Coloured Turpentine

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Jamie falls in love with Venna, who does not return those sentiments. Jamie must deal with his feelings of the one person he trusts and fears. Though she does not intentionally toy with his emotions, she has him entwined.

Coloured Turpentine



The sun has descended behind the townhouses. One in particular is barely lit inside, and the only light from outside emanates from the street lamps – artificial. The curtains on the bay window are drawn leaving no gaps. The light coming from the kitchen, seeps lethargically into the main living space.

For furniture inside there is a bookshelf, a few olive coloured wooden chairs, and a drafting table. A young woman is standing in the middle of the room absentmindedly chewing on the end of her paintbrush staring at the panel of glass propped onto the easel. There are paints strewn about the room and jars of turpentine in a row on the table. Brushes are neatly laid out from largest to finest in a single line, like soldiers, ready to be picked up from the war zone. The woman has a central place within the chaos.

My memory of Venna is hazy. She was never one to be held onto. I will never be able to convey  my impression of her feelings, only my own. I am able to recall everything she told me over candle lit dinners, drinking wine and eating fresh microwaved bread with a coating of soft butter. Even though my reminiscences are from years ago I believe they are accurate.

At the end of summer over a decade ago I knocked on the door of sixteen Lenton Place. I heard a clatter from behind the wooden barrier and a crash. I winced.

The door jarred open, “What?” The woman who answered had wild hair. She brushed it out of her eyes. “I’m busy.” Her clothes were dusty.

“Um, sorry to bother you. Is Sean here?”

“Who? No, you must have the wrong address.” She was about to shut the door. 

“Wait. Are you moving? It’s just, this is the address I’m looking for.”

“Yes, I’m moving.” 

I shuffled my feet. “Do you know if Sean Hill bought this house?” 

She shrugged, “Sounds vaguely familiar. Listen, dude, why don’t you give him a call. I have to get packing. He takes possession tomorrow afternoon.”

“Perhaps I can help? I have nothing to do.” It still remains a mystery to me why I offered my services, especially to a complete stranger. However, my decision might have partially drifted towards the fact that she struck my heart with a massive blow. Venna was, I’m sure still is beautiful. Not in an immaculate or fashionable way, but simply. Simply awe inspiring and independent. 

She raised an eyebrow warily, “All right. Well come in. I’m Venna.”


While we packed and brought boxes out to her Volkswagen she talked, “this place is too big. I get lost.” She joked. The house had two spacious levels, and multiple rooms. I could not imagine why Sean, a bachelor wanted such a large house. “Where are you from?” She asked.



I laughed, “a semi-desert. I went to school there for four years. I took the Digital Art and Design program.”

“What are you doing now? With your degree I mean.”

“Nothing. There aren’t many jobs in Kamloops for my profession. So I moved here. Hopefully the job market is better. Sean kindly offered his house as my base while I job hunt.”

“Well Jamie, as payment for helping me, give me your resumé. I have connections in the art field. I’m an artist myself.” She said vaguely. “I’ll need your electronic portfolio. No more than twenty pieces.”

With that promise I felt lighter. I knew no one except Sean and did not seem to be around.


There is probably some reasonable explanation as to how Venna and I became friends. She was amicable and energetic; full of a life I had not seen in a very long time. Certainly, I did not have the liveliness she had every minute of the day. Over time I learned Venna was a home-based private tattoo designer and a painter. She was downsizing and moving closer to the majority of her clients.

Venna did not talk much about herself, or her clients. She talked in an abstract way that revealed next to nothing. It was difficult to define Venna.

“What do they mean?” I asked at dinner. I was referring to the tattoos covering her arms and shoulders. 

“They’re just designs.” Those were the types of answers I received frequently from her. It was frustrating. I wanted to get to know her. Really know her because I found her fascinating.

Her new house was a townhouse near downtown. By the time we moved everything it was dark. Only the street lamps glowed. 

“I’ll put you up for the night if you want.”

“That would be great. I’ll call Sean first thing. Then I’ll be out of your hair.”


I dug through my bag and handed a few copies. “My portfolio is on the CD.”

“You can have the room at the back. Night.” She pointed. That was it. At the best of times Venna was sporadic, and when she had something on her mind she could not be distracted.


Sometime after I moved in with Sean and after Venna had unpacked the majority of her belongings I received a phone call.

“James, do you want a job?” That was Venna’s greeting.

“Yes.” I answered simply. Without work my life was boring.

“Would you be interested in setting up a website for me? I need business cards, and posters. I’ll pay cash. Estimate an amount.”

“Six hundred?”

“Great. If I like your work I can get you more, and a bonus. Can you start tomorrow?” Then she hung up without receiving my answer.

While I worked Venna gave me photos of her art: Paintings on glass, designs and ink sketches. “Why paint on glass? Won’t the paint flake off?”

Venna shrugged, “I coat the glass first with clear acrylic base. It can be peeled off after. I paint on glass because it’s a window. Either into an interior or exterior space. I like the dimensionality. With the glass the pictures can be overlapped or changed depending on the lighting. 

“You good for a bit? Help yourself to whatever. I’ll be in the front room.” She vanished as she often did. I could hear music playing.

We worked late into the evening, keeping to ourselves. Only when the light began to recede she turned on the kitchen light, calling out to me, “Don’t turn off the light. Couch is free if you don’t want to bus home.” Venna was focused on creating. I suspected she was not even aware of my presence. She was chewing on the end of her brush. Her legs and feet were covered in paint. She made sure to trend on the plastic covering the hardwood. The light from the kitchen made the front room glow. 

For four days we worked like that. I returned home to change and shower, but aside from that I worked endlessly on the web design, while Venna painted for a client who had commission three fifteen by twenty – two feet glass panels.

“Done.” She announced on day four. “Flight of the Humming Bird, in a series of three. He lives in Mexico half of the year. Humming birds migrate from Mexico and come to various parts of Canada and go back home to Mexico in August. Somehow they just know it’s time to return.”

“Incredible.” She had done what I can only describe as an almost stained glass style with tissue paper, paint, shellac, and other textured found objects. I was left mystified and content to stare for hours on end. Her work is unethical and strangely appealing. 

What seemed like a week, but in reality was about a year, Venna was packing once again. Only, this time she packed three suitcases and gave the rest of her belongings away. I drove her to the airport.

Before leaving she looked me in the eyes and said, “You’ve been a great friend James. I will truly miss you.” We hugged and she handed me a letter of recommendation to a prestigious company in digital design. I wondered how she had that connection. I had been working odd jobs for the past year, not all in my field of educational study.

Every so often she sends me new photos of her artwork and I keep her website updated. The last I heard, she lives in a village called Montecasello di Vibio, in Umbria, Italy. A friend asked her to manage his art business. Or so the rumour goes. The latest postcard I received had an Italian stamp and was signed:

Ciao, Venna

Submitted: September 25, 2015

© Copyright 2022 blueautumn. All rights reserved.

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