Marnie put on her old shorts – the ones with the torn pocket and faded colour on the fronts of the legs. She searched through her shirts and rejected the red one and the one her Mum had painted for her and the one with the flowers. And she found the sad old T-shirt that had been in the collection from the charity shop.
She shouldn’t wear her birthday sneakers. Or the sandals with the shiny bits. So she reached into the back of the cupboard and found the old gym shoes that she’d had to get for netball.
Nothing felt right. But nice clothes would have felt the most wrong.
In the kitchen, Marnie’s grandma was doing her morning bustling.
Marnie walked in and stood for a moment, blinking at the sun streaming through the windows.
Marnie’s grandma looked at her. “What’s that all about?” she asked. “Why have you put on your old shorts and your least favourite shirt and your shoes from the back of the cupboard?”
Marnie looked at her grandma and she didn’t smile. “It’s a grey day,” she said.
“Oh,” her grandma said, nodding.
Marnie was glad that her grandma didn’t say “Cheer up!” or “Give us a smile!” or the things that other people did.
“Can I give you a hug?” her grandma asked, in an only-if-you-want-to, low key kind of voice.
“Maybe in a minute,” Marnie said.
She took a deep breath in and out. “Yes,” she said. “A hug would be good.”
Her Grandma knew just how to do it. Firm and constant and like a force field – just for those moments … protection from the peck-peck-pecking of the world. Not too long. Not gushy or ‘Poor Baaaaby’ish.
Not a cuddle. A hug.
Marnie tried to eat her toast but it was grey. And her mouth was grey. And her stomach was grey too.
“Is everything grey?” her grandma asked.
“Yes,” said Marnie. “Everything.”
“I wonder,” wondered her grandma, “what it would be like if we showed the grey day what it should be like instead?”
“What do you mean?” Marnie asked suspiciously. There couldn’t be a “Cheer Up!” coming? Grandma wouldn’t do that, would she? Not a song about sunshine and rainbows or a spontaneous trip to the zoo?
“Well …” Marnie’s grandma seemed to thinking as she went. Not jollying Marnie with perky prods and grins. “… if the day is grey, it’s grey – sometimes there’s nothing we can do to change that. But if you put on grey clothes, maybe you’re agreeing with it that it should be grey.”
“But I feel grey, Grandma, nice clothes feel wrong.”
“I know,” her grandma said, knowing. “But you don’t like it grey, do you? You don’t want it to be that way.”
“No,” said Marnie. “I hate hate hate it,” suddenly angry at the unfairness of it all.
Her grandma nodded, knowing again. “Well, you might feel that nice clothes are wasted on a grey day but maybe … I’m not sure but … perhaps it could be the opposite. Maybe nice clothes are FOR a grey day. To show the greyness that there’s something nice somewhere in the world.” She shrugged. “I think you deserve your nice clothes most on a grey day. Like a hug. Like a shield. Like a raincoat keeps the rain off. … I know … “ she said, watching Marnie’s face drop, “we can’t keep the grey off. I know that. But maybe your favourite clothes can at least show the day the way that it should be. And …” – she was more cautious now – “… perhaps help to remind you that there are things in the world beyond the greyness.”
“I don’t know …,” Marnie said.
“It’s up to you,” her Grandma shrugged, pouring herself another cup of tea. “But you’re my treasure no matter what the day is like. And I think you deserve nice things – even on the nastiest of days.” She said that last part as if it was a fact. Clear and simple. And then she turned and put away the breakfast things while she drank her tea.
Marnie wandered down the hallway towards her bedroom.
She opened the cupboard and felt the softness of her shirt with the red poppies. She loved that shirt. She put her hand on the swingy shorts and glanced down at her birthday sneakers sitting in the gloom.
And she tried.
She could always change back again.
Her grandma said nothing when Marnie walked back into the kitchen in her favourite shirt, new shorts and bright green sneakers. She just kept wiping counters and making lists and sorting things that needed sorting.
Marnie nibbled her toast.
And then washed her plate, hugged her Grandma and set off into the grey day. Feeling just a little like a warrior going into battle. And Marnie wondered for a second if she might just be one of the good guys.