I hadn’t thought about cutting since I was in high school. Then again I hadn’t seen him since then either. I sat huddled in the corner staring at the blank canvas sitting on my easel. I wanted to paint it red; red was the color of passion, the color of life. Better I end it this way; go out with one last great masterpiece, an ocean of scarlet, a lover’s lament painted in blood. I could do it. Maybe then he’d understand what he meant to me. I couldn’t believe I was actually thinking this. I still had things to do. I was supposed to go visit Eric, I was supposed to dance at Dinah’s wedding. This wasn’t like me.
I was happy at my job. I loved working for Carla. She had long ago accepted the fact that I was never going to be on time, that my jeans would always have holes in them and my paintings would always be the best.
“Alice honey, I can’t believe that you’re late today! This is your day and you still can’t drag yourself in here on time. Get you sorry backside in gear”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was a late night Carla cut me some slack.”
“That’s all I do is cut you slack, now move it or I tell the guys at the gallery that you’re to tired to show.”
“Christ, My opening’s tonight!”
“Yeeeeaaaaahhh. Sometimes I wonder about you child.” I dashed up the stairs to my studio. It was a mess but it over looked the city, the old part of Annapolis. I loved it. I couldn’t believe that today was the thirteenth. This was ridiculous.
“Carla, I can’t believe you let me forget! Why didn’tcha remind me?”
“Girl I reminded you every day this week. I dunno how you make it through the day.” She started to mutter that last part to her self; afraid that she was going to hurt my feelings. She really ought to know better my now. I couldn’t carry a number across a room if it had handles and was duct taped to my hands. I had ADD something awful. Well that’s what we all called it. I couldn’t carry a thought either. Art was the only thing I could focus on. Ouch! I stubbed my toe on my easel. It was holding the only blank thing in my entire workshop. A canvas that I had been commissioned to painted by this saccharine sweet couple. They wanted it by Tuesday and I hadn’t even started it yet and didn’t plan too. Not till the night before. It was only Saturday.
“Start packing, Alice, I know your not, so don’t lie to me and say that you are.”
“Yes, mother” Carla just scowled at me. I turned to start stuffing prints into big nylon portfolios and there was Dinah, way ahead of me.
“Ya know it’s a wonder you can find anything in here. It’s worse than mine.”
“I learned from the best.”
Within the hour all of my best pieces were wrapped, packed and sitting in the back of the glossy black company van.
“What would you do with out me chicka?”
“I’d still be packing. Here I’ll buy you a coffee. Let’s hit that new shop across the street.” We sauntered out into the sunlight. Both of us in step, both of us sliding down the rail rather than taking the stairs. It didn’t matter that we were both twenty-four, we’d swore as juniors in high school that’s we’d never grow up. Dinah was my twin. Well not in the sense that we looked anything alike or that we were even related for that matter. I was tall, smaller than average build, with hair that was constantly a mess, and dark blue eyes. She was short, slim, with startling green eyes and hair that was always chic. We simply shared a mind.
The new coffee shop was called Calypso and it was super trendy. We both strolled in; I leaned on the counter while she perused the earthenware mugs.
“Can I help you ladies with anything? ...Alice? …Dinah?” The kid behind the counter did a double take and I nearly lost my grip on the counter.
“…Eric? ERIC!!” Dinah and I raced behind the counter and more or less tackled him.
“Can you tell we missed you?”
“Wow have you two been in town long?”
“Honey, we live here. I’d ask you the same thing.”
“Well the band got a regular gig here so we all found day jobs.”
“That’s wonderful. Now… do you think we could get some drinks?”
“Something’s never change, Alice and her caffeine fix, you still just drink hot chocolate Dinah?”
“Yeah, thanks love. Hey are you still playing with Blood River?”
“Yup, we’ve got a new keyboardist though; Mike’s got some mad skills.”
“Nice. I never did like Joey much, so where are you guys playing?”
“Well, Mike had some connections and made some calls and now we’re regulars at The Pulse.”
“Haven’t heard of it.”
