“She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen the stars. That’s what she told me.” I glance at Jack to see if he’s bored. He’s leaning on the railing looking out over the street. He doesn’t say anything but he seems receptive enough. It’s one of the things I like about Jack: he doesn’t ask, he doesn’t push. But he doesn’t cut me off.

“Well, that was something I could fix, y’know? I know a place. It’s far enough outside the city that the lights don’t get in the way too much. And Georgette was itching for a long drive.” Georgette’s my car, a ’67 Mustang. I’ve been working on her for years.

Barbi’s inside, rustling around in the kitchen. She said we boys were just in the way and sent us out to the balcony for a smoke.

“But the day before, we met some friends for drinks up in Boystown.” I pick at the paint on the railing. “I didn’t want to go, but Mikey’d been trying to pin us down for weeks, and Barbi wanted to meet more of my friends. I knew it was a fucking mistake.”

“Ken,” Jack says, nudging my foot. I look up and he hands me a flask.  I take three quick gulps, lean my head back against the wall and knock it none too gently three, four times on the bricks. Jack winces.

“So Jaclyn – I thought she was a friend – Jaclyn walks in and everything goes to hell in a jet-propelled handbasket.

“‘Hey, Renée, so nice to see you out and about. Who’s the new girl?'” I mimic Jaclyn’s saccharine tone. “Barbi didn’t get it at first, just kept looking at me, at Mikey, back to me, at Jaclyn. Like she was waiting for someone to let her in on the joke. I could feel it all crashing in on me like… like being buried alive.”

I twist my lips into something like a smile. “Apparently we made quite the scene. All I remember is the light going out of her bright blue eyes. And then she was gone. She took Georgette.” Stole the keys right off the table. I got Mikey to lend me his bike, but by the time I got to the street she was gone.

I look over at Jack, hesitate.

“Barbi doesn’t know this part. You gotta understand. I had no idea where she’d gone. I just knew she’d left, and I couldn’t — could not — see a way out. The things she said…” I draw a long breath.

“So I didn’t know where Barbi’d gone, but I was riding for the lake, straight for the lake. And I wasn’t gonna stop when I got there.”

He nods, like it makes sense. Like it’s completely rational.

“There I am, speeding down the road, breaking every traffic law they ever invented. And somehow, instead of the lake, I end up at the Mink.” Where we’d met, me and Barbi, last winter.

“Barbi beat me there.” The shattered glass, the tangled metal. Blood on Barbi’s face.

The flask comes out again.

“I thought I was ready to die when she drove off. But when I saw her lying there–” The flask isn’t full enough for this, not at all. I take a moment, pull myself together.

“They wouldn’t let me inside at first, just kept pouring bourbon down my throat. By the time Tambi opened the door I was sure we were done. I just needed to know Barbi was okay.

“She forgave me. Said she loved me, loved me hard. I couldn’t hardly believe it. Still don’t, sometimes. And Georgette…” I pick at the railing again. “Tambi had a guy fix her up. You’d never know she’d gone through a wall. It was like nothing happened.

“But no amount of paint is gonna make that right, y’know? Guy I know’s been after me for years to sell her, and I can’t do it.” Jack gives me a look, and I know what he’s thinking. He’s thinking I can’t sell Georgette because she’s part of Renée. I shake my head.

“Georgette – she’s like me and Barbi. Patched up, good as new. Fixing her – that’s just another coat of paint. I still know how banged up she got. Selling her, well. That’d be like giving up altogether.”

Somewhere in the apartment Barbi’s waiting for Jack to leave, I can tell. There’s something on her mind, and I don’t know what she wants me to say.

22 thoughts on “Paint

  1. Splendid Empress says:

    While I enjoyed reading it, I have to admit I was confused at first – it wasn’t really clear to me whether Renee was Ken or Ken was Renee…..after reading the other story and some comments I finally figured it out….. I LOVED the idea of telling the story by two people from two different viewpoints! Good read!


    • Christine says:

      I appreciate that you told me you were confused. It’s really good feedback. I was so immersed in the story that I couldn’t see the gaps. Of course, if I’d realized Rowan was going to take the other side I would have pointed folks there to begin with! 🙂 Thanks so much for your comment and for reading.


  2. Christina says:

    ok. OK!! 🙂 🙂 i totally get it now! i had NO IDEA this first one and the last one on the grid were together. i read this one first a couple days ago and, not going to like, was VERY confused and lost. then today, i started reading all again before voting and started with the last one on the grid. it makes SO MUCH sense now and I LOVE THEM BOTH… together though. they are way too confusing, for me, to read them completely separate. in a book, as separate chapters, yes, but on a grid where you don’t quite know what you’re reading it didn’t work for me. love the idea though and actually would LOVE MORE from these characters!!


  3. tnkerr says:

    From time to time I pick up an Irish brogue and music in the dialogue. Probably just me but the way some words drop, yet are understood scream Emerald Isle in my mind. Could also be real NJ, but I spent more time in Ireland than Newark so I don’t know.
    The story is great. The flow is good and the dialogue works well (even if they aren’t Irish). Great job.


  4. inNateJames says:

    Jack is an integral presence in this. I want him as my friend too. Ken’s voice is strong. You don’t describe him but I have a clear picture. I am, unfortunately, crap at keeping track of more than three characters in stories. So Barbi’s upset because she’d been sitting at the table with Ken’s ex Renee and didn’t know it? Sorry, I’m sure it’s here. I just need flow charts.


  5. Silverleaf says:

    Wow! I love the way you’ve woven the lyrics into the story. They work so well with the dialogue and the narrator’s inner thoughts. You really nailed the voice, too. Little details like picking at the paint on the railing anchor the reader in the scene and make it all richer and more visual. I loved this!


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