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Outlined in the Stars
He was an artist, wild and free. His hair hung to his chin, he wore his dark jeans, boots, and black collared shirt with an artistic flair.
She was wholly engrossed in the world of science and mathematics. She was based in the real world, on facts and certainties. She wore comfortable, practical clothes and had no flair for the occupations of an artist.
Upon his mother's urging, he was investing his talent in teaching at an art gallery; a cold, brick building that had functioned as a jail many years ago. He hung up some of his work to make the room a bit brighter and waited for his students to arrive.
She was made to broaden her horizons by a grandmother who heard but did not listen. She arrived at the jail on a freezing afternoon in January. It wasn't much better inside the gallery. The artsy glass thermometer that hung on the wall read 50°F.
He sat in the corner at a desk, cold but not showing it, doodling absent-mindedly. He looked up as she walked in. He saw her check the thermometer and give a little shiver. She never saw him.
She wandered over to a black-and-white photograph. As she got closer, the shapes in the photograph became more and more apparent to her until she was drawn in completely. The photograph was of a crumbling brick wall, almost covered with ivy and some flowering vine she could not identify. It was obviously summer, but the wall still looked cold. It was so scathingly lonely. She loved it.
He saw her walk over to the photograph he had taken one summer afternoon. It had been a beautiful day, but he had been alone. So he had spent his time by a brick wall that seemed to need some company. He watched her as she examined the picture. The gentle slope of her cheek was just visible. He could see the small pricks of her eyelashes, partially hidden by the blue, squareish frames of her glasses. Her chin was round and soft, but her jaw was strong and set. Her long auburn hair was swept up into a ponytail, but small wisps of hair still made their way across her neck. Her shoulders were slightly hunched, giving the impression of insecurity. He could tell that she was unsure of what to do now that she was there. She was fiddling with her hands, which made the impression of insecurity even more prominent. Her back sloped into a small, well-defined waist, which blossomed again into voluptuous hips and finally narrowed into slender legs and small feet. Coming as far back to reality as was natural for him, he saw that he had sketched an image of her onto his doodling paper.
Suddenly she sensed that someone was watching her. She forced herself away from the photograph and turned. There was a man sitting in the corner. She felt her stomach squirm from embarrassment and her cheeks went hot.
"I was... just... just admiring..." She couldn't get the words out. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, collecting her thoughts. "Are you the teacher?"
"Yes." His voice was low, but she saw that he was young. Very young. Perhaps only a few years older than herself, twenty-seven or twenty-eight, perhaps. He had long black hair, as black as a raven's feather, but his eyes were a clear, rich blue. He wore all black. It suited him, accenting both his pale skin and bright eyes.
She had turned and said something. It took him a minute to realize it. He was intrigued by her face - by the gray-blue eyes and rosy cheeks, the widow's peak in her auburn hair. The way that strand of hair fell across her forehead and the way she kept pushing her glasses up her nose. The way she stuttered out her words before finally setting on a question. He wondered what was going on in her mind, what emotions were there. Nervousness, obviously.
She stood looking at him, wondering what he was thinking of her. Wondering what he thought of such an awkward appearance in his studio. Wondering why he wasn't cold. She was about to say something, to make an attempt at conversation, when the door opened and a girl with bouncing blonde hair, blue eyes, and the perfect body walked in.
He wanted to comment on those ocean-like eyes when another girl bounced in, confident and commanding. He ripped his eyes from his shy companion and looked at the other student.
"Hi, I'm Sally! Are you the teacher? Ooohhh this is so cool! What are we going to learn? Are you going to teach us to paint or draw or play with glass or sculpt or oooohhh photography! I've always wanted to be the photographer." Sally paused for a moment, presumably to catch her breath.
The blonde girl finally shut up. He took that opportunity to make an attempt to be courteous. He couldn't believe that he had to spend a whole evening with her.
"I am the teacher. The class was described in the brochure. You will pick the medium of your work. I will simply help you in the process of making something." He added a smile so his statements wouldn't seem so sarcastic.
