The musky scent of cigarettes filled the hallway leading up to Adrian's apartment. I had at least an hour to pass the time. Jill, Eddie and Angeline were all having a combat practice. The tension was a bit too much for me to handle. Jill had asked me for advice on countless occasions, but I couldn't really advise from experience. I had never been in her situation. The only thing I could tell her was that I didn't know. At first she was disappointed with my lack of comfort, but then proceeded to give me a wistful stare and told me that I was an absolutely breathtaking sight.
It had been a recurring pattern, for the past couples of days. It was rather odd of her to excessively compliment me, seeing as she usually thought I looked bland most of the time. It occurred to me that Adrian would know what to do on her account. I knocked on his door, and waited for him to answer.
I heard a groan, and heavy footsteps coming towards the door. He answered it with an annoyed look on his face, which turned into a smile the moment he saw me.
"Hey Sage, I thought it was Belikov for a second." He said, stepping aside for me to enter.
I stepped through the threshold and found that the apartment wasn't there anymore. Adrian had set up a large art studio in the main room. He had placed sheet all over the floors and there were three easels set up across the studio. Paint was splattered everywhere even on Adrian himself. He was wearing a casual pair of jeans, and a white shirt that was flaking with dried paint. Even though he was covered in paint, he could still manage to look like he was from the cover of some fashion magazine.
He brought a chair from the dining area into the main room for me to sit on, and walked over to his own easel. He picked up his pallet and began making both long and short strokes to accomplish his masterpiece.
"I need to talk to you about Jill." I said, sitting down.
He stopped painting and looked concerned. "What's wrong with Jailbait?"
"She's been acting strangely these past couple of days. It's almost like she has a crush on me." I said.
He seemed to consider it a moment and frowned. It seemed like whatever it was; he knew what was going on. Then, the corners of his lips tugged upwards into a grin. He seemed to be laughing, amused at the situation.
"Don't worry, Sage. She'll stop, very soon." He said, and continued painting.
I stood up and walked around to see what he was working on. It looked to be a bird. It was black on its tail, like the color of a midnight raven. However, the belly was colored deep green, with streaks of a light blue color. Its dark purple and blood red wings were spread out, flying into a golden sun.
I hadn't seen much of Adrian's work prior to this, but looking at this now utterly stunned me. The patience and passion he put into his work made him a completely different person. When he painted, he wasn't Adrian, the pretty face that smoked and drank all the time. He was Adrian, the self-assured, talented, and passionate, man he was on the inside. His, painting was a therapeutic method of coping, of being himself.
Furthermore, it was the longest time he had ever been dedicated to anything. In the past, he had told me, he never committed to anything. Not even college, claiming homework was a problem. He refused every connection his father had used to get him to achieve something. Adrian's problem wasn't laziness, or irresponsibility. He could be productive and responsible if he wanted to be. Adrian's problem was that he was afraid of disappointing others. He didn't set high standards in case he didn't meet up to them. He merely did not want to feel like a failure.
I realized I had been silent in my thoughts for too long. Adrian was gazing nervously at me, expectant for a response.
"It's beautiful." I said, softly.
His anxiety eased and he became smug, like his normal self. "Knew you'd like it."
I rolled my eyes at him and watched him paint some more. His dramatic strokes of gold filled the canvas. He worked with a concentration that could only be rivaled by me. The difference was that I would most likely be working on a mixture of chemicals for a project the Alchemist would assign me.
Without thinking, still lost in his art I blurted out, "Paint me."
He stopped, looking shocked. He faced me and set down his pallet. "You okay, Sage? Are the paint fumes getting to you? Or is it the cigarette smoke?"
Irritation, swept through me. All I had wanted was for him to paint me. Even though I had inadvertently requested it, didn't mean that I hadn't wanted it done. It wasn't that scandalous of a request either for him to joke about it.
"Well if you don't want to, I should leave." I said coolly. I stood up to go.
He grabbed my hand, and I felt a shock of electricity run through my body, and stiffened. He quickly dropped my hand, as if I had displayed a sort of revulsion at his touch. Adrian looked at me, his expression, hesitant.
"Don't leave. Stay. I'll paint you. Just like Rose, but you don't have to get naked." He said winking.
My mouth fell open.
