“What would you name the kids? If we had them?” Declan asks.
We were sitting in his office. He was painting from a photo example on his phone and I was watching because the process of a painting coming together was fascinating.
I started to think. I always wondered how my parents had decided to name me, Klaus and my brother Matteo and how Declan’s parents decided on his name. I went through a mental list of the names I knew and liked.
“Luna, for a girl maybe… Maybe Pierce for a boy? I don’t know really,” I answers nervously.
Before meeting Declan, I had never shared so much of my personal self with a person. I never knew how someone could feel comfortable enough to pour everything single thought out to another person without fear of judgement, maybe that says something about how I was raised or something.
“I like Luna,” Declan replied adding a stroke of blue to his painting. “Unique like ours.”
“I like Alec, for a boy,” he continued.
My eyes moved to Declan’s ring, he’d set it aside so it wouldn’t get ruined by paint. In the few days since I’d bought Declan had developed a tan line already from being outside.
Declan mixed some more white into his pink to lighten it a few more shades.
I could see the painting coming together as a painting of a bridge over a river during sunset. Sunsets had become a staple after the lake painting, he had a whole line of them. They were appealing to a wider audience so they sold and went for more.
I had been to a few auctions in the last months. Madison would go up and introduce the paintings and the starting price and the bids would start and slowly climb up. The most I’d seen a painting go for was close to four-thousand. Two-months-worth of rent, right there. It was insane. But then, I was willing to pay to keep the originals of the ones he had painted of me. But they symbolized something for me. I don’t know what people saw in the flowers, the lake or the bridge painting from somebody they didn’t know. Maybe it was just something I couldn’t see. Like how some people love books and could sit for hours on end reading well others can barely stand to read a paragraph.
Declan slid backward on his wheel-equipped stool to lean down and sign his name in a bottom corner. It both stood out and blended in with the traveling waters of the river. He stood up and studied the painting for a few seconds before carrying his palate over to the sink we had installed and washing it, the brushes he’d used and his hands off. It created a purplish-gray tint that swirled down the drain out of sight. The remints of creation came in so many colors. A pale sandy-brown for the pyramids. Green and brown for the forest. Faded chipping colors in old towns. And smoky-black and gray for Declan’s burnt out studio.
Declan’s mother was in the news for a few months after the press found out about the arson of Declan’s studio and that she had perpetrated it and the vandalism outside our penthouse. In that time, the prices for his painting went up. I wasn’t sure if it was the art market just rising or because of the publicity surrounding his mother’s crimes.
Declan set the instruments he washed to dry in the rack and dried his hands on a cloth. He walked back to his desk where paint bottles were organized by color and lightest to darkest. And picked up his ring and slid it back onto his hand before coming towards me. He stopped in front of me and rolled his sleeves down and I help button the cuffs. His hands felt cold from the water. We held each other at arms’ length studying each other. We looked like an oddly matched pair.
Him, in his suit, and me, in my tank top and shorts. Him, with his combed, gelled hair and my curly mess that was impossible to tame on some days. He could have fallen in love with anyone honestly, could have had anyone waiting on him and he picked me. And my mind had circled back to picking away at whether or not I deserved him or not.
His hand touched my chin and I looked into his pale-blue irises like the dream I had a few days ago accept instead of Declan looking up at the budding stars he was staring back into my sage-colored eyes, as he described them. Love-filled and looking at me. Anyone who has been able to find that in another person’s eyes is lucky because I also remember the hate and shame from my parents’ eyes when I came out. And even though, they no longer felt that way I could still remember the look in their eyes. I also remember saying goodbye to Matteo, not goodbye really but goodnight. He was too young to understand at the time and they didn’t explain it to him. The next morning, I was gone.
I sometimes wondered what it was like for him. Growing up in my shadow as I grew up in my parents’. A set of expectations, things to do better, not be. Matteo met them, luckily and didn’t have to suffer the same fate as me.
“You’re beautiful,” he whispered as if he could sense my self-consciousness.
I studied his face as maybe he studied my sleeping form that night he first painted me. First met me.
“Ring! Ring!” my phone interrupted us.
Declan stepped back a bit so I could grab it but stayed close
I answered it without looking at the name or number.
“Hey, Klaus,” I a haunting voice answered. My ex-boyfriend.
How had I not blocked his number? Where was he? Not that he knew my address anymore. Well, he might that’s to the news and social media following me.
“What do you want?” I ask gravely.
Declan seemed to sense the mood change.
“I’m getting out in a few days, I was wondering if we could try again? I promise, I’m not the same person. I don’t drink anymore. You can’t really keep up an addiction in jail. I’m sorry for everything. I really am,” he continued honestly.
His voice was dragging up late night nightmares. Him, yelling, holding a bottle of booze. Me, cowering in some corner of the penthouse. The bruises the next morning. The apologies every time, him promising it’d never happen again but it always did. Always did. I didn’t have to worry about any of that with Declan, I was happy, safe, content. I wasn’t ever going backwards. But the problem with not going backwards, it makes you worry about you’re future. If you don’t resort to your old habits, you worry about what’s changed, what’s different.
“I moved on, sorry Ryan. I hope everything goes well for you though,” I reply honestly and quietly.
“You, too,” he mumbled and hung up.
I pulled the phone away from my ear and looked at it.
“Who was that?” Declan asked.
“My ex…” I trailed off.
“What did he want?” Declan asked.
“He’s getting out in a few days and he wanted to know if we could try again. I told him I moved on,” I tell Declan. “How did I not block his number?”
I went to my contacts and looked. I didn’t have his number. I had deleted it instead of blocking it. That explained it.
“Do we have to worry about him showing up here?” Declan asked.
“There’s a gate and security. Unless he jumps the fence like your mother’s lackeys I think we're fine,” I reply honestly.
“Good, should we have lunch now?” he continued.
“Sure,” I answer.
He leaves his office but I stay behind for a few seconds and stare at the bridge painting. I belonged here, with his paintings, happiness, and peace. Not back there in that dark place, I was better than that. I deserved more and I’d found more, I’d moved on.
“Klaus, you coming?” Declan called from downstairs.
“Yeah, yeah, I am,” I answer and smile at the painting before turning and leaving his painting to dry in his office and join him for lunch.
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