The Artist

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Chapter Five

“You look scared, what’s wrong?” I heard Toby’s voice ask with a small laugh. It startled me, making me blink a few times in shock before I turned to look at him. It was Monday morning and the start of the summer school season. We were standing in the school hall with a bunch of other teachers, watching students walk in. Most of them looked tired and irritated — like they’d been forced out of bed and instructed to come to school —which probably wasn’t too far from the truth. Many people took summer classes because they’d failed them during the year, and not just because they liked learning during the holidays.

“They look like this every year,” Mr. Philip, the physics teacher said, laughing as he walked by us and towards the hallway that led to the offices belonging to science teachers. Toby laughed, before motioning for me to follow him, and we headed to the art room together.

“We’re lucky because we don’t have to walk from classroom to classroom since all at classes are held right here,” he said with, as he spread out his hands motioning to the wide room. He looked refreshed today. His brown eyes were wide and looked excited, and his face had more color than before. His brown curls were also shorter and cupped around his face more smoothly - a haircut?

I looked around the art room, a little confused about where to sit. I wasn’t a student anymore, but the desks set up in the room belonged to MR. Dave, Mr. Steve, and Toby respectfully.

“You can sit by Dave’s desk,” I heard Toby say, answering my unasked question. I muttered a ‘thank you’ before heading to the seat. The feeling I had when I did was both odd and satisfying. Mr. Dave’s desk was decorated with stickers and engravings — personalization at its best. I smiled, spotting some of the scribbles and carvings that belonged to students.

Chelsea was here, 2009.

As I read the messy engraving I started to wonder how long Mr. Dave had been working behind the desk I was now sitting by as a teacher.

“He’s very restless.” Toby’s words made me turn to him. He was writing something down on a notepad, the odd way he held his pen like it was a brush made me smile a bit.

Little things.

Little things that I noticed about him were endearing to me.

“He scribbles on everything he can get his hands on, you should see his report folder. He’s restless, but aren’t we all?” Toby laughed in that small lisp way of his — like it was a part whisper and a part chuckle. He paused what he was doing, looking at nothing in particular as he continued talking. “It’s an artist thing I suppose, manifesting in us in different ways. Dave’s might be scribbling at everything in sight, and mine might be being overly organized.”

I smiled at that, humming in agreement as I picked the bag I’d put down on the floor when I took a seat. I fished for my schedule, finding it and reading through it to see that I only had one class today. I turned towards Toby again, watching him type, and I noted that look of concentration was on his face where he frowned a bit and bit his bottom lip. I soon looked away, deciding to go through my phone. I was a bit shocked to see I had a message from a while ago — I barely got those if I didn’t count the ones from my parents, and a certain kind of awkwardness seemed to emit from the phone in my hands when I realized it was from Wyatt as well.

WYATT:

I hope you’re off to a good start. Just checking in.

9:32 AM.

ME:

I’m doing fine. Thanks for asking.

9:42 AM.

I put my phone away after sending the reply, deciding that I should spend the free time I had sketching my composition for a painting I was going to do in the future. I carried my drawing pad and pencils everywhere with me, so they were always within reach. I took them out of my backpack and started working on the painting’s concept. I was soon in my own little world, drawing and humming like I was in the art room with my mother when she played here old school house songs with her music player. I didn’t realize when Toby came up behind me, and it was when he leaned forward and took hold of the table’s edge that I sat up in shock, looking up to stare at him in confusion.

“I wanted to see what you were doing,” he said, smiling lightly before turning his attention to my sketch. “It’s well done, like always. What’s it for?”

I looked away from him to turn to my drawing of a stumbling horse. I shrugged at it, trying to swallow the feeling of my heart racing before answering Toby’s question. “It’s a composition for an exhibition on movement. I’m going to have a couple of paintings displayed with my mum’s soon.”

“Oh,” he said in response, leaning away from me. The action gave me an odd feeling. It felt like a mixture of relief and disappointment.

I turned to find that he’d made his way back to his table and was now typing into his laptop. “I thought it was for your college portfolio,” he suddenly said.

“I’ve already submitted that,” I said, turning away from him to face the sketch in front of me. In a way, I felt like the horse in the drawing but stumbling over feeling and words instead of rocks.

“That’s good, head start and all. A lot of people don’t finalize their portfolio till the week before college starts,” he said, the art room falling into a think silence after his last word. For several minutes the only sound in the room was the sound of my pencil moving against my drawing pad and the sound of Toby’s noisy laptop keyboard.

You’re not going to get very far if you don’t talk to him at least. A voice in my head said. I sighed, pausing what I was doing to turn towards him. Toby was writing something down, but I wasn’t sure what. I opened my mouth but closed it when I realized I didn’t have anything specific to say.

Come on. I scolded myself, feeling my hands shake. Why are you like this?

“Is something wrong?” Toby’s voice made me turn towards his table again. I shook my head at his curious expression, running a hand through my hair as I watched him replace the look with an unconvinced one.

“No, I just wanted to ask you how college was like for you,” I said, trying to sway the conversation to another direction. I watched as his lips let out a small ‘oh’ before he ran a hand through his hair, the strands of hair falling back into place immediately after. I frowned, thinking that was an odd response.

“It was fine,” he finally muttered after a while, shrugging as he turned back to his laptop to continue typing.

“Just fine?” I asked, watching as he sighed before leaning back in his chair.

“Yeah, just fine,” he repeated, making me nod my head before turning away. I didn’t want to come off as nosy.

“I enjoyed my course. I love arts, but I made a mistake along the line. I wanted to do my masters I that university right after, but along the line, I got desperate to leave the university altogether. Yeah, so there’s that...” Toby ended up rambling when I hadn’t questioned him further. I frowned a bit, wondering what to say to that, but the sound of the art room’s door swinging open made me turn towards it to find five students walking in. I looked over at my schedule that I’d placed beside my drawing pad on the desk, and I realized that it was a class Toby was taking, not me.

He got up, leaving what he’d said hanging in the air. I watched as he put on a smile to greet the students as they settled down on donkey benches, but his facial expression looked out of place - slightly nauseous, like he’d opened a can of bad sardines.

I shook my head, wondering why I was over thinking things before returning to my waiting sketch. Later in the day, I got to take a soon to be freshmen class. The students were grumpy at first, but they soon warmed up to me. It was great, seeing as I don’t know what I would have done if they hadn’t.

“Good job today,” Toby told me as I packed up my things at the end of the school day. I thanked him in a low tone before adjusting the straps of my backpack and leaving the art room. I felt for my phone in my pocket when I felt it vibrate against my thigh. Taking it out, I saw that it was another text from Wyatt.

WYATT:

Are you done?

2:05 PM.

ME:

Yeah.

2:07 PM.

I ended up typing and pressing send. I soon found smiling soon after. Wyatt and I weren’t really talking yet, but it was a start. I liked the short texts — I could get used to them.

I took the bus home, letting myself look out the window and watch the passing scenery. I soon found myself thinking back to what Toby had said.

“Fine.”

I sighed, resting my head against the window. I was probably overthinking things. For instance, the mistake might not be as grave as I thought it was. A missed assignment, maybe?

The bus stopped at my bus stop a few minutes after and walked the rest of the way home to be greeted by my sisters and parents asking me questions. Sometime in the evening, Wyatt asked Xander and I if we were up for watching a movie with him, and we agreed. We didn’t talk too much during the movie — just exchanged basic questions and answers, but it felt comfortable - nice, and I was able to take my mind off over overthinking things in the process. If Toby wanted to tell me more about his experience, he’ll tell me in his own time.

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