A Darker Shade of Orange
Literary piece by Nadine A. Calmerin, Graphics by Manuel Ordonio IV
Feb 23, 20246 min read
A Darker Shade of Orange

Will I look good in orange?

That’s all I could think about as two uniformed men placed me in handcuffs. The twist of my arms behind my back made me groan but the thoughts didn’t go away. For the last 7 hours since I surrendered myself with blood drenching my white shirt, it didn’t really go away.

How did I get here?


He’s the mysterious man next door to my apartment. He kept his light on until 4 am doing God-knows-what. He didn’t talk to any of his neighbors. He lives alone with his cat. He didn’t even know I existed.

Until one day, the day I wished I had somewhere else to be.

I was on my way out when I saw him in the hallway, fiddling with his keys. He looked like someone trying to break into his own apartment that it made me worry.

Are you okay?” – I asked.

He turned over his left shoulder.


…and? Nothing. But I didn’t walk away.

You’re July, right? Like the month?”

I frowned. I’m pretty sure that was the first time he and I talked. He couldn’t have known my name.

Yeah. You?” – as if I didn’t know

Not your business.”

I nodded slowly. I get it, he’s not friendly. I stayed for another minute until finally, the last key on the ring gained him entry. He looked back at me again and stretched his thin lips. I didn’t know that awkward encounter would bring him to my doorstep that night, bearing gifts. I wasn’t a fan of Hawaiian pizza but that evening, I learned to love it. And its bearer. My first impression came out wrong.

That night opened doors to breakfast dates, early runs, and grocery shopping together. I didn’t know what it was about him that made me open up so quickly. Or perhaps I do know. Perhaps it’s the twinkle in his eyes every time I speak about my love for writing or the way he memorized every tiny detail about me. Or maybe it was never about me at all. Maybe it was the honest environment I offered him… of being his only friend in the building. But as it turned out months later, I was wrong about that too.

Jack started talking about Joyce, his stepsister. I never knew her, but he said she’s the coolest person he knows. She plays the violin, she graduated at the top of her class and for years now, she works as a legal assistant in one of the city’s top law firms. She sounded like she got her life together.

… I didn’t like it but my mother asked me to meet Joyce tomorrow.”

It was also the first time he mentioned his mother. It’s been four months now… and counting. Through those months, I already told him everything about me but what do I know about him? The same things I knew from the start: his name, his love for cats, his insomnia, and his introverted self.

“What for?”

He looked at me, opened his lips to say something, then closed it again.

“Don’t worry about it.” – he said, avoiding any eye contact.

A knock on the door interrupted our conversation. He stood up, fixed his hair, and opened the door of my apartment. About 14 seconds later, he came back and reoccupied his seat across mine, placing the pizza box in the center of the table.

This isn’t your usual pizza, is it?” – I asked, noticing the orange package that came with it.

“Nah… I hate orange.”

He pulled a small folding knife from his pockets. The sharp edges shone as he tore the red ribbon tying the box with exact precision. There’s something about him doing that. There’s something about the way he’s gripping the knife that made me feel uneasy.

Orange is such a happy color.” – I said, shaking off the horrid thought

“There are many shades of orange. There’s amber, ginger, clay, apricot, carrot, sandstone, yam, spice, and everything else. You’re referring to orange, but there are darker shades of that… and they could be beautiful. Not until you wear it.”

He’s right. I never saw him in orange. The morning after, my confusion about Joyce got the better of me. I followed Jack’s car at a careful distance, too careful not to create suspicion. He’s driving faster than usual and it was after ten minutes that we’re out of the city and onto the countryside. There’s nothing but cornfields and grazelands—no insignia of any habitable house nearby.

Again, I was wrong… there’s a lone house at the end of the road. I kept a distance as he got out of his car, looked around, and then ran into the old house. It looked… empty. Even the columns were covered by thick cobwebs and overgrown vines.

I counted a minute before going in too. I tiptoed as I entered the front door, my ears alert, checking every corner. I didn’t want Jack to know I was here. I don't even have an answer as to why I’m here. However, it’s too late to turn around now.


I froze when I heard a lady’s voice. Joyce? I followed the sound. It came from the farthest room on the right.

“Ssshh… they have no leads yet. Calm down.”

“Calm down?! You don’t understand! This can ruin my life! It can cost me my work!”




And then there’s silence. All I could hear was sobbing. She’s sobbing.

I’m sorry, love. I didn’t mean to shout. Trust me, I can still turn this around.”

Love? By the time I heard that, I was already at the door, looking through the peephole.

And I saw them. She’s sitting on the edge of the bed, looking up at him with bloodshot eyes. She had been crying, a few strands of her straight mahogany hair were wet with her tears. From my line of vision, I could not see his face but I recognized that feather tattoo at the back of his neck. That’s Jack. But why did she call him Devin?

I love you, Devin. I trust you.”

She lowered her head and leaned in on his lower stomach. She continued sobbing. With that, my heart was broken. The clarity came to me like a cold acid rain. They weren’t stepsisters. He lied.

I love you, Jane.”

As sweet as it sounded, it commenced a bitter end. It all happened so fast that I froze and didn’t move a muscle to stop it. But I’m certain it happened. I was watching his right hand as he pulled a handgun from his back pocket and positioned it at the top of her head. I screamed at the same time her body dropped to the floor, staining the impeccable white tiles with red.  

He was fast. He ran to the door and found me immobile, my knees and lips shaking. I looked at him with horror. No, no, no. He looked so perfect. He looked so innocent. He can’t do something as evil as this.


You did not see anything.” – he said with gritted teeth

“You… you shot her! Jack, what the…”

“She’s not a good person, Jules. She deserved it.”

I looked at the lifeless picture of the woman behind him. With my shaking feet, I walked towards her and touched the bullet hole in her head. My head was swirling as I picked up the gun. The siren wailed outside the house..

YOU CALLED THE POLICE?!” – he said, running to the window

I shook my head frantically.

“No, I didn’t! I swear, I love you, I didn’t!”

But he didn’t mind what I said. He fumbled on the small duffel bag from the nearby couch. Moments later, he was holding something similar to a remote control. I’ve seen that in movies. It’s a switch for a bomb. A BOMB.

I’d rather die than go back to prison.” – he said, his voice breaking.

I shook my head. In my mind, the puzzle pieces started to fall into place. But I love him… too immensely. I love him, it was the only thought I could think of.

I’ll handle this. Stay here. Don’t do anything stupid. Please, I BEG YOU.”

And he smiled. That. Smile.

It was the last memory I remembered before I owned up to the police. And the house exploded, just when we were in a safe distance from the ruins. I screamed my lungs out. I didn’t see him after that, but his body wasn’t found.

For him, I’d plead guilty.

They say red’s the color of love, but to me, it’s a darker shade of orange. 

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