This time it's a real teaser, not just my query letter :) Happy Wednesday!
“Sorry. What I was trying to say is, can I ask you some questions? About yourself?”
I paused to consider it. “Maybe. But only if I get to ask some too.”
And then something weird happened. His eyes flipped to a scarlet red, but the color returned to blue almost as fast as they had changed. I was second-guessing myself if I really saw it or not.
“Fine. But only the ones I want to,” he said.
“What just happened?”
“What do you mean?”
“With your eyes, Brady. They turned red for a moment.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” His eyes told me something different.
“Why are you lying to me?”
“Holly, I really don’t know what you are talking about. Can I start the questions?”
I wasn’t sure what had just happened with the red eyes, but I did know that Brady had lied to my face. I doubt it was the first time. For once, I wanted to be in the loop, to have inside information that no one else did. But I couldn’t find an excuse for my peculiar compulsion to solve this mystery, so a frustration grew inside of me.
“Fine,” I snapped, sounding colder than I intended to.
I thought I had scared him off when he fled the room, but returned with sheets of paper and a pack of crayons and sat beside me on the couch.
“I thought you were going to ask me questions?”
He grinned in a shy, boyish manner. “I will. Based on what you draw. You can do the same for me.”
“You’re going to analyze my drawing?” I clarified.
“And you’re going to analyze mine.”
I bit my lip, weighing the pros and cons. The only con I had was the fear of Brady discovering my innermost secrets, secrets that I didn’t even know I had. When I looked into Brady’s glacial eyes, I saw a curiosity so intense that I had no doubt he would stop at nothing to obtain answers for his questions. And that scared me. Someone who had the ability to see through me and reveal things that I didn’t even know about myself posed a huge threat to my mental stability. But would I pass up an opportunity to dig deep into Brady? To claw through his good looks and see what made him tick? I didn’t think I could. Even with the risk Brady presented, it could be worth it.
“Pass me the paper. Anything specific you’d like me to draw?” I asked.
Brady cracked a perfect smile with perfect dimples and only said, “Just something that defines you,” before grabbing a black crayon and starting off on his masterpiece.
I hesitated before plucking a navy crayon from the box. I had known immediately that I was going to draw the ocean in Miami. My strokes were gentle, caressing the crayon point along the paper. Color spiraled off the waxy tip, beginning what I intended to be a near perfect depiction of an obsession that meant so much to me. I wasn’t sure why I put so much effort into something that Brady could easily use against me. Trying to capture such a powerful and beautiful thing on a piece of paper seemed cruel, but I had to illustrate the ocean in such a way that it would never leave Brady’s mind, like it would never leave mine.
It’s kind of like parents with their children. All parents want others to see their children the way they see them: smart, funny, victorious. I needed Brady’s stamp of approval, I guess, but was simultaneously afraid that my actions would downplay the ocean’s grandeur. I didn’t want to disappoint it.
Fifteen minutes later, I was done, and although I had not surpassed my expectations, my drawing wasn’t too shabby. I looked over at Brady’s image for the first time only to see a small campfire surrounded by a black backdrop. I didn’t know what to make of it.
“Done?” he asked. I nodded and handed him my picture. He narrowed his eyes and gave it a close inspection. He nodded his head and muttered, “Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm.”
“First off I’d like to say that this is a very good drawing. You’re talented, you know.” My cheeks warmed and I picked a spot on the ground to stare at. “Well, obviously this is of an ocean. Ocean equals water, and water can equal either life or death. But an ocean is salt water, which you cannot survive on, so this picture could represent death.”
“I am not emo,” I stated in my defense.
“If you were emo, you would have drawn a skull or a broken heart or… well, I honestly have no idea, but it would not be an ocean.”
“So what can you tell from what I’ve drawn?” My heart was clawing at its cage, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hear his answer.
“That your favorite color is navy blue.” My jaw dropped open. Sure, I used that color crayon, but not because it was my favorite.
“How did you-”
“Oceans aren’t exactly navy. I would say teal, cerulean, aqua, or maybe even sapphire, but not navy. So either it was your favorite color or you’re color blind.” How could he have known this? Had he analyzed my every move all these years? I shivered at the thought.
“What else?” I said, trying to keep my face stripped of emotion.
“You obviously care a lot for the ocean, but oceans are dangerous. Do you like a bit of danger in your life?” His uncertainty on this claim allowed me to breathe a little easier.
“I…” I didn’t know how to respond. I liked a bit of danger to keep things exciting, but too much, like my parent’s car crash and Bonnie’s blackmail, unsettled me, as it would with anyone. “A little danger is okay,” I said in a small voice.
“You’re uncomfortable,” he observed.
“Why wouldn’t I be? You’re like a mad scientist analyzing me under a microscope.”
“I’m not a mad scientist. I’m just a curious human being.”
“Doesn’t change the fact that I’m uneasy about this.”
“Would you like to take a stab at my drawing, before we get to the normal questions?”
Did I? Did I really want to try to understand what was going on inside his blue eyes? Did I want to know what lurked behind his handsome exterior? I thought I had answered those questions before, but uncertainty threaded my mind. I had come this far. It wasn’t very far in the long run, but in the short run I was practically finishing a marathon. I couldn’t stop just before the finish line.
I held out my hand as he passed me his picture. I observed it closely, but there was only a dark backdrop and a small fire, and I couldn’t extract anything from either.
“Um, I don’t know how.”
“Sure you do. Try a little harder.” Did he think I wasn’t giving it my all? An inexplicable anger surged through me, but I kept it inside. I had to stay calm, cool, collected. I had to think like Brady.
Unfortunately, I had no idea how Brady thought. He had been a mystery to me since I moved to Brass, and he might forever remain that way.
“Brady, I really don’t know.”
“Okay. Let me help.”
“Can you do that? Help evaluate your own picture?” I was afraid that he would plant a seed in my brain as a diversion from unleashing the truth in the drawing.
“I don’t see why not.”
I did, but I didn’t say anything.
“How should I begin?” I asked, submitting a bit of myself as I trusted him to lead the way.
“When you first look at this drawing, what do you see?”
“Black. A lot of black.”
“And when you think of black what do you think of?”
“Here, place your hand on it.” He held my fingers as he guided them along the smudges of black crayon. Mine tingled and sparked with confusion. “Close your eyes and imagine it. Imagine being absorbed by it.”
I did as he said, and regretted it. The first image that came to mind was that of my parent’s funeral. Black clothes. Mourning faces. Hopeless atmosphere. I might have whimpered because Brady said, “What is it? What do you see?”
“Death. Sadness. Empty.”
“Absence of hope.” I kept my eyes closed, fearful that if I opened them, my emotions would leak out.
“Open your eyes,” Brady commanded, voice soft, as if he knew that this was hard for me. “What else do you see in the picture?”
“What does fire symbolize?”
“Warmth. Comfort. Safety.”
“Now put those two images together.” I glanced at him, and he nodded me on. That simple gesture told me that he was not judging me.
“Um, a light in the darkness… hope when you feel all else is lost.”
“Good,” he said, voice soothing. “That’s good for now.” Somehow I felt powerful. I felt that I had mastered something inside of me, bludgeoned a portion of a weak part of me and emerged with a new Holly. A somewhat stronger Holly.