Amanda Grey woke up one morning and peered out her window. It was a picturesque summer morning, with the sun shining on the green grass, the colorful flowers crowding the flower beds and a soft breeze in the air. All the neighborhood kids were outside, one group noisily playing basketball, while another was splashing about in an inflatable pool, filled with crystal clear water that under the sun, looked really inviting.
But all the commotion didn’t stir much in Amanda. She burst out in a loud and burdened yawn, her mouth instinctively returning to the position of a scowl afterwards.
Hugging her knees close to her chest, Amanda couldn’t help but silently envy those kids playing so freely outside, all smug in their colors – bright yellow, glorious red, cheery pink, fiery orange, and dreamy blue. They were all the colors she continuously wishes she were instead of this dull grey that materialized her existence. She wanted so dearly and fiercely to be like them – absolutely normal.
Outside, she could hear her mother bustling about, helping her little sister dress up. Her mother was a beautiful woman who often stood out in a crowd with her cobalt blue color. She was constantly told by everyone it seemed that her youth, her mother would have a long line of boys trailing behind her, tongues wagging.
Amanda’s sister was the only one among the two daughters who appeared to have inherited their mother’s charming qualities, which shone in her purple hue. Of course, little Grey also got a stubborn streak from their father, a stunning red.
Alas, it seemed that Amanda was the only who was in essence a Grey family member. She let out another long and extremely loud sigh at the thought of all of this.
“Amanda, honey, you have to get up! I know it’s the holidays and all, but it’s time to enjoy this beautiful morning!”, exclaimed her mother outside, knocking on her door. Amanda slowly – and very unwillingly – crawled out of bed. She knew it would only be a matter of time before her mother made consecutive and relentless attempts.
“There you are, my darling. Breakfast is downstairs. I am heading out with your sister for a play date. Would you like to come?” Her mother chirped on at the sight of Amanda at the door.
“Uggggh, no. Do I look 8 years old to you?,” Amanda drawled, inciting a little grin on her mother’s face. “No, but you sure do look like a grumpy old fart!”
“How is anyone so cheerful in the morrrrning?” Amanda could only think to herself from behind her furious eye rolling.
Later that day, Amanda went to the color store. No one knew, not her family or her best friends. They would surely have stopped her.
You see, Amanda was tired of growing up all…well, grey. Her entire life, she wanted to be like the others, at least like her family. But here she was stuck in this poor excuse of a color.
“The doctor will see you now,” chimed the nurse, her head peeking out in the entryway. Amanda rushed in the room, eager to be away from all the other somber looking colors out there in the waiting hall.
“Hello, Amanda. What can we do for you today?,” said the doctor, a bright jolly green fellow with a big smile sporting perfectly pearly teeth.
“Well, you see…I’d like to be…uhm…Well, I’d like to be beautiful, you know?” Amanda said.
“Why, yes. Yes, I have just the thing for you,” the doctor said. His face seemed to be dripping with empathy. She knew he understood. She could see it in his eyes, she thought to herself.
The doctor open a drawer, pulling out a patch of color. It was a dazzling emerald green that was so elegant, royal, and shone with an ethereal beauty and enigmatic personality. It was everything that Amanda knew she was, but others didn’t seem to see. She couldn’t believe it! This was who she was meant to be. “Yes, yes and yes! A thousand times over yes!” she exclaimed.
“I thought as much,” said the good doctor with a grin, a sparkle in his eyes. “Now, get over on that bed and lie down. Nurse! This won’t take too long, Amanda.”
A few hours later, Amanda walked out of the clinic, skipping down the road, stopping only when she passed by a reflection of herself.
When Amanda arrived at her front door, she pushed it open to the sight of her parents, who both screamed in surprise. Of course, they couldn’t recognize their daughter anymore. Who was this being?
“It’s me, mom. It’s Amanda. Don’t you recognize your daughter?” Amanda asked, teary eyed. She thought her parents would be able to recognize the person she truly is.Her hopes and expectations of this moment was very quickly and painfully deflated.
While her parents slowly and carefully came to see that yes, this was their eldest daughter, they could not have helped ease the pain Amanda was feeling.
