The train wailed and heaved as everyone involuntarily danced inside its rumbling hearth, gripping the innards and sitting on chairs just to keep still.
You certainly don't need to ride these trains.
You also certainly don't need source material for an art series.
Sacrifices have to be made and that's your safety when it comes to the streets of Gotham. It's always a give and a take. These funny tattooed walls and the thousands of stories these faces have to tell are perfect for your thesis. Gotham has always had such a coin flip between grunge and rich bungalows, there's no in between. There's no middle class like one would expect and you can see it in the deep lines etched in thousands of different and familiar faces everyday.
There's no way you can find that rich source at home. Even in your neighborhood, their hands are soft, lines are faded and smiles means genuine happiness there. There's no struggle to face like it is here in this concrete maze.
You want another perspective.
Is it because you were always sheltered with a nuclear family and roots that draws blood the color of green?
Whatever the case may be, this is far more interesting than cascading about in your Alpha Delta Pi sorority that your mom insists having for brownie points and more opportunities, that frankly, you don't really care about. You just want to make art.
The train squealed to a stop and you glare at those departing and those boarding. Your city Gotham clothes were from a consignment store, it's more like a uniform as you go about quickly sketching the next crew of people in the train. Through your shades, you glare at the scarred faces. They hopefully don't know you're glaring at them, observing them, and plastering them in your sketchbook.
You'll bask in this train for hours and into the night. That's when the more interesting ones come out.
Right now its 11 PM.
For a few months after you began to ride the train you've noticed a man.
Not necessarily anything outside of the interest in how he acts.
Yes, he's one of your favorite subjects to quickly sketch over and what's great is he doesn't notice anything.
He's lanky, and his clothing are either of warm color scheme or a neutral tone outside of his clown attire. No matter the colors he wears, the pain you see in his face is vibrant.
He's always calculating where he sits and if he's not far enough from others while sitting, he will stand as far away from them as he can. At first, you didn't know he was the same man in his clown attire, but you tagged him with his sudden movements of laughter and the greenest green eyes that would go wide with panic.
In your own head, you forgot the train moved until it stopped once more. You waited to see his appearance and straightened your form. You shifted your head for a moment, glaring at each person who boarded the train.
Is it him?
Ooh. What about-
Finally, after some time, he steps in and quickly places to the empty corner on the far end of the cart. Fortunately, you didn't have to quickly pace to each cart to find him per usual.
You're not obsessed with him.
It's just he provides more source material than much of the people here. At first, you thought his laughter was incredibly uncomfortable, admittedly. Until you found each time someone lurched back from the cry, he would quickly give them a card. At one moment, you were close enough to read it.
It was a condition.
A laughing condition, how funny?
Each time he laughed, there were clear tears sprinting down his face.
You silently pace yourself just close enough to him and take your seat. His head cranes against the metal wall as his body seeps against the corner. He was in his regular attire this time. A neutral tone of an earth vest, white long sleeves, brown slacks, and a jacket right around it. He would never fully get rid of the clown paint once it sheeted his face. It always hid under his jaw. Man, he's exhausted today. His brunette hair weaves against his bobbing head and the train resumes. His eyes begin to lazily close as he wraps his arms around himself.
As soon as you see he is in a bit of slumber, you quickly sketch his form.
His depression sings in this sketch today.
There's something so unfathomably strange about him. Probably it's just his laughter and awkward posture.
You focus on him as he is halfway into slumber. Your fingers flick the pencil as quickly as they can to mimic the image of him before the train screeches to a stop again. His eyes struggle open. His lashes cover his iris for a moment as he glances around lazily.
"Hey, that's pretty good."
You freeze for a moment and glare to the sound. It was an elderly man glaring at you red handed. His yellow winter cap and grey oversized trench coat didn't appear to be helping too much as he shivered for a moment.
"Ahah, thanks so much." You spoke quickly, trying to snipe the conversation from getting too loud and long.
"How long did it take you to draw that?" His voice croaked. It's not like you'd count the minutes. Nor, was it that interesting. Maybe this man should just mind his own business.
"Oh… ah- probably about 10 minutes, I usually don’t count-" You were interrupted
"It looks just like the fellow. Hey, Maury, Come look here."
It took no time to quickly get your shit together before the next one arrived. You cringe and snap the book closed as fear picked up in you when turning to glare at the subject. It's a straight mirror and he's glaring at you.
"Hey, can you show my friend your art?" The elderly man asked.
You quickly shake your head without thinking.
"No-no, it's fine. I've got to get off in this stop anyways-"
You see movement from the corner of my eyes and glare at the man you were drawing again when he leaned forward, almost curious of the scene. In that moment, you witness child like wonder. His eyes skate between you and the book.
Don't panic. Don't panic.
Fuck it, he's totally going to think you're a psycho maniac if he finds you1've been sketching him for some time…
For months. Making exhibition work out of him.
He's a goldmine full of emotions, you can't lose him. As soon as the train stops, you shoot up and pace quickly through the doors as the man yells:
"You've got great art!"
Who the fuck in this dopey city cares about anyone but themselves here? Nonetheless, a tiny sketchbook. Does that man have search glass in his lenses?
You're zooming as you quickly climb from the subway to the rough surface of Gotham.
"E-excuse me. Excuse me! Ma'am-"
How can this decrepit old man run this fast?
You turn around and instead of the yellow cap and the grey trench coat, it's the neutral hue of a thin jacket and its draping over a frame that's even thinner. His brunette hair drapes over his gaunt cheeks and strong jaw.
His body inhales and exhales from the run to catch up to me.
The subject slowing his way down to you with his jacket that's too skimpy for this cold weather. You raise my hands up and wave.
"Look, look, I'm sorry I know I seem creepy-"
Suddenly, through his small exhales, he lurches forward and snickering grows into yowling laughter that he throws out of his mouth. You nearly flinch until you remember.
"Haha! No, no! Haha! You're not-" He gasps and his brows furrow in apparent frustration. Fumbling through his pocket, he hands you his condition card. You ignored the writing on it and continue to glance at the thin, meager man.
He coughs for a moment until he's quiet. His body straightens once more and he glares away momentarily to throw the embarrassment from himself.
"You're not." He responds delicately. He's as frail as he sounds. He sounds much more gentle than his mannerisms. He holds out your artist .5 mechanical pencil to you.
"You dropped this on the way out."
"Oh, thanks." You say all too quickly and take it from his hand. You step back about walk again when he opens his mouth.
"Were-" he stammers and glances at your book the saddled between your palm and side.
"were you drawing me back there?"
You freeze and glare away from his face even though he couldn't see it.
"….I guess so."
You paused for a moment and eventually he beams at your sketch book. Almost in a similar childlike fashion, he inclines his head before hints of his merriment coughs through his voice.
"Ahah… That's really nice. Can I see?"
What is it today with people suddenly wanting to see your art? Well, you can't really blame him since it was him you were drawing after all. You sigh and quickly open straight to the page, noting to keep your hand around the rest of the pages. You thrust your arm out to him and he lingers with his eyes wide. When his hand goes for the book, you swiftly pull it away from him in fear he might grow peculiar of the rest of what's inside of it. He recoils.
His eyes are far paler and more emerald close like this. His hair that hovered under his shoulders flailed from the freezing wind. For whatever reason, he seemed more youthful than you. Although, you can almost count the years of the deep-set lines that crown around the corner of his lips. His voice is softer than yours but his frail, willowy body, and the tension in his face is the same as people who swig liquor under the sun's tears. It was possibly his thick char eyebrows or the rich, long lashes that line his malachite eyes. This conflict disturbs you because you don't exactly know what to get from his presence.
"I- I love it."
He speaks and then zips his lips as if it were a secret not to come across to you. You nod your head in confusion.
Isn't this creepy to the poor bastard? Wouldn't this offend him?
"Look, listen, ehm… I've got to go. So, have a good night." You speak quickly and pace away from him before he could speak. You glare back over my shoulder and he's standing in the same spot you left him.
His eyes are deep when they glare. His thin frame droops the farther you pace away.
You pass the corner and quickly scamper to the black limousine before anyone could even spot you. The squelching of the leather as you entered the back seat made you the most uncomfortable that night. It's a reminder of home. The pine scent misted with a new car smell made you grimace.
The alluding tone of Marcus made you glare at the mirror viewing his brown eyes. You mentally scoff, ready for him to always ask you questions that gaslight why you're even here to begin with. Like, you don't have a right to go where as you please.
"I've got what I wanted like always." You nearly snarled in annoyance.
"Like the brat you are, I take it." He snickered and revved the car. You glare at the trash that littered the streets. The people who are using old, tattered rags and quilts to cover their delicate paper skin.
"Would a brat want to come here, Marcus?" You replied to him with a question. The car slightly whimpered as it stops and the flash of red hits the side of you. A man leans on a wall as a sheet of shadow covers his upper half and smoke snakes away from him.
"No. Though, a brat wouldn't understand here."
This is not the only time he's done this. You wouldn't understand it here no matter how far of a venture you took. You're not trying to understand it; you're trying to feel what it is that's outside of your life. You don't want to repeat it like you always have. You shake your head.
"I'm not even going to answer you on this."
He scoffs again.
God, you hate that fucking scoff.
