tagGay MaleCharcoal

Charcoal

byLillywriting©

This story is not all in one piece, not is there sex in the beginning- so if that is what you are looking for, look elsewhere. I am still very new at writing, but want to get better so any feedback is welcome! I hope you enjoy.

*

Soul was born silent. The doctors were worried when he refused to scream when they first blew in his face, then slapped his tiny bottom. He simply watched everything with wide, bright green eyes, and didn't utter a sound until he was nearly five. He was considered to be a bit slow, but he could read, he devoured books and wrote with a steady hand from the moment he could get his hand on a pen. His drawings were as haunting as they were beautiful. Soul didn't speak consistently until he met Michelle and David, twins who moved in across the street. He was fourteen years old.

When Soul began high school it was only with Michelle and David at his side that he made it through the day. If one or the other were not at school for the day, he could immediately leave and go home. Soul was fairly intelligent, both book smart and possessing common sense, but school and social interactions couldn't hold his interest. Teachers often realized that their time was better spent ignoring the odd, quiet boy. He slipped though the seams, but never far enough for it to make a difference. He sat in the back of classes and drew, never raising a hand or speaking, but somehow passing each test.

David and Michelle together were Soul's rock. They were inseparable, the three stooges. It was an odd group, none of them particularly outgoing, or into similar things, but none seeming to be able to function without the others. It was because of this that it had ever occurred to Soul that when high should come to an end, they would not go to the same university. Michelle sang, and David played piano, and Soul drew, he assumed they would all be going to the Art Institute, but when April first came along the news dropped like a bomb.

"I got into Cornell! I'm going to study genetics, see how we can fix so may of these diseases, I don't understand how I got in but I'm definitely going to go!" David was so excited. He had almost gotten hit by a car on his way across the street to share the news. Soul didn't say a word.

"Hey, don't use up all the air," Michelle shoved her twin, "David isn't the only ivy bound Greene, I am going Cornell too! We both got in, maybe because we are twins and they want to do experiments on us, but still I can't wait" Soul was stunned. Devastated. How was he going to survive without them?

"Well say something." Michelle was the more perspective of the two, and realized that Soul's silence was more than his more than his usual quietness.

"You aren't going to the Institute?" Soul's voice was hardly audible. They had never discussed this but he had always assumed. Always he had assumed they would be together.

"Well no- You are so good at drawing, I've had nightmares about what you draw, I just play what other people compose, it isn't some great talent, dude, like I can't make a living. I thought you knew I wanted to go to Cornell." David took a step toward Soul; maybe to give him a hug, Soul took a step back. He felt a lump of graphite begin to compress in his heart. A little more heat, a little more time, pressure and maybe I would have a diamond. He though. Maybe he could sell it, sell his heart, he wasn't really using it. Then he couldn't lose it; it couldn't be broken.

"Oh Soul, you didn't really think that we would be here with you forever did you?" Michelle ignored Soul's body language and wrapped her arms around him. "You had to know that one day we would all get married, all have families and move away from here. All end up in different places. We will come visit."

"But you will be together. Both of you at Cornell. I won't know anyone here." Soul hadn't used to mind being alone. He used to crave it. But ever since four years ago when the moving van had opened and the almost identical boy and girl had run across the street to look at Soul's chalk on the sidewalk he hadn't wanted to go back to that completely silent world.

"You'll meet people, you just have to say something, most people like to hear themselves so it won't take much to get them going." David indicated his sister, who in turn elbowed him in the ribs. But by this time Soul was ignoring them. If they weren't going to be there with him later, he might as well get used to them being gone now.

"Hey, don't be mad now." Michelle tightened her hold, Soul leaned his head on her shoulder, but in his head he had already begun his life without the twins.

The rest of senior year passed in a blur, without his rock Soul floated even more than he had before meeting the twins. His notebooks contained next to no words, only sketches of empty landscapes, abstract swirls that almost looked like watching eyes and flourishing scrawls of the alphabet, repeated until each letter blended into the next, losing all meaning.

