A Purple Purr by Gyzele Ginot

Teacher Duncan was a cat. Of course he was! He had short whiskers under his nose and red fur all over his cheeks and on his throat. Cyan extended his arm because he really wanted to—

“Touch Teacher.”

“Personal space, Cyan.”

Cyan sat on the wooden chair and crossed his hands on his lap, as he was taught to do. He scowled at Teacher, following him with his eyes as the older man roamed through the art class. He was stopping by each student, inspecting their artwork before talking to them. Scarlett wasn’t listening to him though; she was already finished and kept on shaking her hands out of boredom. When Hazel, who was standing by the window near all the bottles of acrylic paint, started humming while rocking on the balls of her feet, Cyan saw Teacher’s ears twitch.

Cyan’s cat at home always purred when he touched his fur. He wondered if Teacher—

“Cat purrs.”

“Yes, Cyan. Cats can purr. Why don’t you draw one?” Teacher was standing in front of him once again, his stretched lips showing some teeth.

Cyan laughed. Silly Teacher! He couldn’t draw a purr. Purrs never came alone; they were always followed by—

“Many many.”

“Sure Cyan. Many cats. Go ahead.”

Cyan turned to his table and picked up a brush. He mixed a bit of red with the blue on his palette. Purrs were purple, purple cuddles that resonated into your bones.

“Ho! You drew the sea! That’s really nice, Cyan.”

Cyan frowned and shook his head. Teacher was really—

“Slow sometimes.”

“Yes Cyan, the waves can be slow or fast, it depends on the weather. Good job!”

Cyan huffed and turned around, crossing his arms on his chest. Teacher wasn’t a smart cat at all. He was a silly donkey with a moustache.

“Hee-haw, hee-haw, hee-haw!”

“Quiet voice!”

Cyan lowered his head on the table, until his nose was pressed against the purrs. He closed his eyes and yawned widely. A muffled sound resonated in his ears as if an earthquake was happening. With his mouth still wide open, he sat back, waiting for the earth to stop shaking.

“Cyan, what are you doing? Close your mouth please!”

If he closed it, he wouldn’t hear the earth anymore and wouldn’t be able to alert everyone if it started moving again.

“Cyan, look at me. Cyan! Open your eyes!”

He opened his eyes, mouth still wide open. Teacher’s nose was huge in front of him, with black spots dancing all over it. He quickly turned around and focused on the floor. No cracks, no holes. They were all—

“Safe!”

“Yes Cyan, you are safe. But you have purple on your nose. Go wash up, please.”

Cyan stomped his right foot and put his head on his two fists. He had already managed to get rid of Monkey, his last volunteer, so there was no reason why Teacher Donkey wouldn’t disappear as well. When Cyan had refused to acknowledge Monkey’s presence, Monkey had called him stupid. The volunteer had then spent the whole lesson using two-words sentences and lots of gestures to explain the Teacher’s instructions. Cyan had heard Scarlett calling Monkey “Funny Puppet”. Cyan had just closed his eyes tight and wished him away.

He really didn’t want to ever—

“See Monkey again.”

“Mickey, Cyan.” Teacher’s eyes rolled as he took a deep breath. “He moved to Australia, do you remember? Now Fiona is your volunteer.”

Cyan smiled.

“Sienna!”

“It’s Fiona, Cyan.” Teacher shook his mane. “I know you love colours, but you just can’t change people’s name.”

Cyan turned his back to Teacher Donkey and shut his ears with his fingers. Sienna would arrive soon and then he would finally kiss her.

“Cyan! So sorry I am late.” Sienna sat down on the wooden chair on the other side of his table. Cyan looked up, beaming.

Sienna smelt like crushed seashells on a summer day. The sun had kissed her head and forgotten some rays of light on top of it. They freely flowed down her shoulder. Her lips were pale but her eyes were pure Cyan.

“You have purple paint on your nose. Did you draw purrs again?”

Cyan nodded, touching his nose. It was dry and a—

“Bit scratchy.”

“Of course it is, cheeky boy. Let’s go wash up.”

They both stood up, walking towards the classroom’s sliding doors. Sienna whispered, “Hello Charlotte”, to Scarlett, who was too busy mixing green in her water cup to care, and they bypassed Hazel who was standing by her table, staring at the ceiling. There were two hundred and thirty-seven tiles up there according to his classmate. But for Cyan, it didn’t matter; they were all white.

The corridor that led to the sinks was more interesting: all the students were represented on its walls. He stopped in front of his portrait and examined the drawing. His hair was two strokes of brown, with—

“Red spots.”

“Your hair isn’t really like that. It’s more the shade of chocolate.”

Sienna loved eating chocolate. It was like curling up with a—

“Soft blanket.”

“You remember!” Sienna’s mouth opened like an O. “It’s my comfort food! When I feel sad, it always cheers me up.”