' Just go on with the reasons why you think I'm this and that. But, he scoffs and stays quietly judging me. '
"You think I can't take your criticism?" You sliced through the silence with annoyance.
"If I were to tell it like it is, honestly, you probably wouldn't get it."
You met him with a scowl in the rear-view mirror.
"Wouldn't get what?" The car revved again at the green light.
"Hm. Poverty." He says. You grimace for a moment.
"And how am I supposed to know that? You think we all choose where we grow up?"
He shrugged his shoulders and and shook his head. You both fell into silence from long drive home. The film of the concrete jungle slowly turned into evergreen and white picket fences to cobblestone and whimsical metal fences. Finally, the car stopped at my house outside of the soriety.
"Dont let the bed bugs bite. Haha. Like you'd have to worry about them" He retorts.
You slammed the back door and walked up the driveway to the house. It was a 2 bedroom, of course with you being here and your dad financing the majority of the place, you have the second room as my studio. You threw your coat on the rack and slug to your room. You let gravity coax your body and kiss the comforter that's draped neatly across your bed. You look at everything except your art that pieced together like a puzzle on four corners of your room. Both finished and in progress. The room goes dark and that's when you realized your eyes were closed.
The biting sound of ringing beside your bed punched you out of sleep and you swiftly held onto the plastic, thick, handle of the phone, eager to stop the miserable sound. You fell asleep without even realizing it.
'Was I really that tired? Was it really that late?
You put the cold phone up to my ear, refusing to move the rest of your body.
Your voice was crazed with an uneven tone and you grimace at it, slightly embarrassed. Damn you sound horrible.
"Good afternoon, Sunshine, did you miss our lunch together again?"
Oh, its Chris.
Oh shit, its Chris.
Your eyes surmised to the clock.
"Oh. Sh-" you quickly exonerated your throat, interrupting your sailor’s mouth from returning.
"I'm on my way, babe, just got caught up with school is all, Haha."
There was an audible pause. He's pissed and you know it.
"Right, right. You overslept again, didn't you?"
While still maintaining the phone between the crook of your cheek and your shoulder without getting the spiral cord tangled between your limbs, you promptly scramble through your closet to find a dress that's obscured in its trenches.
"Not at all, babe, just trying to submit my portfolio for an exhibition is all!" You holler into the phone in your panic. You hurled the burgundy dress onto the white lacy bed.
"You work way too hard, how about we just chill at my place after we eat?"
"I'm sorry, can't do, really have to frame these paintings afterwards!"
You quickly realize that half of your plans have withered from you oversleeping. You forgot to set your damn clock.
"Hey, I'm on the way right now okay. We'll talk when I get there!" You quickly speak and almost throw the phone back on its mount.
You freeze and sigh. Shower time.
Laying out your clothes and hopping in for a quick shower was done nearly every day. There were always arrangements to be done or something that you decided to make yourself busy with. Even when you held onto a calendar, you would sometimes miss something crucial.
Because you could afford to.
After you let a precipitation of warm water paint your clad body, you quickly scrubbed yourself down with soap and washing your hair, repeating the motion for some time before stepping out of the shower. You went through the motions of putting on your dress, finishing up your hair and putting on just a bit of makeup. You ran through your living room and snatched your black trench coat and the black coco channel purse that was adjacent to it.
Once you ran outside, you quickly slipped into your sleek, noir, Buick Grand National. The black leather greeted your body as you revved the car and closed the door beside you. The hum of the engine always made you skittish because it was a little too loud. You weren't necessarily the one to know about cars, but your father was. With him being a chairman and CEO at Gotham National Banks, which was the giant of all giants when it came to banks, he somehow had some time to think about what car to get you for your sweet 16th birthday. You loved the car, but, really any car would do. You turn your knob that sat between FM and AM and found a radio station. Rock and Roll in Gotham was what you were particularly aiming to listen to today.
Tainted Love by Soft Cell made your heart thump with excitement as you tried to battle the guilt of being 30 minutes late to your date.
You quickly scurried the car back an drove straight to the restaurant that you were planning to meeting Chris at.
As hands tapped your wheel, you thought on about the man.
Chris Richardson was a beguiling, rangy man that sported the typical golden styled fringes and charm that any typical person would bow down to either figuratively or literally. You met him through a ball your father hosted, and you had seemed to caught his interest when you were pacing around talking to everyone on the checklist your father wrote to introduce yourself to. Somehow, he was entranced by the act you put on because he invited you to put your drink down and dance with him.
Which happened to just be root beer,
you were such a fucking rebel.
In all seriousness, he did seem rather charming and with him being your first boyfriend, you thought you caught a lucky break. He was a large runner up for a junior executive position at Wayne enterprises, he was charming, and outgoing. There was just so much to like about him, so you obliged in his invitations to go out on dates with him right when you entered college. It's only been a few months with him and so far, so good you'd tell everyone. But often you were tangled in your paintings, you would neglect the relationship regularly.
You felt culpable over it and would overcompensate in whichever way you could.
When you squandered your virginity to him, you decided not to tell him you were a virgin so he would be comfortable with you. It only built more shame in you in the end but whatever could you have thought? You were young. It’s only been a few months; you are still young. It was conceivably plainly obvious you were a virgin.
Embarrassment flared in you as you turned on left lane.
You live and you learn. You persisted the road until you got to the restaurant which happened to be just on the skirts of the inner Gotham. Grabbing your purse, you threw yourself outside of your car and ran into the restaurant, slightly spooking a waiter and nearly causing him to slip with assortments of clam chowder and soups.
You glance around quickly and to meet eyes with azure ones.
You apologetically grinned as you strode to Chris and sat in the booth with him. He wore a navy-blue suit with a white colored shirt beneath it. The restaurant had a sailor theme to it and so there had to be a pastoral and rope binding lamp above and between you two.
"Hey… sorry for the tardiness."
Chris's scowl eventually turned to a half grin.
" Eh, I've gotten used to it after the dozenth time." He snickered and leaned back into his chair. Glancing at him, there was a bit of warmth that climbed to your cheeks. You had your problems with how shy you could be.
You tried to put this hard shell up to insulate yourself from the rich, goodie two shoes persona that everyone would expect from you.
No, you were intrigued with the darkness. As parallel as that may seem from a shelter girl finding a gritty bad boy, you found that your bad boy was art. It oozed recession. Something you rarely had contact with. It was the pizzazz you wanted in your life and you were addicted to it.
"How's the art life coming along?" He asks as if this was a an anniversary meeting with his family.
Your eyes dimmed.
"Its going good, how about your job?" You asked.
He shrugged his shoulders.
"Its going good." He echoed.
Yeah, he seemed pissed more than he'd like to admit. You stumbled for a moment.
"I'm sorry, Chris."
Your voice was low and he eventually held his hand to meet yours that rested on the table below you.
"You're fine, sunshine. Let's just enjoy our time here." He smiled once more. As he squeezed your fingers you glanced out of the window to view the tar ocean that met the pier. You were nervous. As silverware clattered and sophisticated music played, your tongue didn't speak.
"You look beautiful, you know?"
You grinned and eventually met his eyes.
"Thanks... you are too." You nearly whispered. He chuckles a little bit and peeks down, possibly in thought.
"Work is going good, but its stressful you know. You've got people who can't do their jobs and you have to do it for them."
"Like always, right? I'm sure it's just because you're having to manage so many people and things."
You must admit that there was a communicative disengage between you two because you had known little about Wayne Enterprises outside of what was publicly known. And you really didn't want to know due to how boring it can get. You didn't have the same passion as he did for the company and neither did he for your art. You dated him for his kindness, charm, and admittedly his appearance.
"Yeah, they've unloaded me with more files to take a look at regarding finances."
You nod your head as he continued about it. And he continued to speak more and more about it even when the food you ordered with him came. You sometimes wish you can speak about your paintings to him. Whenever you did, he would relay the conversation into him trying to take ahold the position as a junior executive.
It bored you
It really bored you
Often times you would just skip back to the caverns of your mind and wonder what you'll observe next for your art.
You can no longer observe that man on the train. As nice as he seemed, you may have perturbed him to the point where he won't get onto the train anymore! If it wasn't for that elderly man pestering you! As you ate your oysters and the buttery, salty taste made your mouth water, you continued to think over Chris.
And it made you accountable.
But when you try and tune back into the conversation, it reeks of monotony. It was a paradoxical issue you've faced time and time again. By the time you've eaten with him and got ready to go, your eyes burned. It was 4:30.
Your eyes can’t cry for sleep enough to stop you from going back to Gotham on late hours to sketch more figures, however.
"It was so nice seeing you again." You fell into Chris' body and wrapped your arms around him as he did to you. You had wrapped up the meal and stood near the door.
"You too, sunshine. Show me your art sometime." He requested.
You knew he didn't really want to see it. You pulled away from him, leered and waved goodbye to him as you both parted for the door and into your cars.
It wasn't long that you got back home and heard the familiar bustle of the limousine that was ready to take you back to the subway. You've changed out of your dress and put your ruffled and baggy clothes on, hiding every detail that made you sticky for attention.
You took your art bag and sketch book, ran outside and slipped quickly into the back of the limousine.
"Are we meeting at the same place?" Marcus asks. You nod in the rear-view mirror. It was a silent ride as you contemplated what you will do and why you're even trying to go back to the subway again if the main person you wanted to draw was most likely not coming back.