She listened to his voice, rough and low. She thought she could detect a hint of sarcasm, although she wasn't sure. Then he smiled. That's nice, she thought. Really nice. She stood there nervously, going over molecular hybridizations in her mind. It was something to occupy her thoughts, to distract her from the awkward situation at hand.
He wondered why the shy girl was looking at her feet. He realized that she was thinking over something. He wanted to know what it was, but Sally was off again.
"Oooooohhhh what's your name? What can we work with? Oooooohhh are there going to be lots of colorful things?"
She suppressed a laugh after Sally's final question. Still, she was happy Sally was there. She dispelled the tension. Plus, she had asked for his name.
"My name is Adam. You can work with paints, pencils, charcoal, glass, clay - anything you can use to make something. And I suppose that yes, there will be colorful things."
Adam. It was a nice name. Fitting, for some reason. She could definitely detect the sarcasm now. Sally obviously couldn't because she chatted on. Then she heard his voice again, interrupting Sally's endless chatter. He was looking at her. He had been talking to her.
"I-I'm sorry. I didn't quite catch that."
She was cute when she was confused. He thought it was sweet how her forehead crinkled a bit with concern and her eyes gave an earnest I'm sorry look.
"What's your name?"
"It's nice to meet you, Rosalie," he said softly, giving her a small bow. She blushed a bright crimson, not sure where to look. He smiled a bit, and turned back to Sally, who had begun chattering again.
"Hmmm it's so cold in here! Oh well, good thing I've got my jacket! How many other students are there?" Rosalie couldn't believe how much Sally talked, and how silly the things were that she talked about!
"There are..." Adam bent down to consult his list, "five students in total. So we're waiting for three more," he added when he saw Sally look around and try to count how many had left to arrive. As he completed his statement, one girl walked in with her two male friends. Their number was complete.
Adam invited them all to sit and passed out sketchbooks. He laid out pens, pencils, bits of colored paper, disposable cameras, felt, glitter, paints, clay, bits and pieces of ordinary things that could be found around the house. "Make something amazing," he told them.
Rosalie looked at the wealth of materials laid out in front of them. She thought of the possibilities, the endless, endless possibilities. The more she thought, the more she believed it to be impossible to create anything worthwhile. Plus, she was too self-concious to put herself on the line and make something he would judge. She watched as her comrades picked and plucked, glued and glittered their way into strange, interesting, or pretty creations.
He stood back from the table, supervising the creation taking place. Every few moments, when someone looked like they were trapped against a brick wall, he would ask a question about their interests, hopes, dreams, ideas; they would become inspired and move on with their project. All but one. He found himself trapped - she was the only one in the room he wanted to talk to, to find out what was behind her soft, loving face; and yet he just couldn't bring himself to. Still, he had to do something.
Her musings over the materials on the table were interrupted by the sound of a book sliding across the table. Rosalie looked up into bright blue eyes. Those eyes smiled, and they were gone. She picked up a pen and opened the sketchbook to the first page. Crisp, sweet whiteness greeted her. She knew what she wanted to do. It wasn't art, but it was something to occupy her mind with when she felt those blue eyes upon her. She began to write.
It was time to leave. The clique of the two guys and one girl left together. Sally attached herself to Rosalie and spoke incessantly of her creation for the evening - a heart covered in glitter and rhinestones. It was pretty, Rosalie had to admit that. And Sally was sweet. She just wished that someone would let her alone to think for a while. She neared the door where he was standing, saying his goodbyes as they left. She saw him look at her out of the corner of her eye as she approached, pretending to be wholly absorbed in whatever it was Sally was saying.
"Goodbye." Adam was shocked almost senseless. She had spoken first.
"Bye." She smiled at him in return and walked out the door.