"You will be fine Sweetie, I know you will." Soul's mother kissed him on the cheek after she finished making the bed in the tiny dorm. His roommate still hadn't arrived and Soul couldn't help but hope he would never arrive.

"Please stay," he whispered.

"What was that Sweetie?" Soul shook his head. He couldn't make his mother stay with him. He had gotten used to being alone. Or he told himself so. Michelle and David had left earlier in the month for orientation. Soul sat on what would be his new bed for the next year at least, it was hard, and lumpy, and laid out his new sketchbook. He couldn't think what to draw. Finally he was somewhere where drawing was what was expected of him and he had nothing to draw from, no muse, no imagination. Flopping on his back Soul watched other new and returning students find their rooms and lug their stuff through the un-air-conditioned halls, laughing with each other and calling out to old friends. It looked so easy for them. He didn't see anyone who looked nearly as lost as he felt.

"Hey! I guess you're my roomie, I'm Jon." The door banged open and a tall gangly boy with a shock of orange and yellow hair stood in the door pulling two huge suitcases behind him. Soul looked at him silently. "I'm a theatre major, I hope you don't mind musicals, I really love the music from a lot of them, though I really hate dancing, so I haven't really auditioned for any recently. What do you think you are going to major in? Oh drawing maybe, or are you just planning, so painting? Do you like acrylics or oils better, I like the look of oil paints, but even if I could draw, I mean paint, I would have to use acrylic cause I'm so clumsy I would get it all over me-" the boy had to pause to take a breath. "Sorry, I keep talking, I'm just really nervous. I've never been on my own before." This was nervous? Soul wondered if he had ever spoken so many words.

"I'm Soul, I like drawing, and I hate paints." Even that was a pretty long sentence for someone he didn't know.

"Awesome name, my name's pretty lame compared to that. I'm just named for my grandfather. Where'd your name come from?" Soul blushed. He didn't know how to do this small talk thing, but Jon had begun to put his clothes away in the drawers left open by Soul's mom, and talking to his back wasn't as hard as to his face.

"My dad, well I never knew him, I don't know if my mom really did either- she said when I was born I looked at everything like I could see its soul. So..." No stranger had ever gotten that story, even as bare bones as that telling was. But Jon didn't feel like a stranger. He felt like a friend. Almost more than David and Michelle. They were steady, but Jon felt real.

"That's amazing, you do have intense eyes. If I could paint, I would want to paint them." Jon looked right into Soul's eyes, then blushed. "Well I can't so I guess it doesn't matter does it. Wanna go and see if the dining hall has anything decent to eat?"

The first week passed amazingly painlessly, even though Michelle only texted once, and David not at all. Soul assumed they were busy and spent all his time getting to know the campus with Jon. Even though it was close to home the campus was like a world of its own. Even though he didn't speak more than a few words with anyone other than Jon, he felt like he was somewhere he could belong, for the first time in his life. It felt like he was living in a cliché, an artist among artists, finally home. But it was wonderful. He smiled at the leaves and the sculptures scattered among the buildings. He even didn't mind the bland dining hall food. The only problem was he couldn't draw. He tried to sketch every day, but nothing would come. His pencil was frozen above the page. He even tried to do the dull exercises some of his high school teachers had recommended, but not classically trained his attempts to draw from observation were horribly amateur and shaky. All too soon the fun was over and the work was to begin.

"I have Freshman Writing first, what do you have?" Not only was Jon an amazingly bubbly person, he was also an early riser, and a morning person. Soul looked at the other boy over his coffee and shrugged, he pushed his schedule across the slightly sticky dining hall table. "Ooh you have the same- oh you have a different one, I have Shakespeare and you have, well Art History? I didn't know you could have that as a Writing Lab." Jon also had the tendency of thinking out loud.

"Well you can." Soul took another sip of his coffee. His stomach hurt, so he probably shouldn't be drinking coffee, but a 9:00 am class was just too cruel to face without caffeine.

"Then I have Calculus. Eww I hate math. Then tomorrow I don't have any class Wednesday I have more Writing Lab then I have more Calc, then-"

"You know I won't remember this right?" Soul rubbed his eyes and looked at the clock on the wall. "We should probably get to class, meet you for lunch?" He stood without waiting for an answer and wandered toward his class. He had met the professor on an admitted students weekend and had gotten the impression she was a bit of a hard-ass and really didn't want to be late on the first day.

