Are you reading this in a quiet place? I hope so. I'd hate to become jealous of you. My room is quiet. I live alone, save for a few visitors every day. So if it is that you are in a bustling place, filled with the moving, human bodies of society, then (unfortunately) I am very jealous.
I didn't always live alone like this, you know. I used to be like you. I used to be a member of that wonderful, loud, bustling crowd. Would you like to hear what happened? It is an interesting story, I've been told. And I have become so very good at telling it.
There was a pool outside my apartment balcony.
I lived on the second floor, so I had a pretty good view of it. It was just a little pond in the middle of the courtyard, with pretty, shiny koi fish swimming around in it. I had names for each one. I would lean against my railing in the warmer months and watch them, sometimes going down to feed them. They were a pleasant sight; the closest things I had to a pet in the complex where the landlord didn't like his tenants owning animals. I always became very sad when they disappeared during the winter months, taken away by the same man to live indoors. That empty pool, iced over and covered in fluffy snow, depressed me terribly.
Maybe that was why everything that happened occurred in autumn, just before my aquatic friends were scheduled to be taken away from me for the third year in a row.
I was in the beginnings of a painting the day it all started. I was an art major in college, in my junior year and going strong. I loved painting. I still do, but don't get to express my talents as often as I would prefer. Anyway, that day I had been having some trouble finding a muse for the class' newest project: paint "What You Love". I was looking to the soon-to-be-vacant koi pond for some glimmers of inspiration when there was a knock at the door. A brief gust of wind flew up from behind me as I straightened, causing my vision to be blinded by brown tresses, the color of dead leaves.
"Coming," I called, batting them out of my way and bouncing back indoors. I locked the balcony and attended to my visitor, pulling the door open with a smile on my face, having anticipated her. "Hello Pera," I greeted the fellow college-goer. She was in the same year and class as me. We were partners this time around. "Come on in."
She did just that, informally dropping her bag at the door and striding in, surveying my home until she saw the empty canvas and turned to me. Her expression was understanding, since we had plenty of time left. Otherwise, I'm sure it would've been disappointed and angry.
"I haven't thought of anything either," she shrugged, tan shoulders exposed despite the cool weather. "I mean, people love a lot of things. I guess he wants us to think abstract or something."
She plopped down onto the couch and crossed her long legs, shaking her head. She said she did that the clear her thoughts and prepare herself for work. Shaking out the cobwebs. After her chin-length, black hair had finished flying around, she smiled at me. "Okay, Amelia. Time to get started."
I sat down, and for the next few hours we went through the things we either didn't love (cockroaches, dirty socks, no parking spots left) or didn't want to paint (flowers, hearts, two people kissing, etc). So we still had a lot of nothing going on by the time Charlie walked in.
"Hello, girls," my roommate greeted us brightly. At the time, I didn't care to notice how Pera's eyes slid over his frame. Though with his curly brown hair and bright blue eyes, the frequently-smiling art major was constantly subject to the affections of nearly all his female classmates. And as his roommate, I'll admit with only a small about of shame that I lusted after him the most. However, he never even once touched me in the way I wanted him to. I spent so much time looking at him, wishing, and got nothing in return. The arm he casually slung over my shoulder as he sat down burned against my skin. "What have you got?" he asked.
"Nothing," Pera sighed, twirling her pen around her fingers expertly (a talent that I, to this day, have never quite mastered). "You and Tommy are partners, right? He persuade you to do a collage about every kind of snack food in the world yet?"
"How'd you know?" Charlie asked, laughing deeply.
She leaned forward and explained how she'd been partnered up with him last semester, and all he could ever keep a conversation going on with was food-especially the junk kind. And while the two got a good rapport going through their mutual dislike of this poor kid, I sat alone. Because Charlie had removed his arm and his body from me to sit closer to Pera. I minded my own business, feeling like the third wheel as I jotted down some things I like, hoping I'd get to discuss them with Pera sometime that day.
