With its frosted red, blue and yellow lens, the tin kaleidoscope brought a shimmering symmetry to August’s tumultuous world of chaos. She’d waited patiently for the first rays of light to shine through her bedroom window, and now, translucent coloured beads tumbled on one another in a heap as she peered inside and turned the lens revealing a moving mosaic. Glittering patterns were formed and dismantled with the slightest touch and August wished she could crawl inside the dark tunnel and lie beneath the cathedral of colour where awe and order coexisted.
August tried not to think about the manilla envelope hidden under her mattress. Instead, she focussed on the explosion of colour at her fingertips. August’s father had given her the kaleidoscope on the day he’d told her he wouldn’t be living with her and her mother anymore. It was his parting gift. But how could nightly tuck-ins, sweet kisses and bedtime stories be exchanged for colourful tricks of the light?
The divorce papers had sat on the kitchen table for a whole month, and while August’s mother grieved, August retreated into a cylindrical realm of kaleidoscopic wonderment. There she explored the vibrant palettes formed by repeated patterns and was comforted by the beauty of rotational symmetry.
But in the early hours of last night, under the glare of the open refrigerator, August stared at the papers on the kitchen table and at the cursive flow of black ink that was her mother’s signature. How strange that a continuous line of swirling print had the power to change their lives forever.
If August destroyed the divorce papers, the delayed proceedings would give her father time to change his mind. She could burn the papers, shred them, or bury them in the backyard next to her bicycle, which lay on its side rusting beneath the tall grass. Then her father could come home. He could kiss her goodnight and tuck her in like he used to. Everything could go back to normal. He just needed a little more time.
August placed the kaleidoscope on her bed, lifted her mattress and pulled out the envelope. Time moved slowly in her father’s absence, each day stretching out a little longer, but she would wait for him to come back, no matter how long it took. August folded the envelope and put it in her backpack. She’d get rid of it at school, leaving no evidence of what she had done, and then she would wait in the quiet kaleidoscopic lobby, where light and colour collapsed in on itself, and where August found a sliver of solace.
© Michelle Upton