Autumn Leaves - A Short Story

 It was freezing once morning came around causing me to dig myself deeper into the futon. The sun was glaring in through the lack-of-curtain windows of the tiny studio apartment, enveloping the single room in an incandescent light.

      Was it morning already? Throwing the blankets off me, I groaned and lazily got out of bed. The floor was chilly on my legs as I crawled towards the curtain wall separating the bedroom from the living room. The curtain was just sheer enough to see a figure walking across the living room and into the kitchen.

      Clad in only boy shorts and large flannel, I crawled into the living room observing the sight before me. Brad, dressed in basketball shorts, was cooking in the space of the small kitchen. A giggle escaped from my lips before I could stop it. Clamping my mouth shut from laughing even more, Brad whipped his head around but I made sure to hide behind the island.

      “Lennon, I know you’re up.” His voice was raspy, sleep still evident in his speech. With that, I got up from the floor and smirked at the shirtless boy in front of me.

      I walked around the island and stood a distance away watching him fry up eggs and bacon. It smelled delicious and my stomach grumbled as I sniffed it. “This is why I keep you around. I need someone to feed me every once in a while,” I joked and sat on one of the stools.

      He shook his head, a sigh eliciting from his lips. “Lennon, you know I worry about you, right?” Nodding, I kept my head low. My heart suddenly felt heavy as I heard the worry in his voice as if something other than his worry was wrong, but it only lasted for a second before it disappeared. My appetite disappeared a month ago, and I knew that he knew that I wasn’t eating. But it was tough when the money you made went to buying art supplies than groceries.

      Before Brad had the chance to lecture me of my eating habits, though, I quickly questioned him, “Have you talked to your dad, lately?” He knew what I was doing but he didn’t press on. He simply shrugged and ignored the question while placing a plate in front of me. A smiled played at my lips. “Thank you, Brad,” I mumbled, shoveling forkfuls of egg into mouth.

      His face contorted into disgust as I devoured my breakfast but then he laughed, digging into his plate. It was quiet for a few minutes, the clattering of our utensils filling the silence. Nothing else needed to be said.

      He was staring at my walls, each one covered with each painting and drawing I’ve ever done. It was a mess with different colored paper

      “Brad?”
      Brad whipped his head toward me, a sheepish smile gracing his face as he realized he was caught snooping. “Yeah, sorry, what?”

      “Do you have any plans today?” I asked again, leaning against the island, opposite of him. Brad stared down at his food, his too long hair falling against his face. He shook his head, his hair never staying in one place.

      “I’m actually still tired, I think I’m going to try and sleep off the hangover that you caused.” Brad got up from the stool and walked back towards my make-shift bedroom. I nodded in response which was futile considering he was gone already and picked up his barely touched plate. With a feeling of disappointment, I put the dishes in the sink, not wanting to do anything anymore.

      I was disappointed because I knew something was wrong with Brad, and I wanted to be the one that he opened up to.

*****

      It was midday when I finally set up the blank canvas and palette of different colored oils. I hadn’t painted in a while because lack of inspiration but here’s to hoping that setting up my work space would get me somewhere. Brad was behind the curtain, inside my room, taking a nap, saying something along the lines of ‘needing my beauty sleep’. That princess.

      Rolling the sleeves up of the flannel, I grabbed a paint brush from a container and sat on a stool but once I did, my mind went blank. My head used to be filled with thoughts and memories and jumbled messes but every time I tried to put any of that onto the canvas, nothing ever came out.

      For the past month, my inspiration was lacking. Before, I would paint at least two medium canvases and sell them to a corner antique shop just down the road but now I could barely paint a small one.

      Groaning in realization that I would not get anything done, I slumped my shoulders in a huff.  Frustration and anxiety rushed through my veins and it wasn’t going away. A problem I always had was putting myself under too much pressure and expecting too much from myself. And I felt that problem very much.

      In frustration, I threw the brush across the room, not caring where it landed, and hearing a loud oomphfollowed by a clang. My head whipped to the left as I saw Brad shuffling across the floor, a hand on his forehead. I bit my lip to keep myself from laughing as he got closer, holding the paint brush in his other hand.

      “You dropped something,” he stated, handing me the brush as he moaned about the stinging pain on his forehead. “That really hurt, woman.”

      As he sat on the couch I shrugged and continued to stare at the blank canvas. I dragged the clean brush across the canvas, hoping to elicit any type of image into my mind, but I still got nothing.

      “Are you having trouble, Lemon?” I rolled my eyes at the childish nickname but mumbled a ‘yes’ nonetheless.

      “I’ve been having trouble trying to come up with something.” I stood from the stool. Brad looked at me in bewilderment but I couldn’t stare back long enough. Instead, my eyes trailed down his bare torso, taking in every tattoo, muscle, and freckle. He was not a little boy anymore and the boy – no, man – in front of me made my stomach twist in knots.