I think that is when things started to go downhill. Actually, if you think about it, it takes a while for things to go downhill. This is when things started to fall off the top of a building. And because things fell apart so quickly, there isn't much of the story left to go over. Just as well. You see, I've just finished my breakfast and have a meeting of sorts to attend soon.I would hate to leave this story unfinished between us. Therefore, the fact that the next actions of mine were not drawn out slowly benefit us. And besides: I can go over these memories as slowly as I want in my mind, on my own time. For you, I will be up-to-pace and relevant. I always treat my audience with the utmost care and respect.
I did not get my wish.
Pera and Charlie hit it off instantly, with enough chemistry bouncing around between them to blow up a science wing. The physical connection was so palpable, I could almost see it. I wanted to slash it in half. The two were so engrossed with each other and their stories and quirks and flirts that they didn't notice when I left. Not immediately, anyway. I grabbed my jacket because it was now nighttime and very cold out. Cold enough that when I jogged out of the complex and onto the streets, the breaths I exhaled turned into a cloud that hovered in front of me before disappearing.
When I looked up at the sky devoid of stars (they must have decided to hide their fires), a snowflake fell in my eye. It was cold enough that I realized there was a firestorm of pure fury burning deep within me, blackening my ribcage and causing me to cry out in pain. At the time, it startled me. I wanted to get rid of what I didn't understand. So I followed logic and ran into a convenience store and bought freezing drinks that hurt my hands as I held them tight. I added some food to the bag filled with soda and iced tea in lieu of a proper dinner.
I took a longer walk home, sure that these two would have gotten over their initial, childish interest in one another and realized that there were other things (and people) that needed their attention. And by the time I returned 20 minutes later, I found that they had. They'd gotten over that initial interest and moved straight on to their physical attraction in the blink of an eye. The undisguised noises of two lovers spilled out from Charlie's room.
I threw the bottles I'd drained onto the floor and stepped on the ones that shattered. They had done nothing for me. The blaze had been re-ignited, with the raw emotions of hurt, anger, and betrayal adding gasoline, whiskey, and fireworks to the mix. It created a volatile, dangerous surge that sang as it pumped through my veins. I walked into the kitchen and pulled open a drawer with enough force that I broke the sliding mechanism on it, sending its contents spraying across the floor. My eyes searched the mess for what I desired.
"Think they can just forget about me and screw each other the second I disappear?" I muttered furiously, fingers clenching around the handle of my favorite cutting knife. Yes, I had a favorite. Don't you? "Indecent, immoral, disgusting-"
I made my way over to Charlie's room. He'd left his door open in his haste to get with flame inside cooled down to a roaring blue as I narrowed my eyes and leaned against the doorframe casually, watching the light from the hallway play on the silver blade in my grasp. I listened as they went on with their animalistic desires, having no clue that I was home. The second they locked eyes, they were the only two in the world.
Well, someone had to prove them wrong.
"You know, Pera, we should really get back to that project," I remarked, still admiring the shine of my blade.
The pair jumped and whirled around to look at me. I flickered my gaze toward them. Pera tugged the sheets up to her chin in embarrassment. Charlie looked pissed.
"Jesus Amelia! Give us some fucking privacy, would ya?"
"You left the door open," I reminded him, standing in the middle of the door now. My shadow fell across them. "Aren't you supposed to put a sock on the doorknob or something?" I asked, grinning without any happiness in the expression. Charlie's eyes wandered down toward the knife and he shied away as it glinted. Poor thing thought he was in danger. "Why her and not me?" I whispered, smile gone.
Charlie sighed, sensing damage control. "Amelia, you're beautiful, but I'm never gonna feel that way about you."
I'd heard him use that line on other girls 44 times.
"I'm just not," he went on, reenforcing his first statement. "That's why you're my roommate."
"I figured that out thanks to her," I bit, stung by reality. "Why couldn't you ever just make yourself clear, Charlie? I would have given up on you." I swung the knife around as I threw my hands up, trying to express my frustration. "You too, Pera. I would have let you go after him. If you had asked me, instead of selfishly ignoring me, I would have left to spend the night somewhere else. But no," I drew out the word into a hiss. "You decided to lead me on and you decided to betray the friendship we were just starting to grow."
"Amelia, I never-" Charlie tried to defend himself.
