Amber tossed the phone to the bed. She marched and swung open the wardrobe door. The resulting cold air tickled her neck. She wondered if there was a word for that cold air while dragging an aimless hand from hanger to hanger. Where was her green suit she wondered? Maybe it was in the store; that’s where all her fancy and pricey clothes were usually sentenced to. Since September marked the beginning of the wedding season, the clothes were now going to come out on parole.
A neighbor was getting married. Any minute now, Amber’s mother would enter and ponder as to the choice of a wedding gift. Of course, it should be accompanied by a lovely card. According to Mama, the importance of a handmade card is considered is priceless, even though others may think it trivial. Deep down, Amber agrees but sighs when she starts scavenging the right section of her wardrobe.
Where was the folder of cards she made months ago? She spots it; it’s a large brown paper folder sitting at the back. Excitement floods her face as she pulls it out but a groan soon replaces it. The cards are overflowing with colors, the glue has dried to reveal brown patches and the quilled paper seems to be peeling off. Until this moment, Amber never thought that handmade cards too could have an expiry date.
Now, she would have to make one just to satiate Mama. It doesn’t matter that in a matter of weeks (months if lucky) the wedded couple would throw the card away, even if they genuinely adored it at first glance.
Amber arches her head backward, and something on the top shelf catches her eye. It’s the painted canvas she made last year. How long had it been sitting there? Amber ponders: Maybe she still has some acrylics stashed away?
Would a painting make a good wedding present?
What if someone at the wedding party thinks she was just showing off her creative skills?
There’s always one person who thinks that way. Her father told her not to care what people think but the people were the reason she stopped a number of her hobbies. Somebody made a silly comment at a tiny cushion she once sewed, and she threw it away as soon as she got home. She even stopped watching movies because of people. Well not altogether, but just limited viewing them. After all, why pick up something every other person in the world has adopted?
She doesn’t start looking for the acrylics immediately though. But the doors of her wardrobe are still wide open. They invite her like Wonderland invited Alice, but Amber groans again. This could be her new signature style. She groans again; nowadays, this was everybody’s signature style.
Maybe, she ought to get a step back. Have a change of perspective? So she waltzes back and collapses on the bed. She’s not tired but thinks she’ll fall asleep if she closes her eyes long enough.
One. Two. Three….
Nope, it doesn’t work.
She faintly opens her eyes and right in her sight, is the dirtiest thing in her room: A half cut plastic bottle stuffed with compost with a stem poking through. The soil was dry. When was the last time she watered it? Her father told her that roses don’t need all that much but Google said it depended on the soil. She lazily tilted her head; yes, the plant was dry.
As she sauntered to the washroom, she pondered whether the rose would ever grow. Plants needed patience, and she didn’t have any. Nevertheless, she poured a sip to the dry soil from an empty, clean soda can she kept by her washbasin. The can then reminded her of her mother’s scolding a few days ago. Her mother had told her to clean up her room, but she protested. She was saving the can (and a few dozen other recyclables) for a DIY project she saw on YouTube. But around two weeks ago, it had taken on the role of a watering can.
She sat near the rose plant for a while and watched as the water filled the soil’s thirst. There were two leaves growing on the stem. A buoyant smile appeared on her face but it sagged two seconds later when she realized she couldn’t even remember whether there were one or two leaves on the cutting when she first planted it.
She rubbed her forehead. Maybe her mother was right; maybe she does do too much at once. People around her were always busy with just one thing. Her sister was working in a bank, and Amber would always jeer her for having no other escape. One of her close cousins worked in an office and read books, and that was his entire life. Of course, Amber never bothered to learn what was that he actually did in his office. The neighbor who was getting married had her own cake business.
Last year, Amber baked one of her first cakes and took it to the bride-to-be. It was flat and dense, but the neighbor said that her own first-time attempt was worse. Maybe she was just being nice, Amber thought. The neighbor had cheered her on and kept saying that these things take time and practice. “How much time?” Amber had wanted to ask but didn’t. She looked at the rose cutting. Maybe she should give the rose some time too.
A knock resounded on the door. Amber knew it was her mother and called for her to enter. As she had predicted, her mother first reprimanded her for the state of her room. Then when she had been momentarily silenced, Amber informed her of the ‘Miss Cake’ neighbor’s wedding. Amber made another prediction that her mother would ask her about the card, but all Mama spoke of was the wedding festivities that were already ongoing in the city.
Finally, Mama took a breath and said, “What do you think we should give her as a present?”
“A cake?” Amber chuckled.
“It’s a joke, Mama. You know I can’t bake as well as she can!”
“Thank God there’s something you can’t do.”
Amber grouched. That was hurtful, even if it was coming from someone as critical as her mother.
“How’s your plant rose plant coming?” Mama changed the subject. Had she acquired the ability to read Amber’s mind?
“It’s been two weeks” Amber gestured to the cutting. She was now gushing with affection for the growing (or not growing) plant, “These things take time.”
Mama chuckled, “Look who’s talking!”
“I’m not that…” Amber scavenged for a good word, “Unfocused.” Was that a good word?
Mama smiled. “I know honey. You could be worse”
Amber groaned again.