A/N: Is this where I do the same old disclaimer as everyone else? Is anyone in danger of a lawsuit? As for the story, nothing particularly new. You'll see.

My on-again, off-again girlfriend, Jenny, dragged me with her to an art exhibit that was being held on campus for the weekend. I actually didn't mind attending. I had dabbled in art myself in high school, and occasionally had the urge to sketch things on campus. It was only a passing hobby, but many of my scribblings ended up as cartoons in the school newspaper, much to the delight of the young woman who kept tugging at my arm as if we'd miss something if we didn't hurry.

The paintings and sculptures were interestingly arranged. Someone had decided to shy away from sorting the works by genre, period, or subject matter, and went solely by color palette. Silver and gray statues, black and white charcoal drawings, followed by blues and greens, sculptures with layers of patina on them. Bright yellows and bronze figures. I had to admit, it was well done, because it seemed as though the temperature in the room changed depending on which end of the rainbow you were at. Jenny oohed and aahed over a cubist painting done in greens and yellows. She said something about it being the perfect transition piece between hot and cold. It was done by one of our local artists.

Personally, I preferred portraits, especially those that really capture what the person is thinking. I remembered an old classmate of mine who used to favor abstract expressionism and surrealism. I found myself lost in thought, remembering the last time I had seen her.

It was the end of our senior year, and I could tell something was bothering Helga. She was at her easel, attacking the canvas with a vengeance. She reminded me of a Valkyrie, with her long blonde braid and stormy visage. Helga's work had always had an angry edge to it, but this time, there was something more to it. As she worked, I found myself sketching her. The more my pencil moved over the page, the more I felt I was capturing the true essence of Helga. She didn't seem to notice me. I'd finished my sketch and tucked it into my portfolio before she set down her brush. She was spattered with paint and looked absolutely exhausted.

I could still picture how Helga had looked that day. The following year, I had taken an art elective, and was tempted to create a portrait of Helga from the sketch I'd made, but somehow I felt that would be disloyal, as if by doing so I'd expose her inner self to the world. I shook my head to clear the cobwebs from my mind.

I heard Jenny exclaim again, and my mouth dropped open as I turned to see what had captured her attention this time.

It was unfinished, but that didn't take away from the work itself. Swirls of red, orange, and black. Parts of it looked like someone had a temper tantrum and had thrown paint at the canvas. As I gazed at it, I remembered the last time I had seen it. It had given me nightmares for a week.

I felt a rush of familiar feelings as I examined the painting. Despite the predominant use of red, orange, and burnt sienna, I could still detect a hint of blue and silver, just as I had four years ago. You'd think the blue would stand out in the field of orange, but there it was, delicately blended into some of the boldest swirls, slowly tapering off into the bare patches of canvas. Like a tinge of regret that often follows an angry outburst. Like the last creature trapped in Pandora's box, after she'd released the evils of mankind.

I looked at the placard underneath the painting.

"I" by H.G. Pataki

With a sudden rush of insight, I realized that the work was finished. It represented Helga much better than the sketch I was so proud of. Whereas I had merely captured the countenance of a passionate artist, this painting was Helga, naked and exposed for all to see. I felt a pang of regret that I hadn't recognized it back then. Helga, like her painting, was incomplete. She always seemed so angry, but if you took the time to look, you'd notice that underneath it all was someone capable of softer emotions.

After graduation, Jenny and I broke up again for the last time. Neither of us was particularly sad about it. We said we'd keep in touch, knowing we wouldn't.

I loaded the last of my personal belongings into my old pickup, placing one of the smaller boxes on the front seat next to me. I climbed in the other side and shut the door. I'd just put the key in the ignition when I looked over at the box.

I opened the flaps on the box and pulled out my old portfolio. I leafed through it until I came to the picture I'd drawn of Helga. I stared at it a minute before closing the portfolio and replacing it in the box. I started the engine and pulled away from the curb. I was unsure of where the future would lead me, but I knew that as one chapter ended, another began, as long as you continued reading.

I remembered that little bit of silver in Helga's painting. Just a faint silver lining next to the blue, a delicate line of silver that doubled over itself at the end of the brush stroke. At first glance, it resembled a flattened curlicue, but if you looked closely, you could see it was a tiny football.

I passed the sign that said "Hillwood 93 miles" and smiled.