فصل 04

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فصل 04

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER FOUR

Owen

If I were eleven years old again, I would shake my Magic 8 Ball and ask it silly questions, like “Does Auburn Mason Reed like me? Does she think I’m cute?”

And I might be making assumptions based on the way she’s looking at me right now, but I expect the answer would be “It is decidedly so.”

We continue walking away from the bar, toward her apartment, and considering it’s quite a few blocks away, I can probably think of enough questions between here and there to get to know her a whole lot better. The one thing I’ve been wanting to know most since I saw her standing in front of my studio tonight is why she’s back in Texas.

“You never told me why you moved to Texas.”

She looks alarmed by my comment, but I don’t know why. “I never told you I wasn’t from Texas.”

I smile to cover up my mistake. I shouldn’t know she isn’t from Texas, because as far as she knows, I know nothing about her other than what she’s told me tonight. I do my best to hide what’s really going through my head, because if I were to come clean with her now, it would make me look like I’ve been hiding something from her for the majority of the night. I have, but it’s too late for me to admit that now. “You didn’t have to tell me. Your accent told me.”

She watches me closely, and I can tell she’s not going to answer my question, so I think of a different question to replace that one, but the next question is even more rushed. “Do you have a boyfriend?”

She quickly looks away and it makes my heart sting because for some reason, she looks guilty. I assume this means she does have a boyfriend, and dances like the one I just shared with her shouldn’t happen with girls who have boyfriends.

“No.”

My heart instantly feels better. I smile again, for about the millionth time since I first saw her at my door tonight. I don’t know if she knows this about me yet, but I hardly ever smile.

I wait for her to ask me a question, but she’s quiet. “Are you gonna ask me if I have a girlfriend?”

She laughs. “No. She broke up with you last week.”

Oh, yeah. I forgot we’ve already visited this subject. “Lucky me.”

“That’s not very nice,” she says with a frown. “I’m sure it was a hard decision for her.”

I disagree with a shake of my head. “It was an easy decision for her. It’s an easy decision for all of them.”

She pauses for a second or two, eyeing me warily before she begins walking again. “All of them?”

I realize this doesn’t make me sound good, but I’m not about to lie to her. Plus, if I tell her the truth, she might continue to trust me and ask me even more questions.

“Yes. I get broken up with a lot.”

She squints her eyes and scrunches her nose up at my response. “Why do you think that is, Owen?”

I try to pad the harshness of the sentence about to come out of my mouth by speaking softer, but it’s not a fact I necessarily want to admit to her. “I’m not a very good boyfriend.”

She looks away, probably not wanting me to see the disappointment in her eyes. I saw it anyway, though. “What makes you a bad boyfriend?”

I’m sure there are lots of reasons, but I focus on the most obvious answers. “I put a lot of other things before my relationships. For most girls, not being a priority is a pretty good reason to end things.”

I glance at her to see if she’s still frowning or if she’s judging me. Instead, she has a thoughtful look on her face and she’s nodding.

“So Hannah broke up with you because you wouldn’t make time for her?”

“That’s what it boiled down to, yes.”

“How long were the two of you together?”

“Not long. A few months. Three, maybe.”

“Did you love her?”

I want to look at her, to see the look on her face after she asks me this question, but I don’t want her to see the look on my face. I don’t want her to think my frown means I’m heartbroken, because I’m not. If anything, I’m sad that I couldn’t love her.

“I think love is a hard word to define,” I say to her. “You can love a lot of things about a person but still not love the whole person.”

“Did you cry?”

Her question makes me laugh. “No, I didn’t cry. I was pissed. I get involved with these girls who claim they can handle it when I need to lock myself up for a week at a time. Then when it actually happens, we spend the time we are together fighting about how I love my art more than I love them.”

She turns and walks backward so she can peg me with her stare. “Do you? Love your art more?”

I look straight at her this time. “Absolutely.”

Her lips curl up into a hesitant grin, and I don’t know why this answer pleases her. It disturbs most people. I should be able to love people more than I love to create, but so far that hasn’t happened yet.

“What’s the best anonymous confession you’ve ever received?”

We haven’t been walking long. We aren’t even to the end of the street, but the question she just asked could open up a conversation that could last for days.

“That’s a tough one.”

“Do you keep all of them?”

I nod. “I’ve never thrown one away. Even the awful ones.”

This gets her attention. “Define awful.”

I glance over my shoulder to the end of the street and look at my studio. I don’t know why the thought to show her even crosses my mind, because I’ve never shared the confessions with anyone.

