The mobile phone on the table beside Patrick gave a shrill chirrup telling him that Grace’s regular morning message had arrived. He flipped open the case and read it.
Immediately the rest of the children erupted from the breakfast table, like a volcano pouring lava in all directions. Patrick noted that for the first time Phoebe had joined in. It might, of course, have nothing to do with “Orange”.
Hank Taylor glanced over at this wife, Eidie, as she buttered pancakes. Breakfast used to be an uninterrupted family event until Patrick had started to date Grace, the girl from next door, whose family had moved in about a year ago.
Matthew, assuming that “orange” was a race, was the first to return to the table, proudly placing an orange car in front of Patrick. Of no distinct make it was bright orange and small enough to fit into in a pocket. Alice was next to return with a pair of orange socks. Phoebe added a small tube of orange lipstick to the collection, and Eidie placed a mango on the table.
“Dad? What about you?”
Sighing, Hank scraped back the chair and rummaged through the string drawer. It contained all the small bits of rubbish that no one wanted to throw out, but didn’t have a proper home anywhere in the house. He found a cellophane wrapper with a small orange fish inside, most likely from an old Christmas cracker. Everything that Hank had added to piles so far had come from the string drawer.
“That’s a goodly haul!” Matthew said the same thing every morning, just as Grace and Libby let themselves in through the back door.
“Hi, Mrs Taylor…Mr Taylor.” Libby headed straight for the pile of orange items, greedily snatching them off the table and stowing them away in various pockets in her jacket, or in her school bag. An orange knitted hat was pulled down over her blonde hair.
Grace smiled across the table at Patrick. It was a shy tender smile. Grace had never dated any boys before meeting Patrick. They tended to give her a wide berth once they had met Libby. They couldn’t be expected to understand, or show the kind of patience that was needed in handling her. Diagnosed with a degree of autism, Libby had difficulties relating to people. Her day was managed by carefully structured routines, and her compulsive obsessions sometimes made life for the family. A year younger than her sister, Grace had taken on the role of “older” sister. Patrick took it all in his stride, and through him, the whole Taylor family had taken both girls to their hearts.
Every morning Libby would choose a colour to help her through the day. A strict uniform policy at the school meant finding more creative ways for Libby to have the coloured objects to hold on to. The orange car slipped into her cardigan pocket gave her reassurance during the day. In PE she would be allowed to wear the orange socks, and lunchtime would find her eating the mango, along with the cheese sandwiches her mum made.
After a quick tidy up of the kitchen table, it was time to leave for the long walk to the school gates. Libby slipped her hand into Mr Taylor’s. It was the first time she had shown any fondness toward him.
“Pray please!” She insisted. He smiled remembering those early days when Grace and Libby first started to come to the house every morning,
Hank had determined that he would not break his habit of praying for the children before they left for school. There was some awkward shifting of feet, and Libby’s repeated request of “Go now!” but Hank had persevered. Now she stood quietly, her hand in his waiting for him to pray.
“Dear Father, thank you for the colour orange…” he began.
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