"Hello, welcome." The professor began three minutes till nine, Soul had been right to be a bit early. "I know the vast majority of you did not come here with the intention of writing many essays, but writing is a skill that everyone needs to master. Those of us who want to earn a living through our art will often find ourselves begging for money. I say this not because I am trying to discourage you, but because in order to do this, you need to be able to describe your art and intentions in an articulate and compelling way. The best way to practice this is to describe other's art." She brought up a PowerPoint with a photo of a shattered window. "We will begin by describing this beautiful window. I say we because I will be doing the assignment with you, we will be grading my description so you will have an idea what I am looking for. I will give you five minutes. Begin."

The class was not at all what Soul was imagining but he realized that he loved it. The Professor was smart and funny, but sure what she wanted from her students. Soul left the class glowing and almost ready to sign up for more writing classes. He couldn't wait to tell Jon about it. But when he found Jon in the dining hall the other boy seemed less than ready to hear what Soul had to say.

"Oh my she was so ugly, and she wants to be Juliet? I would be more likely to get the part!" A handsome boy was lying across the table in front of Jon, who was laughing.

"She wasn't that bad." But the look on his face told another story.

"Don't lie." It was a girl, sitting across from Jon. Sitting on either side of her were another girl and boy. "She is the ugliest thing you have ever seen in your life, her eyes were totally different sizes and different heights."

"She did have a nice voice." Said the boy.

"She could be in the chorus maybe," said the other girl.

"I heard they are doing Wicked in the spring." Said the boy on the table. "Maybe she could be Elphaba, no- even she's supposed to be kinda pretty." The whole group laughed, Soul could feel his high slipping. Still he had to eat.

"Hi." He spoke so softly he almost didn't think they would hear him. "Hey Soul!" At least Jon looked genuinely glad to see him, the others seemed a bit upset there hate-fest had been interrupted. "This is my roomie Soul, awesome name right? Anyway these guys are some of my fellow majors, Dale, Rose, Sarah, and Scott. Scott was the boy on top of the table. There was something off about him, something other than his casual dislike of the other girl's homeliness. Something deeper.

"Hello Soul, cool name, do you have special soul reading powers?" he looked into Soul's eyes and for the first time Soul felt how is mother must have felt when he was born. His heart fluttered, it was not a good feeling.

"Not that I know of, anyway, nice to meet you all. I'm going to go do some homework." He turned on his heel and left. He didn't know what it was, but he knew sitting at that table and eating with that group would not go well.

**

Back in the dorm Soul got out his sketchbook, after staring at the page for an hour he began to draw, the strokes came to him slowly, and he didn't have a finished image in mind, but the smooth crumble of the charcoal on the page soothed his heart and mind.

The sun had begun to set when Jon returned, his cheeks were flushed and he immediately began chatting about his plans with his new friends, Rose and Sarah had the day off too, and were going to begin running lines both for class and to audition for Romeo and Juliet. Soul hardly listened, and didn't speak. Still he drew. The picture was done completely in negative space, but Soul wasn't erasing. It was difficult to imagine the shapes that would bring the shadowed figures into the foreground, but he managed.

The image was one Soul had drawn before, but not in this way, there was a ring of people and monsters holding hands. It was a starry but moonless night in a forest of hands, the nails growing in spirals that faded into smoke. Sometimes the smoke mixed with smoke from a fire, sometimes the smoke formed words. This time it did neither, and the ambiguity somehow made the picture all the more frightening.

"Whatcha drawing?" Jon was pulled from his retelling of one of Scott's legendary critiques when he noticed Soul's activity. Soul didn't reply. "That's kinda scary, where'd you get the idea to draw that? I don't think I would want to be in that circle, wait, are those hands? God, dude, that's really freaky." Jon took a step back.

"I don't know, I've drawn it before." Soul carefully shaded the space that would define a tendril of smoke from a star. "Some things you can't explain you know?" Jon nodded, and was, for a moment, speechless.

