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Authors: Hannah; Kay

Tags: #Young Adult Fiction

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BOOK: The Artist and Me
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I couldn’t make out the words as I plastered my eyes closed, praying to lose consciousness, fighting to drown out their arguments for good this time. Why couldn’t it dissolve into dreams? Anything, clowns on motorcycles pounding the pavement toward me, Aragog’s liar full of mutant spiders overtaking my bedroom… Anything else. I hated these nights.

He was there again. His arms wrapped around my shaking frame, smothering me in kisses, but that was what it was. He was smothering me. I found myself pulling away, jerking from his arms into dull darkness of screaming. I was alone—no kind hand, gentle movement, beat of his heart against my ribcage.

I rolled, pressing my face into my pillow, hands on the soft surface, heart thumping rapidly. The yells intensified somewhere in the house and a sob hitched somewhere deep in my chest. I craved nothing more than to run away, to get the hell out of this house and this fighting match, because it never stopped. It seemed infinite in its rage, propelled by something I couldn’t see or identify. A new topic sparked it every day but I knew there must be a deeper issue.

A kiss, slow and steady, pressed to my shoulder blade and I exhaled, turning my head against the pillow to look into his dark eyes. His hand encased mine. The voices outside my room dulled at his touch. I exhaled, pulling the blanket over our heads and letting him hold me.

Our breath was slow and steady, mixing together in the limited space. I nuzzled my head into the crook of his neck and he rubbed my back, strong hands unceasing on my bare flesh to the time of the angry echoes outside my door. I exhaled, tilting my lips up to graze against his. The kiss was slow at first, barely touching the surface of my uncontrolled feelings, then slowly grew. Suddenly my fingers were in his hair and I had him pinned underneath me. I pushed against him, wanting to be closer. If I kissed him harder, just maybe we could drown out the chaos.

But it didn’t work like that. The crashing of our kisses didn’t drown the troubling waters of my mother and father’s problems. Instead I felt them mounting on top of us, becoming our own in the heat and the passion of the moment. Just when I thought I couldn’t take the pressure anymore, when I was sure my entire body was on fire, ready to ignite, my body jerked forward.

I was sitting bolt upright in my bed, drenched in sweat, despite the fact that I’d barely been covered, and with a raging headache. I swiped my fingers through my hair, looking at the clock on the wall. Ten-twenty-four. I exhaled.

It was going to be a long Saturday.

I’d pulled myself together enough to get dressed, pulling on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt before throwing my hair into a loose ponytail. My stomach was grumbling loudly as I padded to the front of the house, but that wasn’t what struck me. I could smell the sweet scent of coffee from halfway down the hall.

Cautiously I crept into the kitchen, peering around to find my dad sitting at the table. He was bent over the paper—not his own. He read the
New York Times
, which he had specially shipped to our front door every morning—and sipping a cup of coffee. I stepped slowly over to pour myself a mug, hands shaking slightly with the memory of the dream still fresh.

“Morning, sleepyhead,” he greeted, having noticed me.

I took a long drag from my coffee, wrapping my arms around my middle and leaning against the counter. “Morning.”

He flipped the page of the paper. “When did you get in last night?” he inquired without looking up. I wondered if he really cared. He seemed unconcerned that anything bad could happen here.

“About ten-forty-five,” I answered, looking down at the coffee in my hands. It was straight black, no frills. I was that kind of girl. Kind of like my dad. About the only thing we shared, though.

He nodded, glancing up. “You have fun?” It was almost comical, but I didn’t laugh.

“Yeah, it was good,” I answered, turning to pull the box of cereal from beside the fridge and pour some into a bowl.

“Where’d you go?” he asked dryly. It felt like he was going through a mandatory list of dad after date questions.

I exhaled, pouring milk into my cereal and watching the flakes float to the surface. “Picnic at the creek.”

He chuckled, breaking character a bit. “Classic.” He fell silent and I sat across from him at the table, spooning the cereal into my mouth slowly. Nothing was said for a few strokes of my spoon then he coughed, awkwardly clearing his throat. “You going to see him again?” The question stung like knives.

I exhaled. “Maybe.”

Or maybe not.

