Paint Your Words
Rated M for mild language and adult situations
Picture Chosen: 3 with help from 49 and a little 24
Word Count: 4,866
Summary: A child's love is pure and strong, simple lines and brilliant colors. How will that bond fare in the bold strokes and mixed hues of adulthood?
Disclaimer: All copyrights, trademarked items, or recognizable characters, plots, etc. mentioned herein belong to their respective owners. No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without their express written authorization.
*10 years ago*
I didn't understand. We were moving into a mother-in-law apartment but we weren't mothers-in-law. The concept was too much for my five-year-old brain. I still didn't understand why we couldn't just live with Dad like we used to, but my mom assured me we couldn't because they weren't married anymore.
My mom, weary of the climate of the Pacific Northwest, had wanted to move to somewhere in the south of the country. Restricted by a custody battle, we only made it as far as Seattle, but my mother chose to be optimistic.
"Just think of all the advantages of living in a big city, Bella. You won't find art museums or live music in Forks."
I didn't care much about the advantages of a big city. I missed my dad.
We had arrived at our new apartment early in the morning. It was over the garage next to a large pale blue house. Thankfully, it was furnished because we had nothing but a few suitcases of clothes to our name. The apartment only had one bedroom, but my mom enclosed a space in the living room with sheets for my makeshift bedroom. As I put my clothes in a small dresser, I looked out over the backyard of the adjoining house. I could see a swing set, and I hoped they would let me play on it sometimes.
A few hours after we arrived, we heard a knock on our door. I watched from around the corner as my mom opened it.
"Maria! So nice to finally meet you in person!"
"Welcome, Renee! Where's Bella? I brought my children to meet her." She looked around my mother and spotted me. "Hello, young lady. I'm Maria Hale. You must be Bella."
I stepped out from around the corner and nodded shyly, not quite making eye contact.
"Well, I'm very pleased to meet you, Bella. I'd like you to meet my children. I believe you all are the same age." She moved aside and gestured to the two blonde children next to her. I felt like I was looking at angels with their wavy hair, bright blue eyes and rosy cheeks. They were nothing like me and my stick-straight brown hair, dull brown eyes and pale skin. "This is Rosalie and this is Jasper. Rose, Jasper, this is our new neighbor, Bella, and her mom, Renee."
I waved but still didn't say anything.
"Why don't you guys show Bella your swing set while Renee and I chat." Maria shooed us down the front stairs.
"There aren't enough swings for all of us, but that's okay because Jasper's really good at pushing," Rosalie called over her shoulder as we made our way to their backyard.
I halted in my tracks. "We're going to play with him? But he's a boy."
Rosalie and Jasper stopped and turned back to me. Jasper looked a little embarrassed, but Rosalie just looked at me like I had said the dumbest thing ever. I had never played with boys before because it seemed like a ridiculous thing to do.
"I know, but he can play with us because he's my twin, and twins do everything together," she replied.
"What's a twin?"
"It means we lived in our mom's tummy together and we were born at the same time," Rosalie said sagely.
"Oh," I replied, not understanding even a little.
I walked over to Jasper.
"Show me your teeth." I ordered. After I had looked them over, I asked him to stick out his tongue.
"I don't see any cooties, so I guess it's safe to play with you." Jasper looked relieved. "How come your eyebrow is broken?" I asked, pointing to a scar that bisected his left eyebrow.
Jasper's face contorted for a moment, then he looked down at his feet. Rosalie answered for him.
"Jasper got that scar in a car accident. He's sad because it was the same car accident our dad died in."
I felt bad for making Jasper sad. I grabbed his hand in my own.
"We can hold hands so you don't feel sad anymore."
He didn't look up, but he squeezed my hand. I don't know if holding hands helped him, but the squeeze made my own heart feel lighter. Still hand-in-hand, Jasper led me toward the swing set. He pushed us while Rosalie chattered away, telling me about all the kids in the neighborhood, the park her mom took them to and their new bikes without training wheels. Jasper was silent behind us, and I found myself awed by his ability to push us both at the same time and how high we were going. I was still unsure about other boys, but I decided I was definitely okay with Jasper. Later, Rosalie and I were in her bedroom playing with her dolls. Jasper didn't play with us, but sat with us while he drew.
I looked over at his work, expecting to seem him coloring in a picture, but the page was blank. "Jasper, why doesn't your book have pictures to color in?"
