Green on Green

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
One small thing leads to another until it becomes an obsession, but there’s always a way out.

Submitted: October 23, 2011

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Submitted: October 23, 2011

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GREEN ON GREEN

 

Marta’s mother cursed the day that great-aunt Catherine had praised her daughter for her good taste in wearing an emerald green dress. “You should wear that shade more often, it makes your hair and eyes stand out. Green is your colour,” were the exact words of the elderly lady. At that moment Marta was nineteen years old and was at a decisive part of her life, Aunt Catherine’s words fell on fertile soil, ready for cultivation. And so it was.

 

Green, little by little began to be the dominant colour in Marta’s wardrobe. There was always something green in her shopping: sweaters, trousers, skirts, and dresses. Anything in another colour was rejected by her with the only reason being that they weren’t green. Every time Marta threw an article of clothing out that wasn’t green she told her mother, “I don’t want to set eyes on it ever again, give it to someone if you like, or wear it yourself.”

Fortunately, Marta’s mother knew all about the whims of young girls very well and even though she said, “Yes, yes, just as you like,” she took no notice of her daughter and kept the best things in a drawer that formed part of her double bed. The rest she used for wearing about the house.

As there were no green shoes to be found, Marta dyed her old white and beige ones. The shoe mender had suggested to her another colour such as black or navy blue, but Marta was firm in her proposal that everything had to be in the colour green. Marta deserved a prize for all the work and effort it cost her to get together her green wardrobe. The arguments she had with the shop assistants about why there were no green coats in a winter when brown and wine were in fashion were exasperating. Marta never got exasperated, she just looked for a way to get what she wanted.

Underwear was the biggest problem. “Why are you so stubborn about buying your underwear in such a weird colour? There are some very pretty things available, even though they aren’t green,” her mother implored her.

“You don’t understand what it is to have all your outer clothing very nice and in one pretty colour and, on getting undressed, I see that what I’m wearing underneath is not the same. What a disillusion! I suffer every day when I see myself in the mirror.”

“Then get undressed without looking in the mirror. I think you are becoming a bit of an idiot. Who else is going to see your underwear? What’s going to be your next inspiration? Change the colour of your skin? You’ll end up looking like a plant or a lizard.”

Marta was deaf to her mother’s complaints. On not finding the desired underwear, she bought all her things white and dyed them green. The girl’s father on seeing all the bras and panties soaking in a bucketful of a repellent shade of green raised his eyes heavenward and with an expression of deep pain on his face said to his wife that night in bed, “She isn’t right in the head,” while Marta was in the bathroom rinsing out the dye. It wasn’t exactly what she had wanted but it was better than any other colour.

The wardrobe was lined with green paper, the clothes were all green. Marta closed the wardrobe doors. Now the bedroom would have to pass through the same revision as the garments. All or nothing. Marta had made this decision from the very beginning. Things have to be done properly, otherwise leave them as they are.

The net curtains went through the same dyeing process, which was repugnant in her mother’s eyes. Green sheets were bought and Marta made an effort in trying to dye the old ones too. In a short time the whole bedroom was done out in varying shades of green: the ceiling, the fitted carpet, and the bedding. Marta’s parents set a limit when she wanted to paint the wardrobe, the windows, and the door green. “That’s enough! So much green is madness,” was her father’s reaction. Marta felt annoyed at her father’s words, but she didn’t feel like arguing, she was tired with all the work that green was giving her.

 

The car in the showroom was the latest model and was green. Marta stared at it for a long time and then went home. In her green refuge she took out her savings book from a drawer. She had just enough for the down payment. Saying nothing to her parents, on the following day she went back to the showroom. It was still there in the window. The salesman couldn’t believe his eyes. A girl dressed all in green was in front of him asking for information about the green car in the window. After recovering from the shock the salesman went into action. He invited her to sit in the car. Marta’s face seen through the windscreen was the only thing that wasn’t green. “It looks like you and the car are made for each other.”

Marta smiled at him, “Do you really think so? Great! It’s what I thought from the moment I saw it.”

The man couldn’t resist asking, “Why have you chosen this particular car?”

Marta answered him, “The colour of course.”

But the man insisted, “And what if you wear clothes in another colour?”

