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Andrew was a young man, probably around his mid twenties, and had longish wavy hair that always had the right style. His skin was a deep olive tone and his eyes were a surprisingly light color: pale hazel with light-blue and green flecks. His skin was smooth except for one scared strip of skin on his forearm from when he was a child. His face was focused and nothing distracted him, nothing was more important than what he was doing. Andrew typed without looking at the keys. His eyes stayed glued to the screen, and every now and then his head would tilt to the side as if he was deep in thought. The sound of his fingers tapping lightly on the keys didn’t slow down until it was close to midnight when he stopped briefly to drink from a glass beside the computer; then he continued. Andrew didn’t stop again till early morning when he rose and stretched. His fingers were swollen and he headed to the small kitchen of that small apartment and began making coffee. His eyes were red and slightly puffy but Andrew continued acting tireless. He set the coffee to brew in the coffee machine then walked back to his desk where he kept his computer. He looked longingly at the couch for a long while before sitting on his hard swivel chair in front of his computer. Piles of paper covered both couches, some in stacks and wrapped with rubber bands but others were just loose-leaf sheets lying there. A thin film of dust covered each pile of paper, and even the couch its self was a dark grey color instead of its normal red. The carpet was littered with crumpled balls of paper and the walls were written on in small precise handwriting.
“For her,” he said to himself, “She’s worth it.”
He stood again to fetch the coffee from the brewer and remembered she would often bring him coffee in the mornings before his first classes would start. It would often be accompanied by a sweet kiss on the cheek or she would tell him to meet her at the park in the Victorian Village neighborhood after class; there was never any doubt in his mind that he would. He smiled briefly to himself at the thought of those moments passed and he imagined what her face would look like when she knew. When she saw everything he had done for her. He sipped the coffee slowly, finishing half the cup before refilling it and returning to his desk to continue typing. He would pause every few hours to eat a simple sandwich of egg, ham and cheese, a piece of fruit and drink a glass of milk. Then he’d continue, never stopping for more than fifteen minutes to rest. He typed pages upon pages and at the end of every day he would print it all out, gather it in a neat pile, rubber band it and set it on where ever he finished his last days work. All there was to see now was paper: on the tables and chairs (save for the one table and swivel chair he worked on) and on both sofas. They were on the floor, by the wall piled high, on the dinning table (save for a small square cleared out for him to eat on) His bedroom had stacks covering every inch of the floor (save for a small walk way to the bed) and they were piled three or four, even five stacks of paper high! He measured one stack of paper as one day’s worth of work and with the pace he was going, one stack was around an inch to two inches thick. Each one of them seemed to be in no order at all, but to him, it was the most organized thing he’d done for her. She called him from time to time, and every time started with a
“Hi Andrew, its Girl.” She said somewhat nervously, “Are you…done yet?” She said this hoping he were finished with this lunatic act, he interpreted this as “Hurry up! I want to read it!”
“No, no don’t worry. I-I’ll be done soon!”
“You said that last week, Andrew. I worry about you. I’m worried that you’re not…yourself, anymore.”
“Myself? I’m fine! I-I-I eat, and drink every day. I-I just really want to finish this for you! Don’t worry about me, everything is going to be fine.” He would say this with a smile.
“Um, ok then. Do you think I could, I don’t know, maybe come over and see if I could…”
“No! Don’t! I’m not finished yet! You have to wait till I’m done!” At this point Andrew would gnash his teeth in frustration and pull at his hair with his free hand. Sharp jabs of pain would hit his mind like miners hacking away at his brain with a pick ax in each hand. His muscles tensed and loosened quickly and his face became contorted, as if he was in pain.
“Ok, ok Andrew. I won’t come! I won’t come over.” She paused, “Do you want to talk about your…your inspiration?”
He’d stop and bite his lip. He couldn’t let her find out who she was, and what his inspiration meant to him.
He nearly shouted: “No! I have to continue writing, you wouldn’t understand!” Then he would slam the receiver on the phone and type furiously until every one of his fingers cramped and the inside of his lips hurt from biting them. He’d let out a cry, like a wounded wild animal, and then proceed to weep into his hands. The burning was too much; the more he wrote the less time the burning went away. He didn’t sleep at all that night and typed nearly three inches from the time she called (which was around four in the afternoon) till ten in the evening.
His fingers jerked to a stop as he heard the doorbell sing for the first time in many weeks. His fingers wiggled above the keys, debating whether or not to keep typing.
Ding, dong! Ding, dong!
