Read The Artist and Me Online

Authors: Hannah; Kay

Tags: #Young Adult Fiction

The Artist and Me (8 page)

BOOK: The Artist and Me
12.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

He popped around the corner with a smile. “Hey, sweetheart.” He stood in the doorway, looking me over, then turned to the wall I’d painted. “That looks nice. Lucas mentioned you were painting.”

I nodded, smiling at the wall. “Yeah, he watched me for a while.”

He stood awkwardly for a moment, shifting his feet. His eyes drifted over the wall for a minute, studying the color or design or both. Then his eyes cut up at me again. “I like that boy.” A comment that positively affirmed my wonder as to whether Lucas had told my dad about our plans. “He’s smart. Got a good head on his shoulders.”

Inwardly, I shook my head.
Yes, Dad, that’s exactly what teenage girls look for in a boy
, I thought, but simply smiled at my dad. “I like him too.” My voice came out quieter than I’d planned it.

He nodded then walked to the back of the house.

 

* * * *

 

I gripped the steering wheel. It was a clear Tuesday morning, trees and bushes overly green like on those college campuses up in the north. The air smelled like salt, moist from the rain shower we’d experienced overnight, but today was clear. The sun burned against the hood of my Volvo and I drove on to the Diner where I was meeting Krista for lunch. She’d sent up a flare—kidding, she texted me—this morning.

At the Diner, I hopped from the car, smoothing the skirt of my coat and exhaling calmly to allow my long legs to carry me inside. Upon opening the door, a wave of cold air hit me and I smiled at the temperature. It was blazing outside. The weather man on the news claimed it was unseasonably warm here in Carltonville, Georgia, and Dad backed up his statement over breakfast that morning. “It’s supposed to hit ninety-five this week. I haven’t seen ninety-five degree weather yet this summer.” That’s right, because Dad never left Carltonville. He left for four years between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two, came back with a degree in journalism and business—not to mention a wild ginger for a wife—set up the
Gazette
and hadn’t stepped foot out from the city limits since. Guess that’s part of why they got divorced. Mom was never a small town girl, though she’d grown up in one. She craved the speed and excitement of a big city like a moth to flame. In the end, Dad’s near obsession with the paper and her claustrophobia had gotten the better of the marriage.

Krista was sitting in her booth, blonde hair tucked behind her ears and blue eyes sparkling with excitement. She stood, grinning widely, and pulled me into a hug. “I’m so excited,” she declared and I laughed. She’d never been more of a cheerleader than now. I could see her in a tiny purple mini skirt and white sweater, bouncing around with her pom-poms and giggling like a schoolgirl. It all made sense.

“About?” I asked, as we slid back into the booth. There was one steaming cup of coffee on either side of the booth. I smiled. She knew me well.

She laughed, cradling the mug between her delicate fingers. “You know about what!” She was grinning widely, wide eyes expectant.

I shook my head. “Try me.”

A giggle slipped past her pink lips. “You’re going on a date with Lucas!”

“Yes… And?” I inquired, just to be difficult.

She pushed my shoulder playfully. “Stop that!”

I smiled. “Stop what?”

She rolled her eyes.

 

* * * *

 

My arms slipped into the lacy material of my favorite white sundress and I smiled at my reflection. The dress tied in at the waist before jetting out to just above my knee. It was suspended by thin spaghetti straps and cut straight across the top. I guess what I liked about it was its simplicity.

My ginger hair was curled, but fishtail braided over my shoulder. I knew it would fall out eventually, but for now it was soft and beautiful and great. I didn’t wear makeup, but I did pull from my coat pocket—my coat was on a hanger nearby, always close at hand in case a getaway was rendered necessary—a thin tube of ChapStick to lather my dry lips with the scent of cherry and add just enough shine that I looked like a girl. I slipped my feet into a pair of well-worn white ballet flats.

The doorbell rang.

Let the games begin.

Chapter Nine

 

 

 

Lucas

 

I’d gone from Julie’s house straight back to work, grinning the whole ride. I strode into the office confidently to sit at my desk. My fingers gripped the pencil that had been ready and waiting—to take coffee orders or messages, of course—in front of my computer. I grabbed the stack of copy paper—unfortunately, the only paper within sight—and started scribbling.

