Here’s another sneak peek from my gay contemporary YA romance novel, Heavyweight.
As usual, I’m the first student in the room. I give Ms. Yang a weak welcome. She looks me over with a keen eye, but says nothing other than hello. I pull out my sketch of Mei-Li, thinking it’s ready for oils, but find I can’t look at it. She hasn’t done anything wrong, but after the conversation I just had with Clay, I can’t bear to work on it right now. I put it aside and get a fresh canvas from the cabinet in the back, deciding to start something new; something dark and abstract. Maybe I can work through some of my emotions by putting them down on the taunt white fabric.
I squeeze out colors onto my pallet, being sure to add a good amount of black and gray so I can darken some of the brighter colors. Grabbing a handful of different kinds of brushes, I deposit them all on the table next to my station and stare at the blinding white canvas. The bright purity of it makes me mad. Clean is the last thing I feel. I grope for a brush, any brush, and dip it into a blob of paint without looking to see which one.
Angry splashes of color appear in front of me, tarnishing the pure canvas, my emotions spilling out without saying a word. I change brushes and colors. Finding I’ve got a bright glaring red, I stipple it around the canvas, illustrating the hate that currently surrounds me, the hate I have for myself and my selfishness. Swirls of gray are added for my uncertainty, purple for my confusion.
I’m so engrossed in the process, I never notice Jules arrive. I don’t take note of anything or anyone else in the class. My focus is narrow, not allowing another thing through. I would have missed the bell ringing if it wasn’t for Ms. Yang’s gentle touch on my shoulder.
“Ian, class is over.”
I blink several times and snap out of my trance, staring at the creation I’ve made. It should be a mess of muddy colors and amateurish strokes, but somehow, it’s perfect. It’s chaotic and wild, just like my thoughts and emotions. There are small patches of white still peeking through. A sign that there’s still some good to me? To my life? I don’t know.
Ms. Yang is still standing at my shoulder, looking at what I’ve created. I notice her turn to look towards the door, and I follow her gaze. Jules is standing there, looking sad and uncertain. She must make some kind of notion to him, because he eventually turns and leaves. She squeezes my shoulder again.
“This is powerful, Ian. I’ve never seen you do a piece like this, but it’s amazing.”
I’m surprised by her praise. Embarrassed by the compliment, I try to shrug, but she shakes her head.
“Don’t shrug this off. It’s obvious you’ve got a lot going on and this painting is a representation of your current state of mind, but it’s honest and beautiful and I would be honored if you’d let me show it to a friend. The owner of the gallery I was at this weekend is always looking for new talent and I assure you, he’ll be impressed by this.”
I don’t know what to say. Art has always been a release for me, but I never thought of it as anything more than a class to pass the time and help me relax. The idea that someone in the industry would be interested in something I made is kind of ludicrous.
“What do you say, Ian? Can I show him this? I’ll respect your wishes if you don’t want me to, but I think you’re much more talented then you give yourself credit for. If you won’t believe me, how about letting someone who doesn’t know you’re a teenaged athlete give their opinion?”
I open my mouth to refuse. To tell her it’s too painful, too personal to share with others, but I find I don’t have the energy for that. I gesture that it’s all hers. She smiles and gives me a hug.
“You won’t regret it, Ian. I promise.”
Her words have me staring at my feet. I don’t do compliments well. Glancing around, I see I’ve made quite the mess while working.
“Do you have another class now?” I ask.
She shakes her head. “No, it’s a prep period, why?”
“Can I stay and clean up? Maybe start the oil on the drawing of Mei-Li?” I feel like I can face it now, especially without Jules standing by my side.
“Don’t you have lunch now?”
“Yeah, but I forgot mine today. I’d rather do some more work while I’m in the zone, know what I mean?”
She looks uncertain and I’m sure she’s going to shoo me out of the room but allows me to remain. She shoves a small pack of trail mix into my hands, making me promise to finish it before the period is over. Not a problem if it means I don’t have to face the lunchtime firing squad.