Unraveling, Part 5
“I’m surprised you still have that painting,” Kevin said gazing at what he had created eleven years before. He painted it in two days after he came back from the island resort, motivated by a new passion. “Our Jamaican sunset.”
The glow of the candles cast a shadow on the painting, and it looked enchanting, as if they were there to enjoy it. Jess hung it over the antique roll top desk, the exact one she considered one of her best estate sale bargains. On top, she kept a first edition autographed copy of Patricia Highsmith’s novel, “The Talented Mr. Ripley”, which he bought her as a wedding gift. It may have cost him a small fortune, but it was worth it.
“I love that painting, Kevin. It’s the first one you ever created for me, and I’ll always love it no matter what happens between us.”
He felt himself blush, surprised she still could do that to him. “I appreciate that,” he said softly, trying to ignore the lump that appeared in his throat. His art was personal and revealing. Knowing she loved it meant that she also loved him or at least a part of him. That made him happy.
“Despite what you may think, I have a lot of emotional attachments to what we shared,” she added. “It’s just that it’s over now, and we have to accept it and …”
“… I know, move on. You seem more secure with the decision than I do.” He could see her face soften in the darkness. She was back in gentle mode.
“I have had more time to deal with this than you,” she said sincerely. “I had a lot of time off after …” She paused and then a sad expression took over her face. It made his heart ache because he knew what she remembered. He remembered it every day, too.
“You’ve always accepted things easier than me,” he said. Then he looked at her squarely. “Especially what happened last year.” He could tell that Jess didn’t like where this conversation headed, but maybe they should talk about now while neither one of them could run away.
“Kevin, that is not fair,” she said. “You have no idea what I feel or what I think, so you shouldn’t second guess me.”
“You’re right,” he said, “and I am sorry I insinuated otherwise. I stopped knowing how you feel because you stopped telling me. I know you just expected me to understand, and I’m sorry that I didn’t.”
The look on her face made Kevin realize he should change the subject quickly. She wasn’t ready to venture into the dark waters yet, and he didn’t want to push her too far. He looked out the window and sighed. “It looks like the whole neighborhood is out.”
“I hope you don’t have any immediate plans. Unless you want to walk down three steep flights of stairs in the dark, you’ll be here till the power comes back on.”
Did that make her happy? Unfortunately, he couldn’t leave well enough alone, and sarcastically blurted, “Gee, I hope lover boy isn’t expected. That might be awkward.”
“That’s it!” she snapped, popping up like an angry jack-in-the-box. He did push too far. “I’ve changed my mind. You can walk down the steps in the dark. I don’t care what you break on the way down.”
He flinched, and he wanted to take it back immediately. Instead, he decided to proceed with caution to try and get his point across. “So, you can get your digs in about Sara but your Gary is off limits. I don’t believe it works that way.”
“I’m not as sarcastic as you are, Kevin,” she replied bluntly. “And he’s not my Gary.”
Kevin shrugged. “Gee, maybe I should warn what’s her name that I’m a sarcastic son of a bitch after I explain that I won’t sign my divorce papers so I don’t have to commit to her too quickly.”
Jess looked ashamed for a moment, and then she smiled softly as she sat back down. “I said that, didn’t I? God, we do bring out the worst in each other.”
“Sometimes we do. We often take things out on the people we’re closet to, and we both could learn more effective communication skills. I’m sorry. I should have held my tongue. Just because you said…”
She extended her arm as if to say stop. “Please don’t finish that if you want me to be civil to you. I am no more at fault than you are so don’t insinuate you have more control. I hate when you do that, Kevin.”
“You do take away all the fun,” he said with a grin.
“Maybe we should stick to safe subjects while we’re here trapped together. How’s work going?”
Safe and boring, he thought. “Work is fine. The union voted last week to go with the contract so it looks like I’ll have steady work all winter. Need any painting done around here?”
“Yes, if you finish the lighthouse on Martha’s Vineyard for me.”
He felt a twinge of sadness whenever he thought about that painting. He’d almost finished it when their relationship began to unravel, and he didn’t have the guts to tell her he sliced it to shreds because of what he remembered each time that he looked at it. “I meant house painting. Isn’t that good enough for you?”
“That’s not what I mean and you know it,” she said sternly. “But you are wasting your talent.”
He shrugged. “Why? Because I paint walls instead of murals? It’s called making a living and not starving to death.”
She simply shook her head. “Of course, you have to make a living. You didn’t have to give up on your dream. Why did you stop painting, Kevin? Can you explain that to me?”
“I didn’t stop painting, but I did take a break from trying pawn my stuff at galleries. That’s different. Besides, I never cared about the spotlight. Painting the picture was enough for me.”
“You stopped selling your paintings because you gave up,” she said, not buying his explanation. “You gave up on everything you’ve worked for since art school.”
“You are wrong,” he shot back immediately. “Fame wasn’t important to me. I never wanted to share my art with anyone but you.”
To be continued on Wednesday, September 11, 2013…