 

She blew into town like a cyclone. No one was prepared for it either. I heard Frank Goodman had a stroke when he first saw her. Legs a mile long, ginger hair that curled delicately to the small of her back and a smile that could generate enough energy to power Carltonville for months on end, she was easily a knockout.

Unlike the other girls at Carltonville High School, though, she simply was what she was—a fact that caused the girls to hate her and the guys to want her. And by some stroke of luck, she was choosing to give me, the quiet writer guy, a chance. It didn’t add up, but I wasn’t going to dispute it. She was something to behold and for one night—four or five precious hours in time—she was choosing to let me in. I just prayed to the great God in heaven that I didn’t screw it up.

 

“Writing about my daughter, Mr. Grant?” Mr. Swift’s voice wafted to me through my daze. “Writing is a very intimate thing. A very wise man once said that a writer falls for those who inspire him or her into writing.”

I swallowed and slowly looked up at him. “Who said that, sir?”

He grinned. There were little wrinkles around his eyes when he smiled so broadly, betraying his age. “Me.” He pulled up a rolling chair beside mine, grin growing as my heartbeat accelerated. His smile told me he knew I was nervous. It also told me that he knew I knew that he knew I was nervous. From one journalist to another, communication could easily be done with no verbal garb at all, but what fun would that be in manuscript or otherwise? Always second guessing the conversation and making gibberish of it. He knew better than to rely solely upon this telepathic rule of journalism and saved that for the articles. “I don’t mind you dating my daughter.” There was a pause, my ears perking up in confusion at his words but he merely chuckled. “You’re wondering how I knew? The idea was practically written across your forehead when I asked you to go check in on her.”

I chuckled in response. “Thank you, sir.”

He grimaced a bit. “Enough with the sirs, Mr. Grant. You’re making me feel old.” It was a joke, but I could tell that he was serious at the same time.

 

* * * *

 

That day when I got off work, I met with Mike and Krista for an early dinner. My fingers drummed anxiously across our table as I waited for them. I’d ordered our old standbys—for Mike, a loaded cheeseburger with bacon and onion rings, for Krista, a grilled cheese and fries, and for me, a plain cheeseburger with fries and a side of coffee. I’d chugged down two cups of coffee by now and was halfway through my third. Fun fact about me—I’m a stress drinker.

Since my little chat with Mr. Swift, my plans for Friday night became more real. I wasn’t the smoothest when it came to the ladies, ask anyone. I’d been on exactly two dates in my life. One had resulted in the girl literally crying and running to her daddy’s arms. Okay, we had both been seven and it had been more of a school yard playtime than a date, but hey… And the other girl had ended up puking her guts out over the Ferris Wheel at the county fair. Naturally this left me feeling a bit rattled. After all, I really liked this girl. My friends liked this girl. I worked for her father.

Ugh
. I felt nauseated.

“He’s on his third cup,” I heard Randy saying and almost laughed. He knew us as well as our parents did.

Krista sat down first, biting her lip. “Lucas, is something wrong?”

I looked at Mike, sipping on the fresh, cool Dr. Pepper with a concerned frown. “I think I have a date with Julie on Friday.”

Mike grinned. “Awesome, man. What’s the problem?”

Krista swatted his arm. “He’s obviously nervous, pig.”

“Nervous about what?” he retorted.

She rolled her eyes. “Mike, drink your Dr. Pepper.” She looked to me. “Lucas, that’s great. Don’t worry about it. Everything is going to be great.”

She was so optimistic. I wish I could believe her.

 

* * * *

 

I came home from work Friday afternoon and took a shower. My nerves were numbed by the hot water, and I exhaled into the steam. I needed to calm down or this wouldn’t work at all. I melted into the water, attempting to let go.

When I walked into my bedroom, clad in a pair of boxers and a by-now-semi-wet dark gray T-shirt, I discovered my little sister waiting for me on my bed. She was wearing a pair of jeans and a white tank top, eyes sparkling over at me. “Hey, big brother,” her chipper voice called, tossing her legs over the side of the bed to look at me.

“Clara,” I responded, crossing the room to pull my jeans from the closet. “What’re you doing in here?”