You tried your thinking as you ran downstairs into the subway entrance.
You tried your thinking as you ran downstairs into the subway entrance.
As you walked through the ticket entrance.
As you waited for the same subway and boarded it.
As you sat there, and your heart began to ram in your chest at the anticipation of having to find another interesting subject to draw once the clown doesn’t board the train at his usual stop.
And when the time came for his stop you almost attempted to find a corner to sit for yourself so that you wouldn't have to see how much you disturbed the man regardless of if he boarded the subway train or not. You stiffened in your spot as people dispersed in and out of the train and conducted rigidly to your sketchbook as the train started again. You were burning holes into its hard cover until you ate your nerves and finally peeked up.
Your breath departed you.
He was parallel from you, glowering at you this time. He was in his routine attire again but with a green vest under his brown jacket. He held his bag on his lap and then you finally realized he was pushed between two people.
Doesn’t he usually sit in the corner?
As the lights sputtered you glared between each other for a few moments until you gathered the courage to flip open your sketch book to a clear page and begin to sketch him. You grew used to the trains bumps and your hand will usually balance itself against its tide.
Every time you glanced at him, he was trying to stay impeccably still as if he wanted you to continue.
You jeered to yourself as his eyes widened from his leg slight shifting from the rutted subway. He looks like such an innocent man especially in this position. As you continued to sketch him the train comes to a squealing stop and you quickly pack up your things to take your leave. You try to slip yourself in the line of sardines to get out of the train and continue to pace along the subway station to make it to its entrance when you decided to look back and see the man is gawking at the ground and gripping onto his bag as he paces. You stop for a moment and glance back at him.
"Is this your stop too?" You ask him and suddenly his eyes widened and skimmed around for others you may ask before he meets your eyes.
You bit the inside of your mouth for a second as you contemplated your words.
"Cool. I hope I don’t freak you out with this whole art stuff I-"
"You don't do that at all!" He yells and laughs momentarily until he stammers for a moment and bashfully says "I think it’s great."
As people hustled between you both, you paced a nearer to him. His eyes broadened with each step and the breaths he swept in stiffened his back. You hold out your hand to him and try your best to welcome him with a grin and a name.
His eyes were on your hand for almost too long until he finally went for it and held onto it briefly.
"Arthur" He spoke shyly as he shook your hand.
When you pulled away, he took just a bit longer pulling in his hand back to his side and his eyes shift back down to the ground. You didn't know this man; you surely didn't want to up and ask him on a whim that you wanted to have him as a model to finish the last crucial bits of your work that includes him. Maybe if he knew that regardless of how long you knew him, he would hate the idea and call the cops.
You'd have to bribe them like usual.
"Hey, so, um…" you stammer for a moment as you try and swindle information out of him. You freeze trying to think of a way to get more out of him without scaring him off.
"Fuck, I'm sorry. I'm not good with introductions." You laugh apologetically and he eyes at the ground again wordlessly. He placed his hands in his pockets and began to fumble for just a moment.
"Do you have any hobbies or anything? I mean I sometimes see you in a clown outfit, so..." It was probably stupid asking that, but it was a start. The older man glances at you for a moment before grinning.
"Yeah. I like comedy. Well, erm, to make people laugh. I also dance sometimes." He speaks so soft you could barely even hear him.
"Oh wow, that's great! Do you do comedy shows? Or are you mainly a clown? Do you dance a lot in town?"
One thing you've learned from dating Chris is to ask the right questions.
He coughs for a moment before surging into hilarity and the pain in his eyes only made you begin to feel bad for him. You wait for him to retrieve himself to where he murmurs his voice through his laughter.
"I do-" he stammers. "I do comedy shows. I dance at home, though."
This could be your chance to finish that series. If you go to his shows probably you could learn more about him, gauge his presence and ask him to be your model for some time.
"Really? You've got a joke to tell me or what?" You ask quickly and he stills.
His Adam's apple throbs through a tough swallow and he clutches onto his bag to take out a mangled journal. He swiftly flips through it as he embraces it close to himself until stopping onto a page.
You blinked a few times in confusion, nonetheless, you watch his eyes skim down the page.
"What do you get when a pretty girl draws you?"
You didn't piece together at first that the 'pretty girl' was you and quickly replied:
He scoffs to himself a moment and the journal trembles in his hand.
"A pretty girl notices you."
You timidly laugh as you didn't find it too funny as much as it sounded like a smooth pick up line. But when he laughed at his joke for a moment and bowed to you as an act, you realized he genuinely just thought it was funny. At least you hoped it wasn't a pickup line. He gingerly closed his journal and placed it back in the bag. He fumbles in the small pocket of his brown bag for a cigarette and places it in his mouth. It isn't too surprising that he smokes.
"Do you like coffee or cafes?" You ask when right when he’s taking his lighter out.
He halts with the cigarette threatening to slip out of his mouth and his eyes shot wide open.
"Well, it's not a date, I mean, I know a guy like you probably already has a wife and kids." You laugh at the tail end of your sentence until you were met with a scowl.
"No." He simply said as he continued to light his cigarette. He blows a cloud of smoke to his side and he started to tremble a moment. Damn, wrong assumptions. You pondered for a moment on why he didn't have a family yet even with his condition. He so far seemed like a nice person.
"I guess I'm too forward, huh? You just seemed interesting is all and uh.." you stammered as he glared at you.
"I would like to draw you a bit more."
A slight chuckle whines from his throat and his thick eyebrows scrunch together as he grins for a moment.
"I'd love to." He states as he brings the cigarette back to his mouth. You meet him with a grin.
"Great! Are there any coffee shops here?"
Smoke drives through his nostrils and he shakes his head. His eyes were so intense you began to drift yours away from them. As you both stood near each other, he just seemed so frail you were afraid if you looked at him the wrong way, you'd hurt him.
"I can't really go tonight. I watch my mom and I know she's waiting for me."
Your shoulders fall a little bit and embarrassment hits your chest once again. He watches his mom? Takes care of her?Just as you were about to slip something through your lips, he conversed further.
"I can go tomorrow night if I tell her though." He grins.
You nod and grin back.
"Okay, cool! Uh, so I'll see you tomorrow? Back on the train?" You ask as you back up to leave only to realize he was leaving in the same direction and you were looking like the odd one. You rolled on the ball of your feet and nervously chortled.
Man, you sucked at keeping the tough girl appearance.
He side glanced at you for a moment as the cigarette tipped to its side.
"Yeah." He smiles wide and you see the crinkles in his eyes. You both went up the stairs and as you glanced at the night sky summiting from the entrance way, you felt Arthur's eyes press onto you. You glance over quickly to find that your senses were true. In fact, it was an intense glare and you began to feel nervous.
"Is everything okay?" You ask. He eventually looked in front of himself and pressed his digits to the cigarette to inhale again.
"Yeah, everything is just fine." He retorts and blows smoke from the corner of his lips.
You eventually made it on the surface and turned to him for a moment.
"Alright, well, have a good night. Don't let the bed bugs bite"
You did your walking backwards move until your hit the side of a trashcan and huffed out air trying to keep your balance. Arthur threw his hands up to help even though he was distance away but eventually chuckled to the point where he involuntarily laughed, throwing his cigarette to the side. He eventually straightened himself.
"I’m sorry. Goodnight."
Yeah… you totally are a fuck up at this.
This one is a bit longer than I thought but screw it!
You were fixated.
The keen legs of a woman peek through fabric as her fishnets embraced her skin. There were the edges you were concerned about; you splayed more neutral hue tones across her legs and a few elements in her face.
You were nearly implored to the corner of a 48 x72 canvas that was leaning against your wall in your high ceiling studio room. The usually neat assortments of paints and finishes that were in cabinets were strewn across the plastic on the wood. Plastic scrunches and grazes under you as you squat to fill in the tiny details of the painting. An aroma that graced your nose began to make your mouth water.
That, as well as charley horse creeping into your knees. You stand and extend your arms. Gleaming at the corner, you were focused on painting that for days. Finally, you settle your paint brush in its dirty water in a cup. As you pace through your living room, you see a small figure in the kitchen only to be greeted with Candice, your maid.
She grins gently as you as roughly paced through the kitchen. Her brunette hair faded into whispers of silver as it was neatly curtailed into a bun. Her eyes were round and joyous as they were blue.
Candice could be the age of your grandmother if you still had one on both sides or any grandparents for that matter. You contended on her not wearing standard maid's clothes and that she wears what's comfortable which is usually a dress to begin with. With various colors to them except black and white.
She was relatively peaceful in her outward appearance and kept you company through your paintings with everything to talk under the sun and roof of your home. You loved her as if she was your second mother rather than a grandparent.
She would water the orchids that hugged your home, she would clean like any maid would but sometimes she would turn the stereo on and dance while cleaning.
You wondered how an older woman could have so much energy, sometimes she would give you input on a piece of art, othertimes she would try and paint on a loose canvas if no other duties obliged her.
Whatever the case is, she was a brilliant woman and she inspired you to continue onto your artistic dream no matter what. Candice lived in the grungy city of Gotham so she was perfect to bounce ideas off of.
"What are you cooking?" You gingerly ask her as you wash your hands of metallic and cool paint in the sink.
