Still Life

by Chris J

JC wakes up alone, the space on the bed next to him already grown cold from Joey's absence. He stretches and sprawls and tries to fall asleep again, but reddish light is already beginning to seep in through the thin curtains, and his body knows that daylight will follow. And without Joey there, sleeping in the tangled sheets with him, naked and cozy warm, the ache of absence would have kept him awake regardless.

He slides out of bed and puts on a pair of boxers before leaving the bedroom, because a precocious two-year-old sleeps in the room next door and her waking hours are still unpredictable enough to make him cautious. Her door is closed, but the hallway is dark and he doesn’t know what he’ll find when he reaches the end of it.

She's not awake, though, and neither is Joey, though they obviously were at some point in the last hour or two. The end credits of The Little Mermaid scroll across the television screen as a quiet score plays in the background. Joey is stretched out along the length of the couch, his little girl in soft bunny pajamas held securely in his arms.

JC almost trips over his abandoned easel as he tries to creep up on them, and wonders if Joey still has streaks of paint on his neck, his chest, from his successful effort to pull JC away from his painting. He and Joey have so few moments alone together anymore -- a kiss here, a grope there, a frantic tumble in the sheets when they can hear Joey’s daughter has stopped babbling and has drifted off to sleep -- but these days some of his favourite moments are the ones that Briahna is a part of.

He’s careful not to wake them, though he's sure they’re sleeping soundly after getting up in the wee hours of the morning, as he pulls the easel closer and finds himself a fresh canvas and reaches for his paints.

It could well be the he would be the only one to ever recognize the tan blob as a couch, the blue streaks as Joey's cotton pajamas and the brown smudges as his little girl's curls. He's not very good and he knows it. But it's good enough for him, good enough that he'll remember. Good enough for what it is.

He just wants to have something to keep with him, for when Kelly comes back and JC has to let this all slip through his fingers again.

For jawamonkey, because I missed her. December 9, 2002

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