“All right, all right. I’m coming,” he exclaimed and pushed himself off the chair and carefully maneuvered his way through the hundreds of stacks of papers. He reached the door and unlocked it but didn’t open it until the person on the other side said:
“It’s me,” it was her, his inspiration, “I, um well I thought you might need more paper. You did say you were writing a lot,” He slowly opened the door just enough to see her. She was tall with a slim frame. Her long legs looked longer in her shorts. She wore a white fitted t-shirt and a light checkered sweater that was rolled up to her elbows. Her hair hung in everlasting curls, perfect yet messy enough to give her that classic just-got-out-of-bed-hair-and-I-still-make-it-work look. She had on a colorful knitted beanie on her head and her tanned skin shone. Her eyes were a dark brown, almost black and her smudged eyeliner made them look all the more dramatic.
“Yes, yes I did need paper. Th-thank you.” She stretched her arms out to hand him the stack of paper wrapped in more paper and he opened the door wider to receive it. His hands brushed hers as she handed it to him and they felt a bit of a spark. Literally, a spark of electricity (static?) passed through their hands and she abruptly pulled her hands back to her side. She saw him pull his hands back as well and he clutched the paper tightly. He paused, looked down at the paper then slammed the door to his apartment. She just stood there, shocked.
Why would he do that? Does he know I left the Home coming game early to get to the store, buy the paper then drive across town to give I to him? Ugh.
She heard a click of the knob turning and the door creaked open just enough to let out a sliver of light shine onto the concrete floor the apartment hallway.
“Thank you,” he said quietly then closed it again. She felt something swell up inside her, not anger or despair but something that wouldn’t let her breath. It felt like something warm and sticky was filling her up. She had to get home, she didn’t feel sick enough to have a fever but either way she would called her Jason (her boyfriend) to pick her up; she didn’t think driving would be the best idea. She took out her cell phone and dialed his number. He picked up at the first ring,
“Hey, are you busy right now? I need you to pick me up, I don’t think I can drive my car right now”
“Are you wasted?”
“No, …” what was wrong with her? “No, I just can’t drive.”
“Okay, sure babe. Where are you?” She gave him the address. “Oh, ok. I know where you are. I’ll be there in a few.”
“Ok, thanks.” She hung up and walked aimlessly in the small hallway, up and down, back and forth. She felt a blanket of warm air cover her. The hairs on the back of her neck rose and she had a visceral feeling that something was out of place. It felt like the sun was shinning brightly on her skin, and eventually it burned. She took off her sweater but it only got worse. Feeling, she tried to distract herself and in the thin dirt/ dust that was in the hallway she drew a flower with the toe of her Converse. The pain and she went away and she felt calmer somehow.
She looked up and saw her Jason’s in his truck at the end of the hall. She smiled and walked down the hallway. Once she got in he asked,
“Where to? Wanna come over to my place to night?”
“Not tonight, sorry.”
“S’okay. You want me to take you home then?”
“Ok, home it is.”
She leaned back into the chair and closed her eyes. She fell asleep before long she was home. Her Jason gently shook her shoulder and she woke up, startled.
“Oh,” she said once she looked out the window, “Thanks”
“No problem.” She got out, closed the door and walked to her house waving as he pulled out of her drive way. Once she entered the house she locked the front door and sat on the couch in front of her T.V. She didn’t even get to lean her head back against the headrest, when she felt the burning continue returning. It came in waves; they in sync with her heartbeat. Her head throbbed and she didn’t know what to do to get rid of it. She walked to the medicine cabinet, tripping over her Art History homework, took two pills of Tylenol, drank a glass of cold water and sat down to finish a paper. But it seemed that a fire continued to burn inside her. She went around her house turning all the fans on and lowering the AC to around sixty degrees. She felt hot, but she wasn’t sweating, nor did she have a fever. She ended up curled up on the soft carpet of her living room floor, eyes scrunched up in pain. She remembered what her mother would do to calm her down: she’d rub her back in small circles and sing her a song. Girl took a few deep breaths and opened her eyes, then started tracing the pattern of her carpet and the burning subsided. She stopped, relived that it had gone away, but then the pain returned. She traced the patterns again and followed the path into her room. She kept tracing it while looking on her desk for a pen. There was a black one on the floor by her chair and she continued towards it. She reached for it and once she had it un-capped, she began to draw on her jeans. She drew an eye that looked at her with fury. A flower that sprang from two different stems and two that sprang from one. A vase with