Just One Tear

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Chapter 2

Isaac rushed into the dorm and straight for his coffee maker, which he shakily filled with more of his green coffee mix and water before fumbling to hit the button to begin the brew. He found himself leaning against the counter, his hands covering his face as he waited, sliding down just far enough to reveal his closed eyes.

He tried to focus on the sound of the gurgling machine, to use it against the image that wouldn’t leave his mind, but to no avail. His eyes snapped open and he strode to his room where he proceeded to move his painting supplies out to the kitchen. Not even registering the colors he’d chosen, he laid out his palate and began frantically to apply paint to canvas, urgency in each stroke as his hand moved to the tempo of the beat his racing heart pounded in his head that deafened him to the cheerful beep of his coffee maker when it was finished performing its appointed task. The swift application of the paint made the image seem almost alive, as if it were emerging from the canvas on its own.

When he was finished, he took a step back, his breath caught at the sight of the image. His works had always been likened to those of Eugene Delacroix, though he had never felt that he’d come even close to Delacroix’s mastery of the art. As he stared at his latest work, however, he was for the first time in his life able to credit himself for surpassing the brilliant realist painter.

As he gazed at the painting, Isaac found himself wanting to reach out to the girl, to pull her out of the fire, mesmerized by the agony in her eyes. He could almost feel the heat from the fire. 'It's just a painting,' he kept reminding himself. He began to see the walls of the cavern surrounding him as they had in his dream, felt the rocks below his feet. He could hear the lapping of the water in the cove.

The sound of the door closing brought him back to the kitchen. He blinked at the painting as a chill ran down his spine.

"Hey, dude. How did your finals go?"

"Fine," Isaac heard himself say as his eyes stayed locked on those of the girl in the painting.

Raphael's approaching footsteps served as nothing more than white noise to Isaac's ears.

"Whoa, awesome painting!"

Isaac blinked and forced his eyes away from the girl to look over at Raphael. "Thanks," he said blandly.

Raphael blinked. "Dude, you should be way more excited than that. I mean, you're an amazing painter, don't get me wrong, but this one blows everything else you've done out of the water!"

"That's part of the problem."

Raphael blinked again. "I don't follow."

Isaac heaved a sigh. "Look, I remember setting up for this, but I don't remember actually painting it. I don't even remember choosing the colors!"

His annoyance with the situation increased as he took in the grin spreading across Raphael's face. "I will never be able to figure you out," he snapped.

"Dude, don't you get it? You produced your most awesome work while you were in a daze. That's practically the same as painting in your sleep! It's every artists dream to be able to pull off something like this with no effort!"

Isaac looked back at the painting and fought the tension that tried to take control of his muscles.

"Dude, I know you've made pretty good money on your other stuff. The second this dries, I'd put it on e-bay for an insane price. I'll bet you could make millions!"

"It's not for sale," Isaac declared as he took his brushes to the sink.

"You're kidding, right? This thing could set you for life!" Raphael argued.

"It doesn't matter. It's not for sale."

"You've never been attached to any of your paintings before."

Isaac turned to face Raphael as he dried his brushes off with a paper towel. "I need some stuff to decorate my grandparents' place in when I'm finally able to move into the place and this one actually fits my tastes."

He watched as Raphael looked at it, clearly perplexed. "Dude, you're not planning on having much company, are you? I mean, it's kinda scary."

“If that is the case, what makes you think it would sell for millions?” His brows raised with the question.

“Touché.”

“Besides, I’m planning on working it into a series. Like a triptych. It should make more sense when the rest is done.”

Raphael shrugged. "To each his own, I guess. The girl you painted is crazy exotic. Where did you come up with her? I mean, the ears, the spikes!"

Isaac kept his gulp mental and buried the truth in the back of his head as he shot Raphael an incredulous look.

"Right, you don't even remember painting her to begin with."

"How does pizza sound tonight?" Isaac asked, ready for a change of subject.