"Jasper draws his own pictures. We go to a doctor to help us not feel sad about our dad being dead. She plays games with us and talks to me a lot, but she asks Jasper to draw her pictures for her. Jasper's really good at drawing," Rosalie answered, smiling proudly at her brother.
"What are you drawing, Jasper?" I asked.
His hand stilled but he didn't look up, and I thought for a moment he wouldn't show me his picture. After a moment, the dropped the colored pencil and handed me the sketch pad, still not meeting my eyes.
The picture was of two girls on a swing set, one with brown hair, the other blonde. Behind them was a blonde boy with his arms outstretched. I was stunned by the detail. It looked nothing like my shaky stick figures. The brown-haired girl actually looked like me and had real arms, hands, legs and shoes. Drawing shoes always confounded me, but Jasper had sketched mine to perfection.
"Wow. This is really good, Jasper. I bet you could sell this to an art museum in town."
Jasper finally looked at me and gave me a small smile.
A few weeks later, my dad came to Seattle for my birthday. We invited Jasper and Rosalie and their mom over for birthday cake. When I hugged my dad after opening his present to me, I could hear Jasper sniffling softly. My mom was hugging Maria, who was also sniffling, so my dad squatted in front of Jasper and squeezed his shoulders lightly.
"What's the matter, kiddo?"
"Jasper's sad because our dad is dead and we won't ever get birthday presents from him again," Rosalie answered.
My dad frowned, his mustache twitching.
"I'm sorry, kiddo. I bet your dad is sad to be missing your birthdays, too."
The next day, my dad came back to our apartment. I was in the backyard with Jasper and Rosalie. I saw him go up the stairs, but he came back down a few minutes later and walked into the backyard.
"Jasper! Rosalie! Can I talk to you a second?"
We all ran over to him as he sat on the porch of the Hale's house.
"I was saying my prayers last night before bed when your dad called down from heaven and asked me to do a favor for him, one dad to another. He was very sad that he missed your birthdays this year and asked me to take you to the toy store so you could pick out a present as his gift to you. What do you say? Shall we all go to the toy store?"
Jasper and Rosalie stared at him slack jawed, but nodded enthusiastically.
I helped Rosalie pick out a princess tiara-and-scepter set while my dad found a baseball and mitt with Jasper. I was a little disappointed not to be getting a toy myself, but my dad explained that I had already received birthday presents, and these were presents just for the Hale twins.
That afternoon, I played princesses with Rosalie, and my dad showed Jasper how to throw a baseball like a Major League pitcher.
The sun was setting by the time my dad left. As he was getting in his car, Jasper ran out of the house, a piece of paper waving in his hand. He nearly crashed into my dad before handing him the picture. My dad looked over it carefully for a few moments, then placed his hand on Jasper's shoulder.
"Thank you, Jasper. You're a gifted young man, and I'm honored you shared this with me."
I didn't see the picture until a few months later when I was visiting my dad at his house. It was framed and hanging in the kitchen. The picture showed the Hale's backyard. Rosalie and I were on the swing set, she wearing a crown and me waving a scepter. Our moms sat on the porch, iced tea in hand. In the foreground, Jasper's arm was pulled back in preparation for sending his baseball into my dad's waiting glove. The sun was out and there was one cloud in the sky. On that cloud was a man with blonde hair, a halo and wings, watching the scene.
We spent four years in that apartment above the Hale's garage. When my mom informed me we were finally going to escape Washington and move to Arizona, I was devastated. Jasper, Rosalie and I made promises to write each other, but, as is often the case with young pen pals, we mailed a few letters back and forth until our correspondence petered out.
I love writing. I do. I went to NYU for the sole purpose of getting a degree in creative writing. But I'm also a normal twenty-year old and, when I see an opportunity for a small short cut, I take it. That's how I've ended up in a seminar for writing flash fiction. Getting credit for reading and writing 500-word stories? Yes, sign me up. I spend the first half of the lecture simultaneously listening to the professor and internally patting myself on the back for my genius in course scheduling. I break away from my smug musings when the professor begins to explain our major term project.
"This semester, we're doing something other than the normal compilation of short shorts based on a theme. We are teaming up with students in the sophomore painting studio class for a project in storytelling," he explains.
As he says this, other students start filing into the small classroom and line up against the wall.