Marta gave him a pitying gaze, “I’m not going to wear clothes in another colour.”

After hearing this the salesman asked no more questions.

 

Marta was now happy having achieved that everything in her life was green. After all, weren’t they great-aunt Catherine’s words? And the elderly lady knew a lot about colours and fashion. Green meant to Marta: spring, fertility, rebirth. The young woman didn’t have a boyfriend because she spent most of her free time in her search for green things. One day as she was on the point of leaving home for work dressed from head to foot in green her mother said to her, “You shouldn’t wear so much green. It will bring you bad luck.” Marta laughingly said goodbye to her mother and without thinking any more about her mother’s words, left the house and got into her green car to go to the photographic laboratory where she worked.

“Do you think we ought to take her to a psychiatrist?” Marta’s mother asked the father.

“As soon as a psychiatrist sets eyes on her, he won’t think twice and she’ll be sent to a clinic,” replied Marta’s father, fed up with his daughter.

“Do you really think so?” asked her mother anxiously.

“Yes, I do. But I’m hoping she’ll return to her right mind soon,” and he served himself a second cup of coffee.

 

Marta was relaxed as she passed through her green life. She never saw the looks her parents exchanged, nor heard the jokes and laughter from her work companions. Because Marta was happy. She had managed to achieve her proposal. What else could she ask for? She was called ‘the plant’, ‘forest’, and even ‘fern’. She was constantly teased. They said she didn’t need to eat, she only needed to be watered. Her car was called ‘the flower pot’. Once it was hinted that her face was becoming a shade of pale green, certainly Marta’s eyes were of a beautiful green, her eyelids were covered by a green eye shadow, and her sunglasses were enormous and green. Yes, it was true Marta had managed to get everything in her life green. Everyone, except Marta, was waiting for the day when at last she would cut the grass and see the colours of the flowers.

Marta’s job had times when there was too much work or very little. During the moments of less work Marta and her companions had a normal timetable. During the busiest times there was no fixed timetable and the technicians and the other workers closed the laboratory on finishing the day’s work. At times Marta arrived home at ten o’clock at night or later. After finishing a long day she bore an incredible tiredness. In the time she took to shower and have something to eat, Marta tried to relax a little and watch television. This last intention was almost impossible to do because she fell asleep straightaway.

Her mother had prepared her some toasted cheese sandwiches, fruit, and a glass of milk while she was showering. Marta was far too tired to eat anything else, and as soon as the milk was finished she kissed her parents goodnight and went to bed.

 

They were walking in the countryside on a tree-lined path. Suddenly, there was a door in front of them and the land fell away from them and they saw people who were in a state of agitation.

Marta, full of curiosity, decided to go down to see what was happening. The rest followed her. On the way down they met people who were running in the other direction. Marta stopped a girl and asked her what was going on. The girl said there was a collective madness and that everyone had to wear the same dress. Marta couldn’t see the reason for this and went down to the village. People were running in all directions. A strange, tall, handsome man took Marta’s arm . She knew him, he had entered the village behind her. There were several people in a room and Marta found herself looking in a mirror. Marta’s reflection in the mirror spoke, “It isn’t my reflection but another girl similar to me.” They then told Marta that she had to change her dress and she saw that it was the same as the one worn by the girl she had met earlier on the pathway.

 

“It must be due to the cheese last night, so please don’t give me cheese again, Mum,” Marta had told her mother about the dream the following morning.

“Whatever you say, besides you’re extremely tired. When will you have a more reasonable timetable?”

“I don’t know, but I hope it’ll be soon, meanwhile forget about giving me cheese, please.”

Marta left for work. Fragments of the dream broke her concentration several times that day, and she had a real desire to get home, shower, and sleep the whole night through without nightmares, in order to wake up fresh the following morning.

From one week to another the laboratory received fewer orders as the off-season had started. The technicians were more relaxed. Marta no longer left work so late, and so she had time to look in the shop windows and go to the cinema. Her mother saw that her daughter was less nervous.

