Home > Six Ways to Write a Love Letter

Six Ways to Write a Love Letter
Author: Jackson Pearce


Chapter One

   It was midmorning when Remy woke up. Or at least it was probably morning. It was hard to tell sometimes in Venice Beach—the area had that yawning, cheerful sense of dawn late into the day. The sun was always fresh and white-gold, the shadows always gentle and beckoning, the scent of hibiscus and sand and salt always bright in the air. He turned to look at the fig tree rasping against the screen of his open window—it looked like the leaves were dry, which was disappointing. It’d rained last night for the first time in ages, but in the daylight, it felt like he’d only dreamed the storm. It’d felt so magical last night, the water falling from darkness.

   Remy rolled over and off the side of his mattress, which was situated on the floor—what is the actual purpose of a bed frame? Floorboards creaked under his feet and reflected the sunshine back at him every bit as brightly as a mirror would. Remy liked California. Loved California? No, not quite. Here, it was hard to shake the perpetual feeling of being on vacation. The pale-peach signs, the ten-for-a-dollar avocados, the fact so many people were on vacation…California felt like an incomplete dream, and while that was lovely, he always had the sense he needed to wake up, get a move on with things.

   He changed into a T-shirt and pulled a button-down over it, rolling the sleeves up to his elbows. In the living room, Val was already awake, watching television absently—though there was a decent chance Val had simply never gone to sleep at all. Val’s girlfriend was curled up under his arm on the sofa bed that was always bed, never sofa. Technically, this was a one-bedroom carriage house—all they could afford to purchase in this area—but with a little bedroom negotiating, the three of them had managed to live in it for nearly a year now. Besides, Remy and Val had always shared small spaces—a bedroom, a van, a studio. They’d grown into each other, vines and fruits overlapping, until you could hardly tell whose roots were whose.

   “Coffee?” Remy called to Val and Celeste as he shimmied through the space between the TV set and the edge of the sofa bed.

   “Yeah,” Val said, looking disappointed that Remy was up. Remy’s presence indicated the day had to begin, and Val was on a personal quest to become an owl or vampire or sentient night-blooming flower.

   “Me too—I’ll help,” Celeste said, unwinding herself from Val’s arms. She looked so lifelike next to him—tanned and dark-haired and curvy and the kind of person whose warmth you felt from across a room. Val was gaunt, the tattoos running across his chest and down his arms making him look more so, like you could cut yourself on his collarbones or elbows. Celeste slid sweatpants on over her underwear—Remy had long gotten over any particular thrill of seeing her underwear—and joined him in the kitchen, land of mauve appliances and laminate countertops. He ground coffee beans while she rooted out sprouted-grain bread to toast. In California, even the discount food was health food.

   “What’re you doing today?” Val called out to Remy from the living room.

   “Studio. Do you need me before the gig?” Remy answered, pouring the coffee into the filter.

   Val appeared in the kitchen door, wearing black jeans, last week’s eyeliner, and an expression too warm for either. “No. Just asking. Who’s in the studio?” There was a forbidden curiosity in his voice—there always was when it came to Remy working on music with strangers. Val wanted to know but also didn’t want to know.

   “No one,” Remy said. When it was someone in the studio, there was no telling how long he’d be stuck there. Someones had the time to play around. To send runners out for sushi or weed or cupcakes while the studio musicians hung out, waiting till they were needed next. He was paid by the hour, so it wasn’t necessarily a waste of time, but it meant he cleared his evening schedule when someone was in the studio. But the no ones of the world couldn’t afford to rent the studio and musicians on a lark, not even the no ones signed to labels. No one got in, laid down their tracks, and got out.

   Celeste’s toast popped up; she layered it with butter and sliced figs then made her way to the dining room, which—like the living room—didn’t fulfill its intended purpose. It was her office, where she managed her celebrity-culture websites the way Remy imagined naval captains managed ships. Celeste was the sort of person you knew named herself president of clubs and CEO of lemonade stands in her youth. She didn’t have problems, she had opportunities, and she didn’t have arguments, she had wars. It was a natural skill set, which meant she had quickly turned blogs that started out discussing topics like celebrity camel toes into a very legitimate business venture.

   Val stole the first cup of coffee then slunk past Remy to the patio, walking absently the way he often did. Val’s mind never stopped, never paused, never relaxed; back in Florida, when they shared a bedroom, Remy would wake in the night to find Val staring at the ceiling, wide awake. Not unable to sleep, but unwilling—it was like Val thought sleeping would derail his mind entirely, like it was easier to just keep it tearing along, racing into the dawn. Problematically, Val wasn’t wrong. He was at his most poignant, most musical, most artistic, most moving, most creative when he allowed his mind to run ceaselessly. More problematically, he’d found a variety of substances to keep it running when his body asked it to sleep.

   Those substances were a thing of the past—but Remy was always watching for the warning signs he’d missed the first time around. Celeste too, of course, but Remy couldn’t help but feel she was the backup plan while he was the first line of defense. He was keenly aware Val hadn’t written a song in almost two years, and Remy always wondered if his brother would break, would use again if only to draw another song up from the depths of his soul.

   “I thought he had a melody last week,” Celeste said thoughtfully from over Remy’s shoulder. He turned to face her, and she shook her head at his expression. “Stop it—I’d tell you if I thought he was on something. It was a nice one, but then he stopped humming it. Maybe it’s the little seed sprouting though, you know?”

   “Maybe,” Remy said. “I didn’t hear him humming anything new. Do you remember how it went?” He didn’t like the tinge of jealousy he felt over Celeste hearing something new from Val—however short it was—when he didn’t.

   “It was definitely new, but he was working through it mostly at night, after you were in bed,” Celeste said quickly.

   “Sure. That makes sense,” he said, even though he wasn’t entirely sure it did.

   Village Studios was on a corner in Downtown LA that wasn’t too far from Venice Beach, but given that it was LA, it was a nearly two-hour commute. Remy ditched the bus a single stop early so they didn’t see him getting off it. No one rode the bus in this town, which was a pity since public transport wasn’t terrible, but Remy’s options were limited. There was the old touring van that he and Val drove from the Florida panhandle to Nashville and then on to LA three years later—but it didn’t have air-conditioning or power steering. There was also Celeste’s old BMW, vintage cool and painted a bright lemongrass color—but Celeste was forever needing it to rush over to some celeb hot spot or another, so it wasn’t handy to borrow. Thus, Remy was left to the bus. It wasn’t that Remy was worried about people judging him for taking public transit; it was just that he didn’t feel like explaining why he defied the city’s unspoken three-cars-per-person rule.

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