But she isn’t just anyone.

When I look at her again, her eyes are hopeful. “I can show you some,” I say.

Her smile widens with my words, and she immediately stops heading in the direction of her apartment in favor of my studio.

Once upstairs, I open the door and let her cross the threshold that has, up to this point, only been crossed by me. This is the room I paint in. This is the room I keep the confessions in. This is the room that is the most private part of me. In a way, I guess you could say this room holds my confession.

There are several paintings in here I’ve never shown anyone. Paintings that will never see the light of day—like the one she’s looking at right now.

She touches the canvas and runs her fingers over the face of the man in the picture. She traces his eyes, his nose, his lips. “This isn’t a confession,” she says, reading the piece of paper attached to it. She glances at me. “Who is this?”

I walk to where she is and stare at the picture with her. “My father.”

She gasps quietly, running her fingers over the words written on the slip of paper. “What does Nothing but Blues mean?”

Her fingers are now trailing over the sharp white lines in the painting and I wonder if anyone has ever told her that artists don’t like it when you touch their paintings.

That’s not true in this case, because I want to watch her touch every single one of them. I love how she can’t seem to look at one without feeling it with both her eyes and her hands. She looks up at me expectantly, waiting for me to explain what the title of this one means.

“It means nothing but lies.” I walk away before she can see the expression on my face. I lift the three boxes I keep in the corner and take them to the center of the room. I take a seat on the concrete floor and motion for her to do the same.

She sits cross-legged in front of me with the boxes stacked between us. I take the two smaller boxes off the top and set them aside, then open the lid on the larger box. She peeks inside and shoves her hand into the pile of confessions, pulling out a random one. She reads it out loud.

“?‘I’ve lost over one hundred pounds in the past year. Everyone thinks it’s because I’ve discovered a new healthy way of living, but really it’s because I suffer from depression and anxiety and I don’t want anyone to know.’??”

She places the confession back in the box and grabs another. “Will you ever use any of these for paintings? Is that why you keep them in here?”

I shake my head. “This is where I keep the ones I’ve seen in one form or another before. People’s secrets are a lot alike, surprisingly.”

She reads another. “?‘I hate animals. Sometimes when my husband brings home a new puppy for our children, I’ll wait a few days and then drop it off miles from our house. Then I pretend it ran away.’??”

She frowns at that confession.

“Jesus,” she says, picking up several more. “How do you retain faith in humanity after reading these every day?”

“Easy,” I say. “It actually makes me appreciate people more, knowing we all have this amazing ability to put on a front. Especially to those closest to us.”

She stops reading the confession in her hands and her eyes meet mine. “You’re amazed that people can lie so well?”

I shake my head. “No. Just relieved to know that everyone does it. Makes me feel like maybe my life isn’t as fucked up as I thought it was.”

She regards me with a quiet smile and continues sifting through the box. I watch her. Some of the confessions make her laugh. Some make her frown. Some make her wish she’d never read them.

“What’s the worst one you’ve ever received?”

I knew this was coming. I almost wish I had lied to her and said I throw a lot of them away, but instead I point to the smaller box. She leans forward and touches it, but she doesn’t pull it toward her.

“What’s in here?”

“The confessions I never want to read again.”

She looks down at the box and slowly pulls the lid off of it. She grabs one of the confessions from the top. “?‘My father has been . . .’??” Her voice grows weak and she looks up at me with daunting sadness. I can see the gentle roll of her throat as she swallows and then looks back down to the confession. “?‘My father has been having sex with me since I was eight years old. I’m thirty-three now and married with children of my own, but I’m still too scared to say no to him.’??”

She doesn’t just place this confession back into the box. She crumples it up into a tight fist and she throws the confession at the box, like she’s angry at it. She puts the lid back on it and shoves the box several feet away. I can see that she hates that box as much as I do.

“Here,” I say, handing her the box she hasn’t opened. “Read a couple of these. You’ll feel better.”

She hesitantly removes one of the confessions. Before she reads it, she straightens up and stretches her back, and then inhales a deep breath.

“?‘Every time I go out to eat, I secretly pay for someone’s meal. I can’t afford it, but I do it because it makes me feel good to imagine what that moment must be like for them, to know a complete stranger just did something nice for them with no expectations in return.’??”

She smiles, but she needs another good one. I sift through the box until I find the one printed on blue construction paper. “Read this one. It’s my favorite.”