 

Like a green flash the figure of a woman went round the corner. Marta took a long time to react. For just one moment she had seen the woman’s face in a sports shop window. Marta followed carefully in the same direction as ‘the other’. She wasn’t too far away from Marta, who was on the hunt for ‘the other’. Acting as if she were a detective in a film, Marta followed her, crossing streets, pretending interest in things in shop windows and she even ducked behind a van when ‘the other’ crossed the road very near her. When ‘the other’ entered a building in the same street, Marta crossed over and assuming an air of confidence which she didn’t feel at all, went up to the entrance. There was a man sitting in the janitor’s cubby-hole which had two glass panels through which he could see the outside world. Marta went up to him. The man was enclosed in his comfortable box with the radio on, on the table there was a packet of chocolate biscuits and a cup of coffee. Seeing Marta he went to a board covered with hanging keys and gave one to Marta. She said that it wasn’t hers but belonged to someone else. The janitor then opened the door to his cage and came out and went up closely to Marta. At first he gave a look of recognition and then one of surprise and said to her, “You look like a young lady who works here.”

“Well, I’m not. Can you please tell me her name?”

The man was not sure of what was going on. “I don’t know her name and even if I knew it I wouldn’t give it to you. You do understand, don’t you?”

Marta was a bit annoyed but she didn’t show it, “Yes, of course. Thanks. Goodbye. Sorry to have been a nuisance.”

The janitor didn’t move till she was out of sight.

 

Marta knew that ‘the other’ was there, outside the café where she was having a drink with her companions from the laboratory. She suddenly felt she was being observed through the large window pane. At a given moment, when no one was talking to her Marta turned her head in the direction of the street. It was her! Just as Marta had suspected. Making excuses to the rest, she grabbed her handbag and left the café. This time ‘the other’ was walking in the street with enough speed for Marta to keep up with her. Marta never took her eyes off the figure that was identical to hers. The two women in green one behind the other crossed street after street. At a set of traffic lights a man trying to be funny leaned his head out of his car and shouted, “What’s this then? The invasion of the leprechauns!” Neither of them took any notice and went on their way.

On crossing a park Marta looked at her watch, which was of course green, and saw that soon she would have to go and get her car to go home.

“Don’t worry about the time, it’s not far now,” ‘the other’ had turned round when she noticed Marta’s footsteps had stopped, and went up to her. In silence the two continued their walk. The building wasn’t the same as before, but a more modern one, “I live here,” said ‘the other’.

In the lift Marta was able to get a closer at her, she realized that they were not at all alike, the similarity was only in their way of dressing. Are you wearing green underwear, have you got a green car, have you painted your bedroom green? These and other questions span around inside Marta’s head.

Green in all the different shades possible, plus the natural green of the plants, dominated the entrance and the living-room of ‘the other’s’ home. Marta and she appeared to form part of artificial nature, when they were sitting on the green sofa with the tropical pattern. “My name’s Priscilla and I saw you the other day. Since then I’ve been trying to find you.” ‘The other’ now had a name.

“I’m Marta and I followed you. Why have you brought me here?”

“For the same reason you have come.”

There was silence which was more eloquent than any spoken word.

From her place on the sofa Marta contemplated the room. The windows gave onto a balcony that wasn’t possible to see due to a very fine curtain in front of them, in this way preventing the intrusion of the exterior. Beside the windows there were green plants that climbed up the walls to the ceiling where they continued their journey. There were only green plants. There was a green parrot in a cage. Marta was amazed at how far Priscilla had gone in her liking for everything green. Looking around her, Marta thought, we form part of all this, we don’t stand out at all, and me, what am I among so much green? Priscilla got up and went to the kitchen, she returned in a few minutes with a tray on which there was a teapot and little cups, all in green porcelain. “Don’t worry, the tea is green too.” Marta gave Priscilla a weak smile on receiving a cup of tea. It was bitter.

Priscilla started to speak, “Everything I have is green, even my car. In this flat there isn’t anything that isn’t green. I’m thinking of dyeing my hair green, too. Why do you wear green?”

Marta felt threatened. Who was Priscilla to say whether or not she could green? For the first time since she had begun to have a life in just one colour, Marta felt unable to express herself. Standing up Marta said, “Thank you for the tea, but I must leave,” while she walked to the door.

The two young women stopped before the main door. Priscilla was staring at her reflection in the mirror that was beside the door, which produced an involuntary revelation about Priscilla’s character. She was playing with her hair and at the same time she was looking at Marta, “Really, green is definitely my colour, don’t you think?”

