Mandy's Gold
for Connor

"Hot cherry and cool mint?" The spiky-haired decorator's polished nails flipped over a page of paint samples. "Scarlet and blue-violet? Hot cherry and ice blue -- I love that combination."

Mandy leaned forward eagerly. "What about midnight blue and rain?"

The decorator clapped her hands and drew in a long breath. "I love your style!"

Mandy's hands shook a little. He had always dreamed of being on an interior design show and soaking a house with color, turning it from fieldmouse to coachman in two short days. The show's host leaned in conspiratorially. "I've always wanted to do something in Tuscan blue and gold," she whispered. "Like a burnished... like an antiqued, weathered kind of gold to balance out the refinement of that delicate blue."

"Oh, that sounds pretty," Mandy sighed. "What does Tuscan blue look like?"

"Why are you talking to yourself?" His mother set a glass of milk down on the kitchen table, spattering a few drops across his watercolor. "Don't do that. It makes you look crazy."

Her small son looked away, putting the paintbrush down as far from himself as he could and grabbing the milk. Her eyes followed the delicate motion of his wrist, and she frowned. "I don't know why you have to use those watercolors, anyway. Your father got you a perfectly nice, bright set of markers for your birthday."

He leaned forward a little, over the dappled shadings of lavender and blue. "They're not all gone yet." He wet his paintbrush again, rubbed it carefully around the last tracings of yellow paint.

"That tawny gold tone you've made is beautiful with berry," he heard the decorator murmur. "We'll take that gold and put it to work for us, maybe with a little bit of a rosy hue. We'll call it Mandy's gold."