She helped me up and then I helped her get out of the closet. We walked out of the horrible brown room and into the hallway. The man was standing there, hands shoved into his pockets, with scary eyes and a red face. I cowered.
The lady said to him, “Don’t speak. You have caused enough damage already.” And we walked past him, and he didn’t speak. He didn’t follow us either. He went into the office at the end of the hall and shut the door. I knew what happened in that room and I didn’t like it. I couldn’t believe that. She didn’t yell. He didn’t speak!
The lady and I walked downstairs to the kitchen. She was holding my hand, Skye walking beside us. We went into the kitchen and she had me sit down on the chair while she made some tomato soup, a grilled cheese sandwich and poured me a glass of chocolate milk. We then sat down.
It was quiet in the kitchen right then. It was just the two of us. I had just been through the closest experience I ever had with her. I had cried for the first time in my life real tears, not the angry, bursting inside kind. And for the first time ever except when I met Skye, I had felt happy. A happiness like I felt when I first heard the Voice. It was like what it feels like when light sparkles on water on pavement. Or light dances through the window prism and makes rainbows on the floor. It was a brightness inside me.
After a while, sitting in silence eating the best food ever, she took out a sheet of blank paper and the box of colored pencils. I loved that box of pencils. I loved all the colors there. It was like an invitation to see, to enjoy, to laugh all in a box. I loved how they were arranged all their colors, color to color, like a rainbow.
She looked at me and said, “Now. We need to decide how to paint your room tomorrow. First, I think, you need to pick what the darker color will be and then we will choose a color for the other walls that compliments it.”
I looked at all those colors. I took another bite of my sandwich and chewed the melty cheese and bread and then sipped some of my chocolate milk. I chose Ultra Marine Blue for the dark color. It is my favorite of all colors. I took it out of the box and placed it on the paper she had chosen.
“Oh, that is the most beautiful color, Phillip. Now, since you have a dark blue for your dark wall, we need to choose a color from these here for the lighter walls. You want something that compliments the blue but doesn’t lose it.”
That made sense. She pointed to a whole bunch of colors that were light yellows and greens as the color of the other walls. They were really light in comparison so that it would still shine. I chose a yellow color that let the blue still say its name. It would look so much brighter.
“Now, in the closet you can put the color you think is best for that space for you.”
I thought and thought and thought about this. The color of the closet, the place where I wanted it to be lightest and brightest. I reached out and chose a light blue color that had a little green in it. I thought then the water of the closet would be matched by the color of the walls.
“Okay. Now we are ready to go do the paint store tomorrow,” the lady said.
I ate my sandwich and sipped my soup. I didn’t know what to think. She had never been nice like this before and it felt kind of scary. I didn’t know if I could imagine that she was going to be like this always, or if things would change again. I was nervous that she had heard me speak. And I was scared about my room, which didn’t feel like my room anymore. I didn’t want to sleep in the guest room tonight. I didn’t like it. It was a scary room to me. It was not that there was anything in that room that was particularly scary—well, except if you call a four-poster bed with curtains scary. But I just didn’t like it. I never went into it. I avoided it. It was at the other end of the hallway where my room was. It had brown paneling, and wooden floors and a big throw rug and curtains that hung to the floor, which were mauve with brown swirls on them. The light fixture was a chandelier with many little lights in it and sent light onto the floor in patterns. There was a big brown dresser in the room, where the lady in the white house kept linens. It was too dark. The window looked down on the street. But I didn’t like it, that’s all.
There was no closet that felt safe there either. The closet door had a full-length mirror on the inside of it. And the closet was stuffed with clothing, mostly coats, with too many extra pairs of shoes on the floor and other stuff. There was no place to sit and Skye wouldn’t have fit for certain.
I ate another spoonful of my soup. I had almost finished the sandwich and drunk all of the chocolate milk. I never leave chocolate milk to last. I don’t want to lose out on a drop. So, that was gone.
But about that time the man with the car came and roared:
“Why do you always treat him like a baby! He is going to grow up and be a mama’s boy. A weakling. A nothing—”
The lady stood so quickly her chair turned over, and said, “OUT! Just. Get. OUT! I don’t want you staying here tonight. Get out!”
