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 - EPILOGUE
"What a mess. Why the hell haven't we done this before now?" You unfold the top of yet another cardboard box and peek in, frowning at the random belongings you haven't seen in six months.
Brian isn't making any better headway than you are going through his long lost things. "After living without this shit all this time, we could probably get rid of it and never miss it."
"That's why I've got a throw away stack going on over here. Feel free to add to it." You'd had your life in SoHo packed up and shipped to your property in West Virginia, meeting the truck on your doorstep at the same time Brian's loft arrived in its own crates. Blending the essentials from both moving vans, you worked together to create a warm, eclectic home. Only problem seems to be the miscellaneous stuff relegated to one of the spare rooms upstairs. There'd always been something more exciting to do than deal with it. But now you have to. "We only have a week until Josh and Daphne and the twins get here for their visit. And Meg texted me this morning that she'll be able to make it, too. I knew we should have fixed up these three bedrooms sooner."
Brian lets out a small groan. "You thinking what I'm thinking? If anyone can furnish and decorate in a crunch, it's Emmett. Let's give him a call."
Your face lights up. Not only do you have the most brilliant boyfriend on the planet, but you've also just spied your favorite woolen scarf wedged between some old NYU textbooks. "I've been looking for this!"
"And you find it in July." Brian shakes his head and laughs. "Hey . . ." He digs deeper into the pile he's been sorting through and scoops up a handful of black velvet from the bottom of it. "Remember these?"
Your eyebrows arch halfway up into your forehead when you look over at him. "No, Brian. I don't remember ever seeing our wedding rings before. Or shopping for them. Or trying them on the day we picked them out. Or—"
"Okay, smart-ass. Come over here." He waits for you to set a dusty desk lamp aside and pulls you close when you cross the room.
You'll never get tired of the way he kisses you while he palms the back of your neck. You watch him hesitate briefly then pry open the small boxes. "Gorgeous. Just like the day we bought them." Your thumb traces over the exposed surface of the slightly larger fourteen karat gold band. The one that was going to be yours.
"See if it still fits."
He's already loosening both of them from their slotted nests. "All right. If you insist. I'll put mine on, too. I'm sure my slender fingers are the same size they were seven years ago."
"What are you saying? I have fat fingers?!"
"Your fingers are great, Sunshine. See?" He works your wedding ring onto your left hand and raises it to eye level between you. "Perfect."
A swarm of butterflies awakens in the pit of your stomach when he drops his ring into your other hand. You slide it down over his tiny knuckle with halted breath. What exactly is happening?
"We talked about having them engraved."
"Still want to?"
You check the carpet for nonexistent stains, slowly looking back up at him. "What are we doing, Brian?"
Barely able to concentrate on the mountain of homework that's due the next day, you finally cross the last 't' and dot the last 'i' on your English paper and throw everything into your backpack. Eight forty-five. Your stomach says feed me, but it's time to get ready to leave.
A shower later, you lean close to your bathroom mirror with a towel around your waist, inspecting the seventeen-year-old complexion you thought would never clear up. Smooth as silk, once you flip on your electric razor and take care of the thinly scattered whiskers that make an appearance every few days. Teetering on the brink of manhood isn't easy, but that's where your master plan comes in. Even if you have to take the bus to get there.
"Kind of late to be out, isn't it? Especially on a school night. Why don't you come home with me? No? Go on home to your mommy. Go on."
Christ, what an asshole. Why the hell did you think a circus sideshow like Liberty Avenue was the only place to get laid again? You feel like an underage fish out of water, and you don't even know the bus schedule back to the suburbs. Some master plan.
You inhale a long drag off your cigarette and walk away from the creep, clueless, aimless, and a litany of other lesses as the sewer vapors float up from the street and swirl around your ankles. Stopping against a lamppost, you close your eyes and try to disappear.
And that's when he spots you. That's when your life begins. Years from now, you'll be lying in his arms in front of a crackling fire and he'll admit you'd stolen his heart on that very first night.
The night you became a man.
Lindsay fires up her computer and clicks on the Bloom Gallery's sales template, positively giddy over the lucrative deal and how quickly it went down. She knows it'll be quite some time, if ever, before she gets out of the way and watches another piece utterly sell itself as yours did. With the staggering amount of work she didn't do, it almost seems wrong to pocket her cut. Typing the date in the appropriate box, she bids that thought a swift parting. Hey, no need to overthink this. "So, Tamara, if I can just get some information from you, we can have your painting delivered tomorrow before five p.m. Name, address, phone number. That kind of stuff."
