I wasn’t sure what to write for today’s post, so I turned to this post from selfpublishingteam.com. One of the suggestions was to chart your writing growth by examining and comparing an older piece of work and comparing it in style, tone, and polish to more current works. I’m going to up the ante by posting an older work from 2009 (the dreaded angst filled high school years) and rewrite it to reflect my current style. The original story will be posted today. The rewrite will be up Thursday. So while you’re reading this, please keep in mind how old it is and that the intent is to make it better. Enjoy!
Paint Me an Eternity
The Shakespearian quote “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts” had invaded Lily’s mind like a disease. It crept in quietly and undected and was now setting off bombs at alarming rates in her head. Her head was a warzone, a desolate wasteland. But somehow that quote was managing to survive and thrive. In a way she envied it.
Lily dried herself and wrapped her towel around her. The hot bath didn’t help as much as she thought it would. In fact, she felt worse. She rushed by the mirror, not wanting to look at herself. She walked somberly down the hall and sat on the bed by the night stand. For what seemed like an eternity, she stared at the top drawer. Finally, she opened and pulled out the gun. It was a simple 9mm, but sometimes the simplest things were the best. She stuck the barrel in her mouth and closed her eyes. 1…2…
Ring ring! Ring, ring! Lily cursed under breath and threw the gun on the bed. Angrily she snatched the phone up. “Hello.” She growled into the receiver.
“What are you doing? You’re the most ridiculous person in the world. Taking a bath and then blowing your brains out. You coulda did without the bath. Either way there’d be an explosive mess. But you’re a woman. You creatures are strange.” the man at the other end of the phone laughed.
“Who is this?” Lily gasped as she checked the windows and the hall.
“You don’t recognize me?” The man asked suddenly saddened.
Lily thought for a minute. She remembered the laugh. The sadness. But it couldn’t be. It couldn’t. No, it was impossible. But the words rolled off her tongue before she realized she had spoken them. “John?”
“That’s right sweetheart, it’s me. I’ve missed you.” He sighed.
“But…but…this doesn’t make sense. You’re…”
“Dead. Yeah. Sorry to disappoint you. If I were alive I would be right there by your side… and you wouldn’t look so silly sitting in a towel with a gun in your mouth.”
Lily frowned at his comment and then did something she hadn’t done in months. Smile. It was a small one, the kind she would give to him when his honesty was not the best policy. But it would amuse her and she would give that small smile. She laughed quietly to herself thinking about all the times she had given him that smile. It must have been a thousand, maybe even more.
“Anyway, babe, listen up ok this is important.” John interrupted.
“I’m all ears.” She sniffled. The smile had turned into a laugh, a laugh into tears.
“I could make a joke about that, but now isn’t the time. I have to be serious about this. Babe, sweetheart our accident wasn’t an accident. “John sighed.
“What do you mean? How could someone do what happened to us? Why?” Lily wailed. It was all too much. First getting a call from her dead husband and reminded of the day she lost him, and a part of herself.
“Lily, baby calm down. Come on. I was as shocked as you when I found out. Seems silly now.” He replied with a hint of anger in his voice.
“John, babe, what do you want me to do? Do you want me to find them? Wha-”
“Nothing. You’ll know when the time comes. I’m just warning you. It’s kinda like that quote that’s been in your head. Someone is playing the part of a hero, but he’s really a villain.”
The phone call from her dead husband inspired Lily to do something she never thought she would. She returned to where the fire was. The old cabin by the lake and the trees surrounding it were nothing but burnt lumber and scorched glass. The only thing that remained intact was part of the framework. She stood in the middle of the cabin sifting through the burnt remains searching for anything that would give her a clue as to who had done this to them.
The police and fire chief had said it was all a terrible accident. Their car had sprung an oil leak and a burning cigarette had hit the trail, causing the fire. They had not found the owner of the cigarette and Lily doubted they would. It probably sizzled up when the car caught fire or when it exploded.
The fact that the car had sprung a leak also mystified her for several reasons. Her husband was an engineer and a car freak. He loved the classics and for special trips like this particular one to the old cabin by the lake, he took the ’75 Ford GT40 out of the garage. He checked it every morning when he awoke and every night before he went to bed. “Can’t trust these damn kids,” he would say. “I love this car almost as much as I love you. Gotta take care of her.”