“Sure you have Dinah; I used to go there all the time. It’s the creepy one you hate,” I looked at my phone and realized that we were running late. “Girl we’ve gotta step it up a notch or we’re gonna be late.”
We got our drinks to go and promised to see come visit when we had more time. I hated to dine and dash but the art work wasn’t going to hang it self. On our way back we grabbed a couple bottles of vodka to celebrate with later. We stashed them under my desk before we left for the gallery.
It as almost seven and I paced awkwardly in the strappy black heels that Dinah had insisted I wear. Something about how flip flops didn’t go with my dress. My hair was pinned up and my makeup actually went with what I was wearing. I went around adjusting my pieces till finally my OCD calmed down. It was such a relief when the guests finally started to arrive, gave me something to focus on. I loved this part. The mingling especially before people realized that you’re the artist. It was so much fun catching people off guard and getting their honest opinion.
“Great turn out” Carla whispered in my ear.
“It’s all thanks to you. Hey, I think that’s Mark over there, remember him from your last opening. Oooh I think he’s watching you. Smile.” She tightened her hold on her cocktail and her cheeks rapidly started to match her deep crimson dress. On that note I moved away from her and back towards my favorite painting. It was called by far the largest piece I had ever done. There was something incomplete about it. I desperately wanted to know what everyone thought about it. I’d been experimenting with a different strain of weed at the time and I wanted to know if it was worth the extra money to keep using it.
“Have you checked out the musician yet?” I snapped out of my traces and tried to figure out who was talking to me.
“What? Oh Dinah, what about him?”
“Just go…he’s adorable.” She melted back into the crowed and I was left to find my way to the piano man.
I knew who it was before I saw him. He was playing our song. A sweet sad melody, nobody played it quite like him. She should have warned me. I stood staring at him; I didn’t know what to think. It was him, my high school sweetheart. The only thing I could manage to do was make a mental note to kill Dinah the next time I saw her. I felt like I was a klutzy freshman all over again. I hated that feeling. I hadn’t seen him since our high school graduation. He didn’t look much different. I couldn’t believe Dinah didn’t recognize him. His dark hair pulled back into a low ponytail, his soulful brown eyes that were nearly black. The way he silently sang along with every song he played. I pulled myself together, picked up two fresh drinks and then our eyes met.
“Alice…” he mouthed the words as though we were worlds away even though it was only a few feet. I slowly nodded and he closed the gap in between us. Taking the extra drink from my hand and he smiled like nothing had changed. The rest of the world melted away and the Opening closed.
He took my hand and we went for drinks at a classy bar that I still can’t remember the name of.
“It’s nice to see you followed your dream.”
“Oh…the art thing yea. It pays the bills. You don’t seem to be doing so bad yourself.”
“Yeah. I’m not exactly a rock star, but ya know.”
“Did you play “Konstantine” before or after you realized that I was there?”
“I play that at all my solo shows.”
We left, walked out into the night. He led me back through the streets back to my flat. The city had never looked so beautiful. All the lights looked like colored stars and then he kissed me like we had never stopped loving each other. Like no time had passed between us.
I woke up alone the next morning. Convinced that it was just a dream, I was startled to find a single white rose and a note pinned to the pillow next to me.
To my Alice, my “Konstantine”,
You always were my white rose in the darkness.
On the back of the note were the most beautiful seven numbers I had ever known. I remember how high I felt. That moment, I knew it was destiny he was going to be my “happily ever after.” He had come back to save me from myself, save me from a life of heart ache, from becoming bitter. Dinah walked in my room a few minutes later carrying two mugs.
“Hey hun, have fun last night?” She handed me a drink and I just kind of gave her that sleepy smug look. “Yeah that’s what I thought. So is this guy legit, I mean do you get to be his real girl?”
“How did I get back here?”
“I let him follow me home, I didn’t want to have to hunt you down if things went bad. So… did he leave a number or do you have to play second fiddle to his rich bitch girlfriend. ”
“Ugh, do you kiss your mom with that mouth?”
“No, but I kiss yours.” She burped, and sat down her mug.