Marta didn’t want to be intimidated by Priscilla in spite of the emphasis on the words ‘my colour’ “And mine, too.” Marta answered. The identity war had begun.

 

The meeting with Priscilla wasn’t forgotten by Marta. That same afternoon as soon as she entered her room Marta had the feeling that part of her was slipping away and she was incapable of stopping it. The bedroom she had decorated with such pleasure no longer so original nor so pretty. She still had fresh in her head the sight of the intense green of Priscilla’s flat, so Marta observed her own room through very critical eyes. She didn’t want to have dinner, the bitter taste from the tea wasn’t the only bitter thing she had to swallow that afternoon. The fact that there was another girl with the same idea and, what’s more, had developed it further than her, made Marta feel depressed. However, this didn’t last long.

Marta decided to use Priscilla as her negative reflection.

Since Priscilla had pronounced those words, Marta had had the idea to show that she was in fact ‘the other’. Marta had gone back to calling Priscilla ‘the other’, in that way she maintained the previous distance and ‘the other’ didn’t get any personality or identity.

Dressed in green as usual and in the latest fashion, Marta passed by the entrance where ‘the other’ worked. It was leaving time and Marta waited with a mixture of patience and illusion to see ‘the other’s’ reaction.

Priscilla appeared in the doorway, Marta saw her straight away. The contrast between the green figure and the black of the entrance gave a sense of vitality to the old and decaying building. Priscilla said nothing but waited for Marta to say something. Marta had no intention of speaking. Priscilla seeing that Marta was not going to say a word, smiled at her falsely and hailed a taxi.

Marta felt that she had done something ridiculous without knowing how. She didn’t even say anything about my outfit. Well. Let her get on with it. I’m going to wear green till I die, in spite of her.

 

After having been ignored by ‘the other’ Marta didn’t repeat the experience. Instead of chasing Priscilla she dedicated herself to finding things out about her. Near Priscilla’s flat there were some bars and boutiques which were visited in turn by Marta, till one day she got what she wanted.

The boutique called “The Emerald Way” was situated in a little square behind Priscilla’s flat. Marta had found it while she was looking for another boutique. The shop window was small and there was only one garment in the centre and without a price tag. Marta opened the door without knowing what she would find. The smell of money and unique model clothes reached her nose on entering.

The shop assistant, who was at the same time the owner, came out from where she was hidden behind a clothes rack adorned with necklaces, gloves, scarves and belts. “Good morning.” From the tone of her voice it was obvious she knew the girl who had entered. Seeing Marta, the expression on her face changed. “How can I help you?”

Marta had noticed the change on the woman’s face, and it was interesting. “Good morning. You thought I was someone else, didn’t you?” Without waiting for an answer, Marta continued, “I know, you don’t need to say anything to me. I’ve been told that there is a girl who looks a lot like me.” Marta didn’t want to reveal that she knew ‘the other’.

The owner who was an excessively made-up woman with very blond and very lacquered hair, appraised Marta with an air of superiority. “I have a client who wears green, but it’s the only similarity.”

Now, Marta felt her interest awaken. “Really? How interesting! I thought I was unique. And she buys her clothes here?”

The owner sent Marta a look of pity. “Haven’t you seen the name of the boutique? I’m Emerald and as you see everything is green.” It was true, even Emerald’s dress was green, her stockings and shoes, too. The boutique looked like a continuation of ‘the other’s’ flat. That’s why I didn’t see her when I entered, she is so immersed with the shop that it forms part of her, Marta thought, and at the same time she began to feel afraid, and out loud she said to Emerald, “I think I’ve got the wrong boutique. I’m sorry, good morning.”

With her air of superiority more in evidence than before, Emerald answered, “Yes, you’re right, you have got the wrong shop. Good morning.”

The smell of car exhaust and the grey-blue atmosphere was somewhat comforting after the jungle-like suffocating atmosphere that was trapped between the four walls that was the boutique. Marta went home.

Marta’s underwear was taking on a dirty-grey colour, the green dye was getting paler with every wash.

 

He was tall, quite good-looking and was standing at the bar, playing with his glass. Marta and her companions from the laboratory sat down at a table. When the waiter had taken their orders Marta noticed he was staring at her. For some dark reason she herself didn’t understand, Marta excused herself to her friends and went up to him. “Fancy a drink?” he asked her.

