Authors: Hannah; Kay
Tags: #Young Adult Fiction
I exhaled sharply. “Mike took me up to his cabin,” I answered simply, dipping my eyes down to the thin lines on the paper in front of me.
“Writing?” she asked, a slow grin slipping onto her lips. “On paper?” Her chocolate brown eyes sparkled and she swept a hand through her hair, grinning. “You’ve got it bad.”
I groaned, standing up. “Clara, don’t you have somewhere to be?” I asked, walking over to where she stood and gently pushing her back.
She stood firm, her smile brilliant against the sparkle of sunlight through my window. “You love her!” she sang, mocking playfully then stumbling backward. “Write well, big brother,” she told me, wiggling long fingers my way as I finally forced her from the room.
I closed my door behind me. I returned to my paper, cradling the pen in my hand for a moment, searching for the words that had been building over the drive, but they wouldn’t come. They’d been buried. I groaned and shoved the paper away.
There was one thing Clara was right about. I only wrote on paper when I felt. Anger, pain, sadness—all emotions I wrote on paper. Now it was something else. A warming in my chest I couldn’t explain. I wasn’t sure, but I might just like it.
* * * *
I woke up early the next morning, earlier than I needed to in order to be on time for work. I felt strange. I didn’t want to roll over like I normally would. I wanted to move, to run, to soar, to do something other than press my face against the soft cotton pillow under my head.
I sat up, moving in quick, uncontrolled movements, drawing my shorts onto my hips and a T-shirt over my head. Sticking my phone in my pocket, I opened the door.
The summer-heated pavement blazed under my feet as I shed my shoes and padded across the concrete parking lot toward the beach, hitting sand at a run.
I let out a near-silent groan, pushing forward and enjoying the feel of my dark hair flailing back against the wind, facing the other direction as I sprinted farther up the beach. I wasn’t sure what I was running for—or where I was running to—just that I wanted to run as far from here as I could get.
Then it happened. Suddenly, as if from the air itself, she was there. Materialized from space, piece by piece—a puzzle of my choosing, she arrived in front of me, in the middle of my path. I hit the brakes, blinking rapidly, but she remained planted there. She was nuzzled in the sand, holding a book in her lap. As I approached, I could see she was sketching. She looked slowly from her sketchbook out across the ocean before diving back into her drawing. Her silent strokes created a visual masterpiece the likes of which were paralleled by nothing I’d seen in my lifetime.
She must have sensed my staring, because her eyes rose. She smiled softly. “Hi there, Lucas.” Her voice was blistery, like a summer day. That was the first sign, I guess, but I wasn’t paying attention to the bells and whistles going off in the back of my head at her dreamy, suddenly girly voice.
I sank into the sand beside her, smiling. “Julie.” My voice sounded far away. Suddenly I was out of my own body, watching. My hair was standing on end, eyes staring up at her. She looked perfect as always, hair curled in tight, frizzy—the frizz did nothing to lessen the perfection, let me make that clear—ringlets today, shortening the ginger length by four or five inches. She wasn’t wearing her coat either—instead a pair of ratty jean short shorts and a thin blue T-shirt.
Her lips perked into a gentle smile. “Juliet,” she corrected, tucking her pencil behind her ear and closing the sketchbook. Her fingers then reached to mine, slipping into my own, spreading her warmth into my body.
I exhaled. “Juliet.” The name was velvet on my lips, and I smiled around it. “Juliet,” I repeated, silence broken by the mellifluous name—a flower field on an early April day or a shimmer of light reflected off of snow.
She smiled, pressing her head to my shoulder. I breathed in the smell of her skin, a strong scent of pastel paint that told the tale of her time—a tale that I at that moment thanked God to be a part of. “Lucas.” Her voice spoke my name in a lilting whisper. Her lips ghosted my shoulder.
I shivered. “Yes?” I requested, raising my eyes to meet hers. They were right in front of me. Giant green orbs, magnified by proximity.
“Kiss me.” Tender words, held together by motionless moments.
