This is the second of four in a short series of publications by the students in the Creative Writing Class. While we could have placed them all in one post, it was clear that each author deserved a special place to share their work.
By Sarah W.
Moonlit clouds wove a blanket suspended lazily over a busy concrete jungle, where its hungry leopards and pythons were only just waking up. Artificial light reflecting from the new developments of the downtown core bounced off flashy cars and onto the precious metals their owners adorned themselves with as they sped from one star-studded party to the next. Moving in packs of slicked hair and sharpened claws, their shallow laughter echoed, inappropriately, garishly, through the streets. European headlights did not falter in illuminating the weary asphalt between luxury condos, corporate office towers, and designer storefronts. Riding a high larger than life, slowing down was inconceivable to these beings. The adrenaline in their tired blood simulated the pumping of a heart.
A few blocks away there hosted an entirely different atmosphere. Here, the tall grass and knotted branches of the primeval forest opened to a restful clearing. Sleepy industrial buildings by day were transformed to bustling, living, breathing artists’ havens by night. Cars spilled from the dilapidated lot and the steel beams of the warehouse hummed to performances of impassioned poetry. People - male and female, young and old, and everything in between - huddled around coffee mugs and tealights, grinning, laughing, crying, shouting... feeling.
Sitting at the old upright piano, a boyish-looking Lucas Carpenter scrunched his forehead as he deciphered the notes on his sheets; his features contrasted handsomely in the dimness of the candlelight. Feeling content, his fingers danced on the yellowed ivory, lightly and delicately, moving with purpose. He recalled Italian frescoes from the art gallery, and the striking care with which they reproduced the ropes of muscle on the men. Lucas was a painter, and began to mentally sketch his next piece as he continued playing. A swift autumnal breeze rustled his music sheets. Lost in his thoughts, he looked up, and felt his pulse surge uncontrollably at the sight of a new arrival at the door.
She was a dark-haired creature, standing straight with a ballerina’s grace. As she glanced around the room, her smile whispered that yes, she had found the right spot after all. Shrugging off her wool coat, she breathed in the scent of old books and wood, and exhaled as her relief was replaced by excitement. Following her lead, Lucas took a deep breath too. His arms dropped to his side, and the piano was silenced. Nobody in the crowded warehouse seemed to notice except for the girl, whose eyes met Lucas’ in curiosity. Rising from the piano bench, he suddenly felt as though he were dropped into a movie, and the only instruction he’d been given was, “Go to her.” His feet began to move on their own, as if by magnetic attraction. What else was there to say, but that he had no choice?
“Hi,” she said, surprising him as he stopped in front of her. “Why did you stop playing? You are rather good.” That gentle voice, and those tender words, coated with a light French accent, brought to mind sketches of the Champs-Élysées framing the Arc de Triomphe, in those arrondissements where daydreams of romance varnished every little corner café and women like her, wrapped in silk scarves and dainty French skirts, danced over little French dogs in red-soled stilettos, candidly flipping their bouncy French bobs as they did, and blew kisses as large and sweet as fresh cherries. Lucas’ face turned a shade of bright red at that thought, making the young Parisienne laugh.
“Well, I just wanted to make sure you were in the right place. A girl like you, out at this hour…” He checked his watch, confirming that indeed, it was far beyond the beautiful stranger’s bedtime. “... In the middle of nowhere, I mean… I’m not sure you should b- Why are you here?” Immediately regretting his words, Lucas bit his tongue. Luckily, her laughter was now loud enough people were beginning to join in without knowing particularly why.
“Did I really come all this way to escape my parents and run into the arms of the likes of you?” She rolled her eyes good-naturedly, and grabbed Lucas’ hand, dragging him back to the piano. “I am not planning on leaving anytime soon.”
Lucas was not certain if being grouped into “the likes of you” was a good thing at all, but was very sure that he liked the idea of her running into his arms. He obediently followed her back to the bench and was surprised when, instead of waiting for him to finish his sonata, she reached for the keys herself.
Presently, she launched into a piece of such passionate intensity, Lucas’ mouth formed a small “o”. Freeing notes to assault one another in fortissimo, tumbling out in fury, she pounded life into the dusty old piano. The spontaneity of her rhythm and the sensuality of every bar defied all the rules he had been taught by his piano instructor as a child, and he could not help but watch in admiration the strength of her body. She played aggressively and unapologetically, so that mistakes melted into her melody as if they were nothing at all. By the time she had finished, a sizeable crowd had formed. Turning to her companion, a shy smile grew on her lively face. “So,” she whispered breathily. “Should I be here?”
Liquid eyes sweet as lollipops looked up at Lucas, and he, so utterly entranced, could do nothing but stare, with all the raw emotion she had just released into the room. Bashfully, the ardent confidence of her playing disappeared as she rambled to fill the charged silence: “I love Debussy. It is not that I dislike the Classical period, but I love those Romantic composers. Classicists are too structured. Their music is so restrained, and there is always that stupid word: Equilibrium. Equilibrium. Equilibrium. Agh! See, Debussy ignites a flame! He tells a story! He paints with a palette of a hundred emotions… a million musical colours! Did you know, that Liszt would play so intensely women in the audience would faint? Imagine-” Though he could listen to her silky voice for hours, the dizzied Lucas could not allow her to finish. He tilted her head in his hands, so that she’d have no choice but to see him, and see his passion. Their eyes met like a strike of lightning. Drawing slowly closer to him, many realised then that she was not preparing an encore, and they kissed to the sound of her audience’s collective groan.
