Short Story- "Paint Me Pretty Pictures"

Photo Courtesy of Broken Soul Photography

Paint Me Pretty Pictures
By Jennifer Patino

He couldn’t remember the last time she smiled.

It might have been at Elsie’s party.

She was drunk then.

More drunk than she had ever been and it was the last time she had seen all of her friends together like that.

He didn’t know why she wasn’t calling them.

Elsie stopped by every couple of weeks. She usually stayed for an hour or so.

She tried to get Janine out of the house but she wouldn’t budge.

“She’ll snap out of it,” Elsie assured him. “Trust me. She always does.”

He nodded but his reluctance showed in his eyes.

One night, in bed, Janine actually started talking to him.

“I wish I knew what was wrong with me,” she said.

“Our fight really messed you up,” he offered.

“No. I’m over that,” she insisted.

“Janine, you know you’re not.”

“Armand, I’m sure I know my own mind. It’s not that. At least I don’t think so.”

She never knew what she was talking about lately. Her sentences never made any sense.

“Look, I said some things, Janine.” He cupped her face in his hands. “I said some things that I regret now but I know for some reason you took them very seriously.”

Janine gazed at the ceiling with a far-off look in her eyes.

“Why?  Why did you say them?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I just don’t know.” He buried his face in her shoulder.

*

Work was impossible.

All Armand did was think about her.

Sometimes he called and sometimes she would answer.

Most of the time she was asleep so he talked to her cell phone’s voicemail.

That night he bought her tulips and all she could do was stare.

“They’re lovely,” she said. Her eyes looked so dead and he hated that.

“You’re welcome.” He kissed her cheek.

“I want to sleep.” She started toward their bedroom door.

“You’ve been sleeping all day, Janine.” He tried to go after her.

“Stop it!” she yelled. “I just want to sleep….”

She slammed the bedroom door behind her.

*

Armand found himself back to three months ago.

Janine was telling him she wasn’t sure about how he felt about her.

“I feel like all you do is yell at me,” Janine said with tears in her eyes.

“Yell at you? What are you talking about?” he asked, stunned.

He was yelling at her even then.

When she cried.

When she told him she couldn’t be in a relationship like this.

He yelled at her, cursed at her, then to top it all off, told her how horrible she was and that no one would ever want her.

She cried and begged him to stop and he didn’t.

He couldn’t.

For some reason, all of the ghosts of his past that still haunted him came up in that one conversation and he considered her concerns about their relationship a personal attack towards him.

In the past, he had to defend and fight back to survive.

He told her he hated her.

He threatened to kick her out.

Janine just sat there in a heaping mess on their living room floor and cried.

She had stayed at Elsie’s for a night.

He called her repeatedly but she wouldn’t pick up until the next day.

“Come home, Janine.” he begged.

“I don’t even know you anymore….” was how she had responded.

*

Armand lit a cigarette and sat at their small dining room table.

He wanted nothing more than to grab the bottle of Jack he knew they always had on hand but he knew that would do nothing for him or for her at this point.

Maybe he was trying too hard.

All Janine wanted was to be left alone most of the time.

Maybe if he just gave her that, then she’d be ok.

He finished his cigarette and knocked on their bedroom door.

“Come in,” Janine called.

He opened the door to find her lying in their bed also smoking a cigarette.

Her hair was a mess.

She hadn’t washed it in three days.

When Janine didn’t care about anything anymore, she wanted her appearance to show it.

She had the “scene” look.

The spiky, “I’ve got too much on my mind to worry about my hair” do.

It was unlike her.

Everything she had done for the past three months was unlike her.

It was as if Armand’s words had put out the fire that once burned behind her eyes.

“Mind if I hold you?” he asked her, hoping with everything that she’d let him.

She shrugged.

He took her in his arms and tried to look at her but she wouldn’t have any of it.

It dawned on Armand then that he couldn’t remember the last time she had looked him in the eye either.

“Janine,” he said. “What can I do?”

“Nothing,” she replied. “There’s nothing you can do. I’m fucked.”

“Don’t say that. It’s because of me. I want to fix it.”

“So you’ll sit here and try to keep at me until all of the pieces are picked back up? Don’t waste your time, Armand. I’m rude….selfish….I only care about myself….”

He winced as she threw the words he said to her back at him.

“I didn’t mean that,” he said. He had tears in his eyes now.

“Don’t cry. It won’t be fair.” She turned her head away.

He looked at her questioningly.

“What do you mean?”

“It’s not fair because I can’t. I feel nothing. Do you know what that feels like? I’m not happy, mad, sad, or upset. I’m just a big nothing. And that feels worse than anything I ever could be feeling right now.” She looked like she wanted to hit him in the face.

“I know….I know…” He cried harder now, his voice fading away into the nothing Janine felt. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s not you!  It’s my choice. I don’t have to be doing this. I just don’t understand why I am.”

“You’re amazing….” He tried to encourage her.

“I’m fucked up.”

“But you’re the most amazing person I’ve ever fucked up.” he said kissing her.

“Stop it….”