gentle curves and delicate snakes drawn with incredible detail. The skyline of the city she lived in with the sun rising behind it and its light pouring through, casting shadows. And the pain deteriorated. When there was no more blue left of her jeans and her fingers were stained black, she began to draw on her walls. She drew the outline of a mural and when the pen ink ran out she went to her desk to find markers, sharpies, paints and paintbrushes. She began to feel some of the cold air brush her skin and she shivered. Shrugging on a light sweater, she opened a can of paint, dipped a brush in and began painting. The colors she picked brought what had been a simple out line, come to life and flow into the next wall. She didn’t see the corner of the wall as a barrier, one that limited her, but something that helped her flow one image into the next. She painted the three walls in the living room, and the hallway leading to the kitchen. She removed the blinds from the windows and painted them too. Each wall seemed to have it’s own moral and character. There were scenes with deer nibbling on grass in a meadow, and the sunlight would shine from behind them casting shadows on the tuffs of grass. There were scenes that were dark and crowded, filled with people suffering and falling to the ground clutching their throats. The few bits of bright yellow only came from the glint in the eyes of those who had yet to fall. She paused only to change mix a color with another or to eat food and drink water. The pain never really went away, it just quieted down. She painted animals and roses and rooms. Scenes from movies she’s seen and random things she remembers from her childhood. She painted her parents the way she remembered them as a child and all her pets. She painted birds flying just above the surface of a lake and fish swimming under water scurrying into nooks and crannies of coral; but the heat still pulsed through her, not as much as before but she wanted it all gone. She kept at it for nearly a whole day but the next night she ran out of paint. She called Jason.
“Hey, could you get me some paintbrushes?”
“What? Babe, its three in the morning. What do you need paint brushes for at three in the morning? ” his voice sounded drained. She could picture his face, probably with sleep lines all over and his soft brown hair would be sticking up at all angles. She could see his shut eyes trying to keep the light shinning from his cell out, even though she knows he’s awake.
“Um…hello? You ok?”
She recovered, “Yea, I…”
“I’ll get them for you in the morning before my first class, okay?”
“Yes, thanks Jason.” she said distracted as she traced the lines of his face with her splatter painted fingers.
“’Kay then, good nigh…” his voice trailed off and the call ended. She traced the features she had drawn on the wall, his eyes, nose cheeks, lips, chin, neck, then back up to his hair where she had drawn with incredible detail; he looked real. She drew his shoulders and his muscular arms. She shaded in the shadow to show how his skin curved over his flesh and bone. He looked real. She stepped back from her work for a minute and felt the slight breeze of the fan above pass over her and she shivered. She wrapped her arms around herself and realized she didn’t feel feverish at all. There wasn’t an abnormal amount of heat racing through her. She felt cured. Totally exhausted she collapsed on the chair behind her. She enjoyed the coolness that replaced the heat so she just sat there, sprawled on the soft cushioned chair, soaking in the freshness of the air. She ran her hands over the velvety softness, shivered with each spin of the fan. She realized how cold it really was and wrapped her self in a blanket that was lying on the floor in a heap. Shivering she just sat there swathe in the blanket and after just a few minutes she was asleep.
“What tha?” she said before falling on the floor in a heap. “Oww…” She peeled herself off the floor and stood up unsteadily and left the blanket on the floor. She felt really hot like she should be sweating but when she felt her brow it was cool and dry. She took one step after another carefully placing her feet. The room seemed to sway and rock, and the door loomed a far ways ahead. Eventually she opened it
“Yea?” it was Jason.
“I brought you the paint brushes from….” His voice faltered as he looked behind her. His eyes grew big and when he looked at her then back at the walls behind.
“Girl,” he breathed. “What… what happened?”
“Oh, um I don’t really know I felt weird, still kind of do, but every time I draw something I feel better, Maybe I…” she rubbed the back of her neck, feeling hot and sweaty.
“Oh my god.” He whispered, “You did this? All on your own?”
“Yes,” she said distracted. Her clothes were starting to feel sticky and her skin felt prickly. Jason noticed her discomfort.
“Are you alright? Do you need anything?”
Girl didn’t respond, instead rubbed her neck and face trying to get rid of the burning as it continued to intensify.
“Girl? What’s wrong?”
“It hurts, Jason. I don’t know what it is, it just burns” she looked upset.
“Do you want me to take you to the hospital, they’ll know what to do for sure.” He said gently reaching out for her hand.