"I used to always ask my mother why, why everything was the way it was. She would always say just that. 'Some things are the way they are, just because they can't be any other way.' You know I told her I wouldn't miss her, but I do?" he paused for another moment then Jon was back to his bubbly self, introspection forgotten. Soul nodded, but focused on his drawing, filing the knowledge of Jon's deeper side away for the future.

**

Soul found it was easiest for him to draw when he was either irritated with Jon or when he was out of he way. He found it irritating that he fit this other cliché. A tortured artist, he needed pain for his art. The other thing that inspired his art was Scott. Unfortunately Scott was in two of Soul's classes, one of them drawing.

"Fancy seeing you here." Soul looked around the side of his easel into a pair of the most purely hazel eyes he could remember seeing, it was a little disconcerting, they were so uniform with almost no striation or variation in tone. "Don't you remember me? I'm Scott." It was the class Soul looked forward to his whole life, a class freshmen almost never got to take, and now it was going to be ruined.

"I remember you."

"Don't look so forlorn, I'm not that bad. Plus now you don't have to get to know your easel buddy, cause you already know me." Scott flashed a smile that was all teeth. He looked rather like a demented werewolf from a pre-CGI horror movie, the guy was way too intense. Soul shuddered.

"I wouldn't mind meeting someone new-" but before he could finish the professor entered the room. He looked like he should be the curator of some prestigious museum. He was tall and slim, but with broad shoulders, his hair was a deep chestnut brown, just beginning to go gray around the temples though it was apparent that he had seen his share of years.

"Students, hello. Some of you hello again, to some of you welcome. I don't like too much formality, especially as this is a studio environment. I want you to see me as more of a mentor, and my critiques as suggestions. This class is for you to develop your perspective as an artist, for you to be able to defend your art to a critic, and to be able to maintain your style through fads and changing tastes. You cannot do that if you are always trying to imitate your peers and please me. Today, since it is the first day and I do not know many of you I just want you to sketch, and I will walk around and chat with each of you, see what you have been working on over the summer that sort of thing."

The professor reminded Soul of how a grandfather should be. Kind and warm. Distinguished, but not afraid to get dirty. Soul could feel himself settling in, even with Scott across from him. Soul crossed his legs and picked up his favorite graphite pencil. He wanted to start with something light, but all he could think of were forests of teeth. He drew lazy daises, trying to think of something, anything he could draw that would impress the professor without scaring him away. But as the professor meandered closer, Soul couldn't think of anything and had nothing to show for his effort but a paper littered with artless tufts of grass and flowers.

"This is nice," the professor said to Scott, "I can see your inspiration." Soul could hear the smile in his voice, even if he couldn't see what Scott had drawn. Scott was supposed to be a theatre major, but to be in this class as a freshman he would have had to have presented an impressive portfolio.

"Great right?" Scott laughed. Soul fumed, Scott should have been the one drawing the flowers. "I think that with this kind of beauty in front of them anyone would be able to draw."

"Well," began the professor, "good luck, I have the feeling you are going to need it in the next weeks, and you Soul is it? What have you drawn?" Soul blushed. He should have just drawn what he was thinking; he might have looked crazy, but better crazy than stupid.

"I couldn't think. I'm sorry."

"Well, it is the first day, you had quite the portfolio. You were the one with the unconventional forests weren't you?" Soul nodded. " I think that is the direction you should stick with. As nice as all these flowers are, they aren't the kind of thing that got you into my class. I will expect better from you in the future." The professor patted Soul on the arm and gave him a look that was worse than any punishment, and moved on to the next station.

"Flowers eh? Well better luck next time. I mean flowers are great, but that's the kind of thing my little sister draws for me." Soul wished he were the fighting type so he could punch Scott. Why was he even talking?

"I don't usually draw flowers." Well that was a great comeback, Soul thought.

"I'm glad, neither do I, but this time I added a few. I think they add a nice touch." Scott leaned back to admire his art. Soul wanted to know what he had drawn, but more than that he didn't want to give him the satisfaction of asking.

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