The Blank Canvas (Apartment #2)

The Blank Canvas

sequel to The Apartment

By Amanda Black

For Luke

Who stood by me through rewrite after rewrite
and was convinced that all it needed was more cock.

Thanks for the suggestion, babe.

Chapter 1

Lily had no idea what time it was.

She had been lying there on the hallway floor for the better part of the evening, barely noticing when the light began to dim through the windows. Her eyes were swollen and red, completely drained of any moisture, and her top lip was puffy and sore from being contorted into various shapes as she wailed out her heartbreak.

He was gone.

Her beautiful Ethan had left, taking everything with him, including her heart.

When she was finally able to process anything other than that, she thought back to their goodbye that morning and wanted to smack herself for not seeing the signs. He had been so insatiable, so clingy. It had been his body’s way of preparing to let her go.

That thought only set off another round of dry sobs, causing her to clutch her chest at the pain of knowing he would never be in her arms again. Her entire body felt sore and raw, and in the back of her mind she wondered how long she could curl up there before someone came looking for her.

Suddenly, an obnoxious noise broke through her lament, and after a few moments of looking around hopefully, she realized that it was coming from her pocket—and she recognized the ringtone. Fishing it out quickly and sitting up in the darkness, she lifted it to her ear and answered.

“Hello?” she croaked.

“Whoa, babe, did I wake you up?” Scott chuckled on the other end.

“No,” she replied gruffly, “why?”

“You sound like hell, that’s why. Is something wrong?”

“No, I just… think I might be coming down with a cold or something,” she lied quickly, coughing a few times to clear her throat. “What did you need?”

“Oh, well, I was finally able to get some free time tonight. Dad fell asleep earlier than I thought he would, so he’s not barking in my face anymore.” Lily knew he really meant Sam Walker had passed out drunk exceptionally early that night. “Did you still want me to come over?”

Lily glanced through the open doorway into the dark living room and was hit with a fresh wave of panic. Panic that her horrible crying jag was going to be the last memory she ever had of this wonderful, crappy old apartment. She didn’t want that, but she had no idea what to do about it. At that point, her body was so frazzled and exhausted that she could barely think straight.

“Well…” She didn’t even want to think about seeing Scott at that point, but she’d promised herself that she would end things with her fiancé as soon as possible rather than keep him dangling any longer. She figured that she already had her heart ripped out, so how much worse could the day get from there? Might as well tackle things while she was feeling numb. “Yeah, that’s fine. Only I’m not at home. Why don’t you head over to the house and I’ll meet you there?”

“Okay, sure. See you in a bit.”

* * *

Less than fifteen minutes later, Lily pulled into her driveway only to find that Scott had beaten her there and was sitting on the front steps with his head hung low, looking like a scolded child awaiting his punishment.

As she walked toward him, she couldn’t stop from thinking about all of his good qualities that she was about to throw away. Scott was sensible. He was dependable. He would never leave her without looking back. He wanted to marry her. Scott was quite possibly the best offer she would ever get.

I could try to be better
, Lily thought to herself in a brief flash of doubt. She could refocus her attention and be more enthusiastic. She could be the woman he deserved.

But she also knew that no matter how hard she tried for him,
she
would be miserable—and living a lie.

“Hey, babe,” he said quietly when she had reached the bottom of the steps. “So how mad are you?”

“I’m not mad at all,” she replied.

“Really?” he said with a smile, jumping off the steps to sweep her up in a huge bear hug. “Mmm, you smell good. God, I missed you.”

Lily couldn’t help thinking that she smelled good because she had foolishly showered off every remaining trace of Ethan’s scent. Now she would never smell him deep in her skin again. She’d never be able to curl into his pillow and fall asleep while she breathed him into her.

“Um, thanks.” She forced a tight smile as he put her down, shoving her rogue thoughts back into the dark corners of her mind before they made her cry again.

“Okay,” he sighed at her tone. “Let me have it. You
are
pissed at me, aren’t you? Be honest.”

“No. Honestly, I’m not.” The truth was she had barely remembered he even existed while he was gone.

“Well, pissed or not, I’m sorry that I was gone so long.” He reached up and stroked the back of his fingers down her cheek. It was a gesture she used to find endearing, but now it only made her want to jump away. His fingers weren’t the right fingers.

“I believe you,” she said stiffly. “Let’s go inside.” She unlocked the door and held it open for him as he followed her into the house.

“I don’t have any excuse, really,” he admitted, a slight blush tinting his cheeks. “It just felt so damn good to be of use at that shop. Does that make any sense?” He looked at her quickly for confirmation before continuing. “Those were some great guys, Lil. I mean, I really like Ryan and the gang, but there just isn’t enough work here to keep us all busy, you know? I really felt in my element there.” He thought for a minute before adding, “They seemed really sorry to see me go. It was… nice, I guess. First time I felt like a real mechanic.”

“That’s great, Scott.” She smiled again, and it was her first genuine smile of the night. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen him this excited about anything, including her.

