Chapter 22 continues

So far: Wendy fends off holiday invitations.


After the Carlos fiasco, I knew I had to see Richard again.

I decided that I would call and ask him over for dinner at my place. I would make all his favorite foods, ending with some sort of chocolate bomb, a real culinary explosion. I would explain that I was wrong, let him know how much I missed him, ask him if we could get back together.

But before I gathered the courage to do that, after I finished waitressing one night, I ended up walking over to his loft. It was about 11:30 at night. I had only had one drink at the bar. I wasn’t drunk. I just had to see him. His windows were dark. His car was in his parking spot. I knew he was home.

A guy came out of his building and I scooted in before the door closed. I walked up to the fourth floor and stood in front of his door.

I was scared to knock. I couldn’t stop thinking that someone else might be in there with him. All my fault.

Just when I was about to turn away, Richard opened the door.

I fell into his arms. He didn’t say anything, just kissed me until I couldn’t breathe. We ended up on the floor in the living room.

After we made love, I finally asked, “How did you know I was there?”

“I didn’t. I was going to get some milk.”

• • •


Late afternoon, I got chilled. I didn’t have enough wood left to have a fire so I decided to just put on another shirt. In the coat closet I found one of Richard’s old Pendleton shirts: a beautiful blue and green plaid. Too big for me, but I rolled up the sleeves and wore it over my sweater.

Instantly I felt better, as if I could manage, the day was not a waste, tomorrow might even be better.

Maybe it was aroma therapy — whiffs of Richard came off the shirt.

• • •


No one called me that whole day. I was a little surprised. After all, it was the day before Thanksgiving. I had talked to no one for over twenty-four hours.

Even Cloud seemed a bit distant, sitting on the couch, cleaning her paws, not really paying much attention to me. I tried to snuggle her, but she just jumped out of my arms and walked off in a huff.

When I checked on the turkey thawing in the refrigerator, it had nothing to say. I thought of calling Gary, but I didn’t want to hear about what he was doing and I wasn’t doing anything that I could tell him about.

The small padded envelope and I sat on the couch. The address said it was from Staunton, New Jersey. I didn’t think Richard knew anyone in Staunton. At least, not that I was aware of.

Even though he was dead, it still felt weird to be contemplating opening his package. I guess it’s pretty deeply ingrained in me that it’s against federal law to tamper with someone else’s mail.

I pulled at that tab that hung from the back of the envelope. I hated those tabs — when you pulled them it completely ruins the envelope and it could never be used again. But I didn’t feel like trying to open it any other way.

When I tipped the envelope all that fell out was a tube of paint. A bill accompanied it, saying “back order.”

Richard’s last tube of paint.

His last color.

Pale ochre.

I opened the tube and dabbed a bit of paint on my finger, then rubbed it on the back of my hand. The paint matched my skin color.

I so clearly remembered Richard saying, “Flesh tone was the reason oil paint was invented.”


Tomorrow: Chapter 23 begins.