The Artist

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Chapter Two

We got home soon after and met our mother talking to Xander’s parents while he sat down in one of the living room sofas.

“Hey!” Wyatt said, waving at him as we walked in. Xander rose his head up. He had dark brown hair like most people in my family, but his eyes were a warm green instead of the common deep brown. That was probably from his father, the sperm donor to his parents.

Xander looked surprised by Wyatt’s friendliness. He even pointed at himself oddly as if asking if he’d been actually talking to him.

Wyatt laughed, nodding towards him. “Yes, I was talking to you. How have you been?” he asked, tucking his hands into his pockets.

“Oh,” Xander said, looking away briefly. “I’ve been doing fine,” he answered as he continued to watch the muted news playing on the TV screen in front of him. I didn’t blame Xander for being surprised. Wyatt barely acknowledged his presence anytime he visited before, but Wyatt had changed. He’s a lot friendlier — open. His boyfriend must have rubbed off on him.

“I’m heading upstairs, do you know which room you’re staying in?” Wyatt asked, adjusting the strap of his backpack as he looked over at Xander. Xander turned towards him, running a hand through his hair as he nodded in reply.

“Yeah, I’m staying in the guest room,” he said as Wyatt smiled.

“Ah, okay. If you need anything I’ll be up in my room,” Wyatt said before leaving the living room. The place went silent with me standing by a sofa, and Xander returning his gaze to the muted TV screen in front of him.

“Wyatt seems different,” I heard him say.

“Yeah,” I agreed, letting my nails sink into the soft material of the sofa as I bit my bottom lip. “How long do you think your mums are going to spend talking to my mum?” I asked. I needed to tell my mum about the opportunity Mr. Dave had told me about. I’d thought about it as Wyatt and I had walked home in silence, and with each passing thought on the way, it’d seemed more like a good idea.

So what if Toby was going to be there? It would just be three months, and I’d get paid as well as gain some experience. He’d probably act like nothing was out of the ordinary anyway, so the stabbing pain in my chest would be easier to ignore.

“I’m not sure, maybe another thirty or so minutes? They really don’t want me to be here on my own,” Xander laughed, making my eyes widen briefly in surprise. I’d barely heard him do anything but talk softly under his breath, and yes, laughing was a bit out of the ordinary for him, or anyone in his nuclear family for that matter.

“Ah,” I said as I took a sit on the sofa I’d been resting my weight on. “They’re really protective aren’t they?” I watched as Xander shrugged in response to my question, not saying anything as he returned his divided attention to the TV again. I let out a sigh, taking my phone out of the back pocket of my jeans to go through it as I waited.

After a while, my mum walked into the living room with Xander’s parents. One of them was my mum’s sister, a petite woman with the signature Wilson brown hair and eyes, while the other was her wife Ivanka who was a redhead with dark eyes. They were based in Canada, my mum’s sister being a newspaper illustrator, and her wife being a journalist.

“Xander, we’ll be leaving soon,” aunt Ivanka said with a small smile. I could tell that she was worried by her tense stance. She didn’t look like she was prepared to leave the house or Xander behind. Xander hadn’t been out of his hometown for more than a month before, and schooling in the USA for months at a time was a big step — maybe too big of a step for his parents to digest.

Xander tore his gaze from the TV to look at his parents with a smile on his face. He got up when my mum’s sister spread her hands, and he walked into the hug.

“I’ll miss you guys,” he said when she let him go, and letting him move from her to hug aunt Ivanka. “I’ll call often.”

He watched them get escorted out of the house by my mother after that, when my mum got back into the house he went to stand by the window, probably watching them drive away. His shoulder soon slacked, and he let out a sigh before looking away from the window.

They must be out of sight now.

“They’re gone,” he said, frowning a bit like he’d just realized it was a reality.

“And they left you in good hands,” my mum said with a smile. She was now sitting on the couch. “You can head to the guest room. Caleb can help you unpack your luggage, can’t you Caleb?” she said, turning to look at me.

I nodded, watching Xander give us a small smile before leaving the room.

“I’ll be there in a sec. I want to talk to my mum first,” I said on top my voice as I watched him disappear into the hallway. When he was out of sight I turned to look at my mum. She was smiling a bit, like she always did when she was around me. She said she saw a replica of herself in me, and she couldn’t help being ‘amazed’ when she looked at me as she put it.

“What do you want to talk about?” she asked, making me realize I’d been staring at her for about a minute without talking. I apologized, running a hand through my hair as I put away my phone. When I felt like I’d recollected my thoughts I started explaining things to her.

“Mr. Dave said that it would be helpful if I helped coordinate summer classes this year,” I started, looking up to watch my mum’s face for a reaction. She wasn’t giving me any per se, she just stared on at me blankly so I continued talking. “They don’t have anyone to help out in the art department, and it’s not like I won’t get paid — I will, and I could always put it down as experience...”

“Okay.”

“Okay?” I asked, a little surprised she took it without any questions.

“Yes, Okay,” she repeated drumming her painted nails against her jaw. “You’ll be in college soon, and I think It’ll help since you’ll have to do everything from apprenticeship, co-ops, and internships there anyway.”

There was a short pause before she started talking again. “For how long will you do it, though?” she’s asked, flicking at her jeans with her lime painted fingernails. They were cut short since she wanted to be able to handle art supplies and the like. An accurate representation of what the dangers of being an artist with done up nails would be Ava trying to do anything with her acrylic nails. They always broke off, chipped, and the list could go on, but I’d give her an A-plus for effort. I could only imagine the mental gymnastics behind trying to hold on to a short pastel chalk.

“If that’s all you wanted to ask me, you can go and help your cousin settle in now,” my mum said with a small smile before getting up from her seat. She then walked out of the room and into the hallway, and I could hear her voice calling out from my dad. He must be holed up in the art studio working on a commission, and during such periods my mum had to remind him to eat or take a nap.

I left the sitting room for the guest room soon after. It was on the ground floor and not far off from the living room. I opened the door straight away, forgetting to knock.

“Gosh, you scared me,” Xander said when I walked into sight. He cursed under his breath afterward, his hands tightly pressing a book against his lap.

“I’m sorry,” I said, apologizing. I watched him sigh before he threw a book under the bed. It looked like a journal, and I could see the brown book jacket decorated with stickers peeping out from beneath the bed. I frowned, wondering why he’d put it there. I didn’t ask him though, I just went to sit at the edge of the bed close to the headboard. I watched him unpack. The drawers had been pulled out, and the closet doors were thrown aside to expose the naked hangers aligned within. The guest room was a smaller version of my room and Wyatt’s, although it had its own personal bathroom.

“So, what can I help you with?” I asked after a while of watching Xander move about the room cradling clothes and cosmetics.

“You could arrange the stuff the desk, I guess,” he said with a shrug as he stopped midway on his journey to the put the hangers now holding clothes in the open closet.

“Okay,” I agreed, getting up and heading for the desk he’d just littered with everything from books, figurines, and cosmetics. Funny, most of his journals were there, and it got me wondering why he’d shoved that particular one under the bed. I knew most of them contained ongoing stories, he loved handwriting them after all.

“Should I put the books under the bed with the other one you put there before?” I asked, turning to face him. He’d paused midway into folding a sweater on the bed, and he was now giving me a small frown, but his face immediately reddened when he seemed to come to a realization of what I was talking about.

“No...” he trailed, looking at anything but me. “That’s different,” he said with a shaky voice as he looked away and continued folding his sweater. I stared on at him with a raised brow for a while, confused, but I eventually turned away, deciding that I’d failed to mind my business enough for one day.

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