My eyes beseeched hers for a long, agonizing moment. Then it happened. Our lips met in a dance of innocence. Searing against each other, my fingers moving to curve around her face, sliding my warm embers around her glowing face.
* * * *
My eyes shot open and I groaned. It’d all been a dream. Of course it had, but I could still smell her, feel her soft skin under the palm of my hand and the gentle warmth that radiated from her entire body. I exhaled, running my hands through my hair.
My heart thumped angrily in my chest. I felt her nuzzling my shoulder lightly. Tender love, the unspeakable break of her lips from mine. My body was overheated, quickly sweating through my T-shirt.
“You’re going to be late!”
My bedroom door banged against the wall. Mom stood there in her apron, hair undone, and looked at me, suddenly concerned. “Lucas?” she questioned, but I shook my head.
“I’m fine, Mom.” Curt. That’s how I felt. I guess that’s how anyone would feel when they were brought back down to earth from heaven.
I pressed my eyes closed, releasing a long sigh and staring up at the ceiling. It was deadly white, untouched by human hands, tools or adaptations like the old man at the supermarket, immune to change. I groaned, rubbing my palms against my eyes roughly, waking myself more fully from the slumber my weekend at the getaway cabin made necessary.
My feet hit the floor and I walked to the kitchen, humming idly as I went, flipping through my mental soundtrack for my mood, but the well ran dry. I wasn’t exactly sure why. I reached across the counter, stretching my back panther style to drag the box of Trix cereal across the immaculate white countertop.
The colorful orbs teemed in my bowl within a few seconds then drowned in an ocean of milk. They took refuge for a moment, cradled in the safety of my spoon before being scooped into my mouth carelessly.
I shivered. Those very thoughts prove that I’m a writer’s daughter, as much as I try to hide it. I exhaled, shaking my head and instead, eating in silence. Don’t get me wrong. I love Dad. I love his passion and his heart when it comes to work. In fact, I love his writing. It’s beautiful and eloquent, but I decided a long time ago that it wasn’t me.
I’m an artist. I create life, not this dull, terribly drab, colorless abyss that I’ve been dropped into. I make music and design color palettes. The written word pales in comparison.
As if to prove a point, I stood from where I’d been slumped over the counter on a bar stool and marched down the hall toward the living room. My eyes took in the bleak walls and I groaned. This is why I stayed in my room.
A few hours later, I was wearing a pair of faded jean shorts and a blue T-shirt, which by now was splattered with paint of whatever color of the moment. My face was splattered with paint too and my red hair was pulled back in a low, frizzy ponytail down my back—not counting those pieces that just wouldn’t stay and chose to instead ghost across my nose and through my sight, throwing off my color ratio.
I was standing in the middle of the living room, furniture covered with sheets I’d stripped from Dad’s and my beds and five paint cans lined up across the floor. I’d coated the back wall—the one occupied by nothing but a dismal bookshelf—in gray base paint. The colors already in the room kept me from having much fun, but I could work with the white couch and black and gray everything else.
I’d begun painting swirls, bright bursts of color along the wall. This stroke was light lavender, the next deep magenta, a docile brown, a loving rosemary. The swirls conformed themselves into their own shapes—flowers, waves, even faces could be made out with a tilt of my head and an inspired attitude.
It was coming along great when I heard the shrill ding of the doorbell followed by its hallowed mate, dong. I made a face, tucking the brush I was working with back into its can and slowly navigating through the cans and shoved furniture to the entryway. I grabbed a paper towel from the kitchen quickly and used it to turn the knob so it wouldn’t become a kaleidoscope of my own design.
On the other side was Lucas. He was wearing black slacks and a deep purple button-down shirt, hands stuffed in the pockets of his slacks. I noticed today that he wasn’t wearing his glasses again. His brown hair was perfectly arranged. “Lucas… What’re you doing here?” He was looking at me strangely as I spoke, eyes drifting from my hair to my clothes then back to my face, but at my question, he snapped from the trance.
“Your dad wanted me to check on you,” he answered, but my face must’ve revealed my confusion at the statement, because he continued, “Something about not answering your phone or something?”