"They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and you're going to prove it. Throughout the semester, you and your partner will be working on a series of projects. You will be writing short-short stories based on their work and they will be creating pieces of art based on your stories. You each will be graded on the quality of the pieces themselves, but also on your partner's interpretation, which should be a reflection of how well you got your point across.
"I'm going to read of the names of partners. Raise your hand when your name is called so you can see your partner. When I'm done reading names, you can spend the remainder of the class period getting to know the person who will help determine your grade for the class."
The professor reads the list of names, and I watch as people get paired off. Finally, he calls my name.
"Isabella Swan." I raise my hand. "You'll be working with Jasper Hale."
Jasper Hale! My head whips around in search for the other raised hand. I see him, his face registering the same shock mine must be showing. Of course, he looks different. The roundness of his face has given way to firm angles. His body is now a tall frame with wide shoulders and strong arms. His hair is longer, made wild by the hand that pushes it off his face. But his eyes are the same wide blue, and I recognize the small smile he is giving me.
The professor finishes reading names and gives us leave to meet our partners. Jasper pushes off the wall and settles in the chair next to mine.
"Bella Swan, as I live and breathe," Jasper says with larger grin now.
I can't help myself. I throw my arms around his neck. "Jasper," I breathe next to his ear.
He squeezes me back tightly, and I feel the same light-heartedness I felt the day he squeezed my hand.
I eventually sit back down and look him over. He still looks like an angel, though now he's a sexy (I don't mind admitting to myself), paint-covered angel. His pants and shirt are covered oils and there's paint under his fingernails. I even see some flecks in his hair.
"My god, Jasper. I can't believe it's you," I say, finally managing to find some words. "How have we never seen each other before this?"
"New York is a big city, sugar," he says winking, and I laugh in agreement.
"How are you? How's Rosalie? Is she here, too?"
"I'm well. Rose is good, too. She's actually in California. She followed her high school boyfriend there when he got a football scholarship to USC."
"What? I thought twins did everything together. Who explains what you're thinking and feeling if Rosalie's on the other side of the country?" I ask in mock astonishment.
"We learned after we hit puberty and started noticing people of the opposite sex that sometimes it's best for twins to do things separately," he laughs. "And I do most of my speaking for myself these days. How about you? How's life treated you?"
"It's been good. Pretty normal. My mom got remarried when I was in high school, and it became really important to find a college as far away from the newlyweds as possible. So here I am at NYU studying creative writing."
"How's your dad?"
"He's well, too. Remarried with two step kids. You know, he still has that picture you drew for him hanging in the kitchen."
"Yeah? That actually doesn't surprise me. He still sends Rose and me cards every year on our birthday. They always say 'Happy Birthday Rosalie and Jasper. From your friend, Charlie Swan,' and they have two five-dollar bills in them, one for each of us."
We spend the rest of the period catching up. I find myself caught up in Jasper's easy laughs and bright smile, and I'm really happy to see him again and to know my childhood friend is the same sweet, warm person I knew.
We meet often over the next several weeks, sometimes to work on our project but just as often to hang out. Ten years of life has separated us, but so much of him is familiar to me. I can see in the man who holds doors and carries my back pack without ceremony or pretension the boy who pushed Rosalie and me on swings for hours. I recognize the boy who always had colored pencils in his pocket in the man who doodles on napkins when we eat and seems to be covered in paint at all times, even fresh out of the shower. But grown-up Jasper is different in some ways, too. Young Jasper always seemed to have an impenetrable bubble of personal space, but this Jasper is tactile. He is forever throwing his arm over my shoulder, pulling me into his side and kissing me on the top of my head. He often makes me ride piggy back when we walk around the city because I am apparently a danger to myself and other pedestrians, and it is only a matter of time before I come to an unfortunate end because of a misstep into New York City traffic. Young Jasper rarely spoke or looked anyone in the eyes and only smiled in a small, tight-lipped way. This Jasper is gregarious and charismatic. I have seen him at parties, and people are drawn to him. Everyone gives him a "hey, man" and finds themselves caught in his gravity at some point in the night. I have seen Jasper walk away from many a stunned young woman, and I know they have that look in their eyes simply because he had smiled at them. I sympathize with those women because, when he smiles at me, a swarm of butterflies erupts in my stomach, culminating in a hurricane of pink staining my cheeks.
