The school bell rang, loud bell tolls pierced my ears and my hands moved to cover them from the horrid sound. School children jumped from their seats rushing out the door eager to get home to a warm cup of apple cider. I stood up collecting my papers from the day and shoving them in a weathered purple backpack that had belonged to my mother, I zipped it up trying to be as slow as possible so that I would be the only one left in the classroom. I slung my backpack on my shoulder and walked up to the teacher. “Yes?” She asked pausing briefly to look at me for just a sliver of a second before returning to her mound of ungraded assignments.
“Um.. well I was.. I'm wondering ...if I could.. borrow some.. construction paper.” I asked, the heat rising to my cheeks as I asked such a silly question, and I willed myself not to run home and hide my face, but I kept my feet planted on the red carpet that smelled like spilled applesauce and pencil shavings.
“You know where it is don't you?” She asked, and I nodded before realizing she wasn't looking at me and therefore didn't see me nod. “Yes.”
“That's yes Ma’am and don't bother returning the paper.”
“Uh. okay.” I mumbled, I walked to the back of the room where there were mounds and mounds of construction paper galore. I took a reasonable amount of yellow, orange, red, black and white and put it in my bag. I looked behind me and saw the teacher was still looking down before shoving a handful more in my backpack and rushing out of the room, my palms feel sweaty my face burned as I ran out of the school and into the courtyard where I stopped to take a breath and put the stolen paper in my bag.
Its not stolen she told me I could take some
Like 5 pieces not 200!
The buses had stuttered off with a cloud of gas, not like it mattered. I always walked home anyway. Sharp autumn winds pierced my skin like needles as the rain splattered the ground fast and furious. I picked up my pace splashing in puddles, my bag pressed against my chest as I ran down sidewalks trying not to slip and fall on my face.
I reached the city and I slowed down my pace so I wouldn't crash into the small trickle of people still outside in this weather, the road was wet and slick, chip bags and plastic straws floated in puddles, large buildings released a smog that thickened the air. I looked up the drab grey buildings loomed above me, like metal giants, and yet living in an apartment here would be so much better than where I lived. I walked past coffee shops and bakeries wishing I had enough money so I could stop and buy something, but I didn't even have a penny. I turned left right left again zigzagging around poles and cars until I reached the part of town where the air was thicker and trash was everywhere, rats ran across the street with their stolen treasures, and there were so many people whose homes were just a tent in a dark alleyway. And every time I passed them I reminded myself that things could be a lot worse.
I told myself that when I reached a red door after climbing up a long metal staircase, the paint was peeling around the edges and the door knob was barely holding on. I turned the door handle and stepped inside shutting the door behind me to protect our apartment from the rain.
“Mom?” I called stepping over a dirty shirt. It was no bother though, she was still in the same spot, sitting at the edge of her bed, her eyes fixated on a tiny corner of the wall, like a zombie. I stepped in front of her and waved my arms to get her attention. “Yes?” She asked.
“I'm home.” I pointed out.
“Good, good now will you please shut my door so I can focus?” She requested.
Focus on what? Being a horrible mom? Making me go grocery shopping and cook all the meals while you do nothing, just wallow in your own misery?
I nodded shutting the door and slumping backwards on a wall, took a deep breath so I wouldn't smash something, punch a wall.
Just let mom recover.
She's been ‘recovering’ for almost three months!
Divorce is hard
My dad had dumped my mom three months ago for a younger woman and my mom had yet to get over it, resulting in her losing her job and what I called, her ‘zombie phase’. My only goal for the last couple months was to try to cheer her up. It sometimes worked if she was having a good day. I could see the sunshine in her eyes as a smile danced on her lip for just a second, but that was enough, enough to keep me going to keep trying, but lately there had been no smile, no sunshine, just a zombie and the outline of a mom.
I always loved Halloween but it always made me so disappointed to see all the houses with blowup pumpkins, skeletons climbing on their house, their 18 jackolantern's and everything in between. When I was little I begged my mom to buy a skeleton or two, or a witch but she told me we needed to save that money for something more important and that paper decorations would be just as good. But now we don't even have enough money to buy paper, I have to get it from my classroom.
I let out a long sigh, and set my backpack on the saggy couch which moaned as soon as I sat down, I emptied the contents of my bag removing the construction paper and setting it on the floor.
I sat down on the floor and separated the colors, something that always made me feel so calm. Then I took out the scissors paper and glue, and string which I had taken from the school
Borrowed, not taken, I'm going to return them. Eventually..
