“You never told me why you moved to Texas.”
She looks alarmed by my comment, but I don’t know why. “I never told you I wasn’t from Texas.”
I smile to cover up my mistake. I shouldn’t know she isn’t from Texas, because as far as she knows, I know nothing about her other than what she’s told me tonight. I do my best to hide what’s really going through my head, because if I were to come clean with her now, it would make me look like I’ve been hiding something from her for the majority of the night. I have, but it’s too late for me to admit that now. “You didn’t have to tell me. Your accent told me.”
She watches me closely, and I can tell she’s not going to answer my question, so I think of a different question to replace that one, but the next question is even more rushed. “Do you have a boyfriend?”
She quickly looks away and it makes my heart sting because for some reason, she looks guilty. I assume this means she does have a boyfriend, and dances like the one I just shared with her shouldn’t happen with girls who have boyfriends.
My heart instantly feels better. I smile again, for about the millionth time since I first saw her at my door tonight. I don’t know if she knows this about me yet, but I hardly ever smile.
I wait for her to ask me a question, but she’s quiet. “Are you gonna ask me if I have a girlfriend?”
She laughs. “No. She broke up with you last week.”
Oh, yeah. I forgot we’ve already visited this subject. “Lucky me.”
“That’s not very nice,” she says with a frown. “I’m sure it was a hard decision for her.”
I disagree with a shake of my head. “It was an easy decision for her. It’s an easy decision for all of them.”
She pauses for a second or two, eyeing me warily before she begins walking again. “All of them?”
I realize this doesn’t make me sound good, but I’m not about to lie to her. Plus, if I tell her the truth, she might continue to trust me and ask me even more questions.
“Yes. I get broken up with a lot.”
She squints her eyes and scrunches her nose up at my response. “Why do you think that is, Owen?”
I try to pad the harshness of the sentence about to come out of my mouth by speaking softer, but it’s not a fact I necessarily want to admit to her. “I’m not a very good boyfriend.”
She looks away, probably not wanting me to see the disappointment in her eyes. I saw it anyway, though. “What makes you a bad boyfriend?”
I’m sure there are lots of reasons, but I focus on the most obvious answers. “I put a lot of other things before my relationships. For most girls, not being a priority is a pretty good reason to end things.”
I glance at her to see if she’s still frowning or if she’s judging me. Instead, she has a thoughtful look on her face and she’s nodding.
“So Hannah broke up with you because you wouldn’t make time for her?”
“That’s what it boiled down to, yes.”
“How long were the two of you together?”
“Not long. A few months. Three, maybe.”
“Did you love her?”
I want to look at her, to see the look on her face after she asks me this question, but I don’t want her to see the look on my face. I don’t want her to think my frown means I’m heartbroken, because I’m not. If anything, I’m sad that I couldn’t love her.
“I think love is a hard word to define,” I say to her. “You can love a lot of things about a person but still not love the whole person.”
“Did you cry?”
Her question makes me laugh. “No, I didn’t cry. I was pissed. I get involved with these girls who claim they can handle it when I need to lock myself up for a week at a time. Then when it actually happens, we spend the time we are together fighting about how I love my art more than I love them.”
She turns and walks backward so she can peg me with her stare. “Do you? Love your art more?”
I look straight at her this time. “Absolutely.”
Her lips curl up into a hesitant grin, and I don’t know why this answer pleases her. It disturbs most people. I should be able to love people more than I love to create, but so far that hasn’t happened yet.
“What’s the best anonymous confession you’ve ever received?”
We haven’t been walking long. We aren’t even to the end of the street, but the question she just asked could open up a conversation that could last for days.
“That’s a tough one.”
“Do you keep all of them?”
I nod. “I’ve never thrown one away. Even the awful ones.”
This gets her attention. “Define awful.”
I glance over my shoulder to the end of the street and look at my studio. I don’t know why the thought to show her even crosses my mind, because I’ve never shared the confessions with anyone.
But she isn’t just anyone.
When I look at her again, her eyes are hopeful. “I can show you some,” I say.
Her smile widens with my words, and she immediately stops heading in the direction of her apartment in favor of my studio.
Once upstairs, I open the door and let her cross the threshold that has, up to this point, only been crossed by me. This is the room I paint in. This is the room I keep the confessions in. This is the room that is the most private part of me. In a way, I guess you could say this room holds my confession.
There are several paintings in here I’ve never shown anyone. Paintings that will never see the light of day—like the one she’s looking at right now.
She touches the canvas and runs her fingers over the face of the man in the picture. She traces his eyes, his nose, his lips. “This isn’t a confession,” she says, reading the piece of paper attached to it. She glances at me. “Who is this?”
I walk to where she is and stare at the picture with her. “My father.”
She gasps quietly, running her fingers over the words written on the slip of paper. “What does Nothing but Blues mean?”
Her fingers are now trailing over the sharp white lines in the painting and I wonder if anyone has ever told her that artists don’t like it when you touch their paintings.
That’s not true in this case, because I want to watch her touch every single one of them. I love how she can’t seem to look at one without feeling it with both her eyes and her hands. She looks up at me expectantly, waiting for me to explain what the title of this one means.