I'm not sure how or when it happened, but I am completely under Jasper's spell. I purposely stumble in his presence to feel his touch when he catches me. I smile at him for no reason in the hopes that, in return, he'll grace me with one of his brilliant smiles and the heart-stopping dimples that accompany them. I may work up the courage to say something before we both die of old age, but for now I can only trail after him like a lovesick puppy. The truly painful part is that I have no idea how he feels about me. Despite being more open than he was as a child, I often have difficultly figuring out how he is really feeling underneath his happy-go-lucky-guy appearance. Many times, I can only know for sure how he's feeling by the color of paint he's covered in. I have learned that black and red streaks in his hair mean he has painted while angry about a poor review from a professor. Green paint on his arms means he painted after waking up from a refreshing nap. Yellow and orange on his face mean Rosalie called and they had a pleasant conversation. Yellow and green on his face mean Rosalie called and bitched at him for an hour.
However much I am able to decipher Jasper, through the course of our project, I believe he has learned to see into my soul. He gives color and texture to scenes I created in black and white. He turns my lines into shapes. What I write he makes vivid. I feel that I can't adequately reciprocate on my end of the project. How do you find words to name every feeling? It is surely criminal to try to encase the moods he evokes in mere words. And yet, my work must not be too disappointing to him because, after reading every story I've written based on his work, he wraps me in a tight hug and whispers "thank you, Bella" in my ear. Those hugs currently top my best-moments-in-life list.
Last night, I emailed Jasper my final story of the semester about a sad boy, a lonely little girl, and swing-set revelations. He has just texted me, asking me to come over to help him stretch a canvas. I know he is going to work on my story – our story – and I am nervous to find out what he thought of it. Despite being fiction, it is very personal and more-than-a-little expressive of my feelings for a certain former childhood friend.
I know he must have something important to say for him to ask me over at this hour. It's not late now, but, given the length of the train ride and the time it takes to stretch a canvas, it will be by the time I leave. Jasper never asks me over at night unless he can travel back with me. Jasper lives and works out of a loft in an artist's co-op in Brooklyn. When I asked why he didn't use the space provided on campus, he told me that his projects are often large and his creation process generally quite messy, and the art studios on campus aren't big enough to contain his magnificence. This, of course, gives rise to some hilarious train rides while trying to transport enormous canvases to campus. I have been told that my small size makes me practically useless for the hard labor involved in these treks, but Jasper once confessed that he prefers to bring me along because my sweet smile and perky tits make people less inclined to be angry at us. I can't remember a time when I blushed more violently.
Jasper buzzes me up, and, as I reach his floor, I see he has left the door cracked for me. I walk through, pulling it closed behind me. Jasper is crouched a few feet in front of me, unrolling a length of canvas which must be at least 10 feet by six feet. He turns to me at the sound of the door latching.
"Hey," I say quietly.
Jasper stands and closes the distance between us in three long strides. He immediately pulls me to him, his long arms wrapping fully around me, and every inch of me presses against every hard inch of him. He buries his face in my neck and seems to just breathe me in for a few moments.
"Bella," he murmurs, my name fluttering across the skin at the juncture of my neck and shoulders. "Bella, you have to know. You must have always known. Sure, therapy and time helped in the long run, but that day you arrived and held my hand was the first time after my father died that I felt soothed, that I felt something other than completely miserable. You brought light with you in every moment we spent together during those years. Bella, Bella, surely you must have seen that you were a balm to me."
He pulled back enough to look at me, though not in any way releasing his hold on me.
"When I saw you on that first day of class, I felt as though I were seeing an angel because that was what you had been to me and that was how I always thought of you after you left. I was in awe that such a creature would be sent to me twice in one lifetime. But the more time we spent together, I realized you were something even greater. You were still goodness and beauty and peace, but you were also flesh and blood and crude jokes and tipsy dancing after too much tequila. You are an angel, but I can touch you and hold you, and that is so much better. Bella, please tell me you know that you are everything to me."
His eyes burn straight through me and I feel every inch of my skin set on fire. I give a small nod in response.
"As you are to me."
Jasper's rigid posture gives way as he seems to sag in relief, his forehead resting on mine. I am aware of nothing but his breath across my face and the pounding of his heart against my own. After what seems like a thousand heartbeats have passed between us, Jasper tilts his head and lowers mouth to mine. I open to him and the feeling of him moving against me begins to consume me. He is holding me tightly again, but it's not like before when he was clinging me to him. Now I feel as though, with the heat of his skin against mine, he'll be able to fuse us together with the pressure of his arms.