When Cyan was sad, he always thought about Sienna. It would make his fingers tingle, and warm up his cheeks. His chest would fill up with all the colours in his brain and he had to breathe very slowly not to burst into a rainbow.

“How old were you when Lisel drew your portrait? You aren’t so small anymore. You are even taller than me.”

He was taller than his dad too. His mum had told him that he was becoming a—

“Fine young man!”

“That you are Cyan.” She averted her gaze. “A beautiful man with a very young mind.”

She took a step back and turned, slowly continuing towards the bathrooms.

Cyan followed her. He wondered how old she was. His younger sister had told him that he was too young to kiss someone. He really hoped that Sienna was—

“Older than Cyan.”

“Yes, I am, I am twenty-two. You are twenty, right?”

Cyan beamed: Sienna must be allowed to kiss then. He just had to look nice and then she would do it.

Cyan pressed the palm of his hand to his nose. His upper lip was nearly touching the tip. He stuck his tongue out to reach the stain.

“You can’t lick it off, Cyan.” Sienna rolled her eyes. “Come here and use soap.”

Cyan hurried to the bathroom door. It had rained paint in the sink and each drop had left a vivid mark that couldn’t be removed. He poured some soap in his left palm; it had a lemony scent. Cyan rotated his palm slowly to catch the light. The liquid turned from light orange to soft pink and back again. He wished he could draw with this—

“Magic paint!”

“You should use it to scrub your nose then the colour will disappear.”

Cyan followed her advice. He squinted and fixed his gaze on the mirror. Two piercing emerald eyes were staring at him, so he shifted his gaze to his nose. No more stain! Just lots of transparent bubbles. He tried to blow them away, but they were stuck up there. He took the bottom of his shirt and lifted it up until he could swipe them away.

“Getting half undressed again, Cyan?” Teacher Donkey was standing by the door, letting Scarlett step into the room to wash a cup full of opaque water. Sienna’s face was hidden behind her hair as she stared at the floor.

There were fifty-four tiles in the bathroom according to Hazel. They were all a light shade of orange, but never turned pink under the light.

“I don’t know where he caught this habit, but it’s starting to make me feel self-conscious. No man should have such a toned build without trying.”

“Are you jealous, Duncan?”

Teacher’s shoulders raised and fell. He pushed Scarlett slowly towards the corridor and exited the room.

Sienna was watching Cyan. She licked her lips. They were a soft pink. Cyan wondered if they also tasted—

“Like lemon.”

“Sorry what?” Sienna shook her head as she refocused on his face. “Lower your shirt Cyan. Let’s go back to class.”

Cyan wanted to paint Sienna. But not when she was like that, with dry red in her tone. He preferred her cherry red lips to be stretched on her teeth.

Maybe if he kissed her, she would smile again.

He bent forward, closed his eyes and puckered his lips.

Cyan heard the catch in Sienna’s breath but she didn’t move towards him. He opened one eye. Her lips were parted and she was frowning. He really wished to—

“Kiss Sienna.”

“Have you ever kissed anyone, Cyan?”

Cyan stood up straight. He opened his eyes wide to push away the memory of brown lips coming towards him. His first kiss had been given by—

“Muddy Hazel.”

A high-pitched sound came out of Sienna as she hid her mouth with her right hand. Cyan really didn’t like thinking about these—

“Twelve seconds.”

“That was a very long kiss.”

Cyan nodded. He hoped his kiss with Sienna would be longer.

“Let’s go back to class now.”

Cyan refused to go. His only desire was to—

“Kiss Sienna.”

Sienna tilted her head. “We talked about this last week, Cyan.”

Did they? Cyan frowned. He remembered her saying it would—

“Be wrong.”

“Yes! Exactly! Ok, let’s go now.”

Cyan stomped his right foot and crossed his arms on his chest. He didn’t understand how a kiss could be wrong. Mummy turned into a glowing crystal when he kissed her. His sister’s cheeks would pink up in pleasure. Even Hazel had liked it: she had hummed for the rest of the class. It would make Sienna—

“Very happy.”

Sienna hid her cheeks and her mouth behind her fingers. Her gaze was roaming from him to the sink, then the door and back at him again. She clapped her palms together and folded her hands.

“We cannot kiss. You can’t even say my name.”

Cyan perked up. Of course he could!

“Sienna!”

“Fiona.”

“Sienna!”

“It’s Fiona, Cyan. My name is Fiona.”

Cyan felt all the colours of his brain melting from his body. He flexed his arms, closed his fist and bowed his head.

“SIENNA SIENNA SIENNA SIENNA!”

“Calm down Cyan! Please!”

His chest was full of barky dogs whose growls made him vibrate. He could feel them shredding the layers of colours that hadn’t flown away.

He heard Sienna’s footsteps leaving the bathroom and rushing to the classroom. He put his index fingers in his ears, refusing to hear her voice. All his attention was focused on the raging animals, foaming at their mouths.

