1.03: Presenting Mr. and Mrs. Chroma

The two crept quietly into the house.  While everyone else would be asleep, Azura wanted to make sure they didn’t disturb anyone either.  She led him into the family room and they sat down on the couch.  Rogelio pulled her close to his side, nuzzling his cheek against hers.

“I never thought to have this,” Azura murmured after a moment.  “It seemed like a fairy tale.”  She swallowed.  She so rarely talked of her early life, of her parents.  It was just too painful for her.  She could talk with Bella about it because Bella had been there for much of it.  But Rog…  She felt she could tell him anything.  So as they sat there, just holding one another, Azura told him about the day the colors faded for her.  She had already explained to him a bit about the research she and the Goths were doing, but this was the first time that she’d been able to tell him what had prompted it all.

He didn’t say anything for a long moment, the hand on her back just gentle rubbing in small circles.  When he did, his gaze was tender on hers.  “We’ll bring the colors back for you, my love.  I’ll do whatever I have to in order to make sure that will happen.”  Then he kissed her as if sealing that promise.

She closed her eyes and just savored the moment.  Azura hadn’t let herself hope in a long time.  Her obsession with the old manuscript, even approaching Bella and Mortimer hadn’t put this feeling in her chest.  A feeling of lightness, of blossoming hope that was fragile, but nevertheless, it was a start.  She let out a sigh, then lay her head on Rogelio’s shoulder and let sleep take her, for the first time in a long time, her dreams held a bit of color.


Azura had been a little afraid adding someone else to the household might disrupt things a bit, but in truth, Rogelio was proving invaluable, and not just to herself.  He was quite handy and after one of the toilets downstairs sprung a leak for the fourth time that month, he was in there fixing it himself instead of having to call a plumber.

Even Alex and Cassie quite liked him.  Azura often found him chatting with Alex in the morning before school.  He’d have Alex rolling quite a bit with some stories from his youth.

“Nu uh!” Alex exclaimed.  “Did you really?”

Rogelio chuckled lightly.  “I’m afraid so.  My uh… teachers weren’t overly pleased with me, of course.”

Alex giggled then he saw Azura.  “’Zura, Uncle Rog let a bunch of frogs out in the halls in school!”

Azura arched a brow at him.  “He did, did he?”  She grinned.  “And why, pray tell, did he do such a thing?”

Rogelio grinned at her, the look in his eyes making Azura’s cheeks flush.

“Why, to impress a young lady, of course,” he told Alex, turning back to him, winking at Azura.  “Watcher only knows that we poor menfolk are powerless to resist when a girl bats her eyelashes at us and talks about the plight of the poor little creatures in the science room.”

Azura almost choked on her coffee as Alex let out a gagging noise.  “Girls are icky!” he exclaimed.  “And weird!”

“Am I weird?” Azura asked him.

He blinked.  “Oh no, Aunt ‘Zura!  I didn’t mean that you were weird!”

“What about your mom and sister?  Are they weird?”

Alex seemed to think about that for a moment.  “Well, Cassie can be a bit weird at times, but no, I guess not.”  Still thinking, the young boy got up to go get ready for school.

Azura turned to her boyfriend.  “Can we not try to corrupt the poor thing?” she asked with a laugh.  “Alex’s a good boy.”

Rogelio inclined his head, grinning unrepentantly.  “That he is.  And he’ll learn all too well.  Not much longer before he’ll be a hormonal mess as well.  It happens to us all.”

Azura giggled.  “I suppose you have a point there.  Don’t mention that to his mother yet, though.  She’s not ready for him to grow up quite yet.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Rogelio promised.  He watched Azura walk out, needing to get ready to leave for work.

After giving Azura a hug and a steamy kiss before she went out the door, Rogelio wondered out to the dining room table.  Bella and Mortimer had emerged and were eating some breakfast.  Rogelio sat down with the book he’d selected and gave them a smile as he sat down.  “Morning, folks,” he greeted them.

“Morning, Rogelio,” Bella greeted with a smile.  She looked over at Mortimer, a little blush coloring her cheeks while Mortimer gave her a look much as Rogelio had given Azura that morning.

