Riley Davis was having a little too much cheese and wine. She knew that this was a bad sign, a sign that she was losing control of herself. Jackson and Dan would be back any minute and they’d say something. They were always saying things. She loved her brothers , but they were so oblivious to how she really felt. Riley reached for her e-cigarette to damper the sweet taste of wine on her tongue. Her father had given her numerous warnings for smoking, but she didn’t care. Cherry flavored e-cigs seemed like an excellent middle ground. This was an empty house filled with luxury comforts. She was sprawled on her couch with one leg on the ground, the other on the couch with a glass of wine in her left hand. Her eyes stared at the ceiling connecting the dots as if they had the answers to the universe. She reached for more cheese on the table next to her. In that moment it struck her how strange the combination really was. How was it that cheese and wine was a good mixture, but eggs and wine wasn’t? Jonathan once ordered room service at the Day’s Inn and got eggs and bacon. There was wine left over from the night before, so she tried it. “Let’s have a classy breakfast,” she remembered saying, “because wine makes everything classy!” It was rather unpleasant, to say the least. She could even recall the smell of Jonathan’s pine aftershave over the smell of bacon. Amazing. Riley shook her head, trying to forget the thought. She thought of so many useless things. What she should really be thinking about is getting a job or perhaps a new boyfriend.
She used to work as an intern at the Jake Davis-Finley Law Firm downtown. She was well on her way to be a lawyer. Twenty-three, beaming, and so self-assured. She had all the right friends and knew all the right people. It helped that she came from a family of lawyers and bankers. Tailored suits, polished shoes, high cheekbones, confident voices, and smiles worth a million dollars. She was aiming to continue the proud tradition that had served her family for generations. It was exactly what she wanted, or so she thought.
One day Riley had woken up like any ordinary Wednesday and she reheated some steak from the night before. Her brothers stayed late in their offices working on a case and did not bother coming home. Jackson was twenty-seven and Dan was twenty-eight. They were so absorbed with their work that they hadn’t given marriage a second thought. They could have bought their own bachelor pads, but they were content to live in Sherry Heights, a land their family owned for generations. Robert Davis, their great-great-great-great grandfather had made his fortune by starting an apple orchard when he settled on the coast of California. With his success he sent his son Chip to the University of Southern California, where he got his degree in Business. He was a successful businessman with a keen sense of the stock market. Chip taught his sons and daughters how to invest at a really young age. The orchard became no more, but success became a family tradition ever since. The Davis family was proud of their land. Her father, Jake Davis, had always told her, “Riley sweetpea, there’s nothing more valuable than the land. This earth carries our burdens, our great prosperity! What better representation do we have for the freedom that we were given?” She had always accepted this. The Davis family had always taken care of raising their own. She was sent to private schools, ate organic food three times a day, went on dates with her high school sweetheart Jonathan, and attended fun parties with her group of friends. In Melrose Quincy School, she was voted Miss Congeniality by her class by the time she graduated. She was in cheerleading, debate team, student council, and the painting club, excelling at these activities. Riley went to law school to continue the prosperity life had given her.
She finished eating her breakfast and drove to Starbucks to pick up a green tea frappuccino. She had always loved the smell of coffee in the morning. She waited behind an old man with an eyepatch and a wrinkled suit. The man was fumbling his pocket to take out a pocket watch. “Hmmm… it’s time. This has gone on for too long and it’s time,” he mumbled to himself. The man searched around him frantically. “Where is it? Where is it?” He turned to face Riley. She stared at him, not knowing what to expect. “Do you need some change?” she asked. The man drew closer to her, getting near to her face. “It’s time.” There was something crucial in the way he said it, as if the universe were weighed on those two words. This man was beginning to frighten her. “I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong person.” She drew back from him, confused by his direct nature. She had not seen this man before, and she knew everyone in Melrose County.
“Something wong miss?” the cashier asked. Riley blinked. This man looked so sure that he knew her, but she had no idea who he was. “I think this man… is sick?” She was still unsure what to think of him. “Don’t bother her sir or else we’ll call the cops,” he threatened. The eyepatch man eyed him suspiciously. “I want a short black coffee. No ice,” he replied, “bad for my cough.” The cashier rang him up and the man waited on the side for his drink. Riley ordered her frappuccino and stood in the waiting area as well. “Hey, kid” he said. Was this guy ever going to stop pestering her? “What?” she challenged. It was unusual for anyone to be disrespectful to her. Her family had a reputation for donating to the County to decorate their public buildings. “The eye,” he took off his eyepatch, “is never wrong.” His eye was dark, almost black, with a gold pupil. It was the strangest eye she had ever saw.
The barista called out his order and he grabbed his coffee. He drank it straight, threw the cup in the trash, and walked out as if nothing ever happened. Riley thought the man was completely bizarre. She shook off her feeling, grabbed her coffee, and started to her father’s office.
The work was the same. Papers to look through, calls to take, coffees to bring, notes to take at the meetings. Everyone in the office was pleasant, or even good to her because she was the boss’s daughter. She was good at what she did. It was a routine that required critical thinking at times, but it was nothing she couldn’t handle.
She drove home and looked at the sunset past the mountains. She sighed in relief as she watched the day end. She had always loved watching colors converge together and apart. It was what she liked best when she painted back in high school. There was something majestic about colors. It was as if they were already created before actually placing it on the canvas. Riley blinked. But how could that be? Isn’t anything real because you can see it? She stared at the sunset go down, until she could see this one last golden shimmer of light across the dark night. Something registered in her. Where had she seen this before? Why did it look so familiar?
Riley laid down in her bed and began to sob. She sobbed and she could not figure out why she was sobbing so hard. Nothing in her life would seem to cause her to break down this way. She had a great life. But why was she feeling so broken? She grabbed some wine from downstairs and poured herself a glass. She needed to calm down soon or else she would lose it. She could not lose herself because she was sure that she would not be able to get it back. The wine made her warm inside and a last tear fell across her cheek. It was then when she realized that the man’s eye was the sky.
She quit her job the next day and dropped out of law school. Her father was enraged. Her brothers could not find any explanation. They tried to talk her out of it, but she would not budge. She spent her time eating cheese with wine with her legs sprawled all over the couch, thinking of the sky and its colors and the mysterious man from the coffee shop. She gave up everything in that instant and she did not know why. She found herself bringing out her easel and paints from the attic on whim. Painting was effortless, yet had so much thought at the same time. She painted the sky at different times of day from the view of her bedroom. Orange, black, blue, red, purple, pink, white, yellow, gold in different shades. The paint would flick from her brush and she would get lost again. She needed answers, but she did not know where to find them.
There was a ring on the doorbell one day in the afternoon. Riley did not know who it was. The town knew her, but she hardly had visitors. She opened the door to find Blakely with a box of girl scout cookies. Everyone knew Blakely. She was always working on some good cause or another. Their families had always invited each other at parties. “The whole town’s been saying how you’re closed up. I figured I’d check on you as I sell cookies for the church,” she smiled apologetically. Riley nodded. She did not not want to be rude, so she invited Blakely in for a glass of lemonade.
She brought both of them lemonade and led her to the living room. Blakely’s eyes were caught in surprise as she noticed her paintings. “This is so great!” she exclaimed. Riley shrugged. She didn’t even know why she was painting. It just felt like something she had to do. Blakely pointed to a painting with the a dark canvas with stars. “‘The stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken,’ you remember that verse right?” she admired, “It’s really beautiful. This reminds me of it.” Riley nodded. It seemed to make sense. It made more sense more than anything she thought about it the past few weeks.
She thought of the man and his strange words. It’s time, it’s time. He could see her life better than she could. It was time.