Sunday, April 22, 2012

Charcoal Pt. 4

Soul woke early the next morning, he was excited to show his art, even if the pieces weren’t what he was driven to create, he knew they were good. Even better he knew that Scott wouldn’t have anything to show, and if he did, it couldn’t be as good as what Soul had.

“Welcome to class, I hope you all checked the website and found your first assignment.”  Professor White walked into class talking.  It was early enough in the day that the students stopped talking quickly after he began speaking.  Soul was busily setting up his drawings.  Some of the earlier ones were stubbornly sticking to their rolled shapes and he was working on clipping them to his easel.  He was so attentive to his task that he missed Scott hurrying into class moments late, but with portfolio case in hand. 

“I know some of you had trouble drawing something on command last week- I am very interested how you incorporated that into your project.  While I walk around I would like you to sketch something that reminds you of home. It can be something that you have with you, or something from memory.”  The professor walked as he talked, so as he finished his pronouncement he smoothly transitioned into speaking with the first student. 

“How did you use your daisies in your pictures?” Soul looked up, startled.  Scott's cheeks were a bit flushed, but other than that he looked fine.  He didn’t look like he had been up all night trying to finish an impossible process, he didn’t even look stressed. 

“How did you even finish?” Soul retaliated.  He pushed his hair out of his face and began to think of the project.  Something that reminded him of home.  There was Michelle and David, but the longer he was away from them the less they seemed like friends, and the less his house seemed like home.  In fact the longer he was away from his house the less connected to anything he felt.  Home was safe, or he had thought it was, he had thought he had friends, but now- nothing was as certain.  Even the thing he was best at seemed to come and go.  He didn’t stand out, even as the awkward quiet kid. He was surrounded by talented people, talented people who had overcome things far worse than shyness.  Soul had lost his niche, and had no way to deal with it.

“Well, I did what I had to do.”  Soul rubbed his eyes.  He had gotten a good night sleep, even after Jon had made him question his hatred of Scott.  He hated him.  Scott was terrible.  Soul didn’t have to have a reason, the guy was basically a stalker, and he was a morning person.  “It wasn’t too bad.  I don’t like to draw from memory, but I found some photos.  They aren’t as good as they could have been of course, but I’m hoping Prof White will give me a break since it's the first project.”  Scott wouldn't be bad to draw either.  If he wasn’t such a terrible person.  Soul considered.  If he had to learn to draw things from observation the angles in Scott's face might be fun to play with, then he shook his head.  He must need more sleep if he was considering drawing such an obnoxious person. Immortalizing that infuriating face would be a sin for sure.

“Well boys, how did you fare?”  The boys had been quietly watching each other for longer than either realized.  Long enough for the professor to go through half the class to get to them.  “Soul, no sketch, I thought we went over this last week.  There will come a time when we will do projects entirely in class; you cannot just wait for the mood to strike you.  The life of an artist is especially hard.  The lucky ones often work on commission and that means deadlines.”  Soul blushed and looked for a sketchbook.  He had never followed directions well, or particularly cared to, but now, with this professor, and with Scott watching, he really didn’t want to look like an idiot.  And the more he didn’t want to look stupid the worse he seemed to act.

When Soul looked back Professor White was paging through his drawings with an unreadable expression on his face. 

“How did you feel when you were working on these?”  Soul shrugged and began digging for a pencil.

“I wanted to draw them at the time, then when I was done I didn’t feel strongly either way.  I know they aren’t bad pictures, but I don’t really feel a connection to them.  Most of the things I draw I feel almost- compelled to redraw, or rework in some way, these I was just done with.”

“Mmm” The professor nodded and ran a hand through his graying hair.  “How did you get the inspiration?”  His voice sounded flat.  It was such a contrast from the excitement and joy that was the flavored his rich tenor usually, that Soul felt that he had somehow disappointed him.  Suddenly Soul felt tears threatening.  He had worked hard to finish the assignment, to find some way to fit flowers into his usually angular dark style. 

“I don’t know.  I just really didn’t want to mess up the assignment.”  Soul had more to say, but his voice was threatening to crack and Scott was right there. 

“Yes, but, how did you get the idea to use them in these ways.” Professor White gestured to the various interpretations of petals.  Finally settling on one in which the petals were made of tangled eyelashes.  The center a tear filled eye. Soul wrapped his arms around his body and shrugged. 

“I don’t know.  I’m telling you.  I just drew what came into my mind.  Why does it even matter?”  The professor’s eyes grew colder.  He looked right into Soul's eyes. 

“It matters more than you know.  Maybe more than you will ever know.”  He then seemed to gather himself and turned to Scott's pictures. 

“I see you used some color.”  Scott nodded and smiled.  Soul frowned.  It didn’t seem like Scott could get a bad critique from anyone. 

