Learning To Walk Again

Another fun prompt from Writers Island again this week.

The prompt is – OUTRAGEOUS.

Here’s my little ditty….

The wind was fierce, pulling the branches of the jacaranda down and then releasing them so quickly they looked like fingers flung to the twilight sky. Madeline emerged from the bathroom as mauve clouds began to group. She caught sight of herself in the mirror above the mantel and had to press her hand against her mouth to stop from shrieking. Her hair was blonde, platinum, like a 1950s pin-up or those girls who lived with Hugh Hefner.

She began to panic, feeling her vision blur. She thought she might faint. I can’t do this, she thought. I’m not a real blonde, everyone will know. Everyone will see me as a fake. Roger had been right when he had called her a plain Jane. That’s what she was. And a plain Jane should never try and change her spots.

She had married Roger ten years ago when she was 22, shortly after her mother died. Her father had left when she was baby and it had always been she and her mother, a life of books, crossword puzzles and early nights. What did she know of men and their ways?

Roger was her English professor in her final year of University. He was thirty years older and swept her away with his intelligence and worldliness. He asked her to marry him on Graduation Day.

Their marriage was safe, comfortable as old chairs gathering dust in a room. They lived in Roger’s house he had bought as a bachelor, disregarded for years with its chipped kitchen surfaces and old-fashioned furniture. Madeline suggested an upgrade, a renovation, but Roger said he liked things as they were.

Roger insisted Madeline didn’t work, saying she could keep house. She filled her days with cleaning, cooking and drinking instant coffee from heavy-handled mugs. She longed for walks along the beach and cozy chats in cafes in the evenings but Roger didn’t like to go out. ‘I’m out all day,’ he said.

To Madeline’s relief, they made love infrequently. Roger was rough of hand and less than thoughtful. Afterwards Madeline lay awake for hours, feeling like she was dying in the dark.

She bought a dress once. A purple dress flecked with tiny pink flowers. Low cut and above the knee. She had read an article in Cosmo about ways to dress to please your man. The model in the article had been wearing the same dress. Madeline thought it might cheer Roger up if she looked pretty for once, he always appeared so grim. She looked good in it – hopeful. Roger told her to take it back. ‘You look ridiculous,’ he said. ‘Cheap. That you think I would like that is outrageous.’

From then on Roger bought all Madeline’s clothes from a catalogue recommended by one of his work colleagues. A woman in her 60s. Every outfit had three things in common – beige, shapeless, drip dry. He bought her sensible shoes and tan pantyhose. She wore no make-up and her hair in a bun. She took to making predictions about the weather and discussing the decline in quality of supermarket produce.

Sometimes Madeline stood in the garden, cradling the pink and purple bells of the fuschia she cultivated so carefully. ‘If only I could dress like you do, just once,’ she whispered. ‘If only I could shine.’

One day Roger fell ill with a pain in his chest. He died three days later. ‘We did all we could,’ said the doctor. Madeline cried for what might have been.

She bought a bottle of colour for her hair called Golden Sunrise. The model on the box glowed with vivacity. Madeline applied the contents of the tube with shaking fingers, feeling sick as she watched her mousy brown hair turn golden white.

She bought a dress – red and slinky – a word she had never used in connection with herself before – and knee-high black boots. When she put them on she didn’t recognise herself, she felt like she was floating, an onlooker in her own life.

The doorbell rang. It was her new friend, her neighbour, Daisy. They were going out for a night on the town. ‘Well, well, well, what do we have here?’ Daisy said.

‘I look ridiculous, don’t I?’ Madeline said. ‘Outrageous. I will embarrass myself if I go out like this in public, won’t I?’

‘On the contrary,’ Daisy said. ‘You look like someone who is ready to live in this world. You have a face full of fire.’

Madeline inhaled deeply, feeling every step forward would change her sublimely, wordlessly, as if she was being moulded from hot wax, as if she was learning to walk again, but she found she couldn’t stop, she didn’t want to stop.

‘Let’s go,’ she said. ‘Let’s go and have some fun.’