“So, where were you when I called?” he finally asked, glancing around after the room grew quiet.

“Well…” Lily took a deep breath. “I just found out that the apartment over the dance studio is available again.”

“Available for what?” he sneered. “Demolition?”

“It’s not that bad,” she said, fidgeting nervously. “The right furniture could really make it a cute place.”

“I don’t know if I could ever picture anything cute there, sorry.”

“Well, I think it’s full of…
potential
.” She wanted to say memories—vivid memories that lived in every corner of the room. Quick flashes shot through her mind: Ethan, shirtless and painting … Ethan, rolling around on the floor with her after smearing her body with colors … Ethan, preparing her lovingly for something she would never trust another man enough to do.

“Eh,” he shrugged, sitting down in her dad’s recliner with a practiced movement.

“Well, I’m going to take it,” she said decisively.

“You
can’t
be serious.”

“Why?” she demanded.

“Well, it’s right over that damn dance studio, for one, and you know you would hear a bunch of old farts doing the two-step all night.”

Lily knew for a fact that he was wrong: you could hear lovers doing the waltz. She shut her eyes against the onslaught of memories as Scott continued. “Second, it’s a dump! It probably looks like some squatter’s paradise, or a crack house!”

“Oh, whatever! It’s nowhere near that bad.” She rolled her eyes, unable to hide her frustration.

“Lily, I really don’t understand why you want the place.”

“I thought it would make a nice apartment for me,” she whispered. “I’m tired of living with my dad. I need my own space.” What she didn’t say was that she needed to keep just one last piece of Ethan alive.


What
? That doesn’t even make any sense!” he bellowed, standing up again so he could look her in the eye. “Why the hell would you get an apartment—especially that piece of shit—so soon before the wedding? Why would you bother moving out now when we’re only going to move to my house after we get married?”

Lily stopped pacing around anxiously and stared at him, her expression as shocked as if he’d slapped her in the face. She’d been about to tell him that she was getting an apartment because there wouldn’t
be
a wedding, but his words interrupted that train of thought.

“Excuse me—what did you say? We’re going to do
what
?”

“Move to my house?” He said as if it were a question, unable to see why she was so upset.

“And when, exactly, did
we
decide that?”

“That’s what I’ve always planned for us. You knew that.”

“Uh, no, I most definitely did not!” she snapped. “Where the hell did you picture us living all this time, the garage?” It wasn’t even about her getting the apartment anymore; she was absolutely livid that he’d been planning their entire life for them for over a year and never once said a word about it.

“No, in my house. My room is big enough for us.”

“Scott, your room isn’t big enough for
you
!” Suddenly she realized what he was really saying, and she sucked in a breath. “Wait a minute—you thought we would live with your
father
?!”

“Who the hell is gonna take care of him if we don’t?” he screamed, his own emotions bubbling to the surface. Sam was always a sore spot with Scott, a burden he chose to carry through life even though it made him miserable.

“How about rehab, for starters?” she yelled back, knowing that she was treading in dangerous waters, but not caring anymore. She knew that she was striking out in pain and anger, and it had probably been the worst possible time to start this conversation, but the dam had broken and she wasn’t going to keep quiet anymore.

“Don’t go there,” he said with a warning tone in his voice.

“Oh, I think it’s
way
past time that I went there, Scott.”

She felt the truth in her words the moment they left her lips. She knew now, without any remaining doubt, that she really did need to end it, even without the beautiful new man who had interrupted her life. This wasn’t going to work, no matter how much she might try to force it. She couldn’t go through life smiling and nodding blankly while she was hollow on the inside.

“You know what my dad’s like,” he stated simply, as if that was all the explanation she needed. She did know what Sam was like, and she also knew that Scott was only going to grow more bitter by the day if he kept letting himself be a slave to his father—just as she had let herself become one to George. At least her father was somewhat gracious about it; the only thing Sam knew how to do was bark orders and get drunk.

“Yeah, I do. And I know you need to get the hell out of there before you become just like him.”

“I can’t just abandon him like that, Lily! I’m all he has left!”

“Well that’s only because your mother was smart enough to take off! Why should you be stuck with your life on hold?”

“I’m not stuck, I’m helping him. He needs me. And don’t bring my mother into this,” he growled.

“Scott!” She threw her hands up in exasperation. “Your father was an abusive, overbearing jerk to her until she finally gave up and left. And you know what? I don’t blame her! Your dad is a prick! He always was, even before the stroke!”

Scott reached out and grabbed her by the arms roughly, shaking her as he screamed in her face. “Don’t you dare fucking bring up the stroke! My dad lost everything after that! His dignity, his wife! I’m the only one he’s got!”

Other books

Skinny Dipping Season by Cynthia Tennent
Full Throttle by Kerrianne Coombes
A Little Bit of Us by A. E. Murphy
Brimstone Angels by Erin M. Evans
The Next Decade by George Friedman
West of the Moon by Katherine Langrish