The Artist: Chapter 1 – Leather

He saw her. She saw him see her, and she stared hard in any direction accept towards him. She is the shy kind and he made her nervous. She was watching him though…out of the corner of her eyes. She could see him get out of his seat two tables from her’s. She could see him looming over the table, her eyes fixed on the word “seattle” in her book.

“is that a good book?” he asked, his voice low. She smiled a bit to herself, glancing only half in his direction

“Yes. I’m enjoying it a lot.” And then her eyes were back to the book, looking at the word, “steam” but she was actually watching the tall young man who’d come to talk to her out of her periphery.

“What’s it about?” He asked, leaning against the chair across from her. The chair bent a bit, as he eventually leaned down to her level at the table, elbows in her sight.

She smiled and glanced up at his perfectly tanned elbows, “It’s a fantasy book about Dragons.” She giggled, goosebumps all over her body now. Her stomach felt sick, and watery, “I don’t think you’d like it.”

“Why is that? Do I not look like the type to like a good Dragon book?” He sounded a bit indignant and she frowned at the book. She’d made a mistake. She didn’t apologize. Too proud for that.

“Do you like Dragons?” She asked, the word “Steam” getting more and more blurred, as she focused on it less and less.

He laughed and she found herself smiling. She could almost see his smile from the top of her book. She glanced up and she saw him for a second. Just enough time to take in his curly brown hair and tanned skin. He reminded her of Mohinder Shuresh from the show Heroes.

“I’ve never read anything about Dragons, so I wouldn’t know.” Then he pulled the chair from under the desk and sat down across from her…and then it occurred to her that…he was talking to her. HER. Ansley. She’d forgotten her reputation. Forgotten who she was to them for a weak moment. He wanted something. They all want something. She put her book down, smile drained off of her face. She stuck a book mark into the book and looked right into the pretty boy’s face, girlish folly gone.

“What do you want?” Her voice was a hard line, and the pretty boy’s smile fell away. He realized that she wasn’t taking the bait anymore.

“I heard you’re very smart–”

“Smart enough not to help a second rate beauty with a soft brain pass an exam he doesn’t deserve to pass.” She was quick and her words were sharp

His cunning and soft expression fell into a grim one, and he glared at her.

“Listen to me, you ugly bitch, I don’t need your fucking help alri–”

“Then why are you over here smiling and carrying on like i’m some sweet dove waiting for her cherry to be plucked by a dashing young hound as yourself?” She placed her book into her backpack, and stood carefully.

The Shuresh look alike stood up and smiled darkly, “Go fuck yourself, Ans, cause no one else is gonna do it for you.”

And then he walked away. Ansley’s smile twitched and quivered as she excused herself from the lunch room. She walked with her bag on her shoulder to the bathroom. She found a stall and locked herself inside. She took off her school blazer and placed it on the hook of the stall. Then her bag. Then she unbuttoned her oxford and placed that, and her tie, over the blazer on the hook. There she was in just her skirt and bra, sitting hunched back, on the stall, legs apart like a man.

“fuck ’em all.” She muttered, “Fuck them!” She slammed the wall, and she could hear one of the girls in the adjacent stalls yelp, but she didn’t care.

Classes would start in a few minutes so she stood up and straightened out the lines in her skirt carefully. She pulled back on her oxford, counting each button aloud as she buttoned them from bottom to top. Then she tightened her tie, and then on went her blazer. She smoothed out the creases with her hands. Then she plait her hair, which for some awful reason she had worn loose today.

She walked out of the bathroom with her bag, straight for class.

She usually sat in the front row during lessons. Her name was Ansley Aaron. Always the first seat in every room. She’d normally sit down, the room still empty. Last minute. That was how everyone at her rotten school was. It was still 10 minutes before the bell. No one would be here for another 7 minutes. But when she arrived this time there a man much older than any of the students in the school, sitting at her desk. His legs were crossed on top of it in dark leather pants. She stood there a moment watching the man, peeling a green apple with a knife in his hand.

“What do you think you’re doing?” She started accusingly, “Knives are prohibited on school grounds.” She didn’t scream, or even try to sound too urgent. She was feeling her hurt pride from earlier and it was making her rash. She was too proud to show weakness, but she was showing it, “You’re also siting in my seat.”

She stood at the front of the room, by the door, and didn’t walk any further. The strange man didn’t look up at her, and kept on carving his apple,

“You Ansley?” He asked, his voice was tainted like someone who smoked a lot. He also smelled like it. She found herself trying to remember if she’d offended anyone who’d be able or willing to bring in a 30 year old man to hurt her. Who would know her schedule? Who would know? Emily. Emily.

Ansley poured a carton of milk on her head during a class trip and she had to go the entire trip smelling like milk. Emily had cut up Ansley’s underwear a week before the milk incident, which is what provoked Ansley. Emily knew everything about Ans because they’d known each other since elementary school. They grew up in the same area for a long time…but she’d never–

“You’re sitting in my seat.” She found herself saying a little impulsively.

The man stopped carving the apple. Ansley froze. He kicked the desk violently across the room. It crashed into the black board a meter away from her. She didn’t jump and didn’t stop looking at the man. It wasn’t because she was some steel nerved bitch…it was that it happened too fast for her to react. She’d held her breath, and her heart was beating so fast. She stared fixedly at his huge black boots at the ends of his leather pants. Her eyes watered just a bit.

“I’m going to ask one more time.” Ans swallowed hard, “If you are, speak up. If you’re not her–well you better hope you are.” He said, and began to carve the apple again, “Are you–”

“I’m Ansley, you ugly creep.”

The clock’s tick was faint and Ansley suddenly heard it as the man stopped carving again. He got up out of the chair, the wood creaking a bit. He walked with sly slow, movements; his boots connected loudly on the linoleum. She could feel him looking at her and she fixed her eyes on the necklace swinging, a gold coin on a black string. When he was upon her she had to look up to see his necklace properly; he was very tall.

“I want you to remember something little Ans–” his smoker’s breath wafted into her face, and she frowned

“It’s Ansley.”

She could hear him laughing, as he cut a piece of the apple off and put it in his mouth. The crisp crunching was the only sound in the room. The knife then came to her cheek, and she gasped, backing up against the chalkboard.

“You’re one stubborn little girl.” He started, “I want you to remember fear, Ans. I want you to remember this feeling.” And then he leaned down and pressed his smoker lips on hers, in a brief kiss. She was forced to see the dark eyes of this man, close to hers. He looked right into her eyes. The sweet and tangy taste of apple going from his lips to hers. Ansley didn’t fight him, his knife still on her cheek.

When he pulled back, he smiled at her. She saw a scar just under his cheek bone, deep and ugly like a burn.

“Who sent you?” Ansley asked. And he smiled even brighter, and then he dug his blade into her face a little, blood dripping down. She winced, “Who?” She asked again. He put the blade in her left hand and the apple in her right, and walked out of the room.

Ansley stood there, staring at the back of the wall, where that man had stood. Her chair was empty and she walked to it and sat down. She wanted to cry, but didn’t. She tucked the knife into her pocket, touching it every couple of seconds to make sure it was still there, still real. The teacher walked in.

“Ansley! What’s happened to you?” She looked around the room, and back at Ansley who sat there, smiling at the apple.

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