He begins to maneuver me into the apartment, ostensibly toward his bed. We don't make it far, though, when, after a few steps, I trip on the large tubes of oils next to the canvas. In a stunning feat of grace (or stunning grace of feet), Jasper somehow manages to steady me and lower us to the ground, never breaking the kiss.
Clothes begin to fly in arcs of denim, mauve, plaid, and white. The canvas is rough against my back. Jasper hovers over me for a moment, his gaze searing my skin red as I take in his tans, pinks, shadows and textures. He lowers himself to his elbows, then is mouth seems to be all over me. He takes my breast in his mouth, crimson against rose, and my hand clamps down on a tube of paint above my head at the sensation.
The white-metallic heat of this chemical fire between us melts our skin together and we are moving as one. I feel almost desperate to have him closer, deeper, harder, faster. At my cry of oh-fuck-please-god-more! Jasper hitches my leg in the crook of his arm, his palm burning hot red across my skin. Soon he is swearing a blue streak and I am shattering into gold and silver sparkles around him.
I am cognizant enough to feel Jasper move off and roll me on my side into his chest, but it is a few minutes before I come to my senses enough to feel his hand trailing up and down my back. I tilt my head up and push my mouth to his.
He pulls away after a moment and pushes my hair out of my face. "We better get you cleaned up, sugar, before the paint dries in places paint has no place being," he says with a saucy wink.
I sit up suddenly and wildly take in the scene before me, not having before realized that we are covered in paint.
"Oh shit, Jasper. We've ruined your canvas!"
Jasper full-on smiles, dimples and sparking eyes, beatific and radiant. "Ruined? On the contrary. This is, without a doubt, our greatest masterpiece."
I feel like an idiot. Jasper has blindfolded me and is guiding me through a crowd of our classmates. Not being able to see, I have no proof, but I am sure they are all staring at me. Jasper has insisted that I can't see his painting until it can be viewed to it's fullest advantage: hanging on a wall of the student art gallery with the rest of our classmates' final projects. Apparently that means I also cannot gradually come upon it, as one would do walking toward it, hence the blindfold. I don't understand why this is necessary, so I can't muster too much sympathy for Jasper as he laments having to transport the large canvas without the help of my tits. I wonder briefly how I never managed to glimpse any of those sixty square feet of painting in the past two weeks, but Jasper very ably managed to keep my attention elsewhere engaged whenever we were at his loft.
By some miracle, we come to a stop in front of what I must assume is Jasper's painting without harming ourselves or others. Jasper is standing close behind me.
"Ready?" he whispers in my ear, and I shiver despite the heat radiating off him.
"So ready," I reply. I then feel his hands on my face, moving the blindfold away from my eyes.
I see the huge canvas spread out in front of me, clearly overwhelming the more moderately sized paintings that share the wall. I am stunned by the chaos of color that practically pulses off the wall. There are swirls, streaks and splatters, all seemingly random, yet coherent as a whole, with palpable joy and exultation coming off the wall. However, I don't take but a moment to noticed the smeared hand print toward the center of the canvas. I begin the examine the patterns closely and notice a second handprint a shoulder's width (Jasper's shoulder, to be precise) away. Between the handprints are delicate curlicues from paint-covered hair dragged across the canvas. Further down is a splotch that could quite easily be a knee print. Near the knee print are two circles of color that I admit to myself with no small amount of horror are probably from the crests of my two ass cheeks. Jasper has filled in around what we created with our bodies, and I fervently hope that what happened on that canvas will not be obvious to everyone else.
However, the real focal point of the piece is slightly to the right of the unintended sex scene. In stark contrast to the anarchy of the background, the foreground shows two children painted in meticulous detail. One child is a small blond boy with chin slightly tilted down and eyes gazing sadly away from the little girl next to him. She is holding one of his hands in both of hers and is looking up at him with an expression that contains both pity and hope. Underneath in a margin left at the bottom of the canvas, I see Jasper's bold script.
We can hold hands so you don't feel sad anymore.
I turn to face him. He clasps my hands in each of his own.
"Like it?" he asks.
"Love it," I reply.