Another moving—and also painful—tale from Skin Deep Magic: Short Fiction, “Mauve” splits our point of view between two characters. On one hand, Gidney gives us a boy who has just moved to an old house far away from his friends and the life he knew because his mother has died and his father is not handling it well at all (and takes a job so far away to start over). The other character is a Black housekeeper, the titular “Mauve,” set to take over the role for an odd man for whom her mother worked before her.
The narrative begins with the boy finding an old, hand-sewn blanket and finding it oddly cool and soothing despite the heat, and learning he can—if he allows himself a certain shift in place—slide into the landscape of the blanket itself: with fields of purple flowers and beautiful starry skies. And, eventually, a glimpse of someone else there, too. Learning from a neighbour about the housekeeper who once lived here with her employer (and vanished) makes where the story is heading not a surprise, but the reasons and how the two eventually come face-to-face through the magic woven into the blanket is a painful, harsh moment then buoyed up with a single hopeful statement.
I love stories where time folds in on itself, or there’s a place to escape worldly evils, and the idea of the blanket is just so wonderfully handled in “Mauve.” That the two characters involved are both trying to escape pain, are both isolated and alone, and how that plays out between them is the perfect embellishment on the pattern of it all. It’s a gorgeous story.