"You know I'd never turn down pizza. Are you sure that's what you want? I know you’re not a fan of eating the same thing twice in one day."

Isaac nodded. "Fresh is different from leftover," he justified. "We could play some pool, too. I think it would make for a relaxing celebration."


Isaac stared at the slice of pizza that rested in his hand, the game of pool he’d just lost to Raphael due to miscalculations, though Raphael seemed to believe differently, pushed all the way to the recesses of his mind.

“Dude, is something bothering you?”

He looked up at Raphael who was presently trying to pull a bite of pizza away from the rest of the slice, the strings of cheese holding it relentlessly.

Isaac took a bite of his own pizza as he watched Raphael endure in battle, finally defeating the ruthless slice of pizza. Raphael looked back at him while he chewed his winnings.

Isaac shrugged. “I don’t know why you keep asking me if I’m bothered by something. I know my behavior’s been unusual today, but I imagine it’s merely due to my reaching the end of the semester.”

Raphael shook his head. “You’ve never acted this way before at the end of a semester.”

“End of my college career, then?”

“Nice try, Raphael said, commencing a new battle with his slice of pizza. “I know something’s up,” he said, his mouth full. “You were evasive this morning when I was talking to you, you were mesmerized by that painting when I got home from my finals, you opted for pizza and pool for your birthday dinner, which I would never have expected, and you let me win a game of pool, which I know you would never do.”

“I didn’t let you win. I simply miscalculated,” Isaac rebutted.

“That’s even stranger,” Raphael exclaimed as he swallowed his bite of pizza. “Dude, you’ve been distracted and cagey all day. If you don’t spill, I will take advantage of your only being seventeen and drag your butt to the school head doctor tomorrow.”

Isaac’s jaw clenched as he stared at Raphael, who stared back at him, unyielding. Finally, he let out a sigh.

“I had a nightmare last night and I can’t stop thinking of the house,” he informed him. “It’s had me distracted all day.”

“You mean the one your grandparents left you,” Raphael responded, taking another bite of pizza.

Isaac nodded. “I need to get there.”

Raphael’s chewing slowed and Isaac could tell that he was trying to choose his words very carefully. “To get your mind off of the house,” Raphael decided to respond.

Isaac nodded. “And my gut. Plus I figure it wouldn’t hurt to start the move-in process now. I plan to phone the courts on Monday regarding the emancipation process. ”

“We can leave first thing in the morning.”

Isaac’s face twisted.

“What?”

“I was hoping to leave tonight. After dinner.”

“That’s why you keep me on as a friend, isn’t it?” Raphael remarked. “You wanna use me for my age.”

Isaac rolled his eyes. “Don’t you think if it was age I was looking for I would have befriended someone who was at least twenty-one?”

“Except your license goes off the probationary period when you turn eighteen.”

“Your ability to drive at night is a bonus, but it’s merely icing on the cake, so to speak.”

Raphael stared at him for a long moment before responding. “After we finish the pizza and play one more game of pool.”


“You saw something in your nightmare.”

Isaac blinked at Raphael as his statement brought him out of his mind. He watched as Raphael’s eyes flicked over to him for a split second.

“That’s how you came up with the painting. And that’s why you’re so bent on getting to the house.”

“My gut is why I need to get to the house," Isaac corrected firmly.

"And why does your gut have this sudden concern with the house? You haven't been there since before their funeral."

Isaac swallowed. "You're going to think I'm crazy," he said.

"Dude, please. I've been questioning your sanity since the day I met you."

"That didn't stop you from threatening to take me to the campus psychologist," Isaac pointed out.

"Yeah, that was just to get you to talk. I wouldn't have actually done it."

Isaac looked at him with slight annoyance. "I'll make note of that for future threats," he replied.

"You're avoiding the question."

Isaac sighed. "The ghosts of my grandparents reside in that house. At least, that's what the nightmare told me."

