Chapter 1: The Empty Canvas
People say a picture can paint a thousand words, yet a painting still caused me thousands of tears.
One single painting caused me around 200 years of pain, tears and sorrow, that was until I met Stephan.
Stephan Larr was incredible, he was the first man, no, the first person I ever loved so deeply.
Our love story isn’t your typical love story or the type of love you’re thinking of, you’ll soon get what I mean. I didn’t believe or understand love before meeting Stephan, he didn’t either. I thought all the money in the world would buy the love of others and he thought that a change in identity was all he needed to be loved by others.
It took two very misguided and selfish people to meet in a painting after a young girl named Lauren Summers, that’s me, asked a wizard to paint her some love and was given the change to move from an empty canvas into a real painting where she later met Stephan and they discovered love together; they changed each other for the better. This story can come off as really confusing if you don’t know how it all started, so let’s start off in Los Angeles, the place where I grew up and lived until the day my mom chose to contact an elderly man who trapped me in a canvas.
It was the September 3rd ,2020, I was brushing my long, curly, rusty orange hair until it was silky to perfection. I applied some bubblegum pink coloured blush to my pale ivory coloured skin and put on some mascara as well as some coral coloured lipstick.
I know basically every shade of every colour after being trapped in an empty canvas full of paint cans for about 200 years, which might not sound too realistic, but you’ll understand why 200 years soon enough.
My makeup and outfits were always on the funky colour spectrum. That day, I was wearing a mid-length, designer, plum dress with small ruffle sleeves and a ruffle trim along with matching plum coloured heels as it was my first day of grade 12. I may sound overdressed, but I have my reasons.
“Come down and eat breakfast before you’re going to be late for school,” my mom said and I obeyed her and came down stairs to the kitchen where she was seated at our large birch wood dining room table which most likely wouldn’t have fit in the kitchen of a normal sized house, but fit in our house as it was a mansion. A short elderly man with indigo blue eyes, olive coloured skin, a long salt and pepper beard, navy glasses that hung half way off his nose and a matching robe was with my mom.
“This isn’t dad, is it?” I asked my mom confused.
“No, your dad is part of the reason of why I called this wizard over,” my mom explained with a slight laugh, sounding absolutely nuts.
I looked at her with wide eyes as my dad could be responsible for my traumatic childhood and well for taking a shit right in the middle of my mom’s perfect life.
My mom had her whole life planned out. She grew up from a good family, her dad was a lawyer and her mom was a doctor. She was an only child whom her parents cared about dearly and would almost do anything for as long as she did what she was told and got a good job. My mom was an excellent student, had a few close friends but prioritized her studies as she planned on following in her dad’s footsteps and becoming a lawyer. She was always closer to her dad than mom and wanted to make him proud. Then there was also the fact that she always took pride in standing up for what she believed in.
My mom graduated from high school as valedictorian and with an 88 percent average in all her subjects. She also had a positive mindset and so much potential, she even got into her first choice of a university. Two years through law school went by, my mom was enjoying it and was doing well until a guy named Isaac in one of her classes who was tall and handsome with warm ivory coloured skin, coffee brown hair that was sleeked back and hazel eyes caught her attention.
The difference between my parents was that my dad was cool and reckless, he didn’t believe actions had consequences whereas my mom was more reserved and focused on the impact of every action. However, when they were together, the recklessness in my dad brought out an edgy side to my mom, a side which drove her energy away from her studies, family, friends and prayer as she was always one who went to church every Sunday with her parents and read the bible in her free time.
My dad did nothing but bring out the worst in mom. Her parents saw what he was doing to her and didn’t approve, so she cut them out of her life, got a retail job and moved in an apartment with my dad. She had also cut out everything else she loved, the bible, church, her friends and even school when he quit to start a band as it all seemed to interfere with her relationship. It was as if my dad changed her completely, but not for the better.
According to my mom, he loved her. He would tell her that every day and showed her that through complementing her smile or her beauty, or even her positivity and how she stood by some of her beliefs. He’d also show her physically, through sex.