"Hm, my mother's favorite lasagna and spinach casserole." She grins as she checks the oven briefly before springing up and placing the rag she held onto the handle of it.
"Thanks, Sweet pea." She beams as she paced beside you and put a used pot into the sink. There's was a longer than usual silence with her.
You remember when she first gave that nickname to you. It was entirely by mishap while you were both laughing at a mistake you’ve made while trying to plant a rose. She taught you about gardening in her downtime.
She used to call her daughter, Lillia, that nickname before she passed away at a young age along in a car accident. She often wears her smiles as a mask but when it slipped through her lips, was when the mask fell from her.
It was painful, and she fell to her knees after a pause full of angst and eventually explained to you the circumstance. You thought after a pep talk, she would never speak it again until she confessed to you that she saw you as a daughter. Your heart lifted up with the name given.
"How's Chris been?" She inquired and you stilled for a moment as she pulled away from beside you.
"He's good." You stated curtly and ring your hands of water before drying them with a paper towel. You hear a hefty sigh come from the elderly woman and inwardly begin to brace yourself. You heard the clanking of pots until she spoke.
"You know you've been ignoring that boy since the day you first met him and he’s so head over heels for you; he takes the torture."
You didn't necessarily know whether she was teasing you or being serious about her statement. You still reproach yourself and knit your lips.
"You should invite him over sometime, it's not like I'm paid to cook and clean for your guests or anything." This time you knew she was teasing as her voice pivoted.
You turn on the ball of your heel and lean against the counter as she searched the spice cabinet that hung over the island stove.
"I will at some point." Even your voice was accidentally wavering with uncertainty.
"You know, I was thinking about what I should do for my husband's birthday, hell, probably just ask for a cupcake and a candle and call it a day." She chortled.
"Well, does he like clowns?" You ask.
She slips you a dangerous look as she churns the spinach in the glass pan in front of her.
"What type of birthday is that? He's turning 74, not 4." She scoffs.
"C'mon! Clowns aren't so bad." You shrug your shoulders and your stomach cried to you. You eyed the fruit bowl beside you and took an apple into your hand. When you went to take a bite, the apple ran away in Candice's palm.
"No cheating, you see me cooking all of this good food!" She scolded you as she went to put mittens on for the oven. The memory of your meeting with Arthur sprang within your mind and your heart began to pump in your face.
Why exactly were you so nervous?
He seemed like a slight man.
A normal man with unsightly conditions.
Dinner had taken longer to cook this time and when there was awareness you were being impatient. Tapping your fingers against the dining table like some brooding teenager was just one of the signs. When Candice placed the food in front of you, your stomach lurched. You merely glared at the meal for too long till Candice noticed.
"What's going on, sweet pea?" She asked as she sat across from you. For a moment, as you stared in silence, you had forgotten the question and glanced at her quizzically. She was chewing on food, waiting for your answer.
There was a scoff.
Of course you lied.
Maybe you didn't need to, you were 18. But that's just it. You were only 18 and your soliciting a well passed grown man to put on a clown suit and pose for you. He could kill you, he could defile you and leave you for dead in a ditch somewhere.
and then laugh about it genuinely.
It slightly scared you. But that danger excited you. Imploring this man. Exciting. It outweighed any fear that bellowed in your chest.
You began to shovel food into your mouth so Candice wouldn't press you with questions. She may have already had known that something appeared different because in the first time in a while, you both ate in silence.
You hugged Candice goodbye for the night just at your front door as her bag was nested full of new gardening tools and knitted blankets. She slipped words from her mouth that stiffened your spirit.
"Don’t go meeting strangers in Gotham, they will tear you apart with the money you have."
It was hard to tell whether you were trembling because of the chilly wind of the night or if it was because her statement had spooked you.
Once the door closed behind her, you found yourself staring at the shape of her through the decorated glass middle. You paced to your room, momentarily glancing at its neat appearance that was ready to be messed up again by your art antics in a later hour. But for now, you laid out your Gotham clothes.
The baggy raincoat yellow, leather, pants and jacket were something you were sure he'd see. Putting on your clothes, you glared at yourself in the large vanity mirror as you adjusted your collar.
The contrast between your striking clothing and delicate room made you realize how quickly you were growing up. One month you like the room's aesthetic, now, its bothersome.
Your body churned with a sudden honk. When you went outside to the car you greeted Marcus.
"Hey, Marcus." You said curtly. There wasn't much that you've known about Marcus other than he had a wife and kids. He simply worked his job and went home. He wasn't a very talkative man unless he wanted to antagonize you.
"Hey." He spoke as he glanced behind himself to back up. His eyes were dark and his curly hair was shaved down and neat like always.
He began to drive straight to the Gotham subway station, except you decided not to ride the train but go to the stop that Arthur gets off on.
You were careful where he dropped you off, and with his knowledge on Gotham, he would be smart to make sure you were hidden when you left the limousine while he could watch that you are safe walking to the subway station.
When you paced down its stairs, you sat beside a homeless man who was leaned on the bench. He was asleep and you decided to lend him just enough cash when you placed it gently in his coat pocket.
There was constant talking, screeching, and steps clacking against the dirty concrete. You were sitting just near the entrance when his train screeched to a stop. You take to a stand for him to see you through the crowd that bled out of the train.
You waited and had yet to see him as your eyes skim the crowd. You eventually took your bag and paced towards the crowd trying to spot him to no avail and it's when you began glancing at the carts of the train that you saw that he was sitting down, clutching his bag. He was adorned by a yellow undershirt and a brown vest with his usual jacket.
You push yourself passed the crowd and into the train yelling out:
His eyes snap at you and he shoots up and wobbly paces your direction and out of the train behind you. When you both get out from the crowd you glance over at him. His eyes are glancing down again.
"Isn't this your stop?"
He grins for a moment and pulls his eyes to you.
"No, it isn't. I thought you would be on the train."
He smiles as his hands hide in his pockets.
A surge of adrenaline rushes through as realization waltz in your mind. If this isn't his stop then why did he get off the past two nights you were here?
An unexplained feeling crept in your gut, but you decided to pace silently up the stairs. Through all of the months you watched him, you always left the train first, you never seen him leave before you or when you leave.
"Do you know any good places for a bite to eat?" You jolted the conversation away from the glaring uncomfortable issue.
"Yeah, there's a place called Maroni's. It's a good restaurant if you'd like to go there."
"Cool, great. Where is it exactly?" You glowered around four pathways that were made by tall buildings. He paced in front of you and you skim his body as he fidgets nervously.
"Follow me." He beckoned with a soft voice.
You quickly check over your bag to view the sharp shank resting in there and eventually shrugged your shoulders and followed behind. Because you will totally defend yourself if he decides to hurt you.
You paced silently behind him as he took a cigarette out and lit it. His eyes drifted to you as he did so. The moonlight coupled with streetlight presses against his frame.
Crowds of people made it harder to stay farther from him so you kept close As you glanced at him more you made a realization that his hair was slightly different. It was slickened back.
He's probably thinking it's a date and you shudder for a moment. Or he may just want to go out with hair that doesn't look like it's been through hell.
He brings the cigarette to his mouth and settles his hand to his side when a cloud of smoke blew from him. You walked for some time glancing familiar and unfamiliar features of the cityscapes and the trash and filth that littered beside the sleeping homeless.
It was when he suddenly stopped and pushed his cigarette on an ashtray when he turned to you. His mouth twitched but he had stayed silent before laughter rumbled in his throat. He held onto his throat for a moment when an impulse led you to hold onto his shoulders.
"Its okay, Arthur."
It only made matters worse when his body snapped over with laughter. You lost grip of his shoulder and backed away one step. His arm jolted out to point to the side of him as his other palm rested on his mouth.
Following his arm and pointed finger, there's Maroni's in red LED. Regardless of knowing that the restaurant was a haven from the cold, you stood alongside him as he gained composure over himself.
When his body straightened, and his glossy eyes glanced at you he said:
You shook your head and went to pat his shoulder.
"No need. Let's go in, it's really cold."
His lips quivered but eventually they made for a smile. You went to stride in when suddenly he scampered forward to hold the door open for you.
"Thanks." Was all you could say as you entered. The host was ready for you when you said:
"Table for two."
When you were escorted to your seats, you went to pull out your chair but saw the presence of his hand on its brace and went to pull it back for you.
You snickered nervously as you paced to the seat and waited for him to scoot the chair in to take your seat. You took off your jacket against the seat and waited for him to take his seat when laughter threatened to overtake him again.
You were perplexed on how much he was dealing with his condition today. He couldn't glance at you without laughing at least a little bit. He was really nervous.
"No need to be so nervous, Arthur. I'm just here to talk with you." You tried to make him relax and he breathed in and nodded before glancing at you again.
This time he held it together and you smiled.
"So… do you take care of your mom? What's her name?" You asked as you take in his presence under a warm lamp light. You began to grow uncomfortable. It wasn't the usual uncomfortable you'd get if it were someone creepy but…
It was just an uncomfortable feeling and you don't know what it is.
"Yes, she’s pretty sick so I take care of her. Penny."
You grin widened. And when yours did his did too. You felt so uncomfortable that you momentarily glanced at others eating and talking. Under a warm light his eyes seemed brighter and his jaw was more pronounced. You noticed he freshly shaved his face. You hadn't felt this type of uncomfortable.