One of Raphael's eyebrows rose as his eyes glanced over at Isaac briefly before returning to the road. "Your grandparents died a peaceful death. Old age, wasn't it?"

Isaac nodded. "Yes, but my mother's death and the condition it followed were not so peaceful."

Isaac watched as Raphael blinked, clearly trying to make sense of it. "But they died first. They died before your mom got was even diagnosed."

"She was diagnosed a week later. And my grandma had this crazy way of sensing things before they were revealed. I have a feeling they knew and their inability to care for mom in her time of crisis left them in the house."

"Alright, so what did this nightmare that you're trying so hard to validate tell you you're supposed to do there?"

Isaac shrugged. "Paint."

Raphael's brow furrowed. "Paint what, exactly?"

"They said they would tell me. I believe that is where the one I painted earlier came from. I've been thinking about it and the only way I can see myself having blacked out during the process is if I was..." his hand moved in the air as he tried to find the word.

"Possessed?" Raphael offered.

"In a sense."

Raphael nodded slowly, clearly ingesting and analyzing. "That's actually a plausible explanation," he said after a moment, acceptance with a hint of awe riding out on his voice.

Isaac gave a curt nod of agreement and let his eyes drift back to watching the sun complete its journey past the horizon.

"Except," he heard Raphael begin to consider.

He looked back over at him, an expression of irate disbelief painted across his brow.

"Except for the fact that you're a terrible liar," Raphael finished.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Isaac stated indignantly.

"Look, dude, your ghost story was wonderful, don't get me wrong. It almost had me fooled."

Isaac stared at him.

"You don't believe in the supernatural. You've always said that ghosts are nothing more than figments of the imagination."

"That was before I was shown."

"Before you were shown? Are you listening to yourself right now?"

Isaac caught a glimpse of Raphael's eyes as they passed under a street lamp and wondered if it was his imagination or if they'd truly gone wild.

“I don’t see what the issue is,” Isaac said carefully. “You believe in a loving god and angels. Why is it a problem for me to believe in ghosts?”

He could see Raphael’s jaw clench in the next flash of light from a street lamp. The span of silence was long enough to make Isaac begin to feel his insides squirm, though he refused to let it show.

“Alright,” he finally heard Raphael relent.

“Regarding what?”

“I’m going to stop asking. I know you’re trying to pull the wool over my eyes with this whole ghost thing. As if that isn’t phony enough in itself, you’re trying to use your mother’s illness and death, which you’re usually pretty bitter about on the rare occasion that you do talk about it, to support this illusion you’re using to cover up whatever your actual reason for suddenly having to go to your grandparents’ place is. I never expected you would play that card. I’ll take the hint. It’s none of my business.”

Isaac could see his chest rise and fall as he tried to bring his breathing back to a semi-normal pace after his outburst.

Despite the fact that you’ve gotten me to drive you out there,” Raphael added on when he got his second wind. “You do realize I’m missing a graduation party some buddies of mine are throwing for this, right?”

“I never said you had to stay,” Isaac responded coolly. “I merely need you to drop me off. I can take the Greyhound back or rent a car or something when I’m ready to get the rest of my things.”

“When you’re ready? Wouldn’t it be easiest to just pick it all up when you come back to walk?”

Isaac shrugged. He could see Raphael look over at him out of the corner of his eye, only to have realization descend upon his face as he returned his focus to the road.

“You’re not walking, are you?”

“What’s the point? I deem it a great waste of time. I told my mother that it was a waste of my time and energy to walk in the high school graduation, but she insisted. Out of people to walk for, I figure it would be best to focus my time and energies to more important tasks at hand.”

“Like your spirit-induced paintings?”

Isaac’s eyes threatened to roll, but he noticed the corner of Raphael’s mouth tilting upwards, so he terminated the rolling of the eyes and allowed his own mouth to quirk. “Something like that,” he replied.

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