Lily shook her head to clear it of the memories. Although there was a light breeze, she was hot. She stopped the maddening work of sifting through the broken pieces of yesterday’s life and headed towards the lake. She gently splashed the cool water onto her face. Three months, 8 days, and 11 hours and she was still scarred from the accident. Her once beautiful sandy brown skin was discolored in some areas from the burns. The shrapnel that hit her face and elsewhere left them scarred; probably for life. A single tear streamed down her face. Someone called to her gently.
“Miss, um, is everything cool?” A tall Spanish boy stood behind her. He had his long hair in braids and wore a white tee and jeans.
“Yeah,” she turned toward him and smiled. “Just…uh-”
“You’re that lady aren’t you? The one who was in the house back there? I remember it happening. I saw it.”
“You…you did?” Lily asked getting up.
The boy moved closer. “Yeah, I was out here, a little further from it having a drink. Yeah, I know, but I’m 18 now and everyone does it. Anyhow, I was out here with my bottle and I saw some guy. It was around 12:30, too dark to tell around here. He was creeping around til about 1. Then he left. A few minutes later the house was a towering inferno.”
“So someone did do it…someone did do it…” The information was too much for Lily to handle. She collapsed onto the ground and sobbed uncontrollably. The boy knelt down and held her until she had gotten all of her tears out. It took her a few minutes to compose herself. He sat there holding her in silence.
“I’m sorry.” She said finally.
“It’s ok ma’am.” He replied.
“Please, call me Lily. I’m…Lily Winters.” She sniffed.
“Jayson, how longer are you gonna be around here?” Lily asked.
“Bout a week or two more. You can have my number if you want. I’m not tryin to make a pass on you. I know you just lost your husband, and psh, I don’t think you’d want a young punk like me.” He replied nervously.
Lily laughed. “I understand completely. I might need you though, for help. Now that I know this isn’t an accident…I will definitely hit you up Jayson. Definitely. Thank you sooo much.”
Lily returned homed and paced the house in a mad panic. She paced from floor to floor several times trying to figure out what to do. Who should she tell? Should she tell anyone? But who would believe her? She only had the word of a ghost and 18 year old kid who was out in the dark drinking. Nothing was making sense. Nothing.
Lily backtracked to her painting room. She had seen something. Someone. There was a fresh canvas set up, and next to it stood John. He looked as he had before the accident. Before he narrowly escaped the fire; before he had pushed her to the ground as the car exploded; before a chunk of steering wheel hit the base of his neck. No, how he was plain, simple Jonathan. The same caramel complexion, the same bright brown eyes, the same goofy, yet cinematic smile. He motioned for her to come closer. She ran to him and they hugged and kissed passionately.
“Paint.” He told her.
“John, I haven’t painted since the accident. I don’t have it in me.” She sighed.
“I’ll show you. Please baby. Paint for me. Just think about me.”
Lily grabbed a brush and her palette and sat. She thought of him and soon she was feverishly painting. His ghost had vanished, but nonetheless she painted for him. As a matter of fact she spent three days painting on little sleep or food. All she could do was paint. All she could think about was painting. She painted the fire, the destruction, the death over and over and over again. She dreamed her paintings, rushing to the room in the middle of the night to satisfy her new addiction. There was something in the paintings. Something that John wanted her to see. But what was it? What was it…?
A loud knock on the door woke Lily from her trance. She had been studying her work, searching for whatever John wanted her to see. She was dressed in a tank top and sweats pants, most of her body and hair were covered in paint. To her surprise it was John’s best friend, Emmet, and his older sister, Jocelyn. They grimaced at her disheveled appearance.
“Hey. What are you guys doing here?” She asked as she let them in.
“Emmet was worried. You hadn’t called in a few days and no one’s seen you for a long time now. We just wanted to see if everything was on the up and up.” Jocelyn said merrily as walked around the home.
“You look tired. And dirty.” Emmet said softly. Something wasn’t right with him. His short brown hair was too neat, and his usually menacing blue eyes seemed tame and fragile. Maybe because he had just lost his best friend.
“I’ve just been-”
“Oh my Lord in Heaven is that what you’ve been doing for the last three days!” Jocelyn exclaimed. Lily and Emmet ran to her painting room where Jocelyn stood staring at the paintings Lily had plastered on the wall.
“Yeah.” Lily said quietly.
“This is terrible! Terrible! Why would you paint these? Why in God’s good name would you sit in here and create these atrocities!” Jocelyn exclaimed.
