But here she is, standing right in front of me. I want to ask her if she remembers me, but I know she doesn’t. How could she when we never even exchanged words?

I remember her, though. I remember the sound of her laughter, her voice, her hair, even though her hair used to be a lot shorter. And even though I felt like I knew her back then, I never really got a good look at her face. Now that I’m seeing her up close, I have to force myself not to stare too hard. Not because of her unassuming beauty, but because it’s exactly how I imagined she would look up close. I tried to paint her once, but I couldn’t remember enough about her to finish it. I have a feeling I may attempt it again after tonight. And I already know I’ll call the painting More Than One.

She moves her attention to another painting and I look away before she catches me staring at her. I don’t want it to appear too obvious that I’m trying to figure out which colors to blend together to create her unique shade of skin tone, or whether I would paint her with her hair up or down.

There are so many things I should be doing right now other than staring at her. What should I be doing? Showering. Changing. Preparing for all the people who are about to show up for the next two hours.

“I need to take a quick shower,” I say.

She turns around, fast, as if I startled her.

“Feel free to look around. I’ll go over everything else when I’m finished. I won’t take long.”

She nods and smiles and for the first time I think, Hannah who?

Hannah, the last girl I hired to help me. Hannah, the girl who couldn’t handle being second in my life. Hannah, the girl who broke up with me last week.

I hope Auburn isn’t like Hannah.

There were so many things I didn’t like about her, and that isn’t how it should be. Hannah disappointed me when she spoke, which is why we spent a lot of our time together not speaking. And she always, always made it a point to tell me that her name, when spelled backward, was still Hannah.

“A palindrome,” I said the first time she told me. She looked at me, perplexed, and that’s when I knew I could never love her. What a waste of a palindrome she was, that Hannah.

But I can already tell that Auburn isn’t like Hannah. I can see the layers of depth in her eyes. I can see the way my art moves her by the way she focuses on it, ignoring everything else around her. I hope she isn’t like Hannah at all. She already looks better in Hannah’s clothes than Hannah did.

Did. Another palindrome.

I walk into the bathroom and look at her clothes, and I want to walk them back downstairs to her. I want to tell her never mind, that I want her to wear her own clothes tonight, not Hannah’s clothes. I want her to be herself, to be comfortable, but my customers are wealthy and elite and they expect black skirts and white shirts. Not blue jeans and this pink (is it pink or red?) top that makes me think of Mrs. Dennis, my high school art teacher.

Mrs. Dennis loved art. Mrs. Dennis also loved artists. And one day, after seeing how incredibly talented with a brush she thought I was, Mrs. Dennis loved me. Her shirt was pink or red, or maybe both, that day, and that’s what I remember as I look down at Auburn’s shirt, because Mrs. Dennis who?

She was not a palindrome, but her name spelled backwards was still very fitting, because Dennis = Sinned, and that’s precisely what we did.

We sinned for an entire hour. She more so than me.

And don’t think that hasn’t been a confession turned into a painting. It was one of the first I ever sold. I named it She Sinned with Me. Hallelujah.

But alas, I don’t want to think about high school or Mrs. Dennis or Palindrome Hannah because they are the past and this is the present, and Auburn is . . . somehow both. She would be shocked if she knew how much of her past has affected my present, which is why I won’t be sharing the truth with her. Some secrets should never turn into confessions. I know that better than anyone.

I’m not sure what to do with the fact that she just showed up at my doorstep, wide-eyed and quiet, because I don’t know what to believe anymore. Half an hour ago I believed in coincidences and happenstance. Now? The idea that her being here is simply a coincidence is laughable.

When I make it back downstairs, she’s standing statue-still, staring up at the painting I call You Don’t Exist, God. And If You Do, You Should Be Ashamed.

I wasn’t the one who named it, of course. I’m never the one who names the paintings. They are all titled by the anonymous confessions that inspire them. I don’t know why, but this confession inspired me to paint my mother. Not as I remember her, but how I imagined she looked when she was my age. And the confession didn’t remind me of her because of her religious views. The words just reminded me of how I felt in the months following her death.

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