“No!” she screamed panicky. She pulled her hand back before he could even touch her. She couldn’t go yet, she had to finish this. For him. She backed away from the door and screamed again ”No!”
Jason’s face looked surprised ”What? Why not? What’s wrong, are you high?”
“No Jason! I… just leave me alone!” She felt the burning sensation returning to her limbs and fresh waves of pain began to engulf her. Her hands came to her head as to block whatever was attacking her mind. She crumpled. He knelt down beside where she had fallen and his hands waved over her body unsure of what he should be doing. She moaned and started screaming; her hands pulled at her hair, ripping it out in chunks. He grabbed the sleeve of her sweater and tried to stop her but she seemed to have inhuman strength. Her face became contorted with pain that seemed to last hours. She couldn’t believe how she wasn’t dead. It felt like every cell I her body was on getting hotter till if felt like it was fire and it didn’t seem like it was going to stop anytime soon. She wouldn’t stop screaming simply because she couldn’t. Jason hugged her as be and tried to calm her down, but she wouldn’t stop. He brushed her hair out of her face so she could look at him and as soon as he touched her skin he pulled away feeling like he’s been shocked; like he’s been burned. She stopped screaming and fell limp in his arms, breathing hard and crying. Relief shone in her wet bloodshot eyes. She covered her face with her paint stained hands and when she pulls them away her tears looked pink and green.
“I’m sorry, Jason.” She sobbed. “I’m so sorry.” She inched away from him and pulled the blanket closer around her. He didn’t move, he couldn’t. He felt like a lightning bolt had shocked him. He tries to shake himself out of it with no avail. He’s kneeling on the patterned carpet hands on his knees, taking deep breaths and his eyes dart back and forth looking at nothing, seeing everything. Some thing’s wrong.
“Forgive me Jason, I don’t want you to go through this. Jason…”
“I…” he furrowed his forehead. His stomach felt queasy, like it was being tied into a knot. “I don’t feel so well. Can you turn the fan on?”
She cried harder “They’re all on Jason, it’s the curse. The curse makes you feel hot, like you’re burning. Jason I’m so sorry.”
He didn’t respond for a few moments, processing what she was saying. Girl sat with her knees up to her chest and he could hear her heavy breathing. She was just a few feet away from him but even then it felt like she was uncomfortably close, like it was too hot. He felt itchy, like there was something he should be doing but he wasn’t. Like there was some thing left to be finished. He tried to stand, but his muscles felt weak and sore. He raised his hand to pull himself up onto the sofa, but a pen sticking up from between the cushions stabbed his hand. He pulled it back abruptly and stared at the small mark of blue ink on his hand. He reached up again to grab the pen and he drew five horizontal lines from the crook of his arm to his wrist. He drew an oval the width of two lines and colored it in, then a shorter line going up. It looked like a weird “d” and some “q”’s. He drew more on his arm, as Girl watched from a distance. They rose up and fell down like a wave, there were accent marks and with every oval and line he drew, he mouthed a letter.
A.D. E. E. F. G. G. D. As if it were a language he was writing. He felt the cool ink roll over his skin and sting lightly as it stained his skin. He looked up and saw Girl shivering, her teeth starting to chatter. He stood up, feeling stronger and relieved that he figured it out. He found his muse.
“Jason?” Girl whispered.
He didn’t respond, he simply walked out the door of her apartment
Natalie locked the front door of her dance studio and turned around. As she walked down the street to her house just four blocks from her studio, her phone rang.
“Hello Natalie!” it was her mom
“Oh, hi!” she groaned inwardly, when ever her mother called usually meant she had to talk to Jason, her brother.
“How are you dear?”
“Oh, fine mom. Just a bit busy, that’s all.”
“Sweetie, I was hoping you could call your brother, his birthday is coming up you know.”
“Yea, of corse. I was just about to…”
“Thank you sweet heart! Toodles!”
All she heard was a dial tone. Well there she goes again. She thought. Her mother called her(we anyone really, but mostly her) for every little thing. Whether or not a blouse looked good on her, should she buy OJ instead of Grape juice. It was a little annoying but hey, mothers will be mothers. Not wanting to be guilty of not calling Jason, she dialed his number before raising her hand to her ear.
No one answered. She called again and this time a deep voice answered
“Jason? Hi it’s Natalie.”
“Hi.” Silence, a long silence. “Hey could I call you back later?”
“Sure,” she said mildly surprised. ‘What’s wrong?’ She detected some thing, like a lie.
“Thanks, ” he answered.
Just before he ended the call, she heard him singing.