It’s not every day that your twin sister and her boyfriend are in an art show, let alone together in the same one. I’m so happy for them, but at the same time a little annoyed that they insisted I’d come with them to the opening, instead of letting me go with our parents, as was originally the plan.
My plan anyway.
I check myself out in the mirror. I don’t really have anything to wear for an art show opening. I don’t ever do anything like this, going out dressed up all fancy and stuff. I have no reason to. I’m not popular enough for people to ask me to come along to things and dating hasn’t been on my radar for years. All I have are old clothes from a couple of years ago, most of them hidden in the back of my closet and in boxes under my bed. Realistically, I don’t even think I’d fit into them anymore, or that they’d still be my style. If I even have a style…
“Lola,” my twin sister, Lizzy, calls out to me as she knocks on the door. “Are you ready to leave?”
“I’m not sure.” I turn in front of the mirror, the shirt and the skirt match, but I’m just not sure if the fit is right. Trying to get all dressed up has made me feel like I’ve taken crap care of myself, but there just hasn’t been much cause for me to dress up or even really care for my looks.
“Can I come in?” Lizzy is better at styling and knowing how to dress, usually.
“Sure.” I let out a deep sigh, if this outfit isn’t going to work, I don’t know what will. It’s not like I’ve got much choice.
The door opens and Lizzy steps in, shining in a beautiful tight scarlet dress that reaches to the floor, her rough boots peeking out from under the hem, giving her whole look a little edge. She looks me over. “So, what’s wrong with what you’re wearing?”
Next to her? Everything. She looks like a model while I feel like I’m the clumsiest person around.
“Lola.” She comes closer, reaching out to me, putting her arms around me, her voice is softer this time. “What’s wrong? You look great.”
I shake my head. “I look… not pretty.”
“Of course you look pretty.” She steps back. “What else do you have? If you don’t feel happy like this, it’s no use wearing it, right? Tonight we shine, we’re going to have fun, not hide in the shadows. So, dress for it.”
“You are.” I look at her, then I walk back to the closet again. “I’m just driving you.”
Lizzy sighs, her shoulders sagging. “Not this again, you’re there with us, you belong there. Without you, we wouldn’t have gotten this far.”
The ‘we’ Lizzy is talking about are her and her boyfriend, Hunter, an old friend of mine from back in high school. Through a weird set of circumstances, they ended up in the same first year classes at college this year, even though Hunter and I both graduated high school together two years ago. Hunter used to be someone who always got into trouble and I didn’t really know what to think when they started dating. But over the last couple of weeks, I’ve come around to it. Hunter’s been great, and he doesn’t seem to be the same guy that I knew back in high school. Which isn’t strange, as we’ve all changed so much.
“Fine. Let’s go then.” I shrug. No matter what Lizzy thinks, this night is about her, not me. It’s her life that’s exciting, not mine and I’ve made peace with that a long time ago. I grab my jacket and pull it on, stepping out of my room, walking down the stairs to where Hunter is waiting in the hallway. “Evening, H.” I look him up and down, this guy cleans up pretty nicely if he wants to, even just in black jeans and a well fitting button-up. “I thought you were driving there on your own?”
“I am. Just making sure that you’re not staying behind.” He winks.
I roll my eyes at him as Lizzy comes down the stairs after me. “I called in the cavalry.” She tries to hide the laugh in her voice.
“It seems I wasn’t needed after all.” Hunter leans past me and gives Lizzy a quick kiss. “What about your parents?”
“They already left, wanted to make a night out of it.” Lizzy steps past me, pulling me along with her. “Now we just need to get to the workshop.”
Yeah. Yeah. I’m the one driving her, as usual. It’s not like I don’t know why they insisted that I came with them, but it’s kind of annoying. Though, I know they mean well. They want me to ‘meet more people’. It’s not like I don’t meet people when I go to class and such, but apparently, that’s not good enough for them. Now they’ve found each other, they’ve gotten a little annoying about me not ‘being alone all the time’. But I don’t fight them when they do this, so I’m just as bad as they are, I guess.
