Short Story: The writing on the wall

I had fun tonight!

Dax jumped as the notification alerted him to the incoming message on his phone. He read it and smiled.

I had fun, too. We should do it again some time…?

Dax waited for a few minutes, but since she was obviously taking her time, he set the phone down and got back to his sketch, a highly stylized drawing of his date as she gazed at the art work featured at an area gallery, one he was hoping to have a show in soon. He took special care on her eyes, drawing and shading in every laugh line, every little imperfection bringing to life a woman of beauty and grace, but also a woman who lived and suffered. He obsessed over her with exquisite detail, wanting to show that she was one who had loved and had been broken, had lost a part of her but had not been defeated.

He marveled that she had even agreed to his invitation in the first place. He was not the type to attract older divorcees, most especially those of a certain status. He struggled just to put a roof over his head. His clothes, while not quite shabby, were definitely thread worn in places.  She, on the other hand, wore whatever happened to be fashionable. She appeared to be a woman with the world at her fingertips, yet her eyes betrayed her even from behind her electric smile.

Dax had seen her several times at the coffee he frequented in the early evenings, as he observed quietly from the corner, drawing whatever caught his fancy. She had become his subject a few times, drawn to her for some reason, her inner strength evident even from across a crowded room. She noticed him the first time she walked in, ignoring the odd man in the corner, but she too felt an attraction of a sort. Though she tried to ignore him, eventually she screwed up the courage to sit beside him and engage him. To her delight, she found him charming and intelligent.

They took to meeting once a week for coffee. Nothing romantic at first, just two lost souls in search of understanding. To their mutual amazement, they found an unlikely soulmate. In him, Sienna found a man willing to suffer hardships for the sake of being true to himself. She found a man free of petty jealousies that consumed so many of her relationships. With him, she found the freedom to be herself, as carefree and bawdy as she desired.

In her, Dax found a woman who need for nothing other than a friend for friendship’s sake. She was a woman who didn’t need a man to support her financially, but looked for companionship to support her emotionally. With her, he didn’t need to live up to some bullshit ideal of what a man was supposed to be. He could be Dax and Sienna could be Sienna.

Their arraignment worked until some unlooked-for moment, when while sipping the dregs from their cups, they looked up at the same time and looked into each other’s unguarded eyes. They pierced the enigmatic facade each presented to the world and discovered themselves in that moment as well. Dax hadn’t planned on doing it, he had no intention of ever dating again, but before he was aware, some unspoken need took control and he asked her for a date to the gallery.

“I would love to,” she replied, “as long as you allow me to take you to a favorite restaurant of mine.”

“I think I can live with that,” he laughed before becoming embarrassed. “I can’t believe I just asked you out, or that you agreed.”

“I can’t believe it either,” she smiled. “Let’s not put too much stock in it for now.”

He nodded but couldn’t help but feel as though some subtle change had occurred. They lingered for half an hour longer than usual, he engaged in a drawing, and she enjoying the magic in bringing a scene to life. Before they departed, their hands met, the first time they had touched in so intimate an expression. They withdrew reluctantly, but Dax knew he was a changed man.

The date night came, and they enjoyed paintings from local talent, some good and others not so much. They held hands as they walked to a pizza joint she had worked at when she was a college student. “I never eat the stuff anymore,” she confided. “Too fattening.”

“Then why eat it now?”

“Because,” she answered after taking a swig of her beer, “I’m tired of trying to maintain the figure of the girl I was twenty some-odd years ago. I’m over forty, and though I don’t want to get fat, I want to taste life again, even if it tastes like this gloriously shitty pizza!”

“It’s not that great,” he agreed.

“No, and I’m loving every single bite!”

The night drew to a close sooner than either had wanted. She drove him to his place, and it was on the tip of his tongue to invite her up. Instead she leaned in and gave him a kiss on his lips, the first kiss he had felt in years. “Don’t say a word,” she whispered as she drew him in and kissed him again. He melted in her arms, the taste of pizza and beer on her breath, but it didn’t matter. At that moment, nothing mattered, nor did he believe anything would matter again.

I’d love to do it again. How about a weekend in Vegas?

He stared at his phone, processing the invitation. Was it an invitation for him to make a move or was he reading too much into an innocent comment.

Whoa! Sounds risky…and a bit fun. When do we leave?

He waited only for a few seconds before she replied.

We can leave tonight. I’m already packed. I already have two tickets bought. I’m on my way.

Why the hurry?

I don’t know. I just want to be with you. Don’t you want me? At least a little?

Dax stared at his phone, lost for words. He had lived his life eschewing spontaneity. He gave up on love and women because they were a distraction. He lived a simple life, and though he enjoyed having her around, he wished for her to go away, for things to be they way they had always been. Sienna was a woman in search of adventure, and he wanted conformity and uniformity. He realized there was no place for her in his life.

He picked up his phone and started to write the dreaded reply.

I can’t wait. I’ll be ready in a few minutes. Just come on up. The door’s unlocked.

He freaked out when he saw what he had written. He threw the phone onto the bed and argued into the mirror. “I don’t want to go!”

His reflection smiled. “You wanted to grow as an artist, did you not?”

“I did, but not like this.”

“Too bad,” the reflection sneered. “You know the price. You have to live in order to make art, so live.”

“And is she necessary?”

“She is,” the reflection nodded. “I demand a sacrifice, and I choose her. Don’t disappoint me. You’ve kept me waiting long enough with your foolish chastity. No more. Give me her soul, and in return you’ll be spoken with the likes of Picasso, Monet, Cezanne!”

“Never!” Dax screeched, shattering the mirror with his fist.


When Sienna arrived, she found his body in front of the bathroom door. On the wall, in his blood, he had written.

“You won’t understand why, but I did this
because I fell in love with you. Remember me fondly.
I’m sorry.

Short Stories

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Previous story – Lonely Isle

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