Not too long after they both dropped out of university, did my mom find out she was pregnant with me. Around this time, my dad’s band was getting good and they were planning to go on the road, he even planned on taking my mom with him until he found out about me.
He was beyond overjoyed to have a child with the woman he loved, but you see, my dad always believed males were superior to females, always believed males were capable of more than females. That females were good for nothing else other than marrying a man, doing everything for that man and taking care of their children, so he didn’t want to be surprised by my gender. Some could say he was very old fashioned, but I just say he was an asshole.
His buddies went on tour without him and he got a job that paid more than the occasional gigs he would get with his band. He planned on devoting his life to the woman he claimed to love, Annie, my mom and what he thought was their son. Yep, the fucking doctor got the gender wrong. If my dad only knew I was a girl before I was born, my whole childhood may have been different.
As soon as he found out I was a girl that night my mom gave birth to me, he didn’t respond too well, but he didn’t abandon my mom and I just yet, he did the worst thing he could’ve ever. My mom is half French and the name Laurence is a common and beautiful French name, it means bright one. They planned on naming me Laurence when they thought I was a boy as my mom still wanted to stay by her culture and always had strong beliefs that every child has so much potential to be the bright light this dark world could utilize. My dad practically put his music career on hold for my mom and I, so he didn’t want to just abandon us both as he didn’t know what he’d do with his life and genuinely loved my mom despite the responsibility thrown his way that didn’t involve a son or so he thought.
That bastard convinced my mom to still name me Laurence, he still wanted me to be his son and my mom agreed as he convinced her that Laurence is a name which works for both genders and the meaning behind the name is absolutely beautiful, but it didn’t end there.
For the first four years of my life, my hair was cut super short and I was always dressed in plaid shirts, dark jeans and sneakers which was my dad’s idea. My mom was too naïve to see that he would do anything to change me to a boy and not accept me for who I am even though I am his child. Why make love to a woman and create a child who you can’t even love anywhere close to her as you can’t even accept the gender of your child? What happened to as long as the baby is born healthy, the gender doesn’t matter and I’m happy?
My mom thought he wanted to dress me like a tom boy and didn’t mind it that much but as soon as he got angry when I talked about princesses, fairies and ponies and played with some dolls my mom got me, she realized what he was doing and called him out on it.
He was honest about his beliefs of men being superior to women. My mom was disgusted by him because it made her wonder of how he sees her, if he just sees her as a woman. If he just sees her as someone not capable of as much as a man could do, someone who can’t make a difference in the world, someone who can’t think for herself. Someone who is nothing more than a wife, mother, maid and nurse all at the same time but doesn’t get paid or recognized for what she does.
They got into a huge argument that day he admitted his beliefs. That night, he slept on the couch and my mom slept in their bed. He didn’t know how to deal with the situation at hand as he knew that he’d never fully accept me, never fully accept women in general and how empowering and inspiring we are or most women who aren’t rude, judgmental, gossipy, jealous, teenage girls, but that’s another part of my childhood Stephan reminded me of and made me forget in the same day, but I’ll get to that later.
The only solution my dad saw to the situation at hand was to leave the woman he claimed to love, I say claimed because his words said one thing, yet his actions said another. He left her to raise me alone and never came back.
My dad left her depressed as she saw everything as her fault. She blamed herself for not being what women are “meant” to be, slaves to men. She blamed herself for conceiving a daughter despite the fact that it’s the DNA in males that control the sex of a child.
My mom spent the next three years keeping me the way my dad dressed and groomed me as she secretly hoped he would come back if his girlfriend and son were waiting for him, desperately wanting a life with him. She was embarrassed and ashamed to come crawling back to her parents for help, so she kept her relationship with them as non-existent.
When my dad left, my mom was an absolute mess but later allowed me to be the girl I am as she soon saw no hope in my dad coming home. I was an absolute mess at the time because as big of an ass that my dad was, I was a little girl who was so used to my dad spending time with me, more like changing me, but I didn’t know or understand that at the time, so I would ask my mom when dad was coming home every day until I was about ten and began to see things for what they truly were. My asking just made things worse for her as she was already suffering from depression and anxiety and had nobody to turn to as she let go of all her past connections that mattered to her because of my dad and couldn’t meet any future friends as she wasn’t in a decent mental state to do so and she refused to get mental help from a professional.
