither through my salty lips:

"I just...I, I just want it to be over. All the time, it's so dark an-and I can't do anything because she's there, you know? And she's gone but she isn't and I want her to leave me alone but I don't because I want her to be here but well not like this I just I don't know I don't know I don't know." 

I'm crying again, but it's thin, the tears like weak, lukewarm tea and my sobs like hiccups. Ju's eyes soften, her lips faintly smiling.

"She was your mum - of course she's going to be around for a little while: of course. But she'll go eventually. She'll move on somewhere else, somewhere past all of us, and there's nothing wrong with wanting that, with wanting her to leave. There's nothing wrong with anything you're feeling, Jenna. Honestly. So stick with me here - oh, and, there's something I've been meaning to talk to you about: don't let me forget!" She says, straightening up and letting my hand down gently.

My mouth's hanging open slightly. I force it closed, swallowing hard and rubbing the fresh batch of tears from my cheeks. 

"What, what is it?"

She opens the art room door, letting in the bright lights of the corridor. My eyes jump from the white-washed walls of the art therapy room to the rainbow-coloured world outside. The entire Arts Centre is painted like this, except for the room me and Ju use. The white walls in there are supposed to be calming, but somehow the vortex of shades out here puts me more at ease.

"Well, why don't you come with me and take a  look?" 

She walks out into the corridor, and I sniff, wiping my face again. It's strange, this weird red inside me. Sometimes it's so prominent and I'm blinded, gagged, tossed about by it, and yet, sometimes, it's so quiet and faint that I wonder if it's even there.

"Jenna?" Ju's voice drifts up the corridor. "Are you coming?"

My head snaps up, and I stumble out of the room, closing the door behind me. So many colours, everywhere, all around, swirling over each other in patterns along the walls. They're intoxicating.

I'd like to use them all someday.


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