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Joanna Jelen


  1. Justyna (protagonist) believes that visiting her best friend, Chris, in the USA can bring back her mojo in painting. This is the first time they met, a little further down their conversation (they’re speaking in Polish after agreeing they’ll switch to English from the very next day). Sorry, for breaking the 200-words rule with the first example.

Chris tugged at my ponytail. “And why would you swear at me? I didn’t do anything.”

“That’s the point. Where is your easel? Where are all your painting supplies?”

“Question for question. How many pictures have you painted last year, huh? Ten, one, or zero?”

Cocky bastard. Like I was going to admit I was a total lemon. I meant, I would tell him everything… eventually. Right now it was all about Chris. “I asked you first. What’s more, my paintings don’t matter, they won’t change the world. Yours could. So, where is your studio?” I smiled. I secretly hoped, he’d grab my hand and take me for a ride to a fancy atelier in some artsy part of town. Maybe I could soak in some inspiration into my dried-out creativity.

My smile died when he clumped his mouth, walked toward the door, and reached down for the bags. For a moment, I was afraid, he’d leave. He put the bags on the countertop and turned to face me. His jaw muscles twitched, even though his lips were firmly pressed into a line. Now I wished I hadn’t asked him at all. I didn’t want to upset him. What was I thinking? Nice greeting after four years separation.

“Hey, I’m sorry—”

His palm shot up to stop me. “There is no studio, my friend. Where else would you suggest I should paint? Here in this dump or in the truck when I’m driving? I don’t have space nor time for any pipe dream. I have to support myself. Unlike you, I don’t have two amazing parents who would give me the shirt off their back, so I can idle away.”

“That’s unfair. You don’t need to rub my nose into—”

“Justynka, I’m not rubbing your snub nose in anything. I simply don’t like when you get high and mighty about my painting while you didn’t do shit.”

“But you’re brilliant! You can’t waste your talent. You just can’t. Compared to you, I’m merely a crafter. Who cares if I never paint another kitsch?”

“Your parents care. I do, too. Besides, it’s not kitsch. People like your landscapes.”

I raised my hands in exasperation. It was a never-ending argument between us. He, of course, was wrong. “People buy my landscapes because they need to hang some decoration over their sofas. They have no idea about the fine art, you moron!”

“You are a moron for selling yourself short.”

“No, you’re a moron for throwing your talent into the toilet!”

“Oh yeah? Funny that you mentioned it. We will see if you’re still such a wiseass after the only brush you hold is the one for cleaning a toilet. And it’s fuck you.”

He said the last sentence in English.

The sudden change threw me off. “What?”

“I’m just teaching you how to swear in English.”

“Perfect. Fuck you, too!”


  1. For the last five days, Jay (the hero) hadn’t contacted Justyna. She was afraid, it was her very poor attempt of a first kiss. When he came to see her after work, he admitted he thought she betrayed him and sold his story to a tabloid, a story that had been all over the news for those days and really smeared his name. She couldn’t believe he thought that about her and asked what’d her motive be.

“I thought, maybe you did it for the money,” he murmured. “To pay someone for the green card. I’m sorry, Justyna. I was wrong. I’m going to make it up—”

“No. You’re not entirely wrong. That’s truth, I want to break the law and pay a man for the opportunity to stay in America. I’ll also have to convince that man to break the law with me. That’s my crime, I admit it. But I’m working three fucking jobs to save the money to pay their fucking fees, and I’m not betraying any friend for that! Scratch the friend. I’m not even betraying that asshole who did betray me.”


  1. Justyna broke her promise to her Chris (best friend). He told her to pack her bags and move out while he was out of town. She didn’t tell Jay (hero) about her fight with Chris and why she was upset and quiet every time Jay visited her in the morning. He didn’t ask until he saw her bags standing by the door.

“Are you going back home?” He stared at my luggage.

His question startled me, almost disappointed he took the liberty of breaking the silence. I followed his gaze. Its intensity was pointless. Earlier this morning, I already tried to outstare the bags and their symbol of the finality.

I took a couple sips of my coffee before answering. “I screwed up.”



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