She laughed at me, standing slowly. “I’m about to go out with Frank,” she answered with a shrug. “Just thought I’d wish you luck.”

I turned my head to look at her from where I stood holding my worn blue jeans in my hands. “Thanks.” It was sincere because of the tone in her voice, a departure from her normal sarcasm.

She smiled, walking over. “You’ll do great.” She pulled me into an unexpected hug, tiny frame squeezing mine for a fraction of a second before my fingers attacked her stomach in a malicious attempt to tickle her. “Hey, dweeb!”

I was beginning to think maybe the nickname ‘dweeb’ was one of affection.

I stood in front of the mirror in my room, appraising my reflection. It was five-fifty. I’d put on jeans and a white T-shirt, pulling a black button-down shirt on top, leaving three buttons undone—a scandal at school. My hair was messy, but it looked good that way, so I didn’t change it. I was going sans glasses, rocking my contacts like a pro.

My stomach was even in check. I exhaled, looking at the clock again. Five-fifty-three.

Groaning, I stepped over to my bookshelf and pulled a worn copy of Shakespeare’s
Romeo and Juliet
from the shelf. I’d loved the play when we read it in freshman English so I’d ordered this paperback on Amazon so I could keep it and read it at my own leisure. The pages were brittle because of the frequency. The words were underlined, highlighted, starred—favorite passages, hidden meanings, character notes for the various CAs—character analyses—I’d done over the years, out of boredom.

I flipped the copy open to the dog-eared page, and started reading. I always read Shakespeare aloud as it was originally intended. I’d put on my one man show, adopt and commit to all the roles. I liked to think of Shakespeare as a lifestyle.

The next time I looked at the clock, it was six-twenty-two. I grinned down at the book. It was the best way to pass time by far. Looking at its cover, I decided to bring it along. Stick it in the space between Hendleson’s seats for luck. It couldn’t hurt.

The house was relatively quiet, apart from Mom bustling around in the kitchen. “Mom, I’m on my way out,” I called to her, slipping my head into the kitchen.

She smiled, kissing my cheek. “Have fun, honey.”

I smiled back at her, nodding. “I will. See you later.”

Outside was a muggy Georgia evening, but I knew that when night fell so too would the temperature. Hendleson was hot, so I turned on the air full blast. I shoved the book between the seats then was driving down Elm. It’d only be a minute before I pulled up to her curb. The radio was buzzing with some cross of country twang and artificial pop backbeat—a volatile combination that just shouldn’t be done, if you ask me, so I turned it off. I guess the ride would be dependent on the conversation.

I pulled up in front of her house, carefully parking at the curb before hopping from the cab and straightening my clothes. My heart beat loudly in my chest again, but I silenced it instead, walking up the front walk with a dash of cunning confidence. It was an act, of course, but no one needed to know that.

I took a deep breath.

Then I rang the doorbell.

I lolled back on my heels. There was only one car in the driveway so I was fairly certain her dad wasn’t there. That was comforting. He didn’t talk much but when he did, his words had meaning. So an interaction here at the door would speak volumes.

The door opened and I sucked in a sharp breath. She was wearing a white dress. Her mother’s coat was nowhere to be seen and that sundress left her long legs exposed. Her hair was in a side braid, her green eyes peering at me with a playful urgency. “Remember to breathe, Lucas.”

I exhaled at her words. She was gorgeous.

I chuckled. “You look beautiful.”

“Thanks,” she answered, locking the door and turning back to me expectantly. I smiled, sweeping my arm out dramatically to her. She bit back a laugh, eyeing my arm for a moment before taking it.

I laughed, leading her to Hendleson with a grin. “Julie, meet Hendleson,” I told her once we’d both boarded and were buckling our seatbelts. I extended my arm, patting the dashboard. “Hendleson, Julie.”

She eyed me, lifting an eyebrow. “Your truck?” she inquired and I laughed.

BOOK: The Artist and Me
12.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Clay's Ark by Octavia E. Butler
Perfect Timing by Jill Mansell
Borrowed Ember by Samantha Young
Through the Fire by Donna Hill
Castles Made of Sand by Gwyneth Jones
Goddess of Legend by P. C. Cast
The Green Mile by Stephen King