I'm feeling very happy today. I've finally restarted the work on Invisible, my young teen novel. I'm adding a whole lot of extra bits and pieces, filling out characters and seeing if I can take the whole word count from 50,000 to 75,000. Here's the first draft of the first bit I've been working on today.
Mum and I live in this weird old little house. It’s joined on to another house on one side and then on the other side you can walk down to a tiny patch of what I guess someone might call a garden, but it’s so small that it's hardly worth the effort. A lot of it is concrete that’s all cracked and bumpy. Mum said the roots from a tree next door have grown under the fence and pushed it all up.
When Dad was still alive we lived in a brick house with a purple door in Mudgee. I loved that door. Dad painted it one day when I was only about four. He said he wanted to have something different from everyone else so he went out and bought purple paint and two brushes and then he let me help swish the paint on. I could only do up to the doorhandle because I was short so did the top half. I remember that when I looked up to ask him a question he dripped purple drops on my face by accident. I laughed but it wasn’t funny later in the bath when Mum kept scrubbing my cheeks. It felt like my skin was coming off.
After he died we moved to a unit first of all. It had a brown front door and brown carpet and yellow and brown tiles on the bathroom walls. I felt like vomiting every time I went to the toilet. I think Mum must have felt sick too because our next place was a completely new townhouse with shiny taps and the softest carpet I’ve ever laid on. The third time we moved, the house was a little bit like the Mudgee one, but the door was a boring cream with big scuff marks at the bottom, like someone had tried to kick it in. The back door had scratch marks in it. When she saw the scratches Mum said the people before us must have had a cat. I don’t remember how she tried to explain away the kick marks.
The front door of this house is green. When you come in, you’re straight into a hallway. It’s dark and the carpet has all these terrible green and red old fashioned swirls and paisley blobs. But if you look up you see this amazing ceiling plasterwork. The whole ceiling is covered with designs like vines and grapes and flowers and leaves. And what makes it even more amazing is that it’s all painted in different colours – pink and orange for the flowers, bright pea green for the leaves and an off-poo-brown for the branches.
Some of it is flaking off. In fact, the the only reason I noticed it is because there was a chip of canary yellow paint on the carpet the day after we moved in. Mum had gone out to get food so I was on my own. I bent down and picked it up and thought, “Where did this come from?” When I saw the ceiling for the first time my eyes popped open and I could hardly move. I laid down on the carpet and just looked at the ceiling for about half an hour until I heard Mum slam her car door in the driveway.
Having my head on the old carpet meant I had dust in my eyes and a slightly musty smell in my nose but I didn’t care. My eyes were going over and over the vines and swirls and flourishes and I had a full, satisfied feeling in my belly.
‘How long must this have taken?’ I wondered and straight away I had an image of this old guy spending months up a ladder with a tray of little tiny pots of paint, working centimetre by centimetre along every part of the design. I could see his little old wife coming out of the kitchen bringing him cups of tea and saying, “Oh Harold, it looks lovely. Have you finished yet?” and him saying, “Nearly done, Gloria, nearly done.” I imagined that later, every time Harold walked through his green door into his house, his eyes would glance upwards and a secretly pleased smile would sneak across his face. Perhaps because the back yard was so tiny, painting plaster vines and flowers on the ceiling was Harold’s version of gardening.