I almost laughed. My phone was dead in my room. I’d almost forgotten about it. “Oh, it’s dead… I’m okay, though.” I smiled at him.
He smiled back. “What’re you painting?”
I suddenly grinned back, wrapping my fingers around his wrist and pulling him into the living room with a little smile. “This.”
He looked around, soaking up the room with one swoop, then grinned broadly at me. “This is amazing, Julie.”
I suddenly felt something—an involuntary tug at my lips, pulling them up on either side, tipping over into a smile, but it felt so easy, so genuine, so different from the other smiles I’d smiled for such a long time. It was warming. “Juliet,” I corrected, picking up one of the brushes and playfully swiping it across his face.
He seemed in another world for a fraction of a second before he nodded. “Juliet.”
A knot grew in my stomach, a slow monster. I could feel my walls threatening to shut tight, bolt and lock, but instead I offered another smile his way. I let out a slow breath, turning to the wall, paintbrush curving to infinity with no path to follow. I didn’t know what to say, so I just went on painting as he watched. It should’ve felt weird, but it didn’t. It felt like company.
“I’d better get back,” he hedged and I nodded, setting the paintbrush back into its can.
“I’ll show you out.”
We walked through the house again and we stood there, separated by only the door frame for a long while. “Julie?” he questioned, eyes roaming my face.
I nodded, feeling it start again, slow and steady, the shutdown building. “Yeah?” It caught in my throat.
“Would you like to do something with me Friday night?” he managed, but he looked just a little green.
It was fitting, though—I felt strange enough—but I nodded. It felt so easy being around him. “Sure.”
A smile slipped onto his lips. “Great. I’ll pick you up at six-thirty?”
I nodded and he grinned, backing down the stairs like he was waiting for the punch line or the ‘gotcha!’ or maybe a secret camera crew like they do on TV, but nothing came. I’d just agreed to go on a date with him. My dad’s intern. Oddly enough, the question on my mind was, who’s telling Dad…? Well, that was until Lucas tripped on the bottom stair and almost fell to his death. I’m kidding. But there could’ve been serious scratches if he hadn’t caught himself.
When I walked back into the living room, I looked at the wall I had been working on before, searched through the previous paintings and found it. As we’d stood there in pleasured silence, I had painted a heart. It was large, misshapen, but a heart nonetheless. It reminded me of my own.
Droplets of water pummeled my body, assaulting me with warmth and understanding—quick and rough and, admittedly, wonderful. I breathed in the smell of heat-bound humidity. My eyelids squeezed shut, lashes against my cheek as I exhaled against the current of steam, letting it hit the sliding shower door. Thoughts of how I came to this moment flooded my senses. I breathed, massaging my shampoo into the soaked roots of my hair. My fingers tangled in the sponge of red, carefully tugging the strands so that they wouldn’t tear from my scalp. Water tumbled down my shoulders, creating a tsunami over my spine.
* * * *
The sun was beginning to set. I’d opened the windows in the living room, bathing the room in an other-worldly glow and setting my mosaic ablaze with evening fire. Soon the stars would arrive, but for now it was merely this beautiful thing—the wonderful end of day afterglow.
I was on the couch, legs sprawled over the end and hair in disarray but I didn’t mind. The TV was on across from me, playing reruns of a by-now-forgotten sitcom, but I wasn’t watching. Instead I was peering across the room at the wall, the heart I’d etched onto the surface until otherwise disposed of.
Footsteps reached me, thumping across hard wood with the consistency of a wild stallion across the deserts of Montana. Dad was home. For a moment, my mind lingered on the question of whether Lucas had told my dad about our date Friday night, but the thought blistered away quickly enough. I wasn’t particularly worried about my father’s reaction. He’d yet to show any overprotective nature and this kid worked for him. It couldn’t be that bad.
“Juliet, you in here?”
I kicked my legs up, righting myself on the couch and stretching my arms over my head. “I’m in here, Dad,” I called as I straightened my body once more, then crossed my legs Indian-style.