Painted Ladies | Leah Browning

Painted Ladies | Leah Browning

We bought a late 1880s Victorian in San Francisco for 2.5 million dollars. That year, we posed for our Christmas card in the front parlor by the wood-burning fireplace.

First she was laid off, then I was. I bought a new tube of lipstick and two button-down shirts. Every day, we woke up early and went on interviews.

At home, I could feel a draft from the bay window and the sink in the powder room leaked. Mortgage payments had been coming out of our savings account for months. We couldn’t afford to have anything repaired.

She wasn’t back yet. I took off my shoes and walked through the rooms. No one was calling. The house was so quiet it echoed.

That morning, a man in a three-piece suit had looked up from my résumé and asked why I had submitted an application when I was so overqualified. I had smiled serenely before I answered.

I wiped off my makeup. There was no organic food left in the kitchen. We had already sold most of our furniture. I lay down on the wide-plank French oak floors and looked up at the sky.


Leah Browning is the author of three short nonfiction books and four chapbooks. Her fiction and poetry have recently appeared in Flash Flash Click, Superstition Review, Newfound, The Homestead Review, Santa Ana River Review, Coldnoon, and Clementine Unbound. Browning’s work has also appeared in anthologies including Myth+Magic from Sugared Water and Porkbelly Press, The Doll Collection from Terrapin Books, and Nothing to Declare: A Guide to the Flash Sequence from White Pine Press. A native of New Mexico, Browning currently lives in California. Her website is located at www.leahbrowning.com.