"W-well that's really sweet of you Arthur."
Did your ass just stutter?
You scoffed it off and tried to remember what to ask next until he interjected.
"What do you do? What are your hobbies?"
This was seriously beginning to look like what it’s not.
A fucking date.
You tilt you head a bit trying to conjure up some grand lie to hide the fact you were exceptionally wealthy. Fuck it, you were rich. You open your mouth, close it, and then open it again only to keep it shut. He wandered the features of your face and eventually he leans back in his chair. His hands are gripping themselves under the table.
"Well, I… I'm just an art student. I live in a dorm and just go to classes."
You tried your best not to mention college. That was a sign of wealth after all.
"And I'm doing an art show really soon and wanted to get more paintings into it."
Yes, you were doing a good job of thwarting his questions from your personal life. His eyes brightened and eventually he stammered before clearing his throat.
"If you want to paint me, you can see me a lot better when I'm doing a comedy show at the comedy club called Pogo's. It's my job to make the world laugh just like it's your job to do art." His voice mimicked as if he were a main actor in a play. You giggled.
Oh, how vain? He already knew what you were getting at and decided to take it upon himself to get you to come to his comedy show.
"Yeah sure. When's the next show?"
"Its next week on Monday starts at 8." He was giddy and excited and you found it
"I'll stop by!" You exclaimed a little too hard. You quiet a little bit and duck your head in embarrassment.
"So, do you like working as a clown?"
The waitress sets down water for the both of you as he works an answer out of himself.
"It can be good at times. At least when I'm working, no one criticizes me for laughing." He states.
You'd expect him to scoff like you did but he only glared with the corners of his mouth slightly curled up. It must be grueling for him. You stop your chortling.
"Is there treatment for that?" You ask before you thought. It too wasn't long ago that you discovered that laughing was a disease.
"There is, I take a few medications for that as well as a few other things." He says while glaring at his hands under the table.
"Like what?" You pressed on. Seeing how much Arthur appeared to be struggling fascinated you but you wanted to hear it from him.
"I'm always sad, and sometimes I imagine things I don't mean to." Its a pretty vague reply meaning it's probably much more horrible than he’s describing it. He’s still glaring at his hands. You decide to lighten the mood by attempting to compliment him.
"I'm glad you're getting treatment for that, Arthur. You're working hard even taking care of your mother. I see you at the train station going home late all the time."
You knew what it meant to work hard, but you didn't ever really grasp why people don't work hard at what they want. People in Gotham work with for what they need. His expressions became a little puzzling at first when he looked surprised. Even with his mouth agape at your extolling statement.
"I'm dealing with nothing of the sorts and I'm still pretty weird. Well, not that I'm calling you that."
You bit your tongue for a moment as his expressions stayed the same until his cheeks rose from a smile. He didn't really say anything for a moment and that was when you recognized your surroundings and saw cooks cooking through a tiny window and waiter's and waitresses serving hungry customers until your waitress appeared.
You were so focused on Arthur you forgot to look at the menu and because you didn't want to look at the menu you guessed.
"I'll just take a pizza, flat bread, pepperoni and slice it in miniatures."
Her eyebrow tilted up as she wrote your order. She glanced at Arthur to see he was still looking at then menu. Eventually he put the menu down.
"I'm okay, thanks."
Was he thin because he couldn't afford food? Shit, was it that bad? You didn’t want to be the only one eating so you quickly thought of scheme to give him food. she smiled and turned to walk away when you called her.
"Wait, I want alfredo too! Chicken on it please!" She glared at you and haphazardly opened her notebook and wrote the order.
You apprehensively giggled as Arthur was peeping at the window and eventually rolled his green eyes to you.
His mouth was in a solid thin line until he smiled again. There was a potent silence between the both of you and once your food came, you ate it. But you pushed the alfredo to him in which he jolted back.
"I'm not hungry. Thank you though." He states as he glances at you eating.
You felt really horrible that he wasn't eating especially at how thin he was, but you continued to eat. Once you were finished eating you asked that you get a box for the alfredo.
"Do you come here often?" He asked.
You scoff for a moment. "No, I just guessed standard Italian food to look cool "
He chortles with laughter for a moment and then you follow. It was a warm feeling to make him laugh especially if he a comedian. Or maybe it was just his smile.
Wait, what? No it wasn't.
When the waitress came and scurried the untouched alfredo into the box, you pushed it back to him.
"If you don't want it now you can eat it later or maybe give it to your mom." You convince him and he eventually takes the box.
"Okay." He states.
You were wondering why he didn't seem be happy about the ordeal until the check came between you two and he began to fish in his pockets. He probably thought he was paying, and that you forced him to pay for something he didn’t want. Smooth. Real smooth.
"Eh, Arthur, I've got it."
You take the check, quickly looking at the price and dropping $20 down. He was surprised and paused.
"Are you sure?" He asks.
You weren't concerned about the bill as much as you were concerned about concealing who you were, and it was hard having to do that when you're so generous to others. Unlike your mother and father.
You nodded and smiled at him as the waitress came by to pick up the money.
"Keep the change."
When you eyed with him again, he was glaring at you and eventually his hand wrapped around his forearm as if he were uncomfortable.
He was probably uncomfortable with your gesture.
Once you two were out of the restaurant you stood in the open cold in silence and you began to grow scared that it may have been obvious that you were flaunting your wealth. He appears to be smiling, however, so you took it as a sign that everything went alright.
"Can I see more of your art after your come to my show?"
He asked you out of nowhere and you stilled. The majority of your art was in large canvas at your house, there's no way that you can show him there.
"A lot of my art is at my place, if we talked a bit more, I'd feel a bit better with showing you."
His shoulders slumped a little bit but he nodded.
"And one thing! You've got to let me paint you. Preferably in your clown attire." You added the caveat bracing yourself for him to disagree.
"Yeah sure. Thanks for talking with me." His voice was light, but the meaning was heavy.
"I don't really get to talk a lot with others. Thank you."
Your heart fluttered with warmth and you felt a little bit proud of yourself for making his day a bit happier. You held your hand out for him to shake.
"I'm glad to do business with you."
You tailor on and trembled at the sudden coldness of his hands. It then dawned on you that he may be far from home since this restaurant was close to the wrong stop.
"Eh, by the way, do you have any means of getting home? isn't it far?" You inquired.
He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.
"Its not very far. Just some blocks down."
You knew it was a lie and glanced around all the people who were passing you that was obviously larger than the thin man. You glance at the large bag he was carrying, and you knew it would have interesting eyes on it. Without saying a word you flag down a taxi that was skimming for passengers and rummage in your wallet for another 20.
"Take this. It’s on the house-"
"I don’t want to take this, I-"
"Shh. Please take this and get home safe. Please." You nearly beg him when place the cash in his palm and closer your hand over his.
There was nothing around you when you both glared at each other for a moment. You felt the edginess of uncomforted anguish settle against your chest and pulled away quickly taking a few steps back from the man.
"What about you?" He asks. The moonlight was pressed on the side of his face.
"I'll just get another taxi." You shrug your shoulders as he's stuck between an open yellow door. He's there until the cab driver beckons him to get in. Eventually he subsides his will to defy taking your money and a cab and eventually settles in the taxi car.
You name rolls off his tongue.
"Bye." He says
"Bye." You reply.
When the taxi car disappears is when the black limousine replaces it and you realized Marcus was eavesdropping the entire time.
You open the door already seething with anger when plopping inside. Marcus isn't the type to speculate and gossip as much as he would shove his rhetorics down your throat.
When you shut the door was when tension gripped you and you threw your bag to slide to the adjacent backseat door as he was obviously sneering under his breath.
"What the fuck are you doing?" You barked.
Had to make this chapter considerably shorter for it was much longer than I realized lol. I'll update the next chapter a few days after this one. Sorry if it's not as much meat as there are vegetables in this one. I also made canonical changes to the events of Arthur getting beat up just so that it can be a little bit more dramatic in this fanfic. Enjoy!
"Why are you getting so worked up? Unless you're doing something you don't think you should be doing?" Marcus inquires.
Your body bobs as he pulled away from the curb. Your eyes burn the back of the passenger front seat to the point where they become damp. He wasn't going to tell your parents since he believes in freedom once you were adult but you were still suspicious in his intentions. Even though he may just want your half-baked life to have perseverance, that wasn't just the main motive.
"I'm not doing anything that would make me feel like it's wrong." You answer him.
Fists ball up beside your thighs when he scoffs. The black leather of the seats squeal.
"Then why are you so worked up?"
You stilled under his question. Why exactly were you upset? He was trying to keep you safe but he also did appear intrusive in his actions. You fold your arms over you chest and glanced at the passing buildings through the penumbra of the limousine window.
"Who is the man?" He asked brusquely.
You buttoned your lips until the imperative silence and the humming of the moving car began to make you more dolorous than if you were to speak.
Hesitantly, you hiss his name from your lips.
Pangs of revulsion began to ring in you as he didn't respond as fast as usual. Meaning he was contemplating something. The humming of the car was a screaming silence to you. A pounding heart drums in ears to idle its tenor.
"Why were you with him?"
You pondered on the idea. Not that your discretion bobs and weaves when questions come to your regard, but you wondered why you were beginning to see a discrepancy of how he appears to you compared to others.