As Rogelio and Mortimer began an animated conversation, Bella got up and excused herself so she could go work in the garden.  She felt a little pang.  Mortimer and Rogelio were of an age, both several years older than her and Azura.  Mortimer had swept her off her feet, much as Rogelio had done to Azura.  But seeing the little hint of gray in their hair, hearing how the two talked of things that neither she nor Azura could understand was a constant reminder of the age difference.  Not that it had stopped any of them, obviously.  But Bella couldn’t help think on it every now and again.  She couldn’t help smiling though when she heard the subject of fishing come up.  Knowing they would be at that discussion for a while, she tuned it out and went out the back door to her garden.


Rogelio stretched and got out of bed.  After their discussion, he and Mortimer had gone fishing together.  Two old guys at the river bank.  It had felt good, though he was feeling his age a bit and they’d both headed to their rooms for a quick nap.  He looked over at the bedside clock and his eyes widened.  Azura was going to be home any moment now!  He ran to his dresser and reached into the back and pulled out the little jewelers’ box.  He had thought about taking her for another date and doing this properly.  But he thought doing it here, at the house would be more intimate.  The Goths were her family and doing it here would have more meaning, he thought.

He heard the door open and slid the box into his pocket then strode out of their room.  He found the love of his life in the kitchen.  It was true what they say: the kitchen is really the heart of the home.  It certainly was in their house.  She looked lost in thought, but when she heard the footsteps and saw him, her face lit up and then she was in his arms, greeting him with a kiss.

“Hi,” she said breathlessly after he held her at arm’s length.

“Hi yourself,” he murmured.  He seemed to be drinking her in with his eyes, his gaze sweeping over her from head to toe.  He was nervous.  He didn’t think he would be.  It felt so right.  He’d never been one to really do things on impulse.  He’d been planning this for a while now, since before she’d asked him to move in.  But now that it was time, he found himself nervous.  But looking at her, feeling that punch in the gut that always seemed to accompany that first glimpse of her each time, he could only smile.  He reached into his pocket even as he knelt down on one knee in front of her.

Azura could only stare at him, not quite computing what she was seeing or hearing.  “Azura Lynn Chroma,” Rogelio began, “I knew from the moment I set eyes on you that you were the one.  It was like a punch straight to my heart.  I never really believed in fairy tales, until I set eyes on you.  You have become my very own fairy tale, my Princess.  Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?  Of sharing the rest of our lives together, however long that may be?”

Nothing came out.  Azura just stood there, unable to speak past the lump that had lodged itself in her throat.  Tears pricked her eyes, making Rogelio’s upturned face blurry.  Her hand had gone to her chest to make sure she still had a heartbeat.  She was fairly certain that her heart had stopped for a moment there.

After what seemed like an eternity for her, but was in reality only a few moments, Azura choked out, “Yes.  Yes, I’ll marry you.”  He slid the ring on her finger, his own eyes shimmering with just a hint of tears as well.

He stood up and they kissed tenderly, Azura letting out a little sob of noise as she tried not to cry in sheer happiness.

With a sudden wild whoop of delight, Azura leapt into Rogelio’s arms!  He looked startled, but he managed to catch her at least.  Older he may have been, but he was still in very good shape.

Cassie, who had been creeping at the edge of the kitchen, not wanting to interrupt the beautiful moment, ran in, cheering for them.  Rogelio grinned, unable to tear his gaze away from Azura’s.  She was going to be his wife.  It still seemed a little unreal to him.  To both of them, he thought, judging by the look in her eyes as well.

He set her down and once again, they were wrapped up in one another’s arms.  Cassie let out a sappy sigh at the table.  “That’s so sweet,” she murmured.


“Maybe we should just elope,” Azura sighed one night a few weeks later.  Between work and the wedding planning, she was a bit overwrought.

“Nonsense,” Bella said briskly.  “You’re almost there.  I wish you would relax a bit more and let us handle things,” she said.  “I promise, it will be beautiful.”

“Oh, I know that,” Azura assured her.  “I do.  I just… I would feel awful leaving it all to you.”

“Azura,” Bella said, putting her hand over her friend’s.  “It’s ok, really.  You’ve been working non-stop lately.  You’re stressed out.  Your wedding is your day.  I want it to be special for you.  So, let me take care of things for a while, alright?”

“Mom’s right, Aunt ‘Zura,” Alex piped up.  He was doing his homework.  “Mom’s good at this kinda stuff, aren’t ya, Mom?”

Bella grinned at her son.  “Yes, yes I am.”

Azura stared between them bemusedly for a moment, then she threw up her hands, laughing.  “Alright, alright.  I’ll leave it in your capable hands, Bella.”

