• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 07

A Splash of Unexpected Brightness

"Oh my God, what have you done?"

For once, the rising whine of Abby's voice held a genuine question. Nick shrugged, gestured with open palms — surely it was self-evident.

When Nick had turned up looking for a place to crash on Friday, Abby had been on her way out.

"Mi casa su casa," she'd misquoted from a film, and thrown him her spare keys.

By midnight he was thinking maybe he should have asked when she'd be back, and as Saturday's sunrise sneaked in through gaps in velvet curtains his jiggling leg could have powered the espresso machine if he'd only found a way to harness it. Exactly what was the point of exchanging the familiar solitude of his studio for the creepy silence of Abby's empty flat?

"Do you have any idea how much this was worth?" Abby demanded now, fists on hips in the hallway.

"I guess you can't knock the wall down and sell it," Nick said, "but you know, if we get a good photo it might make a decent print. Get it done on canvas, bump the price up."

"That was a genuine antique chair."

"It did look old. Musty. Depressing. I spent one night in here and I knew exactly why you're so uptight all the time." Abby stared at him, Nick guessed she hadn't expected him to show that level of insight. "So I figured I'd cheer the place up a bit. What do you reckon?"

She was speechless, and Nick smiled as the room suddenly looked brighter.


A Splash of Unexpected Brightness

It had been touch and go in the early hours of Sunday but he was glad he'd kept at it, kept distracting himself. His head felt clearer, his shoulders less tense. Friends like Abby were what made life worth hanging on to.

"You have a look round the rest of it," he said, clapping a paint-splattered hand on her shoulder. "I did the whole flat." Her face crumpled and he shuffled past her. "I'll fetch us some lunch, yeah?"

He shut the door on her first sobs of gratitude, warmth spreading through him like he'd swallowed sunshine.