“Lost Colors” by Jackie Branch

Jackie Branch

I sift through my dresser drawers for the umpteenth time, my fingers passing through layers of cotton and vinyl. My routine, our routine. My dust-colored eyes take in the blurred, monochrome tones we all wear everyday. I sigh, and settle for the short gray school dress, black shoes with white socks, and a white sweater. I hear Mother’s muffled calls from the kitchen, probably telling me to come down and eat the same-old powdered eggs and microwave bacon. I stand in front of my wall mirror, and roll my eyes at the drab look. Mother continues downstairs, her pitch changing higher, right on cue. I eye my bottom drawer curiously.

Mother glances at me as I enter the kitchen. The eggs sizzle and hiss as she scrapes some onto a plate, two pieces of bacon already placed, and hands it to me. I nod a thank you and take my seat in the living room. A few moments later, she emerges and sits across from me. We stay silent as I finish my food, grab my black-and-white striped messenger bag, kiss her on the cheek, and step out the door to the school bus.

I can hear the chaos inside as the vehicle trudges closer to me, and opens its heavy doors. I brush a piece of hair behind my ear as I find an empty seat in the back. No one comes to join me, but I don’t expect anyone to.

The rest of the day goes on in a blur. Silent work, a bland half-hour lunch break, more silence, and finally being dropped off at home from the bus. I drag myself up the stairs and flop onto my bed. After a few moments I haul my bag next to me and take out a book to read. The time flies by, when Mother calls me down for dinner. I trudge down to the kitchen, the lights burning my eyes. Mother shakes her head, and hands me a plate of white rice with black beans and some steamed fish. The mush rubs on my teeth uncomfortably, but I swallow it anyway. I leave my empty plate on the table, and rush back upstairs to take a shower and go to sleep.


My alarm buzzes in my ears like an over-excited mosquito. Get up and shower, same routine. Flip through my closet and drawers to pick out gray dress, white sweater, black shoes with white socks. I sigh, and shift my gaze to the bottom drawer again.

Mother stares at me as I walk in the kitchen. I sway my hips from side to side, showing off the candy-red stockings under my dress and a wide grin across my face. She doesn’t break contact on my legs as she passes me my plate. We eat in silence, as usual. Once I’m finished, I pick up our plates and rinse them in the sink. I grab my bag and give Mother a hug, muttering a thank you before leaving.

Everyone falls silent as I walk up the stairs on the bus. They all look as if they’re wearing masks; the same straight-line mouth, tired eyes, raised eyebrows. I shake off my nervousness, and proudly sit down in the front. They return to their conversations as the bus eases onto the road again. I start to daydream out the window when I feel the weight on the seat shift. I glance over and flash a smile at the person next to me. They blush and look away, but smiles back. I ask what their name is but they don’t reply. So I just sit back, and enjoy the ride.