“Excellent!” Bella exclaimed.  “I promise, you won’t regret it.”


The next month or so passed in a whirlwind.  True to her word, Bella took over the wedding plans.  Azura hardly had to lift a finger unless it was just to make a choice between two colors, or two kinds of stem-ware.  It was suspiciously easy.  And before she knew it, the day of her wedding was upon them.

As Bella had promised, things were perfect.  She’d had a wedding arch set up in their backyard, even ordering a beautiful fountain and arrangement of flowers.  It was beautiful.  Azura stood under the arch with Rogelio, their guests looking on.  Azura really left like a Princess, decked out in her light blue gown.  Rogelio looked dashing in a white fedora.

“You’re beautiful,” he whispered.  “You take my breath away, Azura.”

“Oh Rog,” she murmured.  Tears threatened to spill over.  “I-I’m so happy.  Y-you make me so happy.”

As everyone found their seats, Azura and her husband-to-be could only look at one another and both count their lucky stars.

When everyone was seated, the music started.  Swallowing, Azura took Rogelio’s hand in hers and then slid the ring onto his finger.  “With this ring, I thee wed,” she murmured, never taking her eyes off of him.  “I promise to love you, to cherish you, to be your friend and confidante for as long as we both shall live.  I will be there to lift you up and to support you all of our days together.”

Rogelio held her hand and slid the ring onto her finger.  His voice was a bit gruff as he recited his vows.  “With this ring, I thee wed.  I promise to love you, to cherish you, to be your rock and your support.  I swear to you that I will help you paint your world with color once more.  I will be there to lift you up and to support you all of our days together.”

And with a kiss to act as a final seal on their promises to one another, they became Mr. and Mrs. Chroma (Rogelio was only too happy to take Azura’s name as his own).

After the ceremony was the reception.  They started with the cake-cutting.  And then of course there was the feeding each other cake.  Azura’s eyes twinkled.  “Be nice,” she warned her new husband.

“You too,” he said, giving her a wink.  She laughed and the two gently fed each other, both being on their best behavior, if for no other reason than they knew the other would get even.

They made the rounds afterward, sitting and chatting with as many of their guests as possible.  Nancy, Geoff, and their son had come as well as a few people that Azura had met through work.

Shortly after that, Rog and ‘Zura made their escape with the help of Bella who took care of shooing any of the guests out of there.  She told Azura that she and the kids would take care of clean-up.  “It’s your wedding night.  Enjoy it!” Bella said with a wink.

Azura laughed.  “Oh we will!”  Taking her husband’s hand, she led him upstairs.  Once in their room, the two just stood there for a moment, looking at each other.  Then Azura leaned forward.  “Well Mr. Chroma?” she asked.

“Thought you’d never ask, Mrs. Chroma,” Rogelio answered, grinning devilishly.

They changed out of their wedding attire and hopped into bed, giggling like children.

Later on, as Azura lay in her new husband’s arms, she felt his mouth curl into a grin as he whispered in her ear.  “Good night, Mrs. Chroma.”

She grinned back.  “Good night, Mr. Chroma.  Sweet dreams.”

“I’ll be dreaming of you, so of course they will be.”  Flushing, her heart going pitter-pat in her chest, Azura closed her eyes, happier than she could remember being in a long time.  Her dreams held a beautiful sunrise, bringing with it a light wash of color.


1.00: Prologue: The Day the Color Began to Fade

There once was a young girl.  Her dearest desire in the whole world was to become an artist.  She loved color.  In fact, her last name- Chroma- meant color.  This little girl’s name was Azura.  Perhaps her parents had an inkling what their daughter would be; her name meant ‘sky-blue’.  And true to her name, she loved blue.  But she loved reds, and yellows, and greens.  Grays, oranges, and purples too.

She’d sit at the little desk her parents had gotten for her, her colors seemingly coming to life in front of her.

What are you making, baby girl?” her mother would ask.

“Not sure, Mama.  Won’t know until it’s finished,” she’d always answer, grinning.


 

The young woman looked at the computer screen at what she’d written and she sighed, a single tear escaping down her cheek.  Writing this all down was going to be a lot harder than she ever supposed.  It was important that she document this journey, but it was taking her back to that time.  She’d stopped typing and she sat there, her chin in her hands as she let the memories come…


 

Azura’s mother Kaelyn had met her father Jayden in University.  According to Kaelyn, it had been love at first sight.  They hadn’t even waited to graduate before the two were married.  Jayden got a job in Oasis Springs working for a large corporation.  Kaelyn had opted to stay home.  The thought of keeping a house appealed to her especially since she loved to garden.

