Title: The Making of an Artist
Pairing: Brian and Justin
Time Frame: Fluctuates between 3 distinct periods in
Justin's life: his childhood, his years in NYC, and the present.
THE MAKING OF AN ARTIST - CHAPTER TWO
You need, well, everything. You'd crammed your duffel bag with clothes, toiletries, sketchbook, and pencils, which seems to be roughly three days' worth of stuff when you wake up and empty it into a drawer. Ideal if you'd been going on a long weekend.
Fortunately, before you left Pittsburgh you'd packed linen, pillows, and towels in two large boxes and the rest of your clothes, computer, and art supplies in several more. You'd mailed them to yourself at your New York address, figuring that was the easiest way to relocate your life. By early evening, you're pacing the floor and glancing out the window every ten minutes to check for the UPS truck because hey, you didn't pay through the nose for your shipment to arrive eighteen hours after you did for nothing.
You've used up half your sketchbook drawing detailed likenesses of Brian from memory by the time you're reunited with your belongings, the driver wheeling stack after stack of boxes up to your door on a dolly and disappearing as soon as he obtains your signature. Scooting them inside one at a time, you look forward to sleeping on your own sheets and having more than three shirts to choose from the next time you get dressed.
"Looks like Christmas. Or else the building's been converted into mini storage units while I was at work."
You're partially hidden behind a mountain of cardboard when you hear your neighbor's friendly voice. "Meg. Hi." Stepping out of obscurity, you scratch the side of your head and smile. "My stuff finally got here. Oh, sorry."
"Big move, isn't it?" She waits for you to clear a path to her door and unlocks it. Then she turns to face you again. "Justin, I want to apologize for last night. I don't usually drink that much. I didn't mean to . . . act so . . ."
"No problem. Don't worry about it." Giving her a pass on the bizarre scenario she'd put you in just seems like the right thing to do. You push a few more boxes out of the middle of the hall and into your apartment.
She's still there when you come back out. "Why don't you be my guest for dinner tonight? Let me make it up to you. I've had beef stew cooking in the Crock-Pot all day." Her flower child look's been slightly upgraded to boho-chic for work, the weirdness of your first meeting evaporating away. "Joshua used to have dinner with me all the time before he started working nights."
Your first instinct is to politely decline, although the mere mention of homemade beef stew makes your mouth water. Hanging around all day for the UPS guy prevented you from venturing out to find food, and you didn't want to just help yourself to Josh's sparsely stocked cupboards. "Well . . ." You raise one shoulder and scratch at the side of your head again. "I guess I could do that."
"Good! How about a half an hour from now? Does that work for you?"
"Yeah, sure! Thanks, Meg." You grab a pullover out of the last box you bring inside and wash your hands and face in the bathroom. With twenty minutes to kill before you can walk across the hall to a hot meal, you break down and eat a couple of crackers to tame your growling stomach. You promise you'll replace them in the morning, a trip to the nearest grocery store at the very top of your to-do list.
You carry a mug of steaming coffee up to the attic at eleven forty-five a.m., finally spurring your butt into gear. The quality time you'd spent in your sunny kitchen with your bacon and eggs and the morning paper was just what you needed, but after placating Lindsay and her gentle nagging, you suppose taking the entire day off is out.
"Are you still thinking four pieces?" she'd inquired in that saccharine-sweet timbre she reserves for goading you into production. "Sidney's so excited. He's cleared the west wall for you."
You'd rolled your eyes at the phone. Inking the deal with Sidney Bloom to show exclusively in his Pittsburgh gallery has turned you into royalty as far as he and Lindsay are concerned, the name you'd made for yourself in New York their veritable cash cow. "Yeah, four pieces." You'd yawned and stretched and then yawned again. "I need a few more days, but they'll be ready in time for the opening. It's the fifteenth, right?"
"Yes, Justin, it's the fifteenth. I've got the framers coming out to your place on the tenth, though. That's okay, isn't it?"
You'd squinted at the clock above the breakfast nook. "Um, it's eleven thirty. How long does that give me?" Fucking with her has become somewhat of a game. You were loading your plate into the dishwasher when you heard her sigh.
"A week. It gives you a week. Tell me now if I should reschedule the opening."
"Relax, Lindsay." You'd laughed. "I'll be finished in time. Are you still using Thomas Brothers Framing?" Adam Thomas is the owner of one stellar ass, not to mention his remarkable deep-throating skills, both of which you and your husband have exploited together on more than one occasion.
Setting your coffee down on a work table, you eye the four canvases with their looming deadline in mind. You'll handily meet it. You might even throw in a fifth as a surprise. Never hurts to up the ante.
"Careful, honey. Put this arm over here." Your mom arranges you on your dad's easy chair and wedges the cushions under your elbows. Then she lays your baby sister in your lap and picks up the camera. Her terribly fat stomach is mostly gone, a small lump left in its place.
You're happy because she's happy, not quite understanding what's so nice about the crying mess in your hands. "She's screaming again. Why can't she be quiet?"
"Here. Let's see if she wants her pacifier." Turning off the shrieks for a few minutes, your mother snaps a roll of film before she takes the tiny bundle back and feeds her. "Are you going to draw a picture of Baby Molly?"
"What for?" You really like the new drawing paper and colored pencils she gave you this afternoon, but sometimes your mom has the craziest ideas.
