The Contingent

Rosso Come Il Mio Cuore

Natalie's reply to Aaron

She unfolded the note for the fourteenth time, the paper feeling softer in her hands with each reading.

Natalie…I love you…

Still reeling from the revelations in the letter and not sure how it made her feel, she refolded it gently and placed it on her tray. A slight burst of turbulence caused some of her cranapple juice to splash onto the paper. Natalie watched as the pink liquid spread and soaked into the note.

Suddenly, she had her answer.

She picked up her phone to check the time. If her flight landed on schedule, she might have just enough time to pull it off before leaving for San Francisco.


She burst through the door of her studio apartment, flinging her leather jacket on her plush purple couch. It was 8:30 PM. If she started now, she’d have enough time to finish, get some sleep, and then leave for San Francisco. She headed straight for the shower. She needed to feel fresh and pure for what she was about to do. She also hoped the warm water would calm her nerves. She scrubbed off her make-up, and along with it that grimy feeling that comes with being on a long flight. When she stepped out of the shower and towel-dried her black and turquoise hair, she felt like a new person. All of the tension that she’d been holding in, being with Aaron that week but not being able to be with him, was finally gone. He had finally been open with her, and it was now her turn.

Gazing into the mirror, she took a deep breath, opened up her painting kit, and began composing her response.


2:38 AM

You’ve got heaven
Heaven in your hand
You’ve got heaven
Running through your land
Why don’t you fight for it?
You’re right for it, you know

Robyn Hitchcock’s voice burst through Aaron’s phone speaker. He groggily reached over, grabbing it off the dresser. I wonder if Nat just arrived in L.A.? Then it dawned on him that she must have read the letter. Nervously, he swiped the screen to see her response.

There was no text—only a photo.

Natalie lay nude on her bed, flat on her back. Her arms were in a relaxed position by her side; her legs were crossed at the ankles. Her eyes looked directly into the camera. She wore no makeup—only her somber expression graced her face. The nearly-monochromatic picture rendered every detail of her body flawlessly and honestly in a thousand achingly beautiful shades of black, white, and grey. The only splash of color in the photo was the anatomically-correct crimson heart she had painted on her chest.

Arching over it in bold black letters was a single word: YOURS.

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