"It's funny," I laughed, a little breathy as I stepped forward an inch or two. "You're still talking and I'm really not listening!" In another instant, I was on the bed and close enough to rest my head on his shoulder and drape my arm around his neck. I sighed a breath against his neck, enjoying the familiar scent of him. He tensed as he felt my grip tighten on the knife. He anchored and arm around my waist and I sat up to smile down at him, nothing but pure love in my eyes. "Oh, you have no idea how happy it makes me that you want me so much now. But I'm sorry, Charlie. I just can't trust you. So don't ask me to be adult about this, hmm? Don't ask me to be reasonable." I slammed the steel point into his bare chest. "Because I'm not," I hissed, my final words to him.
Pera screamed as I pulled my hand back, freeing the knife from his torn flesh. A little blood spurted out onto my hand and face. I turned to glare at Pera. My eyes are a very deep brown, but I've been told that when I'm angry they look black. I must've seemed a demon to her. She was frozen to the spot as I scooted over to her.
"I considered you my friend," I informed her. "What you did was very sleazy and unfriendly."
"P-Please. I'm sorry. I'm sorry!" she gasped, tears falling as she clawed at my arm, grasping for a forgiveness I will never give.
"Good news, Pera," I said in a hushed voice. Her glittering eyes were wide with the deepest fear-the fear for one's life. I will never forget those eyes: how pretty they were. "I figured out what our project will be. And oh, don't worry; you'll get credit. You will be the paint."
I smiled as realization dawned on her face and she screamed one last time.
Even today, several months later, I consider that painting my best work. I used the coppery-smelling, blood-red paint to construct a lovely masterpiece. Two lovers' bodies curled up to look like a heart, eyes open and staring blankly at each other. I know I said that I hadn't been planning on doing anything with hearts, but it fit so well. These two had died for their love. Who couldn't admire that type of dedication, falling in love with the idea itself? I wanted to honor that romantic notion, being a fan of it myself. I used the names of my muses in the title to give them a little honor, too. The Unfortunate Pera and The Misguided Charlie.
Charlie was so misguided. I know he would have loved me; he proved that in his final moments. Pera was a distraction. If I had let him live and gone after my true enemy, I'm positive he would've shoved Pera's lifeless body away and taken me instead. Then there would've only one half of a heart in my painting. But I couldn't run the risk of Charlie betraying me again. That would hurt too much to bear. And besides, just one half of a heart has no beauty to it; no symmetry.
I was lucky, though. A cleaning crew came and picked up the bodies for me by the time I finished with my painting. I didn't even have to call anybody; my neighbors did that for me. They even had an escort service accompany me to a nicer building where I changed out of my old, blood-spattered clothes and into some new ones. They chained my hands to the table to keep my artistic ability in. I know how frighteningly amazing it can be the first time it is viewed in action.
A few men were very interested in my painting. The treated it as if were as delicate as the Declaration of Independence, sealing in it an air-tight bag to preserve it forever. I assumed them to be potential buyers and was content to answer any questions they had about the painting's origins (though they still haven't talked price with me). Mostly they asked about Pera and Charlie and the connection to them and what it meant to the painting. I explained everything so they would have a proper story to convey to the art collector or museum that would ultimately purchase it.
My painting will be worth so much. My painting has such an exciting story that I've told hundreds of times now. I get my own podium, in front of a big audience. There is a man to my right who listens exceptionally closely as I speak. The people on my left listen the closest.
They call these sessions 'trials', but there's nothing trying about them. I adore them. I'm sad that they're ending today.
But then again, this is also the day they tell me how well they like my painting-how much they approve of what I did to Pera and Charlie. Because it was a very understandable thing. I think they'll agree with me so much that they'll give me a paintbrush. As the latch on my door unlocks and a couple men open it to collect me, I smile.
I miss painting. And all I really need is a paintbrush. The walls, floor, and windows can be my canvas. My mind and hands can create something even more beautiful than my last piece. And as for the paint…
These two men reaching out their hands to escort me seem to have plenty of paint inside them.
Well, I assume you know the reason for these footnotes: unashamed begging with smiley faces for you to review what you've read. And even if you keep your opinions to yourself, I still hoped you liked this piece and do not ever have a roommate like Amelia :D Gracias for your time, dear reader~