Marcus suddenly lost all of his formal composure for the first time. He would relinquish some of it, but not all of it and he suddenly bellows with laughter as he stops at a light.
A sigh from you came with the truth.
"I just wanted him to kind of model for my series-"
"A model? No offense, but I thought he was your dealer. This stuff that you're doing is insane, and I'm not sure how you hadn't gotten in a heat of trouble before." He chuckled again before glaring back at you.
All forms of laughter slipped from his face and judgment remained on his dark skin. It only made you sift in your seat from angst. Your pride was being scorned by his statement.
"Yeah, well, he's not. He just looks intriguing to draw is all."
His mouth fell agape when suddenly the light turned green and he glanced away.
"Do you think he would let you paint him and that's it? You've got to watch for people. Especially with you being the daughter of a CEO with money in your pockets making it hard for you to walk. Rich people are not necessarily treated nicely here outside of their paid entourage."
His manifesto of words hit you like a brick and you remained silent as he continued.
"How exactly are you going to draw him? By going out with him every so often? Do you know if your parents found out they would cut you off of all the money that's keeping you in the lifestyle you have?"
Your head knocked the car window gently as you thought answers to yourself to defend your pride.
"Of course I wasn't going to paint him alone. I would be in public doing it and even then I would have Candice with me to make sure he wouldn't hurt me."
He shook his head in disapproval and disappointment. A cool breath slipped from your lips with a partial growl to impede it.
"He doesn't even look right. Why not at least pick someone who looks you know.." he alluded until he was only met with silence.
He started and bile built in your throat as you grew a rapport for Arthur.
"Why the fuck would I want to paint someone normal? I'm trying to show just how fucked up Gotham can be-" You strifed before an aftertaste of regret seeped onto your tongue. Before you could apprehend and backtrack on your statement, Marcus was already prating.
"So, you're saying he's fucked up-"
"No, that's not what I meant!" Your voice tottered.
Mouths were pinched till a sough blew past your lips. You knew he wouldn't bring up your parents. But you were scared. While your father was a hard worker and kept more to himself, your mother disciplined the hardest out of the both of them. Your hands cup at the bow of the leather seat. You heard the leather pop under their scrutiny.
You never want to think about it.
The large marble house and its windows that had too many to count and the green, freshly cut grass on a property that never ends. There was a reason beyond the shoal residents that lived beside you and the facade of virtue that wealth came with. Everything has to be powdered to pure, impeccable grace no matter how ugly it really is.
Dropping your fork during etiquette class slapped the pride out of your mother. A grade below an A? You would watch your family eat with the portion of your meal bare of nutrition. When asking for more food, your mother would explain that there were none left even from the richness your family name has. A boyfriend? Your mother would beat around the bush that you may be a harlot and a tart. It wasn't nearly as dark as what could go on in Gotham.
But there was a reason why you hated home.
Your mother would never hit you, in fact, she actively sought to never touch a hair on you when she was angry. Her punishments would be slinging prejudice that would never truly be forthright. And when asked upon it, she would act coy as if to say you were insane that she would shame you.
No, she embarrassed you when it was time for punishment.
Your father being so busy as a CEO he would never notice this detail as well as a lot in your life. Your mother was a prized possession to him as you were to her. Even if she felt chagrin about you. You had to be perfect.
You wanted the truth than the mitigated chimera that your mother built around you. When given the chance, as soon as you turned 18, you asked for a house from your father.
You never stepped foot in that sorority since your mother went with you to meet its members and the amount of bullshit that spout out their mouths disgusted you. You hate the great rich apparition.
And now that you were free, you taste a little bit of excitement when you spotted a fight in Gotham while at a stoplight in your limousine when you were 17. And with a sketchbook in hand, you started your great escapades to sketch the daily life of the streets. The movement and the power of the fists of an older man hitting a younger man. Arguably in his teens.
It was as if it was a metaphor for how fucked up and mediocre the citizens of Gotham were between the large fatcats of Wallstreet. And now that's it's cultivated to a popular series, you find that you can't stop; it's addicting.
You were addicted hooked on honesty and the chaotic truth. The surge of adrenaline seeing the raw emotions of anger, sorrow, and pain. That was your reason for seeking Arthur. Probably your teenage rebellion just hadn't worn off yet.
Because he can't help but show his emotions when it loudly laughs out of pain.
"I'm fucked up for loving the chaos in Gotham."
You orate breezily.
Marcus had his lips buttoned as if he didn't even hear you. He had no physical reaction from himself and impatience grew. You leaned your body to the edge of the passenger seat.
"You're fucking up by going out in the streets of Gotham by yourself and hanging around a strange-looking man."
"That's why I bought Gotham clothes and I bring a knife with me. As for Arthur, he is perfect for my series."
You hiss through your teeth when pressing your back against the seat. Acrimony spooked Marcus. What spooked him more was your growing heresy for parents.
When he dropped you back home the clock just ticked to 1 am.
The next few days you were harbored busy in your class. Prim halls were laced with marble floors. Various copies of clad bodies were scattered onto stands that placed cleanly in a compass around a standing bare woman. Each day the pose was different, various poses had her shivering as she held onto refinement for the students to successfully view her.
You hadn't been able to ride the subway these past view days due to the large workload that began to seize your time.
You were in the studio for hours you were honed in on the sketches you needed to draw by deadlines and you found yourself even drawing a clown a few times to pass the time and finish more work. Then you decided to rummage in your bag to skim over the pages of Arthur in your sketchbook.
You are only reminded by how tired and frail he usually appears.
Does Arthur have a landline at home?
It would be easier contacting him through a phone instead of mysteriously trying to meet him on a train that he probably isn't required to take. You decided that you would take the subway again in hopes of getting even more information out of him.
When you had phoned for Marcus to drop you off at the subway again, he scoffed but obliged. Yet again you were off to visit the clown, however, when you returned to the subway, he was nowhere to be found. You had stayed until your stop came, walking through the trail of carts until you realize it was vacant. Disappointment brewed in your chest but you reluctantly left the train onto your usual stop out of safety.
It's been a week since he was last on the train. In search of him, you even went to the comedy club on the date he stated. There were other comedians in different shapes and sizes that came to the podium but he was defunct once called by the announcer.
Worry grew over you as you went on another date with Chris. It was hard to imagine how much you thought about that man from your rare meetings. It could be that you've grown attached to him simply being there to paint. You found it harder to keep the facade of esteem with Chris as you've realized it's been two weeks since you've last seen Arthur.
No, you would find him. Eventually.
It wasn't until two weeks and some days that you had found Arthur clasping onto the cart corner of the subway train in his strewn plight. You investigate him further as he peered back to you in some odd shame, his right cheek was tumid, misshaping the gaunt structure of his face. His eye was a plum as it clung dearly to the bone of his socket. Scars that are hard with scabs wrapped the bevel of his bottom lip and sharp curve his thick brow.
At first, you didn't outwardly react, you were frozen in a state of apprehension that took you by the collar of your sentiments and shaken you into fear. Wordlessly, you feel as if you were a water drop on the seat next to him and went to speak but even your own words were clinked behind your lips.
His fir eyes roll to you as he leaned his head into the metal corner before his eyes fell shut in a cackle. As passengers pear to the corner of pooling laughter, you held sat silently in the bow of the seat as he lost composure of his body and slid against the metal wall when bowing over his knees. You could only glare as his laughter grew louder and more vibrant. The whispers of others interweave with laughter.
Drops of tears fell onto his shoe as he wraps his arms over himself when he cries. You were frozen and overthinking. You were afraid to speak to console him. Though you were getting closer, you didn't want his condition to get worse by any unnecessary contact. You only sat beside him until he fell silent. But the of other whispers didn't.
Sitting beside such pain and judgment threw you into shameful curiosity and adrenaline. Studying the disfigured features of his face and the tears that threaten to never stop until dusk, you shifted in your seat. You both sat beside each other silently. You didn't pay attention to how many stops had occurred but that your emotions wrapped its tendrils around you and paralyzed you where you sat.
You were afraid of having him walk home alone. And then it became apparent that you had missed your stop. You curse under your breath as you decided to stay seated.
You don't carry around that large fucking brick phone your dad had offered you because it was just too large and it was a token of expense here.
"Arthur, do you have a landline?"
Arthur palms his bag as he haphazardly turns his head to you.
"Yeah." Even after laughing and crying, his voice retained itself to a cool and gentle demeanor.
"May I use it?" You asked, suggesting that you visit his home. Fear sank into your bones. It was both embarrassment and shame. If this man was some type of sick killer or defilier now would be the time to do it. You were weary when he was silent for a few minutes.
"Yeah. But you have to stay quiet. My mom is usually sleeping at this time." He croaked and his voice broke under the scrutiny of his earlier cries.
It was an excuse to walk him home and an excuse to get yourself killed. You didn't know which one felt like the strongest emotion. When you got from the train you trailed some distance away from him as you both walked under street passages and up a hefty flight of stairs that all screamed graffiti on them. Eventually, you make it to a very old building and when you go through the doors the pungent smell of mold overtakes you.
The main light of the corridor flickered and you were getting the main taste of poverty. As you stammer in your steps, Arthur turns to you with confusion etched on his face.
"There's a payphone here if you don't want to go upstairs." He suggested.