I had nothing besides the few moments I shared with my dad to remember him by which I’m forever grateful for. I don’t look in the mirror and see him as I’m all my mom, her curly rustic orange hair, small nose, a relatively large smile, pale ivory skin and greyish blue eyes. You would think my mom had me alone as I look exactly like her, I kind of wish it was that way as it would’ve made everything so much easier on the both of us but then I wouldn’t have met Stephan, who I miss with all my heart and soul, but I’m glad we met.
My mom worked hard to support me as a child and taught me some valuable things in life, things that helped me stand my ground but I dug a little hole for myself while standing my ground which wasn’t too great. She taught me to always stay true to yourself and never change yourself for the sake of others unless it’s for the better which can be rare. She taught me that women are the most impactful and admirable creatures alive through the sacrifices they make and how hard they work. She also taught me to never become dependent on others as the only person you can truly depend on is yourself. These were significant life lessons which I always followed from a young age; they were my guidelines in life. I say were my guidelines as these life lessons allowed me to push myself away from others as I believed all I needed in life to succeed was myself, all I ever needed to love was myself but that later changed.
As a child, I stayed home alone at a young age and walked to and from school at a young age. My mom needed to work to give me a roof over my head, food, water and clothes to wear, second-hand clothes, but they still worked well. My mom was and still is an incredible woman, she deserved so much more than the life she was given, I think we both did. At age 16, I entered some contest in the newspaper that sounded way too good to be true, but you could only hope and dream as good things never happened to people like us. Good things never happened to a woman whose only love was for a man that didn’t see much in her. Good things never happened to the woman’s daughter, Laurence, the girl who has been on a waiting list to legally change her name to a female name that’s similar, Lauren. The girl with the second-hand clothes, the girl who puts up walls with good reason to almost everyone she meets, the girl who is always mistaken as transgender because of her name.
The contest I entered was meant for people like us in a way. All you had to do was mail a letter to a specific address of why your family should have $1000 a day for the rest of your life and our sad story happened to do the trick. I didn’t want to see my mom work so hard, I wanted her to relax and get back into practicing her religion and I planned to join her. I also didn’t want to be falsely labelled or excluded anymore at school, at least with all this money, I could afford to dress like a popular girl with all the name brand stuff and maybe even be one, no longer be the girl everyone looks down on or asks if her breasts are fake.
That’s how we got our mansion and that’s how I was able to dress the way I did for my first day of 12th grade. My mom did get back into her religious practices and I joined her for a little while until she met some friends that began to tag along and until I let my new so-called popularity get the better of me. I wasn’t as close to my mom and I used to be, I began to believe that money buys happiness as it bought me my new friends and status in school, that was until my mom invited Seth over to teach me another life lesson. A life lesson that even though you can’t always depend in others, you still need love in life from others and money doesn’t buy love.
“Mom, what do you mean wizard and what does dad have to do with it? If you’re still not over everything, we have the money for any treatment if you need it,” I suggested.
“That’s the problem. Money is great don’t get me wrong, but it’s creating problems. I told you never to depend on others and to never let others change who you are. That advice and the fact that you put up walls because of the impact your dad had on us allows you to feel alone at school and allows this money to change the way you view things, view people and move your walls. I was thinking that maybe we could donate all the money as we get it so the less fortunate can use it for basic essentials and you can go back to your normal self,” my mom explained honestly.
“What do you mean my normal self? I finally fit in at school! I finally feel like I can express myself as the girl who likes to crack a joke here and there, the same one that likes to play the flute and is obsessed with word puzzles, taking pictures and the shapes and colours of flowers. I’m not no longer mistaken as some poor, transgender girl and I feel as if I can actually talk to others and they can do the same!” I explained in my attempt to defend myself.
“I get it, I’m sorry you were judged that way for so long but don’t think a pretty outfit and money will erase those thoughts they had about you. That Mitch guy you’re dating, he didn’t even know you existed until you won all that money, what does that say about him? If he loved you for you, he would see you for you, he would see past the labels, yet nobody does that nowadays. What does that say about the world? The views in society run purely on money and I don’t want you to be part of that!” my mom explains kindly yet firmly.
