"what's this new thing, you watch the news Jean, where children jump from stuff? Like the bridge down near Smithfield? It was in the paper. A child got hurt."
She explained that it was an Americanism applied to teenagers who jumped from heights into lakes, rivers, or the sea.
"Yes, but why is it called tomb-stoning?"
She thought about it, but didn't really have an answer. To be honest, there was something more pressing on her mind. She had bought a pair of shorts in Penneys the day before and they were navy. She had a strange feeling in her belly when she bought them and, since then, the feeling had grown. Navy was unlucky. Why hadn't she listened to her instinct?
"Mother. You know how my shorts are navy? I'm worried it's bad luck."
"Don't be silly Jean. Ah, Jean no, please stop saying those things, you're being foolish again."
"I'm going to take them off. I need to take them off. They're bad."
Her mother tried to quickly switch track, contorting her face as she thought of something new to chat about. Jean watched her, more carefully now, it was a shocking thing to admit, but, it was becoming slowly clear to her that her mum possibly knew something more about colours and luck than she previously thought.
"Why won't you chat to me about navy mam?"
"Oh please don't say those silly things in that voice"
"The voice. You sound like a recording. You didn't have it earlier."
"Mam, these shorts are navy. I need new shorts."
"Jean, they are fine they suit you."
"No. They aren't fine. I'm not sure of them anymore. I thought navy was okay, but now I'm worried. Navy might not be okay. I don't feel good. No. I don't feel good. They're not fine Mam. Can you go home? I'm not sure of my shorts. Navy is bad luck, and you won't chat to me about navy."
The air caught a fragrance, lavender. Barry from the ward across from Jean stood nearby with his brother. They were talking softly and holding a couple of sprigs of lavender snipped from the shrubby flowerbed in the hospital garden. The turned top of a fizzy drink bottle hissed quietly. Somewhere upstairs, a woman began to cry and a softness of conciliatory voices descended on her.
"Mam. I want you to go home. I'm not right today."
At this point Jean was crying. She was doing everything in her power to not take off the shorts even though she knew what terrible luck they were. Her brain burned with thoughts of being nude in the shower, washing away the thoughts of colours, lucky or unlucky. She needed to be nude, free of coloured clothes. It was confusing to her Mam, but it was the truth.
"I'm having a shower Mam. I have to go. Bye. Bye. Is it okay to just say bye? Sorry. Bye."
Her mother's face was already half turned away in a familiar saddening. It made Jean feel more happy than upset because she knew the shower was now close.
"I'll call you later when I sort it out Mam. I told you about the colours earlier. They're just bad luck you know".
"Alright Jean. I'll talk to you on the phone later. Your dad says hello as ever. Kiss?"
Jean leant in and kissed her Mam's cheek, feeling the side of her face soften and respond as it had done all down the years, right back to when she was a child on the first step of the school bus.
"Don't be afraid mam. I know you are afraid, but I'll be in the shower soon. And then I am going to put on a different coloured pair of shorts."