“How dare you speak to me in that tone, woman!” he yelled back, face red.
I couldn’t stand this! I took my bowl and threw it onto the floor so that it shattered, and the remaining soup splattered. My spoon scattered across the floor. Then I began to scream, hands on ears, and full throttle yelled. That stopped them for a second. They just stared at the mess on the floor and then at each other and then the man looked at me and made for me, his arm outstretched, beginning to say:
“Why you little…”
But the lady stepped in front of him, hitting his hand back away and shouted,
“I said, get out and I meant it. Get out. Leave! Or I am calling the police.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” he said, and slapped her across the face.
I wanted to run. I wanted Skye to take me away to someplace safe. But there was no place to go. My room was gone. My closet was ruined. And I had no room, no place, no one to turn to, I didn’t know what to do, so I slid down from the chair while they fought on and ran to the door with Skye on my heels, opened it and ran out into the dark.
I was so frightened, and mad, and filled with blackness. Once out the door, I ran down the long, long driveway. Pitch black it felt, covered in it, filled with it. I tripped once as I made it down the long driveway on a pothole. Splat. On the ground, I was shocked to have stopped, but then remembered the fighting, the fear, the black and then got up to run more. At that point, Skye caught my sleeve and tried to pull me back toward the house, but I screamed, shook him off, turned and ran. Skye gave up on getting me to stop, but wouldn’t give up on being with me, so he stuck right by me.
Reaching the street, I saw the streetlight across on the other side, I turned left running in front of the house on the wet sidewalk, towards the darkness beyond our house. Mr. Richards lived next door. We passed by his house, ran down further to the corner. The wind was blowing. The air was cold. I had no coat. But I ran on. I didn’t know what to think, but it felt good, somehow, to be outside even when I was cold, and even when the night was frightening.
On the wind, I heard the lady calling my name far behind us, but I ran on.
At the corner was the entrance to the park on the left, or the road continued straight on in front of it. I went left down the path towards the park entrance—a big archway, edged by stone with the wrought iron frame with the park’s name above it. I ran into the park, between the big, towering trees with their wind-whipped branches like great arms reaching high above them. Skye and I pounded along down the path. Flanked by bushes, with a stream on one side, we ran further into the park, until the path we were on ended. Then we went to the right on a smaller trail.
I had been here before, in this part of the park, but it felt different tonight. We came to the tree. It was my favorite tree: huge, towering with a broad trunk, a big, open hole within it, large enough for a few kids to sit side by side with the trunk around them. We went into this shelter, it was like my closet, only larger, but I sat with my back against the it, put my arms around my legs hugging them to my chest, and Skye settled right down against me. His warm body warmed my own, his heart beating with fear as well.
At first nothing came. No tears. No cries. But then, I began to rock, and tears slipped down my cheeks, and I began to say eleven, again and again. I couldn’t say my colors. I couldn’t count. I just said eleven and then began to say, “Hold you,” only that phrase felt different to me, since the lady had heard it. It was not mine alone any longer and that bright moment, so stripped from me by the evening, held no hope.
I imagined that the lady and perhaps the man might be looking for me. But I didn’t want them to find me. Right then, anyway. That thought comforted me and frightened me. Where would I go? It felt like my life had ended.
But right then, right when the blackness was settled in upon me, right when hope had snuck away again, what felt like, for the last time, right then, the Voice came saying, “Child. Look up.”
I looked above me and there in this “outdoor closet,” the man had come. I had heard his Voice and felt held before, a year before, but this time, looking up, I saw Him. He was there, kneeling before me, in a dazzling white robe with light that shone from his face. He looked at me, and taking my face in his hands, said,
“Child, you are beautiful. Don’t. Be. Afraid.”
And all that fear that I felt left, slowly, like fog in the early morning sun, and then was gone. Tears came to my eyes and spilled down my cheeks. He wiped them with his fingers and said, simply, “I’ve got you. I’ve got all of this. I treasure tears.”
He had the kindest eyes. Eyes that looked right down into me. I looked at Him wondering what to call Him and He said, “Oh, haven’t I told you? You can call me Jesus.”
“Jeeeeesuuus,” I said, slowly, clearly.
That was my first word other than my closet words: “Jesus.” And somehow, His name was the brightest color of all.