Pink and Blue
Van stomped on the disintegrated cigarette outside the nursing home. A cool breeze licked his brown skin and the sky bled pink and blue. He wondered why his mother had asked to speak to him. Over the phone she’d told him there was a secret about her past that related to him.
As he made his way through the automatic sliding doors, he approached the front desk. Flower
patterned wallpaper draped the walls and hallway; moldy potpourri and urine lingered on his nose.
“I’m here to see Geraldine Peters,” he said.
A nurse in peach colored scrubs handed him a binder and he scribbled his name in it. Then, he
made slow, hesitant strides down the corridor. The coughing and wheezing and wheelchairs
squeaking made him grind his teeth. Van’s mother’s room was at the end of the hall. Her door was cracked and he knocked.
“It’s Van, Mother.”
Geraldine was hunched over the bed with a walker in her grip. She had osteoporosis. After falling and breaking her hip, getting around was strenuous, so Van put her in a nursing home.
“Come in, son,” she said stridently.
It was eerily quiet and Van took his usual spot by her bed. There was a box he’d never seen before on her dresser next to the pain meds.
“I have something I need to tell you.” Her white, veiny hands released their hold on the walker.
The hump in her back resembled a turtle’s shell.
“What is it?” He sounded curious and furrowed his brow. “And how am I involved?”
Geraldine coughed and her eyes looked down at the floor. The light above her bed flickered and buzzed. “It’s about my past.” Her eyes watered and she palmed her knees.
“What about it? Were you a spy or something?” He gave her a boyish smile.
She laughed some. She could count on Van to lighten up a situation. The pink sweater she wore didn’t get any lighter, and the cries of a baby girl tightened an invisible rope around her throat.
“You’ve always had an imagination,” she said. “Remember when I told you your sister died in childbirth?”
“I lied,” she trembled. “She’s alive.”
“That’s wonderful!” He rubbed his hands together. “What happened to her?”
“Your father and I placed her up for adoption. It was difficult raising twins,” she said. “Open the box. You’ll see who she is.”
Van placed the box in his lap and took the lid off. There were two birth certificates in it. The name he scanned on the second one was Valerie Peters, the same as his wife’s. He had no words for the lies that curved his mother’s spine, stunted her height, and caused her chronic hip and leg pain.
“I’m sorry, son.”
Van began seeing Valerie’s features in Geraldine–her thin lips, large chin, and triangular shaped nose. If he stayed there longer, he could probably see more. Van let the papers and box fall and marched out.
Arika Elizenberry is a native of Las Vegas, Nevada. She is currently an editor at Helen: A Literary Magazine. Some of her work has been published in magazines like Blue Lyra Review, 300 Days of Sun, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, and Burningword Literary. She holds an A.A. in Creative Writing and is working on her B.A. in English.