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Following Directions

When I was little, I had a habit of doing things my mother told me not to.

"Don't track dirt into the house," she said, and when I looked confused she elaborated, "It's yucky and ugly." So I brought in an armload and dumped it on the carpet to show how many pretty colours were in mud. She found me sitting in the middle of the indoor mud puddle with the stuff crusted all up my arms and across my face.

"DON'T pull your sister's hair," she said. That time I wanted to make certain I wouldn't break the rules again, so I cut parts of Eliza's thin black fringe off. To get rid of the temptation, see. Less hair meant less hair to pull. Once again, Mother, didn't quite see the same way.

I wasn't a dull child, just excessively inquisitive and mildly hyperactive. I tried to follow the rules, but there were just so many of them: don't scream like that, don't eat that, Robin no, that's really poop; don't put it in your mouth. Naturally I got into a lot of trouble a lot of the time. So Mother came up with a solution: the Room. The Room used to be a guest room but Mother cleared it out. So whenever I got into trouble, I got to go sit in the Room all by myself until I forgot what I was there for. I often recommended to Mother that we should decorate it.

"Don't decorate the Room, Robin," Mother said, and turned a page in her magazine. And I meant to follow that one, but it slipped my mind just like all the others.

On the same day as the hair incident, Mother locked me in the Room for an especially long time. I sat for a while and looked at the white ceiling, and then at the white walls, and then I tugged at the white carpet. But nothing helped at all. The concept of sitting and thinking was foreign to me. I had to be doing something. So when I felt the outline of something in my pocket I stood up and pulled it out.

It was a marker, one of my brand new purple markers. I yelled excitedly to myself. Until I realised I was supposed to be quiet and act sad. Then I noticed something else: the marker was uncapped. I gasped in horror. Mother always said I should never leave my markers uncapped or they'd go to waste. And I didn't want that to happen, not at all. My marker supply was limited as it was (Mother said I got into too much mischief with them), and I definitely didn't want to lose this new one. Especially since purple was my favourite colour.

Whatever was I to do?

I couldn't let my new marker run out. So what could I colour on? There was nothing nearby to draw on, there was nothing at all in the Room to have fun with. Except the marker. And the walls. So I got to work, humming tunelessly to myself.

You'd be surprised how much ink they put in markers, and how much damage I could do with that ink. I drew anything and everything that came to mind, and I drew it fast too, just in case my marker went to waste before I used it all. But it just didn't run out, so I just kept going and going until I exhausted myself and purple flooded and smeared all across the room.

Some time later, Mother opened the door and stopped short. She took the scene in and sighed, and leaned against the doorframe. Which was covered in caveman-esque drawings of flowers and cats.

"Robin…" she gave me that look.

"It's beautiful!" I crowed, oblivious. Then I noticed that my marker smelled rather like grapes. What would it taste like? I brought it close to my face and stared cross-eyed at it.

"Don't put that in your mouth," she said.

And so I stuck my tongue out to lick it instead.

By Numaya



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