"Oh-" a roach scurries around your shoes as you were attempting to answer when you made up your mind that you'd follow him. If he wanted to hurt you, he wouldn't tell you to stay down here right? Or probably he would just hurt you here? As you saw another roach scurry on the payphone you lurched back.
"I'm okay, I'll just call your place. I've just got to call for a ride home." You spoke.
Arthur's face pales when he fully turns around to face you. His mouth presses into a line as his eyes bow before you.
"You missed your stop back there, didn't you? I'm sorry about that."
You scoff to make light of the situation and on how Arthur was acting
"It's fine, I saw you were beaten and I also wanted to make sure you were alright. Do you uh- need anything for your eye or any cuts?"
His eyebrows scrunch and he ducks his head down before shaking his head.
"It happened yesterday." His voice was so quiet a feather could be heard sifting to the floor.
You froze once again in a state of perturbed wonder. When he turned his back for a moment and continued to pace down the hall you could only glance until he turned once more to beckon you with a smile that was faker than the fruit bowls in your parents' home.
Arthur kept his distance in the elevator. He appeared to be spooked by the idea of a woman coming to his home? You were certain he had a girlfriend at one point but possibly because his mother lived there it was especially awkward.
The wood creaks below your shoes as you take light steps, following Arthur skittishly until he stops at his door. He glances at you once more and his wild green eyes manage to ring your nerves until a lock jolt and he opens the door. Once inside you nearly gasp.
His living corridors were so small and cramped and the walls shed a putrid yellow, the wooden floor was petrified of rot and the kitchen was a few decades outdated and a stained off white.
You took note of the door shut with whispers that deep from the bottom of the door and a faded light. Arthur removed his jacket to hang it in a closet. Once the jacket slipped from him, it was clear how the fabric is desperately clinging on to the frame of his body.
When you met with his eye that wasn't swollen shut, you quickly glance away.
Your whispering voice broke the silence between you two.
"Nothing. I just had a run-in with a few kids." Arthur paced to the small coffee table and a faint clanged whined from the spiral corded phone.
He held the handle to you as you were still in the doorway. You cautiously crept to him careful not to disturb his mother and took the handle from him as he silently slips beside you and around the corner. Cranking is heard before the TV whispers grew louder briefly before it fades with a click.
You were surprised he just left you there alone so quickly. You glanced at the phone for a moment and eventually decide to call the emergency brick phone your father had given Marcus. Once you hear his voice you sigh of relief that he had kept a working battery pack with it.
"I'm okay. I'm not too far from the train station."
And with that Marcus sighed.
"I'll call in again in a bit, just stand by. I'll give you the address to where I'm at."
With the click of the phone, you glance around the dingy apartment. There were a few blankets strewn on the couch and the TV was fairly aged. When you silently placed your steps you glanced at a small photo of a child with familiar features only to realize its Arthur.
When you heard a sudden creak coming from the corner you trembled and paced to the sofa. Arthur looked genuinely confused to see that you were sitting on his couch but he eventually took to the armchair adjacent to it and turned on the tv from a remote scattered onto the coffee table.
"Did you call for a ride?" He asked.
It was a gentle voice but when you glanced at him be slipped a cigarette from a pack hidden in his pocket, placed it between his teeth and threw the container onto the coffee table. The cigarette bobbed in his for a moment before he flicked a lighter at the tip and threw that on the table too. The pungent smell of cigarettes crunched your nose slightly.
Was this how he was when he was angry?
"Yeah. It's going to take some time for them to get here."
You answered awkwardly as he appeared more rugged than he led on.
"Okay." He said. He pushes himself to a stand and paces behind you. You can't help but glare at the TV and its passing commercials as you heard slipping doors of a fridge and the loud crinkles amidst the silence. When the armchair exhales from him sitting, he placed a bag of peas over his swollen eye.
He leaned back in his chair and snakes of smoke expel from his lips.
"Do you want me to walk you out there?"
You wanted to draw him at this very moment.
You wanted to make sure he was alright too.
"No. It'll be some time before they get here anyway."
It was an awkward silence before you glanced at Arthur. He was prying at you with a half lid over his eye as one arm is paired close to his chest, dangling the cigarette within his digits and the other palm holding peas to his face. Your body shifted under his scrutiny.
But you decided to quickly search for your sketchbook in your bag and place it in your lap. When you open to a fresh page and begin to draw him without verbal consent, you relaxed your frame a bit.
It was a calming endeavor and you realized how nervous you were underneath his roof. Whenever he smokes, his homely voice is a lie to the agitation that was on his face. Even as he gapes at you the entire time, taking brief blows of smoke, you continued to sketch his form. The titillation began to build in you as the drawing resembled his posture.
His mouth starts to curve up and eventually a wide grin settles on his face.
"May I see?" He asks after a moment.
You hand him the book and he pinches his mouth over the cigarette as he threads his fingers in the sketchbook pages to hold it still. He chuckled genuinely and tilted his head in wonder to appease it from different angles. He stretches over to give the sketchbook back.
"It looks beautiful." He complimented ironically so. He was at his most downtrodden state that you've seen. He smiles when he takes ahold of the cigarette from his mouth.
"Why do you want to draw me? I'm such a weird man."
The question threw you for a loop but you answered as quickly as your wits could.
"Because you looked like someone good to paint. I thought you looked interesting in your clown suit but I kind of want to paint you in all of your forms."
His working eye reamed and a whine of laughter rumbled in his throat. He swallows for a moment and pitches back in his chair as his eyes shift from your face and follow the curve of your body. Your heart salvos into heat at the impetuous action. When his eye skims back on your face, he kindly smiles.
"In all of my forms?" A breath seeps from his broad grin.
Your mind sauntered over the connotation he alluded to.
Was this a snide attempt at flirting?
Arthur threw a shot at you before but this is beginning to grow more overt than what you would expect from his meager attitude. Your heart pulsed in your ears and you were confused as to what to do. You decided to act as though you didn't hear him before he continued.
"So you would paint me while I dance?" He leers wider and swings his body gently like the swing of a clock.
Embarrassment happened to push those assuming thoughts away from his innocent question. Apparently, you were the one assuming the worst. You scoff to yourself for a moment.
"Yeah, if I can draw the movement right."
He hums and beams as the bag of peas crinkles in his hand. You wanted to help him. What would it look like to help? Would it be that bad? What had been a push to stand had creaked the floor under your feet and made Arthur tremble.
His back hugged the backrest of the chair as he lines his sight with yours. He pushes the half-used cigarette in his mouth and when you went to touch the bag of peas, he deeply scowled. You stilled and pull away due to his reaction before he gently clasps his hand around your wrist.
The touch surprised you.
It surprised you so much you threw yourself back further than you anticipated. When you fell on the couch his legs began to tremble and his feet tap the ground.
"I'm sorry." He quickly giggled as his eyebrows scrunch in pain.
You shook your head and glanced at the telephone that was porches upon the thin table.
"I didn't mean to scare you." He whispers as if he'd frightened you if he didn't.
You nod and simper at him to reassure him you weren't afraid.
You were afraid.
But when you study his face for a moment the realization lapsed in you that you were afraid of something else other than him.
And you were confused why you couldn't point it out.
"It's fine. Your hand was just cold."
It was partially correct. In reality, your body reacted before you could think.
"I've got to make another call." You state as you tread to the telephone. When the phone ringed after dialing for Marcus, you glanced at Arthur as he turned his attention to the television. You had asked Arthur for his address as it rang and he stated it as he was focused on the tv.
A vague click and a cracked voice answers. You only reply with the address given and tail it off with "see you here."
Arthur was badly bruised, trounced and possibly thrown to the side like a rag doll. And what's worse was that you didn't know what to do to console the poor man outside of hoping to God that drawing him would probably appease not only you but him.
As you turned on the ball of your heel to glance at the living room, you hear an unprecedented tapping of the wood once more. When taking a few careful steps forward to glance at Arthur's undertaking, his legs were a piston to the floor again.
"Are you sure you're okay walking down there by yourself?"
You beckoned as if you could be heard before replying.
"Yeah, I'll be fine. Thanks, Arthur." You wander to the door and glanced back to see that Arthur was standing behind you. Possibly to usher you through the door but his space between you wasn't as large as it was in the elevator.
You glance beside him to see that his cigarette mangled in the ashtray. He still held the bag of peas on his eye.
What scared you the most was that you weren't scared of how adjoined he was. When he paced even closer, you froze until you heard the lock beside your side jitter and the knob turning. Arthur browses at you until you moved aside to realize you pressed yourself against his door.
He opens the door and awkwardly you escort yourself out.
"Bye, Arthur." Your voice cracked.
But, Arthur merely stood silently. It was the reticence that birthed tension. The crackling plastic bag of peas spoke more than he did the entire night. But his eye skims down your body like it did earlier and you inadvertently take a step back before waving.
"Goodbye." He grins at you before slowly closing the door.
When you got on the ground floor, you had waited inside the building till you could see the limousine slip adjacently to the sidewalk. Like a battle scene, you sprint as quickly as possible to the car and pulled the door shut.
Through the glimpses of the brick phone resting on the armrest and your sudden realization that you forgot to get Arthur's number, you curse under your breath. Without alerting Marcus you took brick phone and clicked through previous contacts to find the landline you called Marcus from. You sigh in relief and attempt to write the number in your sketchbook without Marcus realizing what you were doing.