“I’m trying to find where to look! Someone told me this was not an accident!” Lily retorted.
“Oh really? Who?” Jocelyn asked getting into Lily’s face.
“Someone was in the woods at the time of the accident. They saw someone sneaking around the car. They left and then about an hour later my husband was dead!”
“That’s ridiculous. Who goes out into the woods in the middle of the night? Look, I know you want to believe that this was all some terrible mistake, but it’s not. You’re husband is DEAD. D-E-A-”
Lily snapped. Jocelyn had overstepped physical and emotional boundaries. She grabbed her by the hair and then started to punch her in the face. Emmet broke up the fight crying. “I’m sorry Lily! I’m so so sorry.” He repeated as he picked up Jocelyn and carried her away, bloody and bleeding.
Lily and Jayson began spending their days at the old cabin by the lake. He had come over the day she beat up Jocelyn to look at the paintings. She didn’t tell him that a ghost had given her the idea. No, that was crazy. She just told him that her memory was suppressing something important and that she was too close to the situation to see it. Jayson was very understanding and saw it immediately. In almost all the paintings there appeared to be an envelope and a ring. They had spent three days looking for it, but had no luck.
It was dusk and time to call it a day. The two were walking back to Lily’s car when Jayson tripped. Lily went to help it and saw it. Only a few yards away something glimmered. After she helped him up she went to it. It was John’s class ring and a now dirty white envelope. It was addressed to him. She opened it up and read:
Hot enough for you? I really hope it was. I hope now you see how much a hold I really DO have over you. You think you can just do whatever you like no matter who it affects. Wrong. It could have been a lot worse. You could have died. You’re wife could have died. Don’t make that happen next time. Do as you are told. Oh, and if the cops get a hold of this you’re wife will be food for the worms. Think it over will you?
“Emmet!!! Emmet!!!” Lily shouted as she banged on his door. No answer. Lily turned the knob and it opened with ease. She ran through the house searching for him. Searching for her. She made her way to the backyard, by the pool. Lily heard the click of a gun barrel. Jocelyn was holding a gun to her brother’s head.
“Are you crazy?” Lily asked.
“Come any closer and I’ll blow his brains out.” Jocelyn said with a smile. She kissed her brother’s hair and pressed the gun firmly against his temple.
“He’s your brother for Christ’s sake! He’s your brother!” Lily shouted.
“Ha, he played his part. He was a good little boy setting the car on fire. Now there’s really no more need for him. He’ll go to jail. Do you honestly think he could handle being some man’s woman?” She replied nonchalantly.
“You forced me! You forced me!” Emmet screamed. She smacked him across the face with the gun and he fell to the ground. She pointed it out Lily.
“You’re not gonna do it,” Lily replied backing up. “You’re a coward; you’re not going to do it. Emmet’s unconscious and he can’t do a thing for you.”
“You’re husband tried to quit. He wanted to move away with you. Emmet would have to close the business without him. I had to show him he couldn’t. I run the show!” Jocelyn shouted as she moved closer.
“You don’t run anything.” Lily said through clenched teeth.
“Oh really?” Bang. The force of the shot sent Lily flying back. She was hit in the chest. More shots were fired and cops swarmed the area. Jayson pulled through for her after all. He was a good kid despite getting drunk in the woods at night. He was a good kid. Jocelyn laid in a pool of her own blood in the distance. Everything was starting to become blurry. Everything seemed so far away. She had swaggered back into the pool. The beautiful blue water soon became stained with red. Lily closed her eyes.
Lily woke up and looked around. She was in the bedroom that John and she shared in the old cabin. She looked out the window and saw him tinkering with the GT40’s engine. He wiped the sweat off his brow and waved to her. She waved back and went out to meet him. He stood on the steps and handed her a cool beer.
“I’ve missed you, you know.” John said as he wrapped an arm around her waist.
“I’ve missed you too. Almost drove me crazy. I wasn’t crazy right?” Lily asked.
“My baby crazy? Just crazy about me I hope.” He laughed. Lily laughed too. More than anything, she thought she had missed his laugh.
“But not a bad place to spend eternity huh?” John asked.
“Not bad at all. It’s so beautiful here. I’m happy as long as I’m with you. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.” Lily replied with a smile.
The happy couple kissed as the sun glistened in the distance. They were together again, forever.