"You've painted Rose naked?" I asked shrilly.
He rolled his eyes. "Rose Bukater. It was a Titanic reference; the movie. I was just trying to lighten the mood."
I exhaled, not realizing I had been holding my breath. Then, I made note to never watch the aforementioned movie especially if some girl named Rose was painted naked.
I sat down, still feeling a tingling sensation where he had touched me. Adrian set up a new easel and squirted out more paint on the pallet. From there, he began working. Occasionally, I would fidget and he would chide me and tell me to keep still. It was difficult because I was nervous. I knew the painting would far from what I looked like. Adrian had a tendency of making things look better than what they really were.
An hour passed by, when Adrian paused. He set the easel down, and looked at the clock.
"Do you have anywhere to be soon?" He asked.
I looked at the clock. It was around 7 o'clock. An hour had passed by. Jill, Eddie, and Angeline were probably going to wonder where I was. I also had to be back by curfew, unless I had all the right excuses. I didn't want to go back to Jill, Eddie, and Angeline. There was too much hormonal frustration on all of their accounts. The Amberwood dorms were also an unappealing option, for Kristin and Julia had taken an interest in hounding me about Brayden lately. As well as Trey, who I knew for sure was up to something.
Here at Adrian's apartment I would be free from all the strain that going to high school had given me. I was sure it would have been an entertaining experience but with everything that had happened since I arrived, it was less than unappealing. In fact high school was becoming a nuisance to my Alchemist duties.
I decided it would be fair to myself to indulge in the peace I found here for a little while.
"No. Just let me call Jill." I said.
He grinned and winked. "She already knows."
They had most likely communicated through their spirit bond. A vulgar use of magic and an outright invasion of privacy were my honest opinions on the matter.
He picked up his easel and ordered, "Sit still."
As I sat, I watched him. He was so focused and determined. Every now and then, he would pause and think very hard. Then, he would carry on painting. Other times, he would just look at me, and I would look back. When he looked at me I felt uneasy. It felt like he was trying to see me; all of me. An unblemished, raw form of who I was. It was as if he was trying to see through my soul.
Even I didn't know exactly who I was, so how all of the people in the world would Adrian Ivashkov be able to figure it out? Why didn't he try to find who he was before he saw others in that way?
My thoughts wandered over to Brayden. I still felt guilty for having run out on him every time we were together. He was very much like me, I had realized earlier. But I didn't know if that was enough. Our conversations were very stimulating and intellectually balanced, but it didn't feel like a relationship. It was more like were colleagues having debates about current events. Except for the time he kissed me. The sentiment was overly friendly, but without true feeling.
Brayden and I truly were soulmates, as Trey had suggested. We were alike, having similar interests. The problem with our relationship was feelings. We had no feelings for each other. It was like having someone thrown at you, with everyone expecting that it work out because they said so. That was our relationship.
In fact I shouldn't have gotten myself into that relationship in the first place. I wasn't here on vacation; I was on a mission. This relationship had made me neglect my duties towards Jill and the spirit research, both of which weren't going as efficiently as I hoped. Besides, I wasn't the relationship type anyway. I was completely clueless when it came to the male gender. To think I would find myself engaged in such an activity, especially on a mission was baffling.
Although the only positive outcome of my dating Brayden was an insight as to what Jill had felt with Micah. To be with someone in an intimate manner, yet conceal the most imperative things from them, was difficult. Living a double life wasn't uncomplicated. It was best that we ended it.
"What are you thinking about?" Adrian asked, breaking through my thoughts.
"That living a double life isn't easy." I replied truthfully.
He raised his eyebrow, and then his face fell. "Oh. Were you thinking about Brandon?"
"Brayden," I corrected him. "And yes I was. I was actually considering breaking up with him."
He was clearly taken aback, but said no more, finding his painting more interesting. It was more likely he wanted to leave me to my thoughts. So of course, when I was given time to think, nothing came to mind. Instead, I just watched him paint. I watch his talent being soaked into the thick canvas, with color, passion and hard work.
After what seemed to be half an hour, he stopped. I stood up and started towards the easel. Adrian held up his hand and shook his head. I frowned at him in confusion.
"It's not quite done yet." He said.
"Then, why did you stop?" I asked.