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23 thoughts on “Learning To Walk Again

  1. Awesome post. Way to go Madeline you deserve to have a night out on the town to have fun and to find love again. Roger was a companion not a compassionate lover who Madeline could feel comfortable being herself with or girly with now is Madelines time to shine go do it.

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  2. JADEY – thanks so much. I must admit when I wrote the bit where Madeline walks out the door I thought – woo hoo, go for it , girl! It’s one of those kinds of moments.

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  3. Selma –

    Well written! A wonderful ‘chrysalis’ tale of a woman – definitely entering a new life.

    We all have a number of very complete and different lives as we age. I’ve had at least five as I look back, each with a definitive beginning and end — when examined in retrospect.

    Like Madeline, it is often a confusing, frightening, even painful transition — that we often do not realize or recognize as such in the ‘real time’ of living.

    I liked this piece… go Madeline! 😉

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  4. Selma, You continue to entertain and amaze. WELL DONE! Loved this story and how you’ve written it. Turning points in life should be meaningful and memorable. You’ve captured this, perfectly. 🙂

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  5. Really enjoyed this witty tale…btw, being BLOND IS more FUN!
    I am a dark brunette naturally, but have had my colorist add “Cherry” tones to my hair(a bit of red). But when I was blond, even a very fake blond(I had varying shades, over the years!), I felt sexier, and received more compliments, etc…
    I think I got “addicted” to being blond. I kept going lighter and lighter–from a few highlights, to honey-blond, to sandy-blond, to platinum!It took more and more bleach, to get the same blond “high”.

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  6. ROB – we do go through different stages in our lives, don’t we? And it can almost be like we are different people. I have always found transitions to be difficult – the actual living, whether good or not, is often easier. I am delighted you liked my story!

    VEGGIES – those turning points can be challenging but often lead to better things. I really appreciate your encouragement and feedback!

    LISA – you crack me up. A ‘blond high.’ I know what you mean though, I’m a natural blonde but as I’ve grown older blonde isn’t what it used to be. I am definitely at the stage where I need a little lift. Wonder how far I’ll go?

    CRICKET – I love how you describe it as flying with the eagles. How full of elation that would be!

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  7. So Madeline goes wild. I can’t blame her! Though I imagine in later chapters she’ll relax just a bit. Sometimes we have to be outrageous for a while to discover that we aren’t.

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  8. From an ugly duckling to a swan. You breathed new life into a shadow of a woman and I found myself cheering when her miserable old coot of a husband fell off the perch allowing her to LIVE…..

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  9. ANTHONY – you just never know….. 😉

    GROOVY – being fully outrageous can be exhausting. Best just to be yourself with a few outrageous bits thrown in!

    RAMBLER – you are so right. Sometimes that little moment of outrageousness just gives you a push in the right direction!

    TEXASBLU – absolutely. It’s wonderful to have a friend around during those moments.

    TAMMY – thanks so much for visiting. I really appreciate your feedback.

    KAREN – I’m glad you didn’t marry him too. I dated a very controlling guy once (for about a day) but because I am a Taurean who always thinks (knows) she’s right, I knew there was no future in it. I am so glad I saw the light!

    SAN – thanks so much for visiting. I am so glad you liked the story. Considering Madeline was just a character I felt strangely satisfied too. I guess it’s because I could relate to someone who wasn’t able to be herself in a relationship. Nice to meet you.

    GYPSY – sometimes it’s deeply rewarding to kill someone off. Roger definitely was an old coot and he just had to go. Bye-bye, Rog. The ugly duckling stories are always fun to write!

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  10. Yay for Madeline!!

    “I’m a natural blonde but as I’ve grown odler blonde isn’t what it used to be. I am definitely at the stage where I need a little lift. Wonder how far I’ll go?”

    —> I dare you to go RED!

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  11. REBECCA – Roger definitely needed to go. Ah, the power of the pen!

    DAOINE – I’d actually love to go the other way – maybe black – but I’m frightened I might scare puppies and small children!

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