"Okay, sure." Tamara rattles off her address and phone number while she fishes in her bag through a sea of plastic credit, opting to use her American Express card to pay for the pricey addition to her living room makeover. She wonders what's up with the shift in Lindsay's demeanor when she hands over her credit card and driver's license as valid I.D.
"Hobbs?! Your name is Tamara Hobbs?" Lindsay's face turns into a big fat grimace as she recalls the wrath she felt sitting in a packed courtroom and hearing the decision handed down by one sickeningly biased judge. The blatant discrimination heaped upon her and members of her community by the despicable Regular Roy still festers to this day. She thinks of your sweet, innocent, eighteen-year-old self, critically injured by Satan incarnate in such a vicious hate crime. Eyeing the pretty girl across her desk, she subtly shakes her head from side to side. It can't be. It just can't be.
"Your little boy's so cute. I think I heard you call him Christopher that day you were asking where the restroom was and you found Justin's painting in the storeroom?" It's got to be a coincidence . . . It's got to be a coincidence . . . Lindsay writes up the transaction as if her pulse weren't racing and her mind weren't darting in a thousand different directions at once. "Is he named after your husband?" She looks up from the screen and manages a weak smile.
"Uh-huh. Chris always said he couldn't wait to have a son and raise him to be a miniature version of himself. He's getting his wish, too." Tamara laughs and pulls out a wallet-sized family photo to show Lindsay. "Some days Christopher Junior can be a real monster!"
"Oh!" Lindsay might have to throw up. "I mean, oh, I guess one monster in the family is enough." Aiming visible contempt at your former classmate's likeness, she half-expects the picture to start smoldering in his wife's hands and blister her skin. She runs the girl's card and returns it to her along with her I.D. "Pennsylvania sales tax is six percent. So on your hundred thousand dollar purchase, that's six thousand dollars. One hundred and six thousand dollars you and your husband just shelled out for Justin's work of art."
"Yeah, I know." Tamara skews a look at Lindsay and stands to wrap up the meeting that's taken a rather odd turn. "Please thank Mr. Taylor for me again. I'm so happy he decided to sell after all."
Lindsay scoots her chair back from her desk and rises also. Offering a businesslike handshake, she plasters a phony grin over the rage. "Don't worry, Mrs. Hobbs. I'm sure he'll be thrilled to hear that his personal masterpiece will be hanging in your home."
"FOR ME, PAINTING IS A WAY TO FORGET LIFE. IT IS A CRY IN THE NIGHT, A STRANGLED LAUGH." - Georges Rouault
Still the most beautiful guy you've ever laid eyes on, Brian brings the fourth finger on your left hand to his lips and kisses the never-ending gold circle he's just placed on it. "You once said we don't need rings or vows to prove that we love each other, and it's true, but why should we hide these away in a drawer for another seven years? We're already married in every way that counts." His eyes pierce through yours. "Technically." He cocks his head and grins.
You want to memorize every pore in his face at this very second, but the membranes in your nose are stinging and your vision is blurred with welling moisture. Throwing your arms around his neck, you fight to keep it together. "God, I love you so much! I was just a kid when I fell in love with you, but thank fuck you waited for me to grow up. You were always there for me no matter what, mentoring, protecting, shaping who I am today. We've made it through everything, and now, just when I think it couldn't get any better, you want to be husbands."
"Husbands. Partners. Whatever you want to call it. You know I love you, Justin. Just promise me we won't get weird."
"Too late." You squeeze him closer. "We're already weird. Unorthodox. Uniquely screwed up. We wouldn't be us if we weren't." Brushing away a happy tear, you kiss him long and hard, your dueling tongues and traveling hands postponing project Clean Out the Guestroom for now and landing you down the hall in your bed.
Hours later, exhausted and sated, you lie tangled together on the threshold of sleep. You've been here a million times before, and you'll be here a million times again, yet why is this so different? You close your eyes and listen. There simply are no words for the first time your married hearts beat as one.
Maybe that's why there are dreams. Hypnotic dreams seeping into your brain, compelling you to slip from your lightly-snoring husband's grasp and follow them into the night.
Haunting dreams you must paint.