She had to aim the brush at him before he got it, but when he got it he got it hard.
“You can’t,” she said, poised on her painting stool, “you can’t-” and she trailed off, a bead of blue paint swelling like a pregnancy on the bristles.
He stood there with the ease of practice, taking it. Hadn’t he always wanted to date an artist? He had imagined holding a tiny glass bird in his cupped hands – gently, so as not to break it – and watching the light diffract and prism through her delicate wings.
“I, I -” She lifted the brush, hand fluttering, her eyes deep.
It was almost the point where he would go to her and press her head into his tie to receive her tears. He knew his lines like a weary Polonius, smoking a cigarette backstage, waiting to take his place behind the arras.
“O I’m sorry,” she broke out, “I need you, I love you,” and she lowered her arm slightly in anticipation.
He stood there a moment, like he sometimes did, to prove himself not an automaton.
“I love you,” she repeated like an incantation, poking the sharp brush at him for emphasis. Blue paint fell and spattered on the newspapers he had laid for her that morning.
And then he saw it in full detail. Grey clouds lay along its tapered length, left by her paint-smudged fingers, and a thin crack in the varnish ran down to a tiny pink halo at the base of the metal head. He saw it well enough: a thin circle of paint, soft as a sunset. He believed in that circle. Then he saw the gleaming metal and the brush itself, a tall forest of pale bristles still stained with ghostly blue.
He picked up his briefcase again and left her with the paintbrush still trembling in her hand.
Pink and Blue was originally published in the Journal of Microliterature (May 2013)