      He cocked his head to the side, his green eyes glimmering with mischief. “Are you okay?” My eyes snapped to his face, knowing I had been caught checking him out.
      I sighed and stepped back to the stool, not wanting to be anywhere near Brad at this time. He made everything that much harder in my life. The way his lips were naturally pink, the strong, defined jaw line, the dimples, his curly, windswept hair that was now slicked back because it was too long and his eyes. His shining, emerald eyes that held every emotion possible but made it entirely impossible to decipher what he was feeling. Brad Williams was beautiful and complicated and perfect. And that scared me because never in my life have I ever thought that way about someone.

      “Paint me like one of your French girls.” It was so abrupt and there was a hint of playfulness in his voice.

      I did a double take as I heard that line, nearly choking on air as I looked over the canvas. Brad was now laying on the couch, thankfully still fully clothed, with his head resting on his hand, being propped by the couch. No words came out of my mouth as it opened and closed. A smirked graced his lips as his tongue gently guided over them, evidently wetting them.

      “Don’t be so daft,” I scoffed, and rolled my eyes, trying not to seem affected by the way his deep voice grew a few octaves higher. I also tried not to notice the way his stomach was contracted, showing off his sculpted abs and I almost wanted to jump off a building.

      Why did I have this beautiful creature in my house, when I knew I couldn’t handle him? This was just too much

      All Brad could do was laugh as he sat up, and when he did I couldn’t help but gasp in surprise.

      “Stay there!” I yelled, not wanting to lose the perfect moment of lighting.

      Brad was confused but didn’t say anything. The way he was posed, when compared to the lighting of the sun coming in from the window almost made him picture perfect. Wait, he was already picture perfect. I just hoped my painting could do him justice.

      “I was only kidding,” Brad started but was cut off when I held up a finger.

      His lips were parted as he looked off the side, his emerald eyes almost glittering in the sunlight. His dark hair was a couple shades lighter as the sun reflected off of him from behind. His arm rested against the back of the couch as a leg was curled under him. It really was the perfect representation and the inspiration and motivation to paint came almost immediately.

     My hand moved on its own accord as I mixed different shades and tones to get the colors of his skin right. I felt the brush glide on the canvas, the smoothness of the n giving me a feeling of reassurance.

      I wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but from the corner of my eye Brad kept twiddling his thumbs, moving his legs and running his hands through his hair.

      “I’m almost done,” I assured him, my eyes flickering to his for only a second before returning back to the now colored canvas. The background was a huge contrast to his light skin and all that was left to paint were his eyes. His bright, emerald eyes that beautifully glowed with happiness.

      A few small, gentle strokes later, I set the brush down not entirely sure about the finished work.

      “I’m finished?” It was more of a question as I observed the painting, trying to see it in a different point of view. Brad jumped up from the couch with such speed, untangling his limbs and almost tripping over his feet. He stretched before taking quick steps towards me. He stood behind me, his face next to mine, his hands placed on shoulders.

      It was quiet for a few seconds, Brad’s even breathing calming my beating heart. I kept my eyes on the painting, too scared to look at him, for fear of finding out what he really thought.

      “It’s amazing,” he finally breathed out, standing up straight, his arms falling at his sides. ”Just, absolutely amazing.”

      I peered up at him, my eyes shining over with relief just as I saw his flood with, was it admiration? It was when he looked down at me, that I lost my breath, teeth nibbling the inside of cheek, my heart picking up speed. The rate my feelings had grown for the boy standing in front of me made me anxious.

      Anxious in the same way a little girl is when she gets her first crush. The same butterflies, the same confusion and the same giddiness. And when his eyes skimmed down my face, across my nose and to my lips, my heart nearly jumped out of its confinements.

      And when I saw him lean ever so slightly, head barely moving but moving nonetheless, I jumped out of my seat and ducked under him trying to distance myself as I closed my eyes.

      “Look at me,” Brad said, his voice hoarse and I heard his steps He took my chin in his rather large hand before lifting my head up. My eyes snapped open and once again, I was taken aback at the beauty of his eyes. He gazed into my eyes, and then my lips. There was ache in my chest, a slow turning of my stomach, the shaking hands. It was all too much.

      “Fuck it,” I said after a beat and without another thought, I leaned up, gently placing my lips on his. Brad wrapped his arms around my waist, and pressed his body against mine, lips moving in sync, my hands sliding into his hair. The silence of the room was deafening but it was welcomed as his lips parted my own. Brad’s hand slid down my waist, the touch sending shivers throughout my body. My heart fluttered, excitement and relief coursing through my system

      In the back of my mind, I knew doing this would be consequential but I pushed them away. The aftermath was something I wasn’t even going to consider. At this moment, I had Brad in my arms. I’d deal with the consequence of my actions later. I gasped for breath as we parted, my eyes closed as I tried to calm down. Almost immediately, I felt a rush of cool air and I slowly opened my eyes, realizing that I was staring at my wall and Brad nowhere in sight. Confused, I walked around my flat; nothing looked different. The painting created, though, had changed and it was then that I noticed a pair of wings protruding from Brad’s back. Biting my lip, my stomach dropped as I realized I was trying to block something from my mind. Walking into the kitchen, hoping that what I was thinking was merely just a thought, the only thing that caught my attention was the calendar. Today was twenty-fourth of August and there was one thing written on it dating three weeks ago that I don’t remember writing.

Brad’s funeral @ 11 am.