Azura had loved to watch her mother while she cultivated her plants, singing softly under her breath, often singing directly to her little beauties.  She had told Azura that plants could see and feel; they grew better if they knew the one taking care of them cared.

To Azura, her mother was the most beautiful woman in the world.  The two shared a special relationship.  Kaelyn would work with her daughter on her homework every day after school.

Then they’d have mother-daughter time.  Sometimes, they’d go swimming or just sit on the side of the pool, dragging their ankles through the water while Kaelyn listened to Azura describe the world around her in vivid colors.

Other days, the two could be found playing make-believe with the giant dollhouse her father had bought for Azura when she was only just born.

Then it would be time for her dad to get home.  Azura had loved watching her mother meet him at the door.  She thought their relationship was beautiful to behold.  They seemed to always have a soft orange-red glow around them.  She came to associate that with love, a warm love.  Though there was a deep red in there as well.  She didn’t quite understand what that meant then.

While her mother prepared dinner, it was father-daughter time.  They’d sit on the couch, watch a little TV while Azura told Jayden about her day.  She loved cuddling close with him.  She associated a calming blue-green with her father.  When he held her, she imagined herself in a protective cocoon.

Their family was a happy one.  Full of love, full of promise.


 

It all changed in an instant.  It started as a beautiful weekend day.  Kaelyn had taken Azura to the park in town so she could scamper around on the play-ground.  There might even have been a dreaded space-monster roaming around.

They returned home to a nightmare.  There had been an accident.  Jayden had taken a swim as was his habit.  But he must have slipped and fallen back into the water.  By the time a neighbor was able to call anyone, it was too late.  Jayden was gone.  Azura and Kaelyn were devastated.

They had each other, but there was something missing in both their lives.

Azura spent many days after school, crying silently.

Kaelyn tried to remain strong.  She took a job outside the home.  She tried to keep things as normal as she could for Azura, but the little girl could hear her mother sobbing through the bedroom door as she worked on her homework.

One night, a few trying months after Jayden had been taken from them.  Kaelyn had to take one of her hard earned sick days; she had finally gotten back to taking care of her garden and  Azura joined her.

“Sweetie?  I-I know things have been tough.  Very tough.  L-losing your dad has been hard- on both of us.  I-I have something to tell you.”

Azura looked up at her mother.  She hadn’t smiled very much since she’d lost her father.  “W-what is it, Mama?”

“Y-you’re going to be a big sister.  I’m pregnant sweetie.  I-it was the last gift your daddy gave me.”

“A-a baby?  You have a baby in your tummy?”

Kaelyn nodded solemnly.  Azura stepped close.  “C-can I touch it?  T-talk to them?”  She was old enough- she was 12, would be turning 13 soon enough- to understand where babies come from, though this is the first time she would have been exposed to it.

Her mother gave the little girl a watery grin.  “Of course, baby girl.”

She approached slowly and gently put her hands on her mother’s already swelling belly.  “Hello,” she murmured.  “I-I’m your big sister.  I’m Azura.”

Things seemed to be looking up for them.  A friend that Kaelyn had grown up with came to live with them to help Kaelyn while she was pregnant.  Chelsea Britton was an effervescent soul and she infused some much needed cheer into a house that had lost a vital piece.

Azura liked Chelsea quite a bit.  She was a myriad of colors from a deep, vibrant red to a bright fluorescent pink.  She always had some fun stories that she’d share with Azura over dinner while Kaelyn was at work.

She was quite far along and Chelsea had been trying to get her to take her leave from work.  But the bills had been slowly piling up.  It was stressful on her body.  That and grief were taking its toll.  Only another week.  Then she could take her time off.

But she never got there.  She had been outside, thinking of doing some gardening.  As she’d stood up from the bench, a terrible pain in her abdomen made her cry out.

She staggered, disoriented and in pain.  Azura hadn’t come home from school yet and Chelsea had gone out for a bit.  She was alone.  She took a couple lurching steps before she pitched forward.