“What am I gonna do with you? Mouth like a sailor, manners of a small pig.” I smacked her with my pillow and we dissolved into laughter.
“Don’t you know who he was?”
“No, why? He somebody I should?”
“That was Michael”
“Not the Michael.”
“Be careful. You know how some guys don’t change.” She had a point about that. I mean I couldn’t be sure. But I was sure. This was Michael. My Michael. He’d never do that to me. I did have a bad record for winding up being ‘the other woman’, actually that’s happened to me with every guy since Michael. But this was different. I could feel it. Besides I’d never really loved any of them, hadn’t loved anyone but him.
I called the number from the card later that day. I had never followed the ‘rules’ of dating forget that wait three days before you call crap. A male picked up on the third ring.
“Hey, it’s Alice.”
“Alice who? Oh wait… I’ll get Mike for ya.” There was a pause
“Hey Alice…what’s up?”
“Nothing much. How about you?
“Getting ready for a show tonight. It’s at The Pulse you should stop by.”
“ See ya then.” He hung up the phone. It was so like him. Just dominate the conversation, like he was the one who called.
I put on my favorite white camisole and matching jeans and shouted.
“Dinah! We’re going clubbing tonight.”
The Pulse was about a block from my flat. It was the hot spot for people who liked the darker side of life. I had only been there a handful of times during my ‘dark phase’ but the place never changed. Between the pulsing red strobe light that reflected off the shattered mirrors lining the walls and the bass, you felt like you were inside someone’s heart. Dinah hated going there but she hated the idea of my going by myself even more. The first thing I saw was the band in the corner tuning up. There was Michael playing little riffs on his keyboard.
The stage was set at a sharp angle and rose evilly out of the fog. They always had the fog machine going. When you walked little misty fingers swirled around you. It was all for effect. This whole place was all for effect. I sat down at one of the tables; Dinah always said that they looked more like demonic mushrooms. She returned from the bar, I was so proud of her for going up by her self, with two mixed drinks and sat down beside me sullenly.
“You don’t have to stay,” I shouted over the music.
“Yeah I do.” She found that if you didn’t have to shout if you got right in the other person’s ear. The place was packed. Everyone was dressed in black, or red. This was a Goth club and Dinah liked bright colors and sunshine.
The band started up and the whole crowd came alive. We were pushed back by the impromptu mosh pit and the screaming fans. The first set ended and I tried to make my way to where the guys were chilling by the bar. I saw him before he saw me. I saw him with that little gothic whore on his lap, and in that moment there was a hush in the music…
“…so suprised you came princess, I couldn’t live without you…” and the music swelled again. I couldn’t breathe. I just backed away. That was true love in his voice. He never spoke to me with that kind of painful sincerity. Never. He hadn’t changed. He was just got older. I knew in that instant. That he loved her more from those nine words than all the millions he spoke to me in the years we were together. I couldn’t take it.
I made my way back to the studio, it was closer. I sat huddled in a corner rocking side to side. I wanted it to go away. Every time I thought of him I took another swallow from the bottle. I don’t remember how long I sat there rocking and drinking. I wanted this to have just been a bad dream. I wanted a way out. The light drizzle had escalated into a thunderstorm. The wind howled and drowned out my screaming. Lightning flashed outside my window, I looked up and saw something glint on my desk. I saw the stark white canvas on my easel. I could paint it red. I could paint me red. It would be perfect; a swansong for an artist who was drawing a blank. He could play it at all his solo gigs. I’d been crashing a lot lately. Maybe this time I just wouldn’t get up. This was worse than any bad trip. I knew I’d never wake up from this one. That didn’t sound so bad; never waking up. I crawled to my feet and staggered to my desk. I could feel the alcohol making the ground move in unnatural ways. I had to stop the pain. I want them to see how bad I hurt. I need to show them what I look like on the inside. I want to make my outsides match my insides. It was my matte knife. I wanted to kill the pain so bad. I wanted to paint everything red. Make Michael understand, make all of them understand what a broken heart looked like. What a broken soul looked like…
The last thing I remember before I passed out was Dinah’s scream.