Chapter Eleven

 

 

 

Lucas

 

Papyrus walls surrounded me but I didn’t feel surrounded. The mind-numbing hours of sitting at my corner desk from nine to five, Monday through Friday, blurred sessions of writing about her. Her smile, her eyes, her laugh, the way I didn’t understand her at all. She was a beautiful mystery, always holding something back, but somehow giving something in return at the same time.

A noisy fly buzzed in front of my face as my pencil struck the page. I smudged the lines and groaned, fighting the black speck Jedi as if my pencil were a lightsaber. The pencil slammed against my desk, loud from the impact, and I heard a few chairs shifting around me. I chuckled awkwardly. “There’s a fly,” I answered the chubby lady with thick red glasses, but she wasn’t looking up.

“A bit distracted today, Mr. Grant?” Mr. Swift’s voice surprised me from over my shoulder.

I exhaled calmly, shuffling the papers on my desk and instinctively pulling at my shirt. “There was a fly, sir.”

“What’d I say about that ‘sir’ business, Mr. Grant?” He shuffled the pile of papers in his arms, fishing out a stack. “I need eleven copies of this for the staff meeting.”

“Eleven?” I questioned, because there were ten people on staff.

He chuckled. “One for you.”

I was silent, processing. The staff meeting was for assigning articles. “Thank you, sir.”

He sighed, shaking his head. “What did I say, Mr. Grant?”

“No sir,” I repeated, chuckling quietly, rising from my chair.

He nodded, patting me on the back. “That’s my boy.”

I drifted to the copy machine, located at the front of the big room of cubicles. Setting to work on copying the papers, I refilled my coffee cup—the coffee maker was conveniently located beside the copier—and watched as the papers streamed from the copy machine. It was slow and methodical, an utter bore to most, but my blood ran with excitement.

As corny as it sounds, she was always there—her image, her eyes, her voice. It all drifted to me, wafted from thin air. I knew it’d only been one date, but it’d been real and it’d gone so well. So much better than the other train wrecks I’d experienced. Now it looked like I was being given a chance to actually write for the paper. ’Course I’d be over the moon.

I fished the papers from the copier and shuffled my way back to my desk. Once seated, I began re-sorting and stapling the papers, grinning despite myself as I worked. My mind was on hyper drive and, at the same time, slow motion, and I didn’t really know how that could be but I felt it. Some thoughts racing while others slowly lingered, pulsing like a memory against my trembling fingers.

The sound was distinctive, jolting my attention immediately from the papers against my palm. There she was, a hurricane on our shore, wearing the blue coat now etched into my brain. This time, though, her eyes met mine from across the room as she crossed the floor to her father’s door. Everything else was the same from the perception—or lack thereof—from my coworkers to the room’s vitality while in her presence to the draining of color when the door shut behind her.

I exhaled sharply, finishing the last few of the papers and following her tracks to his door. I bit my bottom lip at my own urgency, but knocked swiftly against the white wood. There was no response for about a minute then she slid the door open, eyes lighting up with some emotion I couldn’t identify and a smile stretching across her face. “Lucas.” It was almost a whisper as she stepped back from the door so I could step inside.

I smiled at her. “Hey, Julie,” I greeted, before turning to her dad who was sitting behind his desk, hands folded, watching us. I extended my arm and he took the papers. “There you go, Mr. Swift. Your original is on top.”

He nodded thoughtfully, nestling the stack of papers on the corner of his desk. “Thank you, Mr. Grant.” As I was backing from the room, watching Julie’s eyes follow my actions, I heard him chuckle. “Mr. Grant, that’s all I’ll be needing you for today. You’re free to go.”

I felt my smile growing involuntarily and Julie’s lips pulled together in playful grin, but it was possibly the most adorable thing I’d ever seen. She walked over, slipping her fingers through mine, and I smiled at the feeling. “Thanks, Mr. Swift.”

He chuckled again, a low grumble in his chest. “You kids have fun.”

We ended up at the beach. Her black ballet flats dangled from her left hand and her right hand was nuzzled into mine. She was wearing a blissful smile, but if I looked at her too long, I was able to see it falter. Something was bothering her. “Is something wrong?”