I get in the car and Lizzy steps in on the other side. In front of the car, Hunter gets on his motorbike and kick starts it, driving ahead a little and then slows down as he waits for us. I start the car and follow him. The art show is being held in the workshop where Lizzy and Hunter regularly hang out. It’s owned by Tamara Winters, an artist who helps a lot of young artists to develop their work and give them a safe place to work on their skills. This show is apparently because she just moved into a new building and wants to use the opportunity to showcase the work of some of her best students. It’s cool that she chose both Lizzy and Hunter, though, knowing their work, it’s no surprise.
“Hey. Are you okay?” I know Lizzy is looking at me, but I keep my eyes on the road.
“I’m good. Why?”
“You look… I don’t know, like this is hard for more than just not knowing what to wear.”
“I’m good, it’s just been a while since I’ve gone to one of these things.” Pretty sure that the last time I went to an art show was when I was still in high school, with Hunter and some… friends. I’ve not been to many exciting things since then, I’ve not really felt like it either. My need for excitement ended when I graduated high school, those final weeks were enough for me for the rest of my life.
“Well, you’ll enjoy yourself, don’t worry.” She touches my arm for a moment, then pulls back again. It’s interesting to see how much more confidence Lizzy has gained in the last couple of months, she’s nothing like the frightened girl who started college again last September. Even if the last months have been trying, she seems to be recovering from the relapse in her anorexia recovery so much better this time around. Which is good, and hopefully it means that she’s now be able to control her eating disorder better than in the past, but it was still scary to see happen again.
Hunter turns onto the college parking lot, which is more than halfway filled with cars. I’m hoping that most of them are because of the art show, that would be a great turnout. Hunter gets off his motor bike and puts his helmet under his arm, waiting for us. He’s hot, even if he’s not my type. He’s my friend, nothing more. But I can get the attraction, I can see why Lizzy’s eyes shine each time she sees him.
“Lizzy.” I grab her arm. “If you want to leave, let me know, yeah? But really, just focus on all the fun. This is your night and you should go enjoy yourself.”
She looks at me like this is the most obvious thing in the world, but, for most of her life, Lizzy wouldn’t stay more than five minutes at one of these things even if her art was the main art on display. “I will. You too. Go have fun.” She grins and climbs out of the car.
I get out too, following them a few steps behind as we make our way to the doors, then Hunter reaches out and hooks his arm through mine.
“We can’t have one of the Benton twins all on her own.” He grins as he pulls me along.
Hunter and I used to be best friends, because we both understood what it was like for our lives to be defined by a sibling’s illness. We went to the same high school and spent many a night talking because so few understood what went on for us. Sadly enough, not long after graduating high school, he lost his younger brother, and then a year later his girlfriend, also a friend of mine from high school. In comparison, I’ve been lucky, Lizzy is still here with me. Hunter and I hadn’t seen each other for years after graduation, not until he started hanging out with Lizzy last September. But now, maybe now we can finally regain some of our friendship, which would be nice.
“Tsssk. Not like you cared about that before.” I grin and Hunter winks.
“Back then, I wasn’t intimately involved with one of them.” His smirk turns into a wolfish grin.
I gasp, smacking his arm. “You’re bad.”
“You think this is bad…” Lizzy pretend whispers and we all burst out laughing.
And that is how we enter the hall from the workshop, all three of us laughing and having fun. We leave our coats at the doors and I’m once again feeling very self-aware about my clothes.
Immediately, the woman who took care of this all, Tamara, comes over. “Lizzy! Hunter! Finally! I’ve got people asking about your art.” She points them towards some people that are staring at the dual portraits Lizzy and Hunter did of each other last semester, then she hooks her arm through mine. “So, it seems the masters project next semester is coming along nicely. All the spots have been filled.”
