Rewrite This!: Paint Me an Eternity II


So Tuesday’s post was the original version I wrote in 2009. Here’s a new version I did this week to reflect my current style. Enjoy!

Lily sat in the bathtub, her knees drawn tightly to her chest. She sat there for hours hoping that the hot water would ease her aching muscles. Unfortunately, it hadn’t and if she didn’t get out of the tub soon she would catch a cold. Reluctantly, Lily stood and drained the tub as she dried off mesmerized by the water spiraling down the drain.

Once she was dry, she collapsed on her bed and started at the top drawer of the nightstand. It felt like centuries had passed before she opened it and pulled out a gun. She slid the barrel into her mouth and closed her eyes. She took a deep breath and counted backwards. 3…2…

The phone  rang. Lily cursed under her breath and threw the gun on the bed.

“Hello.” Lily growled into the receiver.

“What are you doing? You look ridiculous.” The man on the other end replied.

“What?”

“I said you look ridiculous. Sitting in a towel with a gun in your mouth. What was the point in you taking a bath if you were going to soil yourself?”

“Who’s this?” Lil asked as she checked the windows and the hall for the caller.

“You don’t recognize me?” The man asked, suddenly saddened.

Lily thought for a moment. She remembered that hint of sadness. She remembered that voice. But it couldn’t be. It was impossible. The name escaped her lips before she realized it.

“John?”

“That’s right sweetheart. It’s me. I’ve missed you.”

“This doesn’t make sense. I saw you…you’re-”

“Dead. Yeah, sorry. If I were alive you’d know I’d be laying beside you every night. And you wouldn’t even think of killing yourself in a bath towel.

Lily frowned at his comment but did something she hadn’t in months. Smile. It was a small one, the kind she would give to him when his honesty was not the best policy, but amused 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 times, maybe even more.

“Anyway, babe, listen up, ok,.  This is important.” John interrupted.
“I’m all ears.” She sniffled. The smile turned into a laugh. The laughter morphed into tears.
“I could make a joke about that, but now isn’t the time. I have to be serious about this. Sweetheart the accident wasn’t an accident.
“What do you mean?  How could someone do what happened to us? Why?” Lily wailed.
“Lily, 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.
“What do you want me to do? Do you want me to find them? ”
“Don’t do anything for now. I’m just warning you. Be careful.”

***

Although Lily promised herself she would never go back there, she took a trip down to the scene of the fire. It was more ghastly than she remembered.  The old cabin by the lake and the trees surrounding it were reduced to 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 said it was a terrible accident. Their car sprung an oil leak and a burning cigarette 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 exploded.

The fact that the car sprang 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, he took the ’75 Ford GT40 out of the garage. He checked it every morning when he woke up 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. The past was too painful to think about.

She stopped the maddening work of sifting through the broken pieces of her life and headed towards the lake. She splashed the cool water onto her face. Three months, 8 days, and 11 hours passed 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 scars that would probably for life. A tear rolled down her cheek. Someone called to her.

“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 cabin back there? 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. 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 it was on fire.”
“So someone did do it…someone did do it…” The information was too much for Lily to handle. She collapsed and sobbed uncontrollably. The boy knelt down and held her until she got all her tears out. It took her a few minutes to compose herself.  He held her in silence.

“I’m sorry.” She said finally.
“It’s ok ma’am.” He replied.
“Please, call me Lily.” She sniffed.
“Jayson Rivera.”

“Jayson, how longer are you gonna be around here?”  Lily asked.
“Couple weeks.”

Lily wrote down her number and handed it to him. “Here’s my number. We should keep in touch while you’re here. I could really use a friend right now. Someone I can trust.”

Jayson nodded. “I understand ma’am. I’m sorry for your loss. If there’s anything I can do to help, just let me know.”

“Thank you. I may take you up on that.”

The drive home was tortuous for Lily. Her mind was racing with thousands of questions. Who would want to hurt them? Should she tell the police? Would they believe her? After all, the only proof she had that something was amiss were the testimonies of a ghost and an underage drinker.

When she got home, she couldn’t sit still. She paced from floor to floor several times trying to figure out what to do, but nothing came to her. Lily backtracked to her painting room. She saw something or someone. John stood next to a fresh canvas. 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. 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 know, but you can’t stop painting forever. Come on. Paint for me.”

Lily grabbed a brush and her palette. She thought the whole idea was silly and crazy, but once she started, she couldn’t stop. For the next three days, it became an obsession. All she could do was paint. All she could think about was painting. She painted the fire, the destruction, the death 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?

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. To her surprise, it was John’s best friend, Emmitt, 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.
“Emmitt was worried. You hadn’t called in a few days and no one’s seen you. We just wanted to see if everything was on the up and up.” Jocelyn said merrily as walked around the house.
“You look tired. And dirty.” Emmet said softly.
“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 replied.
“This is terrible! Why would you paint these? Why in God’s good name would you sit in here and create these atrocities!”
“I’m trying to find where to look! Someone told me this was not an accident!”
“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 grabbed her by the hair and then started to punch her in the face. Emmitt broke up the fight as tears streamed down his face. “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 spent their days at the old cabin by the lake. His eyes caught the detail in the paintings she overlooked. H. 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. As they walked back to Lily’s car, Jayson tripped. When she helped him up, she found it. A few yards away, John’s class ring shimmered in the fading light. It was attached to a dingy white envelope. It was addressed to him. She opened it and read.

Dearest John,
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 hurts. Wrong. It could have been a lot worse. You could have died. You’re wife could have died. But it could 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?
Jocelyn

***

“Emmitt!!! Emmitt!!!” 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 the top of her brother’s head and pressed the gun firmly against his temple.
“He’s your brother for Christ’s sake!” Lily shouted.
“Ha, he played his part. He was a good 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?”
“You forced me! You forced me!” Emmitt screamed. She smacked him across the face with the gun and he fell to the ground. She pointed it at Lily.

“You’re not gonna do it,” Lily replied backing up. “You’re a coward. Emmitt’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?”

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. Jocelyn laid in a pool of her own blood in the distance. Everything started to become blurry. Everything seemed so far away. She staggered back into the pool. The beautiful blue water 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.
“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.

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