by Renita D'Silva

When you were five, you looked up at me with your huge liquid eyes and asked, Mum, what colour am I? Am I white or am I brown? I squatted down to your eye level, took your soft chubby hands in mine and solemnly whispered in your ear, as if we were party to a secret, just the two of us. You are neither white nor brown, Caz. You are special. One of a kind. Perfect. You beamed and skipped away, your sturdy little legs stretching and bending, chanting, I am perfect. I am special, in time with each skip.

When you were eight, you looked up from the picture you were painting, your hair framing your face in light brown ringlets, the tip of your tongue peeping out of the side of your mouth as you tried not to get any paint outside the edges, and asked, What colour do you get when you mix brown and white? Before I could reply, you pointed to the glass of water housing the used paint brushes which sat beside the obscenely bright pots of fluorescent green, golden yellow and blood red paint. I think it's that colour, Mum. You said. Muddy.

When you were ten, you came out of school one evening in a strop and when I asked what the matter was, your face twisted in an ironic smile too old for your years. You walked ahead of me all the way home, kicking viciously at any stones or leaves that dared lie in your path. It was autumn, I remember, and there were plenty of both. I wish I could tattoo my body a different colour--white or brown, I don't care which. As long as it is not this, you yelled, pointing at your body when I breathlessly caught up with you, and tried to link your arm through mine.

When you were fifteen, you said you wanted to die. I said, don't be like that. And in a rare moment of candour you said you didn't fit in. Anywhere. Every teenager feels like that, I said. It was the wrong thing to say. I am not every teenager, you yelled. I am someone who will never belong. Not when I am an adult. Not when I am old. I said, Of course you will. And you looked at me and smirked. What do you know mum. You are white. You have always belonged. You put your hand next to mine and compared our skin colour. You are beautiful, Caz. I said. What I wouldn't give to be your colour, Mum. You said.

I wish I could have told you, Caz, that white and brown makes a delicate, translucent gold, that you were that beautiful colour, that you illuminated everyone around you. I wish I could have told you how much I loved you, how you filled my life with colour.

Now, all that's left is a monotonous, deathly grey.

BIO: Renita D'Silva lives in Surrey, UK. She has had a couple of stories published in local anthologies. Recently one of her stories was selected for publication in the literary magazine 'The View from Here' and will be in print in May. She is in the process of finding a home for her first novel.