It’s time for another chapter from my upcoming novel. This one’s pretty short. You can either read it here, or you can download all the chapters (including the prologue) as a PDF here.
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And now for the chapter itself.
The main living room resembles an abandoned lair. The sunset is filtering its agony through the high windows, painting trembling arrows of orange light on the marble floor. Out of every corner of the room, shy, ash-colored shadows slowly push forward.
In the center of the room, holding a brush in his right hand, William’s standing still, some distance away from an easel. He’s barely breathing. Waves of color bleed from the freshly painted canvas. He scratches his cheek and sighs. Behind him, his shadow quivers like a ghost.
Darkness and light collide under his feet; a never-ending battle.
Chris is sitting on one of the chairs, reading a newspaper. His chest slowly rises as he fills his lungs with stifled air, redolent of the strong miasma of paint.
William takes a few steps back from the easel. He closes his eyes and places his fingers over his eyelids, as if trying to imprison inside his brain the gracious forms his mastery had created. He hesitates before opening them, as if he fears the dream is going to dissipate into the dim clarity of the room. But as he slowly opens his eyes he can see that the dream is still there, on the canvas, reflecting the fading gold of the dying sun. “I think this is my best work yet,” he says with a low voice.
Chris doesn’t take his eyes off the newspaper. “You always say that.”
William furrows his eyebrows. His eyes burning with excitement, he nods and says, “Because it’s always true.”
Chris walks over to him. “Maybe you’re right,” he says as he looks at the painting, colors still fresh. A beautiful woman, dressed as a bride, is sitting in front of a piano, her chin resting on her arm. She’s staring contemptuously out the window at a velvety, starless night. It takes Chris a couple of seconds to realize that it’s actually his piano, his living room. This living room. He takes a look at the piano, as if he’d expect the woman to be sitting there, staring back at him. “Who is she?” he asks.
“Amber,” William says.
“Doesn’t look like her,” Chris replies, his gun finger pointing at a portrait resting against one of the walls.
William stares at the portrait, then at his painting. Then he stares at the portrait again. He takes a few steps toward it, then turns around. “I can’t remember how she looks like anymore.”
“You said you’d stop,” Chris says. “You said that the moment you wouldn’t be able to remember how she looks like-”
“She was my last impossible love,” William interrupts him.
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“It’s everything,” William takes another look at the portrait. “It kept me alive all these years.” He walks over to the easel. “Isn’t that what we all want?” he asks, his finger hovering a few millimeters away from the canvas. “To hope that somehow our actions will be able to change the past.”
“You’re not making any sense.”
William turns around to face Chris. “Okay, then. We hope that it’s never too late to get what we want most.”
“And Amber’s that one thing you want most in the world.”
William shakes his head. “I can’t remember how she looks like. You’ve said it yourself. This is not Amber anymore,” he says pointing at the painting on the easel. “If I can’t remember how she looks like, how she talks, how she smells, then how is she supposed to be the thing I want most in the world?”
“I don’t know what I want…”
Chris smiles understandably. “We rarely do.”
William laughs. “You’re funny. You know what you want. You always knew. And you always wanted the same thing.”
Chris glances around the living room. He smiles contemptuously. “Ever since I was seven,” he says.
“No, not money,” William says. “That’s not what you always wished for.”
“You know what I’ve always wanted?”
“Of course. I could see it in your eyes when we first met. I can see it now.”
“Really?” Chris laughs. “And what is that?”
William walks over to the portrait on the wall, runs his index finger across the frame. “Love. That’s all you want. And that’s the only thing you never got… it’s burning you, this desire to be loved, to be genuinely loved by someone. Not for what you have, but for what you are. And you think that by acquiring everything else in the world you’ll somehow manage to fill this void, this strange emptiness you feel creeping inside your soul in your loneliest of nights.”
“It seems you know more about me than -”
“You never even tried.”
“To say it out loud. To admit that this is what you want most.”
Chris walks over to him, and stares at the portrait for a while.
“That’s why you bought this painting. That’s why you bought all the nude portraits of Amber I ever made.” William rests his hand on Chris’s shoulder. “They’re all reminders… that some people actually had what you never deemed yourself worthy to have.”
“I have to admit. It’s a nice theory.”
“It’s not a theory. It’s the truth. You just can’t accept it, because love, true love, can’t be bought.”
“Ironic, isn’t it?”
“You’re rich enough to have everything, except the one thing you want most.”
“You’re crazy,” Chris says. He grabs the newspaper from the coffee table. Waving it around he says, “You live in a world of dreams and expectations. Of ambitions and desires. The real world isn’t like that. In the real world, all we want is to survive. For as long as possible. No matter what.”
“Spoken like a realist.”
“Only the weak can afford to be idealists.”
“Then we’re both weak.”
A bodyguard climbs up the stairs. He stops a few feet away from Chris. “Sir, there are two women downstairs. I told them there’s no party tonight, but they say they’ve been invited.”
“I called them,” William says. “I’m bored.”
“Tell the driver to get the car ready,” Chris tells the bodyguard.
“Where you going?”
“Catch up with you later?”
No answer. Chris is already headed for the staircase.
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