“Breathe, Cyan. Three times. Deeply.”

Cyan recognised Teacher Duncan’s voice and followed his advice. He took a deep breath and another. The dogs were still barking but the foam was slowly wiped away. He opened his eyes and glanced at Teacher.

“Good boy! Go to your safe place, now. I’ll be there shortly.”

Cyan rushed out of the bathroom and into the small classroom at the very end of the corridor. Green velvet curtains were protecting the room from the sun, and a grey beanbag was put in the darker corner, not far away from a small wooden table and chair. Cyan dashed towards it and curled on his side.

This was heaven. Animals weren’t allowed in this room. The dogs in his chest had to stay at the door.

Teacher Duncan came slowly into the room and sat at the table.

“Fiona told me what happened.”

There was no Sienna. She was a fawn from that moment on and she wasn’t welcome near him anymore.

“Why don’t you draw your anger? We can tear it up and put the pieces in the safe box once you are finished.”

Cyan hid his face in the beanbag, turning his back to the older man.

“I brought you some paper and pencils. They are on the table. I’ll go and get a glass of water for you. Okay?”

Cyan nodded. He heard Teacher leave the room. He couldn’t draw his anger: it had no shade. It destroyed all colour. His anger was an animal; a fawn that pretended to be Sienna, with wide ears on the top of her head and freckles all over her face. Sienna did have freckles. Not white spots on her fur, but soft honey dots splashed on the top of her cheeks and nose. They enhanced her Cyan eyes.

“NO NO NO!”

Cyan shook his head. She was a fish. A smelly ugly fish! She had bright yellow fins, and deep blue scales with honey dots. And she smelt like crushed seashells and summer time. Like the sun had kissed her head—

“NO NO NO!”

Cyan extricated himself from the bead bag and stood up straight. Sienna was no animal. She would never be. She was just his Sienna. And she needed to understand that.

Cyan left the room and walked towards the drying rack. He picked up an A3-sized drawing and brought it back to the main classroom. Hazel and Scarlett were tidying up their tables while Teacher Duncan was speaking to their parents. Sienna was cleaning the whiteboard a few steps away from his table. She turned, saw him, and stopped moving. Her head tilted slowly on the right and her lips tried to stretch but never showed any teeth.

Cyan took a step towards her and she did the same. They met at his table. He sat by her side and softly placed the drawing on the table. There was blue on one side of the paper and red on the other side. The two colours collided in a firework of bright purple. His fingers slowly wandered on the painting before he whispered softly:

“Cyan kisses Sienna.”

He heard her gasp. Small drops of water gathered in the corner of her eyes, then drew a round line following the curves of her cheeks. Cyan reached out and softly captured a precious drop onto his fingers. He put his finger on his tongue. It tasted like the sea: salty and intense. Like his whole body would be submerged by a purple wave, and he had to stopped breathing to let it pass.

“Is everything ok, Fiona?”

Teacher was standing by their side and had his hand on Sienna’s shoulder.

“I need a minute.”

Cyan barely heard her voice. She stood up and left.

“Cyan, do you know what happened?”

Of course he knew. She finally understood that she was his—

“Sienna again.”

“Sometimes I wish I knew what you were talking about. Wait here, okay?”

When Sienna came back, the classroom was empty. Cyan was sitting on one of the tables, waiting for his parents to arrive. They were late as usual. He was glad she was back. She must have sat in her safe place to regroup and think, to calm down. She took his hands from his lap and cradled them in hers. They were soft and warm. And small. With no scales. Definitely not a fish then. And no hoof either. So not a fawn. She was just his—

“Sienna.”

“Cyan, I have to go, now. I won’t come back. But I want to give you something special. Because sometimes I wish—”

She became quiet. Cyan knew she had to go home: the class was over. But he didn’t understand why there were raindrops falling down her cheeks.

She took a deep breath and stared at him. Her eyes were intense Cyan, the water hadn’t diluted the colour like it would paint. It had intensified it. He wanted to take a brush and mix all the blue bottles together until he could get this exact tint.

“Cyan, close your eyes, sweetheart.”

He kept them open. He could observe her forever.

“Cyan, please—” She squeezed his hands.

Slowly, as slowly as he could, he closed his eyelids and waited.

Cyan felt softness on his mouth, a wet pressure. He parted his lips and felt all the colours of his brain twirled in his chest.

When two tints touched, they mixed into one, until only two tones were left, bright and intense. Ready to merge into a perfect shade of purr.

***

Gyzele Ginot believes that the best adventures aren’t neatly tucked away in storybooks. That’s why she quit her corporate job in Paris and decided to leave France where she was born and raised. She bought a one-way ticket to Singapore and arrived with one backpack, no job and lots of dreams. Eight years later, Singapore continues to inspire her. She now splits her time between writing, working full-time and raising her children.