“?‘Every night after my son falls asleep, I hide a brand-new toy in his room. Every morning when he wakes up and finds it, I pretend not to know how it got there. Because Christmas should come every day and I never want my son to stop believing in magic.’??”

She laughs and looks up at me appreciatively. “That kid’s gonna be sad when he wakes up in his college dorm for the first time and doesn’t have a new toy.” She places it back in the box and continues sifting through them. “Are any of these your own?”

“No. I’ve never written one.”

She looks at me in shock. “Never?”

I shake my head and she tilts hers in confusion. “That’s not right, Owen.” She immediately stands and leaves the room. I’m confused as to what’s going on, but before I take the time to stand up and follow her, she returns. “Here,” she says, handing me a sheet of paper and a pen. Sitting back down on the floor in front of me, she nods her head at the paper and encourages me to write.

I look down at the paper when I hear her say, “Write something about yourself that no one else knows. Something you’ve never told anyone.”

I smile when she says this, because there is so much I could tell her. So much that she probably wouldn’t even believe, and so much I’m not even sure I want her to know.

“Here.” I tear the paper in half and hand a piece of it to her. “You have to write one, too.”

I write mine first, but as soon as I’m done, she takes the pen from me. She writes hers without hesitation. She folds it and begins to throw it in the box, but I stop her. “We have to trade.”

She immediately shakes her head. “You aren’t reading mine,” she says firmly.

She’s so adamant, it makes me want to read it even more. “It’s not a confession if no one reads it. It’s just an unshared secret.”

She shoves her hand inside the box and releases her confession into the pile of other confessions. “You don’t have to read it in front of me in order for it to be considered a confession.” She grabs the paper out of my hands and shoves it into the box along with hers and all the others. “You don’t read any of the others as soon as they write them.”

She makes a good point, but I’m extremely disappointed that I don’t know what she just wrote down. I want to pour the box out onto the floor and sift through the confessions until I find hers, but she stands up and reaches down for my hand.

“Walk me home, Owen. It’s getting late.”

We walk most of the way to her apartment in complete silence. Not an uncomfortable silence in any way. I think we’re both quiet because neither of us is ready to say good-bye just yet.

She doesn’t pause when we reach her apartment building in order to say good-bye to me. She keeps walking, expecting that I’ll follow her.

I do.

I follow behind her, all the way to apartment 1408. I stare at the pewter number plaque on her door, and I want to ask her if she’s ever seen the horror movie 1408, with John Cusack. But I’m afraid if she’s never heard of it, she might not like that there’s a horror movie with the same name as her apartment number.

She inserts her key into the lock and pushes open the door. After it’s open she turns around to face me, but not before motioning toward the apartment number. “Eerie, huh? You ever seen the movie?”

I nod. “I wasn’t going to bring it up.”

She glances at the number and sighs. “I found my roommate online, so she already lived here. Believe it or not, Emory had a choice between three apartments and actually chose this one because of the creepy correlation to the movie.”

“That’s a little disturbing.”

She nods and inhales a breath. “She’s . . . different.”

She looks down at her feet.

I inhale and look up at the ceiling.

Our eyes meet in the middle, and I hate this moment. I hate it because I’m not finished talking to her, but it’s time for her to go. It’s way too soon for a kiss, but the discomfort of a first date coming to an end is there. I hate this moment because I can feel how uncomfortable she is as she waits for me to tell her good night.

Rather than do the expected, I point inside her apartment. “Mind if I use your restroom before I head back?”

That’s platonic enough but still gives me an excuse to talk to her a little more. She glances inside, and I see a flash of doubt cross her face because she doesn’t know me, and she doesn’t know that I would never hurt her, and she wants to do the right thing and protect herself. I like that. It makes me worry a little less, knowing she has a semblance of self-preservation.

I smile innocently. “I already promised I wouldn’t torture, rape, or kill you.”

I don’t know why this makes her feel better, but she laughs. “Well, since you promised,” she says, holding the door open wider, allowing me inside her apartment. “But just in case, you should know I’m very loud. I can scream like Jamie Lee Curtis.”

I shouldn’t be thinking about what she sounds like when she’s loud. But she brought it up.

She points me in the direction of her restroom, and I walk inside, closing the door behind me. I grip the edges of her sink while looking in the mirror. I try to tell myself again that this is nothing more than a coincidence. Her showing up at my doorstep tonight. Her connecting with my art. Her having the same middle name as I do.

That could be fate, you know.

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