Paint It Black

Free Paint It Black by Janet Fitch

Book: Paint It Black by Janet Fitch Read Free Book Online
Authors: Janet Fitch
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cunt, you low-life piece of crap. I curse the day I met you.
“Why did she have them?”
    Cal shook his head. “Must have been the coroner. But he wanted her to see them, he was a smart boy, he had to know she’d open them. So read with a grain of salt.”
    She took out the letter and held it in her hands, forced herself to start at the top. Motel letterhead,
Paradise Inn.
Highway 62. Twentynine Palms.
Blood spatters had seeped through the envelope, faintly printing the thin off-white paper in an unholy constellation.
Dear Josie,
it said.
We loved each other
—. She stopped, held her breath, read it again. Maybe he didn’t blame her, maybe she hadn’t done this after all.
We loved each other . . . Didn’t we? I can’t remember.
You’ll have to remember for both of us.
Oh God. Oh God oh God oh God.
I hope you find someone who can meet your needs better than I could. I’m just not up to it. See you in the next life. Michael.
    Simple lines across the page, slicing her open, clean and fast, like a cold razor. Then in a less certain hand below, the ink blobbing, the letters mashed together—he must have been drinking—
I’m so sorry. Sorry sorry for everything. I’m so fucking sorry.
She put her hand to her forehead, so Cal wouldn’t see the tears dripping down her nose, onto the bar.
    Cal reached out to press his hand over hers, warm and callused, and she let him. “It’s not your fault,” he said. “It’s nobody’s fault.”
    She snatched her hand away, wiped her eyes, and read it again. The last words he ever wrote. “What do you do with something like this? Keep it in the drawer with your underwear? Along with the love letters? Carry it around all your life?”
    “I don’t know,” Cal said. “I’m plumb out of answers today.”

5
    These Days
    J osie lay on her stomach in the stale white bed that still smelled of Michael, though less each day. She wore his green flannel shirt that she’d found in the laundry, it was filthy and dank and only smelled of her now, metallic with grief. She closed her eyes and pressed her face to his pillow, trying to catch his scent, but it eluded her, she could smell it only by accident now, like a glance caught in a crowd, then lost forever. Out in the living room, Louis Armstrong and the Hot Five played “Big Butter and Egg Man,” and her heart lay crushed in an eggshell mosaic.
    She turned over slightly and let her eyes cross the Siberia of the sheets to drift along the walls, where they’d painted Montmartre. Their café with its little round tables, Blaise and Jeanne, the street in front, the shops, painted it together in their first weeks in the house. Days he didn’t remember. That he didn’t want anymore. How those walls had once begged for violation, like a snarky virgin. She’d asked him to paint them. “A picture would be so great here,” she’d said, embracing the bare surface. “Please?”
    “Mae Fong strictly forbid,” Michael said. Their landlady, a gritty sixtyish chain-smoking City Hall secretary, admonished them when they moved in not to touch anything, the walls had just been repainted. Navajo white, landlord’s delight.
    “Come on, she knew we were going to do it the moment she left.” She went out and got his drawing things, the charcoal and pencils. “Do us in Montmartre.”
    The way he looked at her then. He’d been to Harvard, but it had never occurred to him to defy a landlady’s orders. “What’s she going to do to us, Michael? Nothing.”
    “This is what I love about you,” Michael said, pressing his forehead to hers, his arm around her neck. “You give me permission, you don’t even know.”
    “I’ll give you more than permission,” she said, rolling her forehead on his, drinking in that smell, pine and moss. “I’ll give you the whole enchilada.”
    He picked up a piece of crayon, and started on the blank closet doors, drawing a café, the bar, and at the tables, circus people, the strong man and the bearded lady,

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