I pushed everything around me away leaving a tiny little circle that was clean and I laid everything out, and began.
I put my scissors in my left hand and cut out a pumpkin from the orange piece of paper, then I did it again and again and again, until there was a stack of pumpkins at my side. Then I took the red paper and cut out a bunch of tiny leaves the same as the yellow paper. I had some white paper in my bag so I took it out and outlined a witch with a black crayon then I cut it out and made a witch hat from the black piece of paper.
I gave the witch a face and some clothes and set it off to the side. With the black I cut out some bats with their sharp jagged wings and tiny little bodies, I cut and cut until my hands were sore, but I kept reminding myself why I was doing this. Think of mom, think of how amazing it's going to feel when she steps out of her room and smiles, actually smiles.
Once the majority of larger pieces of paper had been used and the sky was dark I collected all the tiny pieces of paper and put them in a pile. Then I took the pieces and I tore them up one by one until all that was left were multicolored scraps, then I gathered them in my hand and threw them all over the room, on the couch the floor, the table, the counter top everywhere was sprinkled with Halloween confetti.
My mom and I had thought of this tradition five or six when we realized there was a lot of paper left that was way too small to use and she asked me. “Have you ever heard of confetti?”
“Like the stuff in pinatas?” I asked in my tiny six year old voice.
“Yes, like the stuff in pinatas, do you think we could make these little scraps be like confetti?”
“Won't that make a mess, honey?” My dad had asked from the kitchen.
My mom rolled her eyes. “Let the girl have some fun!”
“Yay!” I had exclaimed and my mom had given me a wink. We took all the pieces of paper scattering in every corner, so even after Halloween had passed and most of it was swept up, once and a while you could find a little bit of Halloween joy.
A blast of cold wind brought me back to the present and I opened my eyes which I hadn't even realized we're closed. I looked to the left and saw that that door was open.
The Halloween confetti was flying everywhere I quickly rushed over to the door and shut it, knowing it wasn't going to last long by itself I shoved some heavy boxes against it and hoped that the boxes would do its job.
I turned on the light, and got back to the work, I took the scissors and impaled the paper making jagged holes in all of the leaves and making me wish that I had brought a hole puncher as well.
Once all the leaves had things that looked somewhat like holes I took the string and strung it through each leaf, tying a large knot between every leaf, once each little string of hanging leaves had been completed I dragged a chair from the kitchen and stood on my tiptoes taping the decorations to the ceiling, I sat down on the couch happy with my work. The strands of leaves were swaying in the heaters wind, swishing back and forth. But I wasn't done.
I gave all the pumpkins faces, so there were an redundant amount of sad, happy, silly and confused paper pumpkins scattered all over the floor. With some more very handy tape I stuck them all over the walls, cabinets and chairs so the house was full of pumpkins.
With the black bats, I strung them from the ceiling as well, and I had to say, they looked pretty darn good. And all that was left was the witch, I dragged the chair over the cold wood floors with a bone chilling, SCREEEEEEEEECCHHHHH. And hung the witch from the ceiling, then I stood back and marveled at my work, the floor was covered in little scraps of bright colored pieces of paper, pumpkins hung from the walls and from the ceiling were bats and strings of leaves.
But I wasn't done yet, I went to the kitchen and climbed onto the counters something my mom always hated because she was afraid I was going to fall, and took out an old cardboard box and from that box I took out the last to apple cider packets. “Only use the last apple cider when it's a really special time.” My mom had told me. I looked around. This was special enough. I put the cups under the faucet and turned the heat to high, then I opened the packets and poured the powdery apple cider into the cups, stirring it and watching the bright brown color mix in with the water.
I set them down on the table where my mom could easily see from the hallway and then went to my moms room.
I didn't bother knocking because it's not like she would have heard me, I walked inside, my mom was still in the position as when I had left her, again I stepped in front of her and waved my arms around like a deranged chicken. “I have a surprise for you!” I told her
“Mmm, really?” She asked not seeming as excited as I wanted her to
“Yes, but I need you to get up.” I grabbed her hands and pulled, feeling very grateful when she actually stood up, then I took her hand and led her into the hallway.
I used my hands to cover her eyes which was hard because she was a fair amount taller than me. Then once we were in the kitchen I took my hands off of her eyes. “TADA!” I exclaimed, smiling really hard. My mom's eyes glazed around the room at all of the decorations that had been carefully strung, and then she smiled.