He sat up then and buried his face in his hands.

“I’m thirsty.” She said after awhile.

“I could get you some ginger ale. I know you love it.”

“Fine.” She lit another cigarette.

Janine was so cold. He didn’t know how to handle it anymore.

“I want you back.” It was all he could think to say.

“I want me back.” She exhaled slowly towards the ceiling.

*

Armand walked over to the drug store on the corner and bought Janine a 2-liter of ginger ale and those little wafer cookies she liked so much.

He also bought a card because he knew she loved them too.

It had a picture of two pairs of dangling feet over a bridge on it.

It reminded him of a picture he had taken of them over at Sutter’s Park.

He wrote, “I love you and I will always love you. Yours, Armand” on the inside and made the walk home.

He smoked another cigarette on the way there and realized that he had been doing that a lot more lately.

Janine was always the heavy smoker and he just had them when he was drinking or when he was really pondering something.

It seemed as though he was doing a lot of pondering lately.

*

Armand walked up the steps and opened the door.

“Hey, Janine!” he called.

No answer.

She was probably still in their room.

He knocked on the door but she didn’t answer that either.

That’s when Armand noticed the bathroom light on and the familiar Tori Amos song playing from behind its closed door.

She’s been everybody else’s girl.  Maybe one day she’ll be her own…..

“Janine?”  He called out.

Whatever she was doing she wasn’t paying attention to him.

“Janine?”

He knocked on the door.

Nothing.

“Janine?” He knocked again louder.

“Go away, Armand.” she said softly.

He was taken aback. Not once had she ever told him to just flat out go away.

“I just want to make sure you’re ok.” He tried to remain calm.

He just wanted to break the door down. He wanted to see with his own eyes that she was alright.

“No!”  she yelled. “Just go away…..”

“Ok, if you need me, I’m here. I’ve got some ginger ale.”

Silence.

Armand set the bag down on the counter and took the card out.

Then he went straight for the liquor cabinet.

The bottle of Jack was more than needed now.

It was gone.

“Dammit, Janine.” he said under his breath.

He lit another cigarette and that’s when he realized something wasn’t right.

He heard Janine panting and moaning slightly. It was like she was in pain or something.

“Janine?” He knocked on the door again. “I’m coming in.”

“Fuck you!” she yelled. “Fuck you…..”

He jiggled the knob but it was locked.

He walked to their utensil drawer and grabbed a butter knife.

It took him less than two seconds to have the door unlocked.

Tori’s voice got louder and nothing could have ever prepared him for the scene he was about to walk in on.

The white walls. The whiter than white walls.

They were all covered in splattered blood.

His exacto knife lay on the floor with the bottle of Jack.

Janine was pale and rubbing her slit wrist on the shower tiles.

“Janine, what the fuck?” he said running over to her.

“Leave me alone!” she screamed.

“What the hell are you doing?” The panic in his voice grew.

“I’m painting!” she screamed at him.

“Painting?” He stared at her in disbelief.

“Yes!”

She jumped from the tub and grabbed the bottle of Jack, taking a big swig from it. She swayed from the loss of blood and he flung open the cabinet and grabbed a towel, wrapping it around one of her slit wrists.

He looked around.

If the bathroom were a black and white photograph, it would probably be considered art.

Some motherfucker would’ve bought it for three hundred bucks down at the local gallery.

He fought back the urge to throw up.

“Stop it!” she yelled.

She had taken the time to put on some mascara and it was now running down her face.

She was actually crying and Armand was somehow glad for that.

She threw the bottle onto the floor where it shattered, Jack and glass everywhere.

She knelt down in the middle of the mess and started to pick up the glass.

Her fingers were getting cut instantly, only adding to more blood being drained from her body.

“Janine!” He yelled at her, swatting the broken pieces of glass from her hands. “Stop it!”

“Goddamn you!” She looked at him and he didn’t even know who she was anymore.

“You did this to me!” she sobbed. “You did this….”

Janine was now a heaping, sobbing mess in the middle of the bathroom floor surrounded by broken glass, Jack Daniel’s whiskey, and her own blood.

“Don’t you ever forget that!  You did this to me!”

All Armand could do was hold her and make sure she didn’t bleed to death.

“I know, I know….” he sobbed along with her.

“All I did was try to love you…and that wasn’t good enough.  I’m not good enough.”

Armand just cried. He had never been the reason for anyone to officially lose their mind before.

“Janine, I love you…..I’m so sorry…” he held her as they both cried.

He glanced at her wrists.  She was going to be fine.  It looked bad but she would live.  She didn’t even cut them the “right way.”

“You did this…..you did this….” She kept repeating over and over again.

He knew she was right and the guilt and pain he was feeling would probably be the worst he had ever felt in his life.

“I’m so sorry….”  He repeated it like an incantation.

“Armand.” she said after awhile.

“What’s that?” He wiped his nose with the towel.

“I’m feeling again….”  she whispered.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. I’m feeling like I hate you…..”

Armand burst into a fit of sobs again as Janine closed her eyes.

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