“It’s too late, I’m already a part of that. I wanted to get noticed in school and Mitch is the most popular guy in my grade, so I said yes when he asked me out because I don’t believe my feelings are genuine either but can you please just let me finish my last year of high school, Mitch and I will long be over by then and then I can go to college to become a photographer where people will know and see me for me,” I explained but my mom didn’t want to hear it.
She hugged me super tight and threw me towards the elderly man as if I were a rag doll or something. The elderly man pulled out a wand and said some really fancy words. Next thing you know, we were in what looked to be an art studio with multicoloured walls and snowflake coloured floor tiles.
“You are a wizard?” was all I managed to say as I was in absolute shock at how we got to a place that was around the size of two bedrooms and full of canvasses. There was a single blank canvas in the middle of the room and surrounding it were many other canvasses that were painted with a forest scene, a meadow, a palace, a waterfall, a beach, a barn, puppies and so much more.
“Yep, the name’s Seth, Seth Rangers the wizard to be exact. You, Laurence, are an incredible young woman who has so much hope if money just wouldn’t get in your way, enabling you from being like the people who labelled you. I’ve been watching you for some time now as your mom asked me to and I saw the way you treated those tenth graders, it’s not right,” Seth explained.
He was correct. As soon as I became Little Ms. Popular, I didn’t want to be labelled for not labelling others, so I just followed in the poor example of the labellers which wasn’t right.
“I know that wasn’t right and I’m sorry for that, but I’m not sorry for making a name for myself at that school, a name that isn’t Laurence,” I said.
“That money may have given you the name Lauren to the people at your school but with the way you’re treating others and being influenced by greed and popularity, you’re still Laurence to me; you haven’t created a new name or identity for yourself just yet. You love yourself but can’t be yourself in front of others because you’re afraid that someone will love you, so you don’t fully take down the walls. You move the walls where you please, so they can see a little bit of you, but not enough to see the Lauren your mother knows, the Lauren I know after watching over you lately,” Seth explained and I couldn’t help but wonder why and how he was watching me. That’s what I was focused on, everything else he was saying seemed bonkers to me at the time.
“Why and how were you watching me?” I asked Seth curiously.
“I’m a wizard that will come visit concerned people in their dreams. Your mom was concerned that you’ll never understand how beautiful love is because of your father, so I’m taking the task on. I’m going to show you what love is through a blank canvas,” said Seth as he pulled out that long stick-like wand of his and I was magically in that blank canvas.
It looked as if I was just in a room with white walls and flooring. There were cans of paint with weird names like orange mango peach smoothie or sunshine yellow, all stacked in a pyramid-like structure. In each diagonal row were different shades of a specific paint colour and paintbrushes of every thickness imaginable laid beside the structure.
“What are you doing? How long are you trapping me in here for?” I yelled in complete utter panic.
“Calm down. In this canvas, no basic needs or a normal lifespan matter, same goes when you enter the painted canvas, so you’ll be alive even if I have to keep you for the full 200 years which I hope isn’t the case,” he said from outside of the canvas.
“200 years?” I asked still in panic.
“All of these paintings are painted by myself but expire to hold humans in exactly 200 years, I know because I’ve trapped other people in empty canvas before, but nobody has been able to escape. You’re stuck in this empty canvas for as long as it takes you to admit you need love in your life. As soon as you believe that, all you have to say is four simple words, “Paint me some love!” and the paint cans will open allowing you to paint around you what you think love is. If I think you’re ready, I’ll send you to my actual paintings where you’ll encounter another human and have the remaining time from the 200 years to love that person as much as yourself if not more, otherwise, you’ll be painted into one of my paintings as if you never existed, same goes for the man. If you end up loving this man and this man loves you then you’ll return to the actual world in the exact moment before I took you here,” and that’s all Seth said until everything went silent and I was left alone in an empty white canvas for what might be an eternity unless I manage to find love with that man he was referring to but there’s no way in hell that would happen, was what I at least thought at the time.