Rhea gushes at my messy desk. First to stare like it’s bothering her life, and second, she reveals her forced smile. Then she kisses my right cheek. She isn’t happy. I know it. She knows it.
“Look what Laudine got me,” she says, handing me a huge mirrored-like, monogram glass around one and a half feet long. It’s actually a shiny painting. The borders shimmer, reflecting light green and pink. A picture of a lady with long blonde hair. Her eyes point sideways, somewhat downward, as if looking down on you. What she’s actually looking at is muddle green water. It’s unclear what’s beneath that fountain. The lady has sharp features. She is sitting down, wearing a beige dress and a dark blue cloak. One hand reaches to stoke a sitting gray hound.
“Isn’t it cute?” she asks.
I nod and look down, busying myself with my music notes. Of course, she never catches my drift.
“I think I want to put it as a centerpiece in the living room. Can you imagine, it’s a monogram, too. Laudine’s too sweet.”
I move the picture back and forth, left and right. Nothing. It doesn’t change to another picture. “I can’t see it.”
Rhea just laughs and leaves the room.
Soon, she’s hauling in the hallways. Every time I walk to the kitchen from my study, I feel the need to glance at her, seeking approval. I just need to know she’s still there. It bothers me that my girlfriend can see the other picture and I can’t. Why the fuck can’t I?
Rhea has been sleeping earlier than usual as well. She dozed off at eight. I am alone at the piano. It’s already two a.m., I am still working on my new song. Afterwards, I go to the kitchen make some green tea. I pour the cup with half and half, stirring. I feel the picture stares, someone is slaying my back. I ignore the sting and walk to the piano.
I place my cup on the table. I sit down and play Symphony no. 5 before heading upstairs. I begin in Andante and close my eyes, letting my fingers flow. The blonde lady is picking an orange. She looks up and winks. We kiss under the tree while another man stares. Her eyes are like a slitted silhouette, hollow but painful. The sun seems to be a lot closer. My skin is burning, glowing. Sweat drips over my body. When she lets go of me, my lips become bitter, like a rotten apple. The smell grows stronger. I can’t breathe. Gasping for clean air, suddenly I am choking. I open my eyes, coughing and spitting blood.
The next morning, I shower while Rhea brushes her teeth.
“You have a scar on your back,” she mumbles, peering inside the tub. She looks back to the mirror. “Does it hurt?”
I shrug. She pulls her black hair aside and spits.
“What’s the other picture?”
“You can’t really see it?” she asks, smiling at her own reflection.
I nod. I want to shake her shoulders so she’ll just tell me. But I decided that’ll be too extreme. I smile, imagining choking her.
“She’s sitting on the dirt next to her husband’s body.”
That night, I hear Rhea’s sobbing, almost like hiccuping outside my study.
“Honey,” I call out. “Are you okay?”
I hear footsteps and before I know it, Rhea stands at my open door.
“Yeah?” she frowns. “What do you need?”
Her eyes are clear, big, and dry. Not puffy as I have expected. She squints and goes back to the kitchen. In the hallway glares the painting. I tilt and see the other picture. Her eyes are closed and both cheeks are filled with bluish tiny dots.
Note: Feature image above is taken from National Portrait Gallery.