He had a tendency to go and sit on the roof when things go to be too much for him, and usually she knew better than to disturb him when he was up there. It had come as a surprise then, the first time that Lucia had climbed out the window to join him on the shingles. He’d pretended to be lost in some serious thought, staring out at nothing and did his best to ignore the worry lines creasing her brow.
One day Lucia came home with paint chips and cornered him before he had a chance to flee. “Which one do you like better?” she asked, holding two equally unpleasant squares of colour mere inches from his nose. It had to be a trick question. His gaze flickered from one swatch, a sort-of purple, to the other, a greyish blue. “Dusted country lilac or storm cloud?”
“Wimpiest storm cloud I’ve ever seen,” he muttered, averting his eyes from the horrid colour choices.
She took a step closer. “What was that?”
“I said: What are you painting?”
“I was thinking that the living room could do with a bit of a facelift.”
He wasn’t able to hold back his snort of laughter. Painting would be the first step, followed by new furniture – or at least slip covers for the preexisting tenants of the living room – and then days of him dragging the sofa from one end of the room to the other only for her to decide that the old arrangement had probably been best and could he put it back the way it was please?
“I don’t think so.”
“It’s just a few walls. Why do you have to be like this?” she asked, pouting. Any second now she’d probably resort to tears. Dirty trick.
“The living room is fine the way it is.” And that, as far as he was concerned, ended the discussion.
That night it became apparent that Lucia did not consider it a closed case. “Blake,” she said, “the living room is hideous. Just pick a colour. I’ll do everything else.”
“You are not painting my living room.”
And then came the rant, the tirade about how he was ruining her life, raging about how he never listened to her, or allowed her the space she needed to properly express herself. Something about him crushing her lifelong passion for interior decorating.
He said, “Last week you swore to me you’d always wanted to design wedding cakes.”
She looked him up and down, scowling at him. “You just don’t understand.”
Lucia kicked him out of the bedroom, telling him that if he liked his living room so much, maybe he should just spend the night there – on the couch.
After lying there, staring at the ceiling for what seemed like hours, he sat up. If Lucia was going to punish him, he might as well try to enjoy himself. Pillow in hand, he crept up the stairs and clambered out a window to sit on the roof.
Not for the the first time, he wondered about himself and Lucia and what sort of strange bonds of love kept them together. It wasn’t as though they were related by blood, there was no rule that said he had to like or even tolerate her. And when had the colour of a few measly walls become such a point of contention? By all accounts it was ridiculous. Really ridiculous. He should apologize to her in the morning, apologize and then what? Accept that she was going to make his living room ‘dusty storm cloud’ or ‘rustic lilac’ or whatever she said? He didn’t think so.
A week later, so much had happened. Lucia had refused to give up on painting and began bringing home more paint chips every day on her way back from work; Blake had needed to start retaliating, nipping over the hardware store to pick out the most garish colours he could find in the hopes of swaying her from her need to paint – traffic-cone orange and trembling swamp water had by far earned the best reaction. By Thursday, however, it became apparent that he was not going to win and conceded defeat.
“I don’t care anymore,” he said. “If you want to paint, go ahead.”
Her reaction was less ecstatic that he’d been hoping for, never a good sign. “I don’t know. It’s starting to look like it’s too much trouble to bother.” She swept paint chips off the table. “I think maybe all it needs is some new curtains. Sound good?”
He spent that night on the roof too.