“I’ve already ordered thanks. I don’t know you, but you were looking at me in a strange way. Why?”

“Do you know a girl called Priscilla?”

“Yes, casually.”

“We were almost engaged. I wanted to marry her, but when I saw her flat, I knew I didn’t want to form part of a greenhouse. I bet you’ve got an all green flat, haven’t you?”

Marta thought, how terrible! Is it possible to be so transparent? Why does he compare me with ‘the other’. “No, I haven’t. I live with my parents. My bedroom’s decorated in green.”

The man smiled happily, “Look, just as I said. You are all the same.”

Marta felt her curiosity aroused, “‘You are?’ What do you mean by that?”

“That all the girls who wear green are all the same.”

Marta couldn’t believe her ears, “Is it true or is that a joke? I’ve only seen Priscilla dressed in green and with a green flat, and now you are telling me that there are more. It’s incredible!”

The man drained his glass and ordered another. “Don’t get upset, there are many, and each one thinks she is unique, it’s enough to make you die of laughter. Are you sure you don’t want a drink?”

“No, thanks. I must get back to my friends. Goodbye.”

Marta went back to the table with a very pale face. When she raised her head to look at the man, he had gone and was crossing the street.

 

From time to time Marta would see Priscilla in the distance. At times Marta stayed in her room with the light switched off and the curtains opened looking at the colour changes in the sky till everything was just one colour, broken only by lights from street lamps, houses, and cars.

Occasionally Marta began to think.

Now that Marta had discovered that there were other ‘greens’, ‘the other’ got her name back and was once more Priscilla. But who were ‘the others’?

As Priscilla and I are two different people and we wear the same colour and lead similar lives then I ask myself in what way are we different? Are we a reflection of each other? And how do we see each other? For some days Marta chased Priscilla again in order to discover more about herself.

The lack of anyone in Priscilla’s life was a warning to Marta, who didn’t have a boyfriend either, although she did have her parents.

 

Priscilla’s ex-boyfriend went to the photo laboratory where Marta worked. “I’ve brought some photos to be developed here instead of the place I usually go to,” he said to the girl behind the counter. “Is it possible to see the girl in green?” he asked.

“There’s someone asking for you in the shop.” Marta looked through the gap in the doorway and saw who it was and asked, “How did he know my name?”

The other girl replied, “He asked to see ‘the girl in green’, so naturally I called you.”

Marta made no reply. ‘The girl in green’, I don’t even have a name.

 

The silhouettes of the trees and the roof tops were black in a lilac coloured sky. Everything was in suspension and bit by bit it had all changed to a total blackness.

Very well Priscilla’s loneliness is mine, too. The sky, the trees, and the buildings form a part of the night, they are inter-related. During the day they form part of a picture although it appears without any order but in reality they form part of a greater order. Priscilla and I don’t form part of anything. We are condemned to fall into oblivion.

 

“What are you doing with all those clothes?” Marta’s father was sitting on the sofa with the intention of reading a good book, when his wife entered the room with her arms full of clothes.

“I’m going to burn them,” was the reply. “Marta doesn’t wear green any more.”

“You don’t say! At last she’s recuperating her identity instead of being a poor imitation of some forest creature.” Marta’s father got up from the sofa. “I’ll help you burn this pile of rags, and watch delightedly as the flames destroy them.”

Marta’s parents went outside where there was a type of container for burning rubbish, dead leaves. Her father poured some petrol on top of Marta’s clothes, and then set fire to them with a lighted match, and standing beside his wife he remained looking at them till there was nothing left but black ashes.

Marta’s mother gave her daughter back the clothes she had kept under her bed. Marta was in her bedroom putting away her new (and old) clothes into drawers and the wardrobe. The inside of the wardrobe was now a rainbow of colours, making it feel warm; while before it had had the coldness of moss. Suddenly, the glow from the flames lit up Marta’s bedroom to even the most hidden corner, rubbing out all the green past of the girl in just one act.

 

Priscilla stayed alone because there is not one man who wants to live in a greenhouse.

 

Marta didn’t take long in losing her loneliness and regaining her identity.


© Copyright 2017 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.