Next semester I’m doing a cross-department project with other masters students. We’re going to be making a movie, from the writing to the design to the staging and filming. Everything from start to finish. We’ve got people from fine-arts involved, people from the drama department, and a couple, like me, from the creative writing courses. It’s from scratch, so we’ll need a lot of different skills. Tamara advised me to do this after she heard that I’m a writer from Lizzy, who sometimes doesn’t know how to keep shut, especially not when it comes to Tamara.
“Are you looking forward to it yet?”
I shrug, it’s not like I had many other choices. No, that’s not true, it’s that I didn’t have many other choices that actually seemed interesting or would require my specific skills sets. “I guess.”
“It’ll be fun. The projects we did in previous years have always been a blast, I’m sure this one will be too. And a little cross-department working together has never hurt anyone.” She winks at me and looks around the room. “It’s not like there isn’t enough visual art, but I think, being able to work with words. That’s a whole different skill. Making people feel things, just by some squiggly lines on a white background, lines that turn into words and magic. You have a special skill, as special or maybe more special than what you can see here.” She turns me to one of the paintings on the wall. “Start there and make your way around the room. That’s going to be the best experience.” She lets me go and walks off, greeting someone else.
I walk to the painting she pointed at. It’s interesting, but I’m no artist and no art critic, so it’s not easy to understand what’s going on. Honestly, this painting is a little too abstract for me. Then I move to the next one. I recognize the style of this one, Lizzy. It’s a painting she made during her recovery at the center last semester. It looks innocently enough, leaves, forest. It’s interesting in the way it plays with light, though, but I know that there is much more to the painting. It’s not easy to recognize it now, but somewhere in the leaves and other nature elements is Hunter, or, at least, some of his tattoos are hidden in there. I saw her work on this over time, building up the layers.
I make my way around the room, looking at each painting, drawing, object of art and other things, all beautiful and unique in their own way. Tamara really has an eye for finding young artists. She’s amazing at finding just the right people for these things.
I guess I sometimes wished I’d had a mentor like her, someone who could have helped me with my writing. I had some good teachers in high school, but that fell to the side as I left for college, and now… I write a little from time to time, but it’s not like it was before. It’s lacking so much of my passion. Which, I guess, is not really that odd. It’s not like I’ve really been myself these past years.
“Lola.” Lizzy comes over, wrapping her arms around me. “Come see. Come see.” She pulls me along, then stops in the middle of an empty area.
“What’s here?” I look around, but don’t see anything interesting. Then a soft click and the whirring of radars, and lights start flowing around me, all different colors and shapes. Wow.
I look up, above me is a construction and in it is a light, and as the light comes through the differently colored pieces of glass, it gets refracted and leaves all the pretty colors on the floor.
That’s interesting. I hadn’t expected this. As I keep looking at the lights, words and shapes start to form in front of me.
“Am I seeing something?” I look up at Hunter, who grins.
“I hope so. Because otherwise I didn’t do my job properly.” He shrugs and steps aside, then another click and the lights dim. A whirring sound keeps going for a few moments longer before it stops. It’s quiet for a while. “I don’t keep it running constantly, keeps things interesting.” He looks at me, waiting for my opinion on it.
“It looks really cool. I’ve never seen something like this before. But it’s kinda cliche, isn’t it? Love. Hearts. Stuff like that?” I look between him and Lizzy, who only smiles. She’s a lost cause, but I already knew that. It’s nice to see her happy.
I leave them be for now, I don’t need to keep looking at them making googly-eyes at each other. It’s fun, but I’ve seen it enough.
I turn around, looking around the room, trying to see if our parents are here yet. See what they think about all of this, see if they enjoy the first art show that Lizzy has been in in years. I can’t see them but I do see something else from the corner of my eyes, or, rather, someone else.
I stop moving, talking, breathing.
Because he is here, Blaze, standing in the middle of the room. The one person from my past I’d hoped never to see again…
Next to me H stops too, I feel his hand on my arm before he steps between us.
