Night Owl
Author:M. Pierce

"Oh, right." She toed the floor. "Kind of lost my appetite... in the craziness."

 

"Mm. You cut your hair, too." I fluffed the layered curls at the back of her head. They were heavy with product. Hannah blinked up at me. "I like it, bird. I like it a lot."

 

She exhaled in relief.

 

I roamed through the condo some more, feeling like a ghost. I couldn't get hold of my moods. The highs were sharp; the lows were deep. Was it the Librium? I felt totally dislocated. Hannah trailed after me, perhaps feeling equally lost.

 

"What?" I murmured. She was staring at me again. I knew for a fact I didn't look stare-worthy. My wardrobe, at the very least, needed to be fetched posthaste. I was wearing an old pair of jeans and a blue thermal turtleneck.

 

"It's just... it's surreal. I mean, M. Pierce is walking through my living room."

 

"Matt Sky," I corrected her, "your fucked up asshole of a boyfriend."

 

My words were not intended to make Hannah beam, but I think all she heard was boyfriend. She launched herself into my arms again and I kissed her hard. My heart protested with a fluttering rhythm. God, I was weak. I'd nearly collapsed after the sex in Nate's basement. How humiliating.

 

"Baby, I—"

 

Hannah had one leg hooked around my ass and was rocking into my groin.

 

"Yeah?"

 

"I... I think I know exactly what this place needs," I said, easing her back.

 

"What?"

 

I ran my fingers over the drywall, which was pale and smeared with stains.

 

"A little color," I said, smiling down at her.

 

A little color turned out to be an understatement.

 

Over the next week, when I wasn't sleeping off my meds, Hannah and I painted the condo. I let her choose everything—and buy nothing. She was crazy about bright colors.

 

We painted the main room turquoise, the kitchen yellow, the bedroom blue, the bathroom pink, and the "office library writing room," as we dubbed it, lettuce green.

 

Hannah tried damn hard to stop me from buying everything. I countered by threatening to buy anything she looked at, literally.

 

In an antique shop, I caught her laughing at a clown lamp.

 

"Really?" I said, raising a brow. "Kind of the stuff of nightmares, but since you won't tell me what you do want..."

 

"Matt!" She peeled after me as I stalked toward checkout with the lamp. She yanked at my arm. "Okay, okay! Not that, this!"

 

We covered the scratched hardwood with bright area rugs. We hung Restoration Hardware lamps in every room—Vintage Birdcage chandeliers, the Foucault Iron Orb—and busied surfaces with knickknacks, accent lamps, and candles.

 

Oh yeah, we got surfaces.

 

I let Hannah choose a kitchen island from Williams-Sonoma and a handsome circular table and chairs from Ethan Allen... along with a turquoise Quincy bed frame, teal end tables, a claw-foot tub, arch mirrors from West Elm, a deep-buttoned velvet sofa from Couch, and what felt like one of everything from Anthropologie.

 

Anthropologie seemed to be Hannah's favorite store. We bought dozens of their hand-painted plates, the Rivulets quilt and shams, a vintage dresser, lace curtains, patterned pillows, animal-shaped wall hooks, and new knobs for everything (including Laurence's hutch).

 

By the time we were done, the condo looked like a gypsy caravan collided with a psychic's tent. Nothing matched. I mean nothing. No two knobs were the same, no two pillows or bookshelves or picture frames.

 

And Hannah loved it. And I loved seeing her happy.

 

We wrote THE NEST in letter-shaped coat hooks by the front door.

 

We laughed a lot while we decorated. We goofed off a lot. I think I was almost happy, except when Hannah had to go to work.

 

I followed her around as she showered and dressed.

 

"My sweet shadow," she said, kissing me slowly before slipping out the door.

 

I was anything but sweet in Hannah's absence. The Librium dragged me into a nap, after which I ranged through the condo feeling sick.

 

Writing was out of the question.

 

Hannah paid special attention to our "office" furnishings, making me choose the desk and transition my whole library over, but that didn't inspire me to write.

 

Nothing did.

 

More often than not, I avoided the room. The only thing I actually wrote was a letter to Wendy. I thanked her for her transcription services and included a check. Severance pay, I called it. I apologized for my hasty departure and promised to visit one day.

 

Another loose end tied up. What now? I felt like a dog waiting for his master to come home. Five o'clock rolled around and I stood on the balcony watching for Hannah.

 

Once, I got it in my head to follow her to work. I thought I might feel better being closer to her. I trailed her into the agency and deposited myself on a bench in the lobby.

 

Pam found me there, of course.

 

"Matthew." She looked at me quizzically. "How wonderful to see you."

 

"Mm. Hi Pam." I picked at the cuff of my sleeve.

 

"Are you—" She glanced around the empty lobby. "Did you need to see me?"

 

"No, just sitting."

 

"Ah." Pam blinked and nodded.