It’s raining, and in your haste, you left your jacket behind. It doesn’t matter though.
Perhaps the water will wash away the stain of sin? You can only hope, because you don’t think you’d ever get it off on your own.
You reach the intersection. Delgado and Spears. As you wait to cross, you wonder if she’ll ever forgive you. If she’ll ever understand. No, you decide.
If she can’t understand after two years, she never will.
Through the oily rain, you see the crossing sign light up an incandescent white, making the scene before you appear as though a gleaming celestial map came into being before you,
each drop a shining star in a vast astronomical sea.
You take a couple snapshots with your optical camera implant,
time forced into a standstill as you line up the perfect shots before you’re snapped back into reality and cross the street in earnest, anxious to get home.
Your earlier thoughts continue to plague you. So what if she refuses to see what is best for her? For the both of you? It could only work in your favor. She was a distraction, nothing more.
She was a good woman, part of you chastises. She was a pest, you retort back. A hindrance.
You would already be living in a luxurious mid-level apartment in the city’s Central Spire instead of the dingy ground level by now if she wasn’t always breathing down your neck
to spend time with her, to talk to her. To love her. But doesn’t she get it? Won’t she understand? Once you’ve made it, once both of you make it to the good life, there will be time for love.
There will finally be time for all the love the two of you could ever handle. But to get there, for the gates of that blessed Promised Land to open at last, the work must be finished.
The commission you received from the wealthy noble in the upper Spire. Your Magnum Opus. The most important artwork you will ever produce in your life.
Why won’t she understand that? Why, damnit? Can’t she see what she’s sabotaging for herself? For you?
Your inner rant has carried you all the way to your home, such as it is.
You can tell by the sweet scent of freshly baked bread wafting down the dark, moist street, the industrial smell of the polluted rain unable to overpower the purity of the bakery.
Your home is a small four-story building, with the bakery on the first floor, the proprietors living on the second, you on the third,
and your measly art studio sharing the fourth with the bakery’s storage rooms. It isn’t much, but at least the bakers give you a couple free loaves of bread every day. God, is it good bread.
You step into the pleasing warmth of the bakery, dripping slightly blackened globs of water by the dozen onto the welcome mat.
Erica, one of the owners, was busy helping a late night customer, while Samuel, Erica’s husband and the other owner,
set down a tray of baked bread before running upstairs briefly before racing back down to cover you with a large towel.
“Pavel, buddy. You’re completely soaked,” Samuel said cordially. “What happened to your jacket?”
You smile meekly. “Must have forgotten it there.”
“Oh well, at least you didn’t lose it,” Samuel said. “You can go get it tomorrow. I won’t let you go back in this weather.”
Your smile fades. “I don’t think I’ll be able to go back. I’m sorry.”
Samuel frowns. “That bad then, huh? Shit. I’m the one who should be saying sorry to you. I know it’s been rough going between you two.”
“Yeah,” you mumble. “Look man, I…I’ll buy you a new jacket soon, ok? I’m about to finish a lesser commission and after that I should have eno…”
“Stop,” Samuel says. “After all you’ve done for us, you don’t owe us a thing, alright? In fact, I never should have given you such a ratty old thing in the first place.
You deserve a proper jacket. I’ll pick one up at the store tomorrow, ok?”
You want to continue to protest, to say that all the shitty little paintings you’ve given them as decorations for their bakery don’t do anything to bring in more business,
that it’s their skills with bread alone that affects that, that you don’t deserve a thing from them, but you know he’d never listen, never accept such an answer.
So you just smile, nod, and finish drying yourself off before giving the towel back to him before making for the stairs.
After a quick shower, you go up to your cramped little studio and get to work. A feverish pace sets in, your brush flying across the canvas with an energy you’ve never had.
You’re not surprised. After tonight’s events, you have every right to be.
And so you brush like a madman, bright streaks of orange and blue like the fires that burned bright tonight, two hooded figures dancing within the blue, like that lover,
like that soulless bitch. A green specter, watching. Judging. Like you judged them. Like God will judge you. The canvas burns with the fiery rendition of this fateful night. It’s perfect.
You see it at last. You’ve done it. Your Magnum Opus. Your key to the gates of Paradise. It’s here! At long last, it’s finally…
Your body lurches violently, your bright blood spattering across your work. As the pain eats away at the last of your sanity, you regard the painting with this new addition.
Flecks of fresh blood, almost pink against the other colors, now scatter across the painting. They look like…like sparks. Of passion. Of love. Of flame.
You try to turn, to regard whoever helped you truly complete your masterpiece.
To thank them.
Then you see them. Your eyes go wide with recognition. With understanding.
You close your eyes.