HomeSouthern VoiceIndian Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush

by S.V. Berry

On their wedding night, she cried. She cried so quietly she felt tears in her bones.
He loved her. That she knew. He loved her, loved her … She knew it by the way his fingers brushed her hair. She knew it by the way he said her name, the way he guided her with his arm — ever so lightly — when they walked together. She knew it from his gaze, his smile, the way he combed his hair just as she liked, cowlick framing his forehead. Yes. He loved her.

And she loved him. But there was so much else to love too! Such as the things she’d seen while traveling in Colorado one summer with her friends: tall craggy mountains, fields of Indian paintbrush every bit as spectacular in person as they’d been in the picture book she’d adored as a child. Such as toast and morning coffee in her grandmother’s tiny kitchen or Sunday afternoons at home seeped in solitude. Such as strolls at night. Stars. The sun.

She loved life. She loved freedom. And, of course, she knew that both would change because she’d also chosen to love him.

Two years ago, he’d shown up at her door at the insistence of a friend and asked her on a date. Charmed, she’d said yes. Then again the next weekend. And again the next. And again.

They’d gone to the movies. They’d taken walks. They’d had coffee together. Nothing spectacular, to be sure, but she cared for him, so she kept saying yes. Yes, when he took her to meet his family — his dad, an engineer; his mom, a painter. Yes, when he introduced her to his college friends. (They’d gone to a bar and had laughed over beer.) Yes, when he asked — oh so gently! — if he could kiss her. Yes when he asked her to be his wife.

She was his wife.

She turned from the mirror and glanced at the room behind her. He had gone to retrieve his car keys from the valet; his suit jacket — still neatly pressed, after dancing! and with a handkerchief pinned in the lapel — he’d left in the room, draped on a huge silk armchair. She sank into the chair and slowly unpinned her hair, letting each lock fall to her shoulders. She sifted through her purse and drew out a comb, fingering it. She lifted it, pulled it down — down through her hair. Her locks felt soap-flake soft.

She could hear voices on the street outside. It was a little past midnight. Anything could be happening now — long late dinners, street performances, shows letting out, clubs waking up. It was New Orleans, after all.

She shivered, tasted salt. (From the tears, she realized.) Her head spun a little from the champagne she’d drunk at the reception. For a moment, she rested. “No.” Her crying stopped. Wiping away the tears that lingered using a corner of his tux, she detected a faint scent of cologne. Chanel Men’s. He was always very classy.

And on time. She heard the doorknob rattle and glanced up. He softly pushed the door open and entered. He had brought lilies for her — a whole bouquet. He glowed. He looked so handsome, she thought, with his quirky smile and mussed bowtie and armful of pure white flowers. (But Indian paintbrush had always been her favorite.)

She smiled and stood and let him engulf her in his arms. He picked up the comb, cupped her head in the palm of his hand. “Darling, may I?”

Faintly, with the shadow of a laugh: “Why, yes.”

S.V. Berry is a writer from Atlanta, Georgia. She is fascinated by the world — and by the world of
words. One of her favorite lines comes from Jean Toomer’s Cane: “Night winds in Georgia are vagrant poets, whispering…”

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