Chelsea came home from her errands and Kaelyn was rushed to the hospital.  But… nothing could be done.  Azura’s world was fractured into a million pieces.  Her mother- and a sister that she would meet- were laid to rest next to her father.


 

Azura, already beginning to bloom into a young woman, stood at their gravesides one last time.  “Mama, Papa,” she whispered tremulously.  “I-I’m leaving.  I-I’ll be back, though, someday.”

“I-I’m going to live with Chelsea, Mama.  L-like you would want.”  Her lower lip quivered as she looked at their graves.  “I-I don’t see the colors anymore.  I-I have to find them again.  U-until I do…”  She had to swallow, unable to speak past the lump in her throat.

“I love you Mama and Papa.”  Azura turned and walked away.


 

The years passed and Azura grew into a beautiful woman.  She missed her parents.  And she never found her colors.  What she did find, was an old manuscript in a run-down house in Bridgeport.  It was a curious document, but it pulled at Azura.  The writer in her- the one art that she could still find semblance of peace with, even if it wasn’t the same as the painting she had found so freeing as a child- was fascinated with the complex prose and what she thought of as a secret code in the writing.

It became an obsession.  After many, many hours of pouring over the document, Azura thought she had stumbled upon the secret.  The secret to returning her colors to her… and maybe a way that she could see her parents again.  And so, with what little money she had in the small trust that had been set up when she was born, Azura left the big city.  If the manuscript was right, she couldn’t do this on her own.  She needed help.  So she returned to Oasis Springs.  But it had changed quite a bit since she was a young girl.  She went to a family friend.

Nancy and Geoffrey Landgraab had been friendly with her mother and father, her father especially.  They remembered the bright little girl.  So it was that Azura was greeted by Nancy.

“It’s so good to see you!  You’ve grown into such a beautiful girl!”  They insisted that she stay with them, seeing as how she had yet to find a place of her own, intending to stay in a hotel until she found something.  She slept on their couch for the first few nights.

Almost a week after returning to Oasis Springs, she brought up her proposition to Nancy.  The older woman listened to her with an ear for business.

But in the end, Nancy and Geoffrey couldn’t be persuaded to become investors in Azura’s project.  “Not because we don’t believe in you, dear, but because we have our own life, here.  Our son is in a delicate spot right now.  But… not all hope is lost.  I seem to remember you being very close to the Bachelor girl right?”

“Bella?  Yes, we were when we were kids.”

“She married Mortimer Goth.  They live in Willow Creek now.  She has two children, I believe.  Why don’t you ask her?  I hear that they often take on interesting business investments.  I think this would be something that is right up their alley.”

And so it was that Azura found herself outside of a large gothic manor.  She couldn’t help but smile.  Bella had always loved that style of architecture.  It had always been a little gloomy for Azura’s tastes.  But it somehow suited her childhood friend.  Bella greeted her and led her into what must have been a formal palor.  There, the two old friends chatted for hours, each catching up with their lives.

“I was sorry to hear about your parents,” Bella said softly.  “W-we never really got to say good bye to each other all those years ago.”

“Thank you,” Azura murmured.  “And no… we didn’t, did we?”

“No, I’m afraid we didn’t.”  Bella reached over and took her hand.  “What is it, ‘Zura?  There’s something on your mind.”

Instead of the calm business pitch that Azura had prepared, she began to cry softly.  Amidst the tears, she told Bella why she had come.  It took quite a while to get it all out, but when her tears had dried up and she had given it all she had, Bella was silent for a long moment.  Swallowing, knowing that it was no use, Azura stood up.

Before she knew what was going on, Bella had stood as well and grabbed her in a warm embrace.  “We’ll do it,” she murmured.  “We’ll do it.”

It wasn’t quite as simple as all that.  Bella did discuss it with her husband and two kids and introduced them to Azura.  The family agreed, in the long run.  It was decided that if this venture was going to work, they were going to need a fairly large property.  So with money given to her by the Goths, Azura find what she thought of as a suitable property.

Bella looked around.  “This is it, hm?”

Azura nodded.  “Yes, this is it.”  She gave her old friend a small grin.  “I know it isn’t much now.  But it will be.”

Bella looked around once more.  “It’ll be the start,” she murmured.

“A start to bring the colors back,” she whispered softly to herself.  Her world was many shades of grey right now… but maybe, just maybe, with the help of her friend Bella and her family, she could bring the colors back, not just to her world, but to everyone…  She just hoped she was strong enough to do it.