Her smile brightened. “Why would you say that?” she asked, dropping my hand then her shoes. She ran into the surf, letting the salt water swell up halfway to her knees before she looked over her shoulder at me. It was a fleeting look, one of indecision and confusion and happiness and sadness. I wasn’t sure how that could be, either.

“You looked sad,” I answered, following after her to step into the surf a few feet away from her so that the water only lapped across my toes.

She laughed quietly. “I’m not,” she replied, slowly walking toward me and slipping her arms around my waist. “Stop worrying so much.”

I breathed quietly, leaning forward to brush my lips against hers. “I’m sorry,” I mumbled against her kiss but she shook her head, sliding her arms up and around my neck.

“Shh,” she whispered, kissing me again slowly. “Stop worrying,” she uttered again, gently kneading my lips with hers. I melted into her arms, surrendering myself to her hands and forgetting my worries against her. She obviously didn’t want to talk about whatever was bothering her. I’d have to worry about that another time. For now I was completely content to hold her as our toes became one with the sand without a trouble in the world.

 

* * * *

 

We walked into the Diner holding hands and received one or two strange looks. I tried not to dwell on the town’s surprise at the relationship, but Krista’s reaction was the most extreme. “Lucet!” She stood up, lips quirking together as she quickly popped up to one-arm hug us. Her huge blue eyes smiled as she led us to the table.

“Lucet?” I inquired when she pulled back to sit down beside Mike again. I followed suit, sliding across the booth to sit across from the sneering Mike.

She laughed. “Lucas and Juliet, duh! Lucet.” She laughed her signature cheerleader laugh and I knew she was joking. Krista only laughed like that when mocking popular culture. That was the fun thing about Krista. She knew how idiotic her cheerleaders on her squad were. She still loved them, though. Or rather she loved the act of cheering. Maybe it was a little bit of both.

Julie laughed, sliding in beside me but flashing a grin toward Krista. “I love you, Krista, but never call us that again.” Julie knew she was joking, I could tell, but just wanted to confirm.

I chuckled, jostling her shoulder playfully. “What? You don’t want to have a celebrity dating name with me?”

She shook her head, turning to grin at me. “I’m sorry, but no.”

“Looks like we’ve added another to your trio,” Randy observed, walking up to our table with a coffee pot and three cups. He set them on the table in front of us, filling them to the brim.

“See, Randy, we are capable of making new friends,” Mike teased, grinning widely at the old man.

Randy chuckled. “The regular?”

Once he was gone, Julie smiled broadly across the circle. “I guess I’m a regular.”

Mike smiled at her. “It only takes once.”

 

* * * *

 

Dinner was over and we were all laughing. I couldn’t recall about what, though, because now I was distracted by Julie’s laughing. Her head leaning back against the booth, eyes closed and smiling. Easily, all thought of whatever had brought this on had been wiped from my memory.

However, when the Goodman brothers rounded the corner, I was startled and looked curiously over her shoulder as they approached. The twins were in the back, Frank leading them like a pop boy band—oddly in sync with each other in a distant and almost rehearsed manner.

Mike was grinning. “Hey, boys. Ready to go?” he asked them when they dead ended at our table.

My ears perked up, confusion waking me from my previous Julie-induced daze. “All ready, man,” Frank announced, looking down at Julie with the eyes of a panther. “Sure we can’t bring the chicks?” he asked, still eyeing her like a desperate piece of meat.

Mike chuckled, shaking his head. “This is boys’ night, Frank. ‘Bringing the chicks’ would defeat the purpose.” He glanced at Julie, who was focusing on her coffee cup instead of Frank’s wandering eyes. “And stop making eyes at Lucas’ girl, man.”

Julie’s eyes found mine. We hadn’t talked about it. She didn’t seem to mind and if I wasn’t mistaken—but it could be simply wishful thinking—there was a small smile dancing across her pink lips.

Frank looked between us then over his shoulder at his brothers who shrugged in unison. “Right, then. Let’s get out of here,” he announced, clapping his hands together. I could tell he was trying to rein in his inner pig now. Even the Goodmans didn’t mess with another guy’s girl.

BOOK: The Artist and Me
8.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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