It was late as Adam sat at his worktable, mindlessly drawing upon a piece of scrap paper. He was burning with curiosity. She had sat there for two hours, resting her head on her hand, doing something in her book. He had never been able to to walk over to her and ask. When he had made feeble attempts, he was always waylaid by Sally and her bubbly talkativeness. An idea seized him. With all due swiftness, he rose from his chair and walked to the table where her sketchbook still sat. Rosalie Mullins was printed neatly on the cover. Inside, the back and front of four pages were covered in messy cursive. She had written a story. It was funny and quirky, yet it was elegant and sophisticated. Her haphazard writing made him smile, her cleverly-chosen diction made his heart sway. Without realizing it, he began illustrating the story in the margins. He underlined certain emotional words in the colors he hoped would correspond to them. He drew sketches of the characters, putting pictures to words. After underlining The End in a deep, rich purple, he replaced the book on the table.
Rosalie shut herself up in her apartment after dinner. She had a lot to think about. Who was this guy and why wouldn't he speak to her? He must not like her. Surely, he must not like her. And yet, those deep eyes spoke to her with the intensity of a thousand novels. They shone like the flaming orbs of plasma that were the stars. There was only one thing she knew for certain: she was eagerly awaiting the next class.
Adam was sitting atop his desk, head in hands, thinking and worrying, when he heard the door open. He snapped his head up, ready with his hello. It was Sally.
"Hi Adam! What are we going to do today? Did you like my heart last time? I gave it to my roommate. She says I'm very talented!" Adam's heart instantly went out to Sally's roommate. She must be a woman of great patience. The door opened again and his heart skipped. It was the clique. He wouldn't get a chance to speak to her alone today.
Rosalie entered the classroom moments after the clique. She had lagged a bit, terrified of being alone with him. When she looked up to see him, she fought the desperate urge to run.
"Good evening," he said with a smile.
"Hello." She tried to return his smile and worried that she looked like she was being strangled.
They took their seats again. Sally was next to Rosalie again and chatting her ear off. Rosalie didn't pay any attention. She had opened her sketchbook to find the pages covered in drawings not her own. Upon closer inspection, she found that the drawings illustrated her story, perfectly capturing the emotions she had thrust upon each of her characters, describing with the closest detail the settings of the story, and drawn with such loving, compassionate, sympathetic detail that her heart went out immediately to the artist.
The artist stood watching her reaction. It sent shivers down his spine as her face changed from surprise to the shadow of passing anger to a soft smile. She looked up at him and caught him staring. The sweet flavors of realization shone across her face as blue eyes met blue eyes. He looked away, and she set to writing.
Every class she would write her stories. Every night after everyone had gone, he would read them. He learned of her loving spirit, her passion for the sciences, her wittiness, her sharp sarcasm, and of her attention to detail. In response, he would illustrate the stories, putting his own slight flair on the characters, adding his own sympathies to the emotions of the story.
During the beginning of every class, she would review his artwork. She learned of his sympathy towards all living things, the depths of raw emotion he kept hidden inside of himself but that played across the illustrations of her character's faces. She learned of his desperate need for color and his love of humanity. At the end of each class they said goodbye and parted ways. As she walked from the room, Sally would catch up to her and tell her how cute Adam was. She would recount everything he had said that day. Then she would giggle in her high-pitched fashion and say "I think he likes me!" Rosalie would smile and congratulate her, say her goodbyes, and leave with a heart that was a little less whole than it was the previous day.
He would talk to Sally during class in the hopes that Rosalie would look up at him or join the conversation. She never did. He cursed himself passionately for being so shy. He cursed her with a pretend fury for being so quiet.
One day, Rosalie came in later than usual. She opened her book and barely glanced at his illustrations for her story about a lonely red airplane. She stared at the next blank page. She made it as far as Once Upon A Time... before she collapsed. On the inside, of course. She couldn't handle anything anymore. She just wanted to be home. She hated that he was there, making her life so much harder. She hated that she couldn't talk to anyone - one misspoken word to her parents and she was scolded over email, yelled at over the phone, and, finally, tortured in person for days. She couldn't do it anymore.
He watched, eagerly, as she opened her notebook. He had drawn beautiful planes for her story. He knew it would please her, yet she hardly glanced at his masterpiece. His eyebrows drew together and he felt something hard, sharp, and cold pierce his still-beating heart. He watched as she turned to a blank page, scrawl something at the top, and stare off into space. Something was wrong. Something was wrong and he couldn't bear to see it happen. But he still couldn't go to her.
She left at the end without saying goodbye. If she were to open her mouth, the words "I love you" would come out, along with a week's worth of tears and rages against the people who found enjoyment in beating her down. She broke away from Sally, who was tittering on about Adam, and drove home, desperately wiping the tears from her eyes so she could see the road.
He looked at her sketchbook that night, took a deep breath, and began to illustrate his own story.
Rosalie came in later than usual to the next class. She didn't want to be there anymore. She didn't want to be trapped with someone she loved, but who she believed loved someone else. Sally and Adam would be cute together. She had resigned herself to it. At least, that's what she wanted to believe.
She didn't look at him as she made her way to her seat. Slowly, she flipped through the pages, reading and re-reading every story she had written, looking at the illustrations of the past. For days, she had been dreading this moment. She was so afraid that the illustrations would stop. She was so afraid that, because of how quiet she was and the immense lack of a story, he would get discouraged and leave. She turned the last page moments before the end of class. Stars swam before her eyes, all shapes and sizes, outlining figures. Her Once Upon A Time... was still at the top, but there was something written below it. I know I'm not much of a writer, but I'll try, a neat, sprawling hand had written across the page. She knew without much consideration that it was his handwriting. Once upon a time, there was a man and a woman. The man loved the woman, but he couldn't even speak to her. So he read her stories instead. Rosalie put her hand up to her mouth, not believing the words on the page. He drew pictures to go with the stories. Soon, he knew her. From the stories. He knew her personality, upon what subjects her mind dwells and where her heart lies. With each story, he knew her better. Here, he had outlined two people in stars, a man and a woman, sitting across from each other, apparently deep in conversation. Now, if nothing else, he wants to make sure that she knows she is loved. And if she so chooses, she will always be loved. The stars of the final illustration swam before her tear-filled eyes. She wiped the sparkling water away and the stars resolved into a picture. It was her own figure, outlined in stars, standing in front of another figure, tall and thin, with long hair and a collared shirt. He was reaching out to her. She stood looking at him, hands behind her back, obviously unsure of what to do.
Rosalie looked up to find Adam fidgeting nervously in the corner. He had fought so long to keep still, but his iron will was deteriorating. He began to think of what would happen to him if she said no. He wouldn't be able to bear it. It would tear him apart in a way that would leave him without any pieces left to put back together.
Rosalie thought about what would happen if he changed his mind, if he found her to be annoying in reality. What if he leaves her? It would tear her apart in a way that would leave her without any pieces left to put back together.
The class stood up to leave. The clique left. Sally chattered. With a huge amount of patience, a bit of stubbornness, and with some clever excuses, Rosalie got Sally to leave without her. As soon as the door closed on Sally, Rosalie turned to face Adam.
He looked up at her, his heart beating faster than it ever had before. This was the moment. Would the words that guide his aimless drawings be his forever, or would he be lost in a wasteland without the words to describe the pictures he drew?
"I love you." She said those three words softly, but with more conviction and strength than he had even imagined resided within her.
It took less then two seconds for him to wrap her up in his arms.
Ten years later, an older gentleman wandered into the studio of Adam Reiss. His eye was caught by a black-and-white photograph, seeming slightly out-of-place on the walls hung with colorful paintings, photographs, and glasswork. He moved slowly towards the photograph, it's shape becoming clearer as he neared it. The photograph was of a crumbling brick wall, covered with ivy and some species of climbing flower. From the vibrance of the flower and the way the sun fell, it was obviously summer. And yet, it was not summer that made the picture beautiful. It was the young couple who sat upon the wall, grinning brightly at the camera, their arms around each other.