"It smells great in here. Thanks again for inviting me." You step into Meg's homey apartment and instantly recognize the lived in look, macrame hanging plant holders, lava lamps, and other vestiges straight out of the seventies kind of comforting when you glance around.
"You looked hungry." She pats you on the back and closes the door before she goes to the kitchen and grabs a corkscrew out of the drawer. "I was just about to open a bottle of red. Would you like a glass?"
A thousand warning signs flash in your head, an overabundance of exposed skin leading the pack. "Well, maybe just one." You don't want to come off as rude. Besides, you have an escape this time if things get out of control.
"Go ahead and sit down." Meg gestures toward the table and busies herself with opening the burgundy and ladling up two bowlfuls of piping stew.
Your eyes bug out of your head when you see the magazines scattered in front of you. "You read Art Forum?!"
"Sure. Doesn't everyone have a subscription to the best publication in the field?" She tosses them on the sofa and brings the bowls and wine glasses to the table, settling into the other chair.
"Thanks." You smile at her and dig in. Wondering just how much information she'd had on you the previous night when she referenced the East Village art scene, you begin to put two and two together. You look over at the couch. "So, um, do you have like every issue?"
Meg peers at you and drinks some wine. "If you're asking whether or not I've read the review Simon wrote about you, the answer's who hasn't? Considering all the buzz it's generated in the art department here at NYU, I'm surprised you've waited this long to hit the Big Apple." She nods at your dropped jaw. "You're very humble, Justin. With a write-up like that, I was expecting a little attitude."
"Simon Caswell? You know him?" You wipe the sneer from your face with a napkin. Thankful you didn't nix the alcohol when you had the chance, you lift your glass and take a big sip. "You know he's a cunt, right?"
Peals of boisterous laughter indicate her agreement. "Come on! Tell me what you really think! It's nice to finally meet you, Mr. Taylor!" Thrusting her arm out across the table, she gives you a firm handshake.
"Sorry to be so crude, but his lecherous manner—"
"Is well known," she jumps in. "Simon has a harem of young men at his beck and call. His stable of handsome blonds is impressive. I could tell you're his type the minute I saw you last night. I'm sure he'd love to add you to the fold."
"How do you know him anyway? NYU art department? What exactly do you do, Meg?"
"I work at the Grey Art Gallery." She holds the bottle of burgundy out toward you, pouring more for herself when you tell her you're fine. "I've been the director's personal secretary for years. We've gotten to know Simon from the guest lectures he presents every semester at the gallery for the art department's senior class."
"The Grey Gallery?!" Your head is swimming. "I've always wanted to visit NYU's fine arts museums. Grey has the largest collection, I think. Something like five thousand objects? I can't believe you work there!"
"Neither can I at times. I get to view hundreds of famous works every day. I pretty much lucked out, though." Meg starts to laugh again and nearly polishes off her second glass of wine. "My art sucks, but my art degree came in handy for something!"
You can just imagine her stash making an appearance from some quaint little hiding place any time now. But that's not what makes you wince.
"Of course, with your talent and degree from PIFA, Justin, the art world is your oyster, isn't it?"
"THERE ARE PAINTERS WHO TRANSFORM THE SUN INTO A YELLOW SPOT, BUT THERE ARE OTHERS WHO, THANKS TO THEIR ART AND INTELLIGENCE, TRANSFORM A YELLOW SPOT INTO THE SUN." - Pablo Picasso
"Hey, Sunshine! Guess what your partner brought you?!"
You're sitting on your bedroom terrace with a sketchpad and pencil when he gets home and scours the mansion looking for you.
"Up here with the sunset." It's all you have to call out, Brian walking through the French doors to join you soon after. "Hey." You look up as he leans over, your lips eagerly meeting his.
"Hey, yourself." He throws his suit jacket and tie back inside on the bed. Then he rolls up his shirtsleeves and climbs onto the chaise lounge beside you. "You okay?"
He draws in a long anxiety-ridden breath and slips his arm around your shoulders. "Justin, I—"
"I need pink and gold," you cut him off. "This isn't working." Holding up the stub of graphite, you cherish the way he studies the horizon, wanting to see what you see.
"How many sunsets have you painted in your lifetime? All of them pink and gold. And orange and yellow and lavender. I've personally seen a hundred and sixty-two."
"But none of them were this one." Your head dips to rest on his chest. "So what'd you bring me? And I hope it's Rocky Road this time."
"Butter Pecan. Sorry."
Your jeans and tee shirt litter the terrace floor when Brian comes back upstairs with the pint of ice cream and two spoons. "Care to relive our wild and adventurous youth?" You point to his chaise lounge and open the carton, setting the lid and the spoon you won't be needing on the low table between the chairs.
His clothes join yours in a matter of seconds. "You're not seventeen anymore, Sunshine. Sure you can still fold yourself into a pretzel like that?"
"Lie down. Let's find out." Straddling his thighs, dusk descends as you share spoonfuls of Butter Pecan and sensual kisses, his appreciation abundantly clear when twelve years haven't diminished your ability to contort yourself into a pleasure-giving vessel in the least.
Afterward, he pulls your torso up flush with his and clamps his arms around your back. "Are you gonna talk to me yet, Justin?"
"Brian." Closing your eyes, the sound of his beating heart fills your ears. "Don't do this. Not tonight."