I feel a little light in my head as a darkness settles in my chest.
This can’t be happening. Definitely. This cannot be happening.
What’s he doing here? Why is he looking so relaxed? Why?
It’s like a nightmare, one I want to wake up from, but never do.
Blaze turns to me, and, even in the dim room, from this distance, I can see the recognition in his eyes. In the way he automatically moves a little in my direction.
How can this… I don’t want this.
My heart starts beating faster and I can feel my dinner come back up. This was supposed to be about art, about H, about Lizzy, about the future. So why is my past standing there like it’s the most normal thing in the world? Did he even know I’d be here? I wouldn’t put it past him, right?
Then a beautiful and skinny girl walks up to him and his arm snakes around her back, an automatic response, as she starts talking to him. She doesn’t seem to realize the look in his eyes yet.
Then his eyes meet mine full on and I come undone.
I can’t do this. I can’t be here.
I turn around and flee. Overwhelmed by my past. By the memories. By the feelings rushing through me. But more than everything, overwhelmed by the desire and the devastation that takes hold of my body.
“Lola!” Lizzy tries to follow me.
I don’t stop, I don’t slow down, I don’t react until I’m outside and in the cool air.
Way too cool, too cold, but that makes it all the better.
I have to stop, I can’t move my feet one more step. I can’t. My shoulders start to shake as my lungs have trouble taking in all the air that I need, the tears unexpected and overwhelming. There is no stopping them. It’s still too raw.
Normally, I can ignore the pain. Normally, I can push it to the back of my mind. But this surprise was one I didn’t expect and now it’s like the scab has been pulled from the wound. Underneath, the wound is still raw, never having healed at all, just scabbed over, just no longer bleeding. Blood.
I dry heave and then I feel hands on my back, wrapping around me.
“Oh.” Lizzy. She pulls me closer, protecting me, even though she is the only one here who has no clue what’s really going on. No clue of how badly broken I am. My own twin doesn’t even know how much one boy hurt me. One boy who I never expected to see again, ever. We were teens, we didn’t know how to deal with one of the most devastating things any human can encounter. And in all of that, we hurt each other even more, until he left…
Then H is next to us too. “You want me to send him away?” His voice is quiet but determined.
I shrug. I’ve got no idea. I’m scared of how much I want to see Blaze, touch him, hold him. And at the same time, I want to be as far away as possible from him. I don’t need all the memories to flood back. I don’t need everything to start all over again. I was doing so well…
“Who is…” Lizzy speaks, then she pulls me tight again, her hold one of comfort and protection at the same time. “It’s him isn’t it?”
I nod. She may not know the full story, but she knows enough to get the pain. Enough to understand why I’m breaking down right now. I couldn’t tell her everything, but I told her enough.
Then she stills as H starts walking to a point behind us.
I know it’s Blaze even before I hear his voice. “Lola? Lo?” Even hearing his voice shreds me to pieces.
I take a deep breath, ignoring the tears in my eyes, standing up straight and walking away. Pretending not to hear him, pretending that he isn’t here. Even when every step is a fight.
“Lola?” He raises his voice now.
But I shake my head and keep walking.
I can’t do this. I can’t. There is no way.
Lizzy keeps holding my arm as I walk to my car, making sure I don’t trip and fall. I need to leave. Now. Only when we’re at the car and I see H’s bike do I realize that he hasn’t followed us and that the keys for the car are in my jacket, which is still inside.
I hope Hunter doesn’t do something stupid. He’s been trying to prove that he’s changed, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t turn on a dime. I don’t want him to get in trouble for my sake. There’s been enough pain in our group of friends to last a lifetime. So much pain. Too much.
I silently sob, letting it all out as Lizzy holds me.
Next chapter is next week! <3
Please, remember, this is just cleaned up, not fully edited, so some errors may be still in here. They will be fixed before publication!