Complementary Colours

4 June 2019

The bedroom walls are bright orange until they merge into a sea blue in sporadic places, creating variations of ugly warm and cool browns where the colours meet.

“Do you like it?” Jules asks, fiddling with the paintbrush in her hand. “I ran out of paint, so I just thought—well, it makes it interesting!”

Mary stands outside the bedroom and says nothing. The colours blur together in her peripheral vision, giving her a headache. Before she left for work, the walls had been a pleasant cream colour.

“The smell will fade!” Jules babbles. “I’m sorry, I just couldn’t stand the cream colour. Only boring married couples have them!”

“And what type of couples have walls that look like a tie-dyed shirt?” Mary asks, pinching her nose. “Maybe we can go back and get the blue colour and repaint the whole room.”

Jules pouts exaggeratedly before attempting to clean up, using a sheet to wipe at her hands. She looks like she just came home from kindergarten, wearing oversized clothes with splotches of paint all over them that are too big for her small frame. Her thick brown hair is in its usual long plaits, the sticky strands of hair making Mary shudder.

Jules steps out of the mess of sheets and paint rollers and wraps an arm around Mary’s shoulder, reaching a hand up to pull out her neat bun.

“We’ll fix it,” she says, poking Mary’s cheek with a finger drenched in paint.

Mary’s headache intensifies. Jules’ scent is an odd combination of Sharpie, dried sweat and cheap perfume. She leans into her, closing her eyes to block out the kaleidoscope of colour and paint fumes, focusing on the cheap floral high and low notes of the perfume as she breathes in.


They move the mattress into the living room to escape the rancid paint smell. Everything’s still in neatly labelled boxes. Jules has pulled most of her stuff out, hazardously laying it around the house in positions that change daily. There are towers of books in the living room and kitchen, and knick-knacks on the veranda and in the bathroom.

Jules’ hands rake through Mary’s hair, pulling apart wet strands as they lie squished together in the middle of their sunken mattress.

“Your roots are showing. You shouldn’t have let me ruin your beautiful hair,” Jules murmurs.

Mary pulls Jules’ hand away from her hair and places it back at her hip, too tired to reply. Jules had been delighted at slathering Mary’s hair with bleach, and then even more delighted when half of it had been ruined from the chemicals and she got to give Mary an impromptu haircut. There’s a silly photo of them with her destroyed hair and Jules making a peace sign that’s the background on Mary’s phone.

“I was thinking we could paint the bathroom black,” Jules continues. “It could be interesting.”

Mary can’t help but snort into her pillow. Jules joins in, but Mary knows she’s serious. The bathroom will be black within a week. Then the kitchen will be a fluorescent green until there’s no space that remains a warm pleasant cream.

The living room is still a beautiful neutral colour. Mary picked a couch out to match it that still hasn’t been delivered. She may as well cancel the order.

She rolls off the mattress, shaking off Jules’ grabbing hands to get her phone from where it sits on the ground.

“What are you doing?” Jules hisses into the dark.

The time reads one. Mary opens up her order receipt.

“Cancelling the order for the couch.”

Jules shifts, sitting upwards and leaning against the wall, her curly bed hair splayed everywhere. Mary looks over at her, suppresses a grin, and cancels the order.

“But it was so comfortable! It had the bounciest cushions. I think the sales guy got annoyed at me for jumping on all of them, but you handled him like a pro.” Mary sees Jules sit up in the dark, putting her hands on her hips and furrowing her brows. “Is that the best price you can do?” she mimics in Mary’s flat and authoritative tone.

“We saved one fifty.”

“I know! That’s why I love you. Why are you cancelling the order, though?”

Mary puts her phone away after making sure the alarm is set for seven. “You’re probably going to paint this room a fluorescent green. Then the couch won’t match. It’ll look odd.”

Jules groans. “Who cares? It doesn’t have to match! Some things just don’t match!”

Like us, Mary wants to say, but she doesn’t. She knows the rest of the week will be stilted as Jules tries to act “normal”.

She knows there’ll be no spontaneous paint sessions or ridiculous pillow fights or tomato sauce shaped into a smiley face when they eat dinner. It won’t end until Mary starts buying paint and brushes and leaving them around the house and drenching the vegetables in thick tomato sauce smiles.

“About the bedroom,” Mary says, crawling back on the mattress to face Jules. “I was thinking maybe we could turn the blur into a stripe. Have a stripe of blue near the ceiling. It could look nice.”

Jules hums in thought. “You don’t like my blending? Orange and blue make brown. You love browns!”

“It gives me a fucking headache.”

Jules laughs. “Okay, then. A blue stripe. That could work.”

Mary smiles, satisfied, and turns around until they’re back in their original position.

“But I’m still painting the bathroom black,” Jules whispers, kissing her shoulder.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *