I was not expecting it. I don’t you can really be prepared, can you? We got our colors a long time ago, but I remember it with a vividness that takes my breath away even now. I was working on her father’s farm, picking apples if I recall right. It was not long after the morning meal, and she was home from school and wanted to look things over. There were rumors that she was going to take over the business once her father decided to retire. I was new to the farm, so I had not met her before. When she came up to me, I did not notice her right away because I was focused on my work. I do not know how long she was standing there until I noticed her, but I do remember it was her humming that caught my attention. I found myself whistling along with her before I realized what was happening, then I dropped my basket and turned to her.
In an instant, everything changed as my world filled with colors I had only read about in school. I could tell by the sharp intake of breath that it happened to her too.
“H-hi. I’m Abigayle.”
“May I know your name?” She asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Oh, uh, Henry.”
“Well, Uh Henry, put your work aside. We should talk.”
“Oh. Yeah okay.”
I glanced at my basket full of apples. “So that’s what red is.”
“So it seems. Come on!”
She took me by the hand and almost skipped toward the Old House as I struggled to keep up, longer legs or no. I was too busy looking at everything my eyes could take in, and I was a bit surprised she was moving so fast. The flowers dotting the field were a breathtaking shade of yellow, but the grass looked a like a sad shade of green. Twice I almost tripped over my own legs as she dragged me along, but we got to the Old House in one piece, somehow. She darted ahead, saying she was supposed to go first. I shrugged and told her it was her house, so it was proper.
“Dad!” She thundered she soon as she burst through the door. I looked at her in shock for a moment.
“You’ve got a set of pipes, Miss Hinchcliffe.”
“You mean I can yell? Yeah, it’s a gift. Don’t call me Miss Hinchcliffe.”
Her father appeared in a moment with a surprised look on his face.
“Are you trying to wake half the dead, Abby?”
“I can see colors!”
The old man was so shocked he dropped his coffee on the floor. “Really?”
Things moved in a whirlwind after that. Old Man Hinchcliffe took me under his wing and taught me everything he knew. I remember going around the farm and seeing all the various colors. Corn is yellow, apples are several colors, bugs are usually dark colored, and so on. I loved the big yellow tractor and decided that was my favorite shade of yellow. It was hard work, but worth it. Old Man Hinchcliffe was tough but fair and before long I could manage things on my own. Once he felt I was ready to carry on, he gave us his blessing, so I married Abby almost a year after we met. It might have happened faster, but we wanted to wait until she turned eighteen, just for the sake of tradition. I guess it made sense, though no one would have said anything if we had we’d straight away. No one ever messes with a couple who have found their colors. I figure it might have had to wait if we were really young, but I never heard of anyone finding their colors before they turned seventeen, so it was not an issue as far as I knew.
After that, we dove into building a life of our own. We had our first child, Henry Junior almost a year after that, and before we knew it, was talking, walking, and giving his mother and me gray hair Toughest job you’ll ever do, but so worth every moment. Before we knew it, he was off to school in his favorite brown corduroy pants and yellow shirt, much to Abby’s dismay. Time passes faster than you know, doesn’t it? They grow up so fast, and life seems to move by faster than we would like, especially when you’re not looking.
Henry’s sister Amber was born about two years later, a splitting image of her mother with green eyes and brown hair. She kept us on our toes more than Henry tended to, and only kept it up as she got older. Their teen years… do not get me started. It was about a year after Amber was born that Old Man Hinchcliffe passed away. It turns out black looks the same after you have your colors as it does before. So does white, now that I think about it. Amber’s wedding dress was as brilliant shade of white and almost gave me a headache to look at, but I figured she looked amazing anyway. The man she married reminded me a lot of myself at his age, but his hair was brown instead of blonde.
I figured Henry would have looked as radiant in his suit as his sister did in her wedding dress, but he never got that chance. He was on his way home from college after his first semester when he was killed by a drunk driver. We all wore black for a long time after the funeral. No one should ever outlive their child, and I still hate that color to this day.
Life settled into a routine not long after our children were gone, but the house seemed empty. Abby and I talked at length but decided not to stay. Everywhere we looked, we could see Henry and the Old Man. I had to clean out Henry’s room on my own… Abby could not do it. We found a nice cottage out in the country and got rid of most of our possessions. One of our more trusted employees would run the farm, and I felt it was in good hands..
When we got to the cottage, she darted though the door first.
“I’m first in the new house!” She told me, grinning like she used to when we were younger.
“You’re supposed to go first. It’s only proper!” I teased her.
“Just like back when I told dad about my-our colors.”
“Best day of my life.”
I smiled as she turned and led the way into our cottage. I reflected for a moment about how her hair had gone gray, but she was just as beautiful as the day we met. Truth be told, her hair may have gone gray, but I saw only the gold. She would tease me about that, but I guess that’s how we all see our loved ones, right? No one is perfect until you love them, and then they are perfect in spite of their imperfections. That does not make a lot of sense, but it works for me.
We stayed in that cottage for almost forty years, and as we got older Amber and her husband moved closer so we could watch our grandchildren grow up. That was what she told us, but I think she wanted to be close in case something happened, and we were not going to object. Amber’s children loved apples just as much as we did, so I always made sure to have some on hand.
“Could be worse, Pop,” Amber told me one day, “She could be after the cookies.”
“Too right she could, but her mother raised her better than that. You’ve done well, Baby Girl.”
The thing I remember most about that day was the brilliant smile my daughter gave me, and how blessed I felt to have such amazing people in my life. I think back on those days sometimes, to help make peace with what came later. Abby and I turned in early…the cold just does not agree with us anymore. I woke up sometime during the night, but I was not certain why at first. It was only after I curled up to Abby and noticed something was off that I started getting concerned. A moment later I was seized by a wild fear and my heart thudded in my chest as I shook her, then called her name.
She did not answer, and I could hardly breathe as I pressed my fingers to her neck but could not feel the pulse I was searching for. It took a moment for me to understand what that meant. I got up like a robot and flipped on the lights. The sheets were gray. In a moment of terror, I glanced around at the rest of the room. The walls were light gray, the painting was shades of black and white and….
“Oh, baby, no no no no. It isn’t proper. You weren’t supposed to go first.”