Sherry knew she was an expert doodler. She could fill the margins of any page with unending drawings. Circles flowed into flowers, which became roses, which emerged as vines ringing the page like a free flowing frame. Her scribbles had evolved over the years from childish bunnies and pigs, to broken hearts and teardrops and then sunny rays and fat rainbows. And now, at the age of 15, she could turn her hand to any design. Yes, she was an expert doodler.
The door squeaked and her aunt poked her head into the room. She was one of those women who had only come into her looks in her late 40’s. The beautifully angular face was framed by ash grey hair that reached almost to her waist. She wore it drawn back in a thick braid, a tartan ribbon tied jauntily at the tip.
“It got real chilly, didn’t it?” Arched eyebrows tilted above eyes as green as the ocean after a storm. “You sure you are warm enough, I can put the heat up if you like.”
Sherry shook her head, “No, I’m fine thanks”. Grinning, she lifted the edge of a fluffy blanket to reveal two small dogs curled up, noses tucked under paws, backs pressed against her legs. “My personal heating system.”
Her aunt nodded and still smiling tugged the door closed. Sherry loved her aunt’s lopsided smile, a smile which never seemed to leave her face. It had dug two deep laugh lines around her mouth so even at rest, she seemed to be happy.
She eased herself around in the bed and gazed out the windows. Fall was her favorite season. Each year was a miracle. Leaves (suddenly deciding they were tired of being boring green) erupted into a riot of gorgeous colors and then proceeded to flee the safety of their trees to dance and prance across the earth.
Growing up in South Carolina, the autumns had been pretty but nothing like the jewel box of colors that exploded onto the trees here in Nova Scotia. Each leaf competing to outdo all the others leaves, the ground a mosaic carpet of golds, reds, yellows and coppers.
It had been winter when her aunt had come to pick her up. She remembered waiting on the sidewalk in the cold, one small bag sat alongside her wheelchair. The “Sold” sign flapped in the chill wind. The house waited meekly for its new owners, new owners who would hopefully not sell every single stick of furniture, ever spoon and bowl, every curtain and cushion to pay for a drug habit.
Sherry shuddered remembering the utter emptiness that filled her in those last months, the devastation she felt when she discovered that all her art materials were gone, sold off with whatever else wasn’t nailed down. She should have hidden them with her winter coat in the garage.
What had finally driven her mother, a senior partner at her law firm, to succumb to the lure of meth? Months of begging led nowhere and her death followed quickly. And who was going to want a teenager in a wheelchair? No stranger in their right mind would take that on.
And then, seemingly from nowhere, aunt Cammy arrived, driving a Jeep that she had bought to accommodate the wheelchair. “I never really liked that two-seater. We will be much happier with this old girl’, she had said, patting the truck’s hood as though it was a favorite horse.
All Sherry heard was “we”, we will be much happier. The journey north was a revelation and Sherry emerged her heart already filled with love for this crazy artist who had dropped everything to scoop her up. “And you really, truly are mom’s sister?” Sherry had asked over and over again and Cammy had grinned, her lopsided grin.
It was almost a year now and South Carolina was a distant memory, blurred and fuzzy.
The door squeaked again and a chubby cat barged in followed by aunt Cammy, bearing a tray of hot chocolate and butter cookies.
Passing Sherry a mug, she noticed the blank page, the edges dense with doodles of smiley faces and fuzzy cats. Cammy burst out laughing, “Oh Sherry, you are so like me!”
Sherry grinned. “I really am going to make a list of art supplies I want but,” she waved her hand around the sun-filled room, the warm blankets and sleeping pets, “all this happiness got in my way.”The Shopping List,