"For me? Jane Ianuzzi's first victim was Jane Lane - someone I love..." -peetz5050 in the takedown thread
You can't kill your inner self, no matter how twisted the surface is. Jane Lane is still in there, somewhere. This is the final story, perhaps the one that is most honest to Jane's character. I was thrilled at the response it got and decided it had to be the finale, because there was no way to top it.
Break the Storm
Oh my goodness! That is so far out. Are you painting, Janie?
A five-year-old girl with short, messy black hair and pale blue eyes nods. She's so happy that she is bouncing up and down on her tiptoes, in that unconscious way that many children move; in control, but not too in control. Her smile is as wide as the world.
It is the first time her mother has really paid attention to her.
Jane Lane won't remember it, but it is her at her very best. Everything she loves about being an artist will trace back to this day. It is a moment that never passes, a deathless echo that resonates in the back of her mind every time she picks up a pencil or brush. It is the joy of creating.
As Jane grows up, she builds everything on this. First she learns her two greatest desires: to run away and to make something. In time she learns to simply run down the sidewalk and back, not away from home entirely; and to paint funny, twisted visages on canvas, not on drywall. When her Aunt Mildred sees the pictures she drew of her, Jane learns to hold the world at a wry, bemused distance before depicting it. She learns to shape and mold her life in other ways, like acquiring a best friend. And when she is 18, she learns how to love and how to kill-two things barely distinguishable, welded together by passion like the scrap metal in her sculptures.
It is that last discovery that shakes her, though 18-year-old Jane does not yet feel the tremors.
Aw, baby. Aw, yeah.
Mmmmm. Yeah, Todd.
The rusty bedsprings creak ominously. The air grows dark with heat, another storm raging, rough breaths like the wind as they reach a crescendo.
She feels his shoulder against her mouth and bites down hard. She seems to take but she is giving. Another tiny piece of herself that she will not get back because he does not recognize the gift, and she does not value it. He groans her name and it ends like thunder shaking the earth.
The clouds do not clear away. There are no sunny days in their lives; there is only the next storm and how violent they can make it. A new one is brewing even as they close their eyes.
Wow, I didn't know you could make art just like your mommy, her mother says thoughtfully. That's really cool.
It's you, Mommy! Jane cries excitedly. I made you in the picture!
Amanda smiles at the crude watercolor. Even for a stick figure, it has a kind of grace and precision you don't see from most young children. And her color sense is nearly perfect. She even remembered to use peach for the body instead of black, a darker yellow for the hair, the palest blue for the large, spacey eyes. Amanda giggles at that part. Her daughter knows her, all right, even if she doesn't really know her daughter.
This will trouble Amanda later on, and lead to more self-defeating distance. But now is not later.
Is it? Little Jane looks up from the easel and frowns. Something is wrong. Golden light has been spilling through the room, but now it seems to be dying away. The colors she painted, the spark of awareness in her mother's eyes, are fading away. Jane walks over to the living room window and sticks her head out under the blinds. Dark clouds are approaching from the edge of the sky, blotting out the afternoon sun.
They are coming for her.
But she does not cry. She growls and stamps her hand-me-down sneakers in anger. This wasn't supposed to happen. She is showing Mommy her painting, and she will not let the moment end. Not ever.
It is late at night when Jane's eyes snap open.
What have you made? she asks herself suddenly. There is no answer.
Her eyes are clearer than they have been in 13 years as she scrambles out of bed in only a black t-shirt, kicking the covers away in panic.
Todd is jolted awake, and sits up beside her as she cries out. Where are my paints?
What? He stares at her blinking sleep from his eyes. Your pants?
My paints! I have to find them!
Hell, I don't know. They're in one of those bags. What do you need them for? Come back to bed.
She shoves his hand away and runs to the duffel bags, dumping out food and clothes until she finds her travel kit. It has not been used in months. She is mounting the canvas and mixing the paints quicker than she ever has, and it is not fast enough. She whimpers impatiently under her breath like a child, frustrated with her own flesh and blood for slowing her down.
Todd watches now from the bed in disbelief. He has not seen her do this before, not really, and it amazes and disturbs him. She births her creation as she will her child, with joy and pain and no real choice in the matter. The labor is difficult, but quick.
To him the brush seems to strike as lightning. One strike and there are two eyes, another and there is a face, yet another and the subject's clothes appear, still another and a hand is raised next to her.
Jane lets her own hands fall to her sides at last.
The person on the canvas is herself. A little girl. Her skin is pale in the half-light and her conscience is clear. A brush hovers in her right hand, as if she is painting her artist and indeed she is.
She is angry.
Jane backs away. Tears run over her hands as she presses them to her face. She sees in her own eyes all that she has lost, and it destroys her.
What's wrong? Todd asks uselessly as she cries. What's WRONG?
He holds her, asking again and again until she answers.
I am, his wife sobs.
Jane understands everything now. He sees her reaching under the mattress but is too surprised to stop her.
She aims the gun at him without hesitation. He is blameless, twisted enough for the both of them, but she doesn't care. Since meeting him she has run and run and created nothing. The imbalance has blackened her sky.
I'm sorry, Todd, she says.
The bullet strikes with the suddenness of inspiration. It is the last storm, one final act of destruction before this child inside of her-both of them-might be free.
Outside the window there is a flash, a single clap of thunder in the heavens.
Little Jane steps back from the easel and looks outside. She sees the darkness lifting little by little, until the sun returns, and she smiles again.
Beyond her eternal horizon, a large van departs with a single traveler. There are the first drops of rain.