Her name was Satine. She was a painter too, but that was all the lovers had in common. Their differences ran much further than the mere style with which they played the piano. Her apartment was littered with paintings in varying degrees of completion, and it was evident that her impetuous style ran consistently through the arts. Satine mixed her paints with vehemence. Some she worked with crazed energy, damaging brush bristles in the fury of her fiery reds, blacks, and oranges, but never did she force a shade to her will. Others, she caressed gently with the creamy tendresse of a mother. Colours were living, breathing spirits, and she respected the unique energy each brought to her art. It was for this reason that all her paintings seemed to reflect movement, or change. This vivid variation in tone lent for a rather mesmerising effect, which allowed her to capture the attention of several curators. The profundity of her relationship with each of her senses lent well to her art. It was never consistent, and always in progress; times of day, personal events, and even choices of food seemed to alter the way her studies were depicted.
Lucas prided himself on his skills of observation and the near mechanical precision with which he reproduced his subjects. He enjoyed sketching in his notebook as he walked around the city, focusing on buildings. The beauty of lines, blocks, curls, and slabs translated from sketches to real steel and glass amazed him, but he did not wish to become an architect. He had always wanted to paint, yet he was almost photographer-like; capturing detail and structure in all his work, it was easy to mistake his paintings for photos. An easygoing young man, he was peaceful but not reserved. An aura of such well-being surrounded him that one could not help but feel calmed in his presence. He reveled in the task of mixing the perfect shade, for the perfect subject, for the perfect piece. The divine gift he possessed was evident, and he often commissioned work for patrons, whereupon he was always well-received.
She lived with her heart, and he with his mind. Though the two clashed in many aspects, they found that all their differences often merged into one commonality: they needed each other, and of this they were surer than one plus one. Speeding through brunch dates, coffee runs, film screenings, and road trips, their romance quickly led them to move in together, where their lives would intertwine in ways couples could only dream. They spent every moment in each other’s presence, from burning sunrise to glowing sunset. When language failed, their eyes spoke for them; new paintings betrayed whispers of warm evenings and hushed conversations spoken in cursive. And so it was an absolute, deafening, thunderous shock when young Satine woke up one morning to a world of utter darkness.
It happened suddenly, and without warning. After several examinations, one desperate test after another, she was diagnosed with a rare illness that would leave her, groping, in the shadows forever.
Satine had lost her vision.
Satine could not understand nor cope with this new way of life. Never again would she look outside and witness the radiant beauty of sunlight breaking out from the clouds. Never again would she play the piano, transporting others to her fantasy. Never again would she paint, and paint with her soul, smearing pigment onto canvas with potent purpose, and watch as her sparkling heart dripped onto white canvas. Those wide eyes of molten honey, which had always shone with such intelligence, would not see. They would become pearls; Glistening pearls awash in a salted ocean of melancholy and pain.
It was a bright summer morning. In the studio, the two lay together, but Satine was shivering. “I’m terribly afraid,” she whispered. “There is nothing left for me. It is all gone.”
Lucas’ smile broke at her words, and he held his sweetheart closer, tighter. “Don’t say that. You still have me. You always will. I’m not gone.”
“Oh, but you are!” She trembled. Her body, which had grown increasingly frail upon reception of the news, was now so light Lucas easily carried it to the sunny window. Quietly then, she murmured, “Where are you? I can’t see. I feel warmth, yet I do not know what it is.”
“Do you smell the passion of the baker downstairs, and his sweet desserts? You’ll taste their warmth, in just a moment when I go to buy some for you.” Lucas stroked her hair before adding with a grin, “Warmth is the kindness of the birds… listen as they serenade you, Satine, from the horizon.”
“Tell me more,” she whispered, and closed her eyes. “Tell me about the sun.”
Lucas gazed out at the sun, and saw its uniform sphericity and flat colour. If he had been asked to paint the landscape before him, he would heed the sun no more attention than a simple circle would deserve. Yet he knew Satine would have seen much more than that. His two eyes presently held the weight of four, and knowing this, he felt nearer to his darling than ever. Peeking at her childishly expectant face, he was suddenly overcome with emotion. What was warmth? The scene that now materialised before him was something beautifully brand new, never previously understood, and he chuckled. If he was to love her, he would need to learn to see with her eyes.
“Ah, the sun! You must mean this white inferno, breaking from the fluffy clouds in the sky.” Lucas watched with happiness as she took a deep breath, and he continued. “It’s nothing, Satine, but the entire world. From its light blossoms such greatness, rising an eminence respected by all, rich and poor. It’s generous with its gifts, covering the Earth in a quilt spun of golden sugar and daydreams. In its core, deep below the surface, lies a syrupy centre, filled with fire. Please, allow its happy rays to embrace you. You’re glowing… And yeah, that’s pretty warm.” Kissing away tears that flowed quickly down her cheeks, Lucas swore he saw colour’s gradual return, tender and rosy, to her face. He glimpsed hope in her shy smile. “But even warmer is the truth that I’ll never leave your side. What’s the loss of one sense, when you have an overabundance of so many others? Do you feel my touch? I’ll keep you warm, because I’m here. I’ll be your eyes, Satine. Let me share my life with you.”