He stepped closer, about a foot away from me. I tensed, but he didn't seem to care about my discomfort in the situation.
"It requires a long time to paint perfection." He murmured. "Come back tomorrow to see the final product."
I flushed with the meaning of the statement. Surely he was teasing me like he usually did, but this time, he managed to sound serious. I had half a mind to use one of Malachi Wolfe's techniques on him for saying something like that. That's all it was. Adrian was just being his usual flirty self.
I took a few steps back and turned away from his deep emerald colored eyes. I walked out the door and down the hallway, completely leaving the apartment building. Climbing into Latte, I started the engine, and found myself in front of the dorm building at Amberwood. The day had gone by too quickly.
Before I went to bed I sent a quick text to Adrian, unable to help myself.
Can't wait to see the final product :)
He replied almost immediately.
Might take all night. I'll text you when it's done ;)
I rolled my eyes. It was only a painting of me. It shouldn't take this long. I laid down in my bed and fell into a dreamless sleep.
A loud buzzing sound woke me up. Immediately I sat up, to see where it was coming from. Frantically searching around the room, I realized it was my cell phone. I flipped it open and saw it was a text from Adrian.
It's done. Come over whenever you're free.
I glanced at the clock. It was three in the morning. I couldn't believe he had actually stayed up most of the night to work on the painting. The least I could do was go see it. Once again, I had made up my mind to break yet another rule. I grabbed my wallet and car keys. At the dorm entrance I was accosted by dorm security.
"I have to go. My brother needs me. Something's happened." I said in my whiniest voice. It was evident that I had acted melodramatic enough. He let me go, but gave me the most disapproving look I had ever been given.
I got into Latte and sped off towards Adrian's apartment and was outside the building within fifteen minutes. I practically ran up to his apartment, and knocked. The door opened almost immediately. Adrian stood looking very surprised.
"Sage, I said whenever you're free. You didn't have to come immediately." He chuckled.
I twiddled my thumbs, anxious to see how he had painted me or more specifically how he saw me.
"Are you going to make me beg to see it?" I asked, exasperated.
"Maybe. It would be quite a sight to see Sydney Sage begging Adrian Ivashkov for something." He said, suggestively.
Instead of chastising him I said, "Adrian it's three in the morning. I don't want to play games with you."
"But I like games." He pouted.
I narrowed my eyes at him and put my hands on my hips. "Adrian." I said, warning him.
He raised his hand in surrender and gestured for me to follow him. He had apparently continued painting in his bedroom. I followed, not worrying about anything else except for the painting. The easel stood at the side of the bed. I stood in front of it and couldn't believe what I was seeing.
It was me; it looked like me. It was me but with more feeling. I hadn't known that such an expression came across my face. I was smiling, face filled with complete joy. It made the whole mood of the painting brighten. My eyes however were sad. They held the emotion of discomfort, confinement, and selflessness I always felt. They were immaculately painted, but they were so Sydney. So me. It looked like I felt during the time he was painting me. The tattoo on my cheek was done in gold paint, and he had managed to get it done perfectly.
"Adrian, you didn't have gold paint while I was here." I commented.
He shook his head. "I had to go buy it."
"Well, how did you get the tattoo right without me being here?" I asked.
He looked at me with that same intense look that had been causing me so much discomfort lately. Finally he turned away and said, "I got lucky. Do you want a diet Coke?"
I nodded and sat down on his bed to admire the painting. It seemed I was wrong. It seemed that someone like Adrian Ivashkov was able to understand me without fully understanding himself. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that it was wrong to think that, but it was true, like the painting. That painting had managed to somehow show that I wasn't perfect, that I was flawed. Yet, it also managed to show that I had a certain amount of beauty and depth. Adrian had managed to capture the truth, not his opinion of the truth. The truth was something I could handle, I didn't know if I could bear to know what Adrian actually thought of me.
My fatigue was beginning to present itself. Adrian wouldn't mind if I laid down for a bit, to rest. After all I had driven out to see his painting at three o'clock in the morning. My mind argued with me, telling me I was in a vampire's bedroom all alone, but my body's protests were much stronger. I already felt myself drifting away into sleep. Before I truly lost consciousness, I heard a soft chuckle.
"Sweet dreams, Sydney."