The fire was the colour of sunsets. Mama used to bring me to the edge of the cliff and point out at the sky. She liked it when we sat, watching the sun go to bed. I thought it was funny that we were watching the sky and not the sea. "We can see the sky anywhere," I tried to tell her. I want to watch the waves. But she just said, "Hush, child. Watch the sky." And so I did. I didn't want her to be angry. So, I pulled myself into her arms and let us sit on the edge of the cliff, watching the sun go to sleep instead of the dancing waves below it.
Mama always liked the colour orange. She smiled in the market whenever she saw the clementines or tangerines. I'd cling to her leg while she picked up the fruit, turning them over and over in her hand until she knew she was happy. She'd give me one, as a treat and whisper in my ear, "Don't tell your papa!" My favourite fruit was apples. But I didn't want to tell her that. She didn't like the colour red. She thought it looked angry.
There was a little bit of red in the fire, too. It made me understand wheat she used to say. Those flames do look angry, I thought. But why is the orange angry, too?
My papa's favourites were green and yellow. "Green like the fields when they've had enough rain. Yellow like the straw for the goat." I thought that was funny. Papa didn't even like Mable. Mable had been my sister's goat before she went away.
She always said, "This goat's my only friend." I asked her if we were friends. She'd just called me silly instead. "You're my brother, not my friend." I wondered if yellow was his favourite colour because of her. Her hair was yellow. She'd gotten cross when I told her that. "It's not yellow, it's blonde."
I think that's why papa chose the things he did. I noticed the colour of the things he was carrying. Green for the outside of the bottle of liquid he poured over the house. Yellow for the matchbox he struck before the fire lit up. I tried to tell him that Mama was inside but he didn't listen.
"But she won't come out," I told him. "She'll be watching the colour orange!" He looked like the red in the flames then. I could see the anger coming to his face. Mama squeezed my hand one night, when we were bundled in my bedroom, the door kept tightly shut and put her face close to mine. "You can always tell when he's angry. His face scrunches up like this." We'd laughed at the funny face she made. His face wasn't funny now. And so, I stayed quiet, just like I had when Mama took me to watch the sun go to sleep. I didn't like the orange of the flames as much as the sunset, though. This orange wasn't as nice. I remembered the waves underneath the sky. The ones I'd wanted to watch.
I closed my eyes, as tight as I could and pretended I was cuddled in my Mama's arms, watching the sea when I should have been watching the sky. And then I decided what my favourite colour was. I hadn't been able to decide before. There was just too many of them.
"My favourite colour's blue, Mama." I whispered into the night. "Blue like the waves."