“I used some color in some of the other ones too, I know it wasn’t required, but I though since we are doing a collection it would add some continuity.”  Professor White nodded again thoughtfully and began to page through the rest of Scott’s drawings.  Scott continued, “The light was so beautiful I couldn’t help it, the sun was setting through the trees and I knew without color I wouldn’t be able to do the scene justice.  I hope I didn’t overstep-” The professor shook his head and went on flipping through the pictures until Scott stopped him, pointing at one of the pieces. 

“This one’s my favorite.  I usually can’t draw without the subject in front of me, but I think this expression will stay with me for my whole life.”   The professor nodded in seeming sympathy. 

“This is really a good piece of work Scott.  Not what I would have expected going from your sketch last week.  I’m glad this is the direction you’ve taken.”  Scott blushed and nodded.  Soul couldn’t take it anymore.  He knew he was the subject of the drawings, and if he could see what it was, what was getting all the praise in the whole class maybe he could figure out what the professor wanted from him.

The picture was of Soul; it was of him sitting in the library, in the window seat.  It was as if a photo had been taken just as Soul discovered Scott sitting sketching him.  But what made the picture extraordinary was the expression on Soul’s face.  It was a mixture of surprise and indignation, relief and anxiety.   It was amazing that such a young artist was able to capture such an expression and render it so perfectly. 

Soul could not remember feeling anything but irritation when he discovered Scott sketching him, but the drawing was so perfect- there was no way that anyone could have worked that complex of an expression onto a face that had never worn it. 

“What are you doing?” Soul looked up into the cold eyes of his professor.

“I wanted to see what all the hype was about.  I figured if this miraculous picture was of me that I should get to see it.” It was the wrong thing to say, and Soul knew it the second the words were out of his mouth.  “So sorry.”  He hurried back to his side of the easels and picked up his pencil and sketchbook. 

The problem was he still didn’t know what to draw.  He didn’t know what home was.  The longer he was at school the more disconnected he felt from everything.  He had thought he had friends, but the more he was around school and people that were really friends; the more he realized that David and Michelle were never his friends.  He wondered what they really thought of him.  Soul had never been especially close with his parents.  Or with anything.  He was too worried about being a loner-tortured artist to be attached to anything but his art.  Nothing was home but drawing.  And that was just too much of a clichĂ© for Soul to draw.

“Soul.”  He looked up.  Lost in his thoughts, but not enough to not regret his words, and be scared shitless of the professor looking down at him.  “Stay after class.”  Soul found that even though he was older, the words that were terrifying in middle school held just as much horror in college.  Fighting the butterflies and bats that threatened to climb from his mouth Soul forced him to draw something that could be interpreted as home.  He got as far as a kitchen with a faceless mother baking a birthday cake when the rest of the class began packing up their materials.

“Don’t forget to check my website” Professor White called from his own easel at the front of the room.  Soul shuddered.  This was supposed to be his safe class.  And instead it was turning out to be worse than math. 

“Hey, don’t worry so much.”  Scott was taking extra long to pack up.  “Do you want to get coffee or something later?”  Soul couldn’t believe his ears.  It was good he hadn’t eaten breakfast because the butterflies would have made themselves seen in ways that were not the regal colors of monarch and blue butterflies-

“I don’t know what you mean.”  Scott sighed, and Professor White, who had somehow snuck up on them laughed. 

“Silly boy, it couldn’t possibly be that easy.  Now go, we won’t be long.”  And with that Scott left and Professor White turned to Soul. 

“You must be feeling a bit lost right now.”  Soul opened his mouth to speak, but Professor cut off his words with a simple raised hand.  “None of what I tell you is going to make sense.  But I hope in time you will come to accept it.”  The professor leaned against the wall and crossed his ankles.  It was the most surreal thing Soul had ever experienced.  He sat up straighter on his stool and prepared to be told he was adopted, or that Scott was his long lost evil twin.  Or that White was his grandfather.  He was nowhere near the words that came out of the professor’s mouth.

Sorry for taking so long to write, I lost track of the weekends, traveled and generally didn't write anything.  But I have already begun writing the next part (no more cliffie horray) and I think I know now where I want this story to go, but that is subject to change.  Please commpent whatever!


  1. I am very glad I followed NightTempest to your blog. You have a talent for making the reader care about the characters you have created. To me that is one of, if not THE most important part of a writers creation.
    I found the start of Charcoal in your archive and with each chapter I was rooting more for Soul. I can see this heading into the realm of the supernatural and am looking forward to what is revealed in the following chapters.
    Please continue this excellent work! Love it!

    1. Thank you! It really means a lot hear back from someone, it is very encouraging! I am continuing, if slowly- but your comment has spurred me on :)