“But honey, why…why would you do this? You were so beautiful the way you are, or were. Didn’t we tell you that all the time? Did we fail you?,” her mother said. There wore an expression of pain on her face.
Amanda’s heart fell. This, unlike the look the doctor bore, was genuine empathy, and not rehearsed for the perfect moment.
“I just wanted to be..I wanted to be normal. I don’t even look like either one of you. People ask if I am a part of this family,” Amanda said, tears rolling down her eyes.
“Sweetie, you are a part of us. You have half of my heart and half of your mother’s,” her father said from his chair, a cloud of heavy sadness casting a shadow over his face. “We failed her as parents, Gabriel,” her mother sobbed.
“No, no, no! It has nothing to do with either of you!,” Amanda pleaded. “This is about me!”.
All of a sudden, her parents stopped, their mouths open in shock and their eyes affixed on her. “Amanda what is that? On your head?,” her mother exclaimed jumping to her side.
Amanda could feel it, the heat on her head. It came like a rush of wind and the next thing she knew, everything went black.
It was a day before Amanda came to. She found herself in a hospital bed, both her parents on either side of her, her sister asleep in a large chair in the corner.
“Hi, sweetie. You’re OK. The doctor says everything is going to be OK. I’m so happy you’re awake. You need as much rest as possible”.
Amanda floated in and out of sleep over the next few weeks, drifting from one dream to another.
In one dream, she was a princess in a distant land where she was the most beautiful color. But there was a hole in her heart. Her family was nowhere in sight. She woke up, crying in the middle of the night. Her mother rushed to her side, calming her with a soothing voice.
In another dream, Amanda was a walking alone, along a long road. Everything was the color grey, from the sidewalk to the clouds above. A wind was blowing against her, pushing her in the opposite direction. The shops were closed, and she was hungry. She felt completely alone and again, awoke with tears rushing down her face.
“You’re a lucky girl,” said the nurse, tasked with getting Amanda ready for the discharge. In her month of being at the hospital, she had learnt the cause of her sickness was the procedure she underwent at the color clinic. Although it was risky and was known to pose harmful effects, the clinic was free of any prosecution thanks to the liability waiver form Amanda has so willingly and eagerly signed prior to the procedure.
“Why am I lucky?,” Amanda asked, almost sarcastically. She had been waiting for ages, she felt to finally be able see the outside of the hospital. “You have a family who loves you very much. You were never alone here, you know? Either one of your parents were here the entire time. All your friends came to visit too. There were so many at one time, we had to shoo some of them away for fear of the other patients getting upset,” said the nurse, a matronly woman with commanding voice.
“You make it sound like I have a ton of friends,” gushed Amanda. The nurse went over to Amanda’s desk and pulled out a stack of cards, all bound together by a colorful ribbon. “Here, honey. The proof is in the pudding. You must have been asleep all those times they came around. You were on a lot of medication after all”.
And there it was, cards from kids from school, the tennis club, the Scrabble team, her Sunday school class. All of them had sent something. “Come back, Amanda. We miss your jokes!”. “Amanda, come back to school soon. You won’t believe what happened – Ms Hamm and Mr Kim are dating!”. “Hope you swing back into shape in no time, Mandy!xx The Tennis Team”.
Confused, Amanda put the cards down, closing her eyes. At no point, did she ever think she had an impact on this many people in her life. She had always assumed her existence went unnoticed, barely affecting the world and those around her.
“Are you ready to get home, my darling? It’s time,” Mrs Grey said, walking towards her daughter, a bright smile lighting up her face. “Yes, mom…I think I’m finally ready,” said Amanda.
And that was the truth. She would have never thought she would ever be this eager to get home and to just, well, be herself again. Amanda knew this feeling – she had felt it in a dream on one of those nights. In it, she was standing by a river, completely alone. She looked down and saw her reflection. It was a surprise to Amanda (not to see her reflection, since after all, it was a river). But the girl staring back at her was attractive, happy and Amanda couldn’t help but feel a sensation she was quite unaccustomed to – completely at peace.