When you got home, you made sure to tear out the page and put it in your nightstand drawer.
There was the odd interaction with Arthur of course but with it came so much excitement you didn't know what to do with yourself. You were ready to ask him to model for you at the studio immediately, especially how the sketch of him turned out but you were afraid of asking so soon.
He previously agreed to it but did he know what he was getting himself into?
Do you know what you were getting into?
Of course, you'd always keep a knife and pepper spray with you. And your father gave you a gun that you left in a safe in our closet. Would it matter? That shooting range your father used to bring you to made you rather skilled but would you be able to ever kill anyone with it?
You don't want to kill the man even if he threatened you. You shamed yourself for thinking about self-defense but you had to face the possible circumstances.
Arthur just doesn't appear to be a normal man like your father, Marcus or Chris. He is something so eccentric, he gives you the excitement you're looking for by merely sitting on the subway train and having to deal with his condition.
And then you thought...
Maybe if you got to know him more, he would unleash more of his gentle nature than the abnormal mask he is forced to put on every day. You hadn't seen the man hurt a fly, he was innocent in a lot of his nature. You've seen relatively normal men do more damage than him.
If he was a threat, possibly getting to know him more would reveal that to you. You could buy a studio even though you were more comfortable painting at the studio of your own home. You could pretend that the studio is just part of your university. Probably having security posted outside the studio would also help you if you were in peril?
You could get to know him but behind a window of safety? That would be a better plan.
Yes, if he questions it, then you could blame your pristine university for having such high security.
You could pay for his taxi and get him to visit you in the studio space. You could pay him for his time.
You got ready for bed and fell asleep with high hopes of the plan coming to good fruition.
You would call him up and ask to paint him at the studio at your college, so then if things got out of hand, he wouldn't know where you lived.
It should be a simple enough plan.
You had waited to make your move. For a few days, you woke up from bed and glared at the telephone beside you for minutes at a time. Anxiety bubbled inside your chest.
You got up and went to school as if it weren't on your mind to call him until you went to look for studio spaces near your university to rent. When you found a nice 700ft space seemed convincing enough in an office building that looked similar to the buildings in Gotham university, you dropped the down payment in cash immediately for it. You peered out the window to find the University of Gotham sitting close enough to read the logo and the cityscape that was abaft in the distance.
You had movers to move in freshly bought desks, stands, canvases, paint and shelves. You removed the carpet in that space to leave concrete as a way to avoid tacky plastic on the ground as you did for your own studio at home. Everything was set up to be a well crafted fabricated lie, but it was perfect. You would have your own security to stand near the bottom floor doors as a precaution.
You were feeling confident and more elation in you than you were used to. It was a mask of anxiety to get the lie just right.
When you would get home from a busy day, you would try to quickly pace to your room to avoid the all-seeing eye of Candice.
Though, Candice began to notice your inner upheavals.
"You've been strange lately? Anything going on, Sweet Pea?" She would ask.
"You can tell me anything, you know?" She pestered.
You would hail any and all the truth behind your closed jaw and would omit anything that would oblige the ' wrong response from her. It grew apparent that her expressions phased from being gentle nearly all times of the day to more untrusting of the situations she didn't seem to have knowledge about. Her futile efforts to phish information out of you grew steadily fervent.
It wasn't until you were painting and she went to observe it in silence behind you until she finally spoke.
"You seeing anyone in Gotham?"
Your spine stiffened as quickly as she dropped the question. Your eyes were wide and preyed even though she couldn't see it.
When you turned around she was glaring past you at the paintings as if she knew you would say no.
Which you did.
On other days you would spend time with Chris. Sometimes after his long conversations, you would fuck him to pass the time.
Your angst even got to you when he rolled off of you and you were left breathless, glaring at the waving ceiling. You two were 'blissfully' on your yacht, basking in a heap with bed head. He throttled your thoughts when he asked:
"What's wrong, Sunshine? You look a little dim."
To which you retorted that you were just stressed with finals. It's not as if it was on his mind to question it any further. He would push the subject away with a one-word response and continue to blather on about the stresses of his job right after the sex. And then you thought.
You felt guilty about this but you seriously took notice that the awkward silence between you and Arthur was more entertaining than the constant talk about fat cat exec business with Chris. Even with the silence in between, Arthur would talk to you more about your art in the few days of your encounters than all of the months you've resided in a relationship with Chris.
It dawned on you that the comparison….
Made you unhappy. Quesie was its middle name.
It pangs a gut feeling in your chest that made you more distant to Chris than you realized in subtle ways.
What are you even thinking?
Chris was a busy Wallstreet boy working towards his dream to become an executive at Wayne enterprises.
Arthur is an estranged man who laughs whenever he cries and works as a clown probably seeing half the money in his lifetime that you see in a day.
There was no comparison to be made.
Still, you eyed the phone every morning after you woke up.
You tried to keep up your poor act, especially after days of no contact with Arthur. You were adamant to close the communication gap so then you wouldn't have to go to great lengths to just talk. Let alone get him to meet you in order to paint him.
The next few days had gone by and one day you decided to finally do it. The urge that was fluttering in your chest finally exploded.
When you searched your drawer for the paper, dialed the number and put the cool handle to your ear, you paused hearing the dialed tone.
The phone clicked and your breath caught in your throat.
"Hello?" It was an airy and soft voice. A woman's voice.
It was only 2 conclusions that could be made here.
Either you fervently wrote the wrong number
This is his mother. Penny.
You thought for a moment on what to say to the madam.
"Uh, yes… is Arthur there?" You asked.
A brief pause made your nerves vibrate into your hands before she responded.
"Unfortunately he is not. Who may this be?"
You carefully stated your name and a gasp makes you twinge.
"Arthur has talked about you. He says you make wonderful art and you want him to model for you. That's so splendid what you're doing for Happy." The woman spoke.
Your smile was more capacious than you'd like to admit. You were so flustered you didn't know what to say.
"Oh, it's nothing, really. I just thought he would be something good to draw-"
When she continued, you had a moment of deja vu from the bothersome elderly man in the subway. You braced yourself to hear her continue over your words when she started.
"Would you be willing to come back anytime soon? Happy- well-"
Her own scoff cut her off.
"Happy was happier anytime you would be together on these dates."
You pulled the handle of the phone away to glare at it as if it were Penny. You cleared your throat when you pressed the phone back to your ear.
"Oh no, ma'am. I already have a significant other, I simply like to paint Arthur." Your laugh tailed behind the statement.
"Oh." Her voice that seemed so lithe continued. "Are you willing to come by anytime soon?"
"Actually, I wanted to see if he'd be willing to come by my stu- my university so I can continue my work with him. I'd be more than willing to give him money for his visits. And I know he takes care of you so I wouldn't take up too much time."
You gulped fear that you may have accidentally overstated that you have a studio.
"Oh, that is splendid of you. I just can't wait to tell Happy." You can hear her glean through the phone.
Happy must be his nickname. You scoffed to yourself as it didn't ever really seem like Arthur was happy when you've met him occasionally.
You told her that he could get ahold of the number you stated to her.
"What university are you attending?" She asks.
She gasped and giggled for a moment and you began to pick up the feeling that she didn't stray too far from Arthur on the mental scale. Or that Arthur didn't stray too far from her.
"Oh, that's splendid, I've known a few people who have gone to that university and they all say it's so wonderful."
You smiled through the phone at her compliments.
"Thank you so much."
Just as similarly with Arthur there was a deafening pause.
"I actually used to know someone important who used to go there. Well, he already graduated by the time I met him, but no doubt he was a splendid man... oh, I just wish I could see him again. It's been so hard lately with rent and Arthur having to take care of me. If I could talk to that man again, I'm sure he wouldn't allow us to be in this state."
Her diatribe was so in-depth, you simply stayed quiet on the phone. Sometimes you wish you could help more, but you knew that no one would ever look at you for who you are but for how green you are with wealth. And you already hated facades.
You really wish you could help.
"If you are willing to become Arthur's friend. Please don't hurt him. Arthur is a good boy, he goes through a lot and sometimes I've accidentally called him sad." She giggled at her statement.
You bit your lips and looked at yourself in the mirror for a moment, taking note that you weren't even smiling at her light-hearted joke.
"I promise, I'll make sure to be a good friend to Arthur."
You heard a bit of clicking on the phone.
"Well, I've got to go. One of my favorite shows is on. You make sure to take care, okay?" She asked you
"Of course I will, you too."
She whispers her goodbye.
You heard a click on the phone and hung up the phone yourself. Your back fell onto your bed and sighed for a moment. It was a growing fear that this budding lie is going to become a monster that will inevitably hurt Arthur. But as long as you keep in by an arm's length, you will be alright.
You went to continue on your day. Framing your work spent hours at a time to do and you wanted to make sure they were done correctly for a show you were planning on hosting in a few weeks. Really, this show was practice for the big one you were putting admissions towards.
To host a show at the Gotham Museum.
You knew through the connections your father had, you could get your work hung in the gallery. And your thoughts shifted from painting the grim and gunky streets of Gotham to forms of Arthur. He was the embodiment of Gotham.
As you silently put frames together. Drilling in nails, measuring the frame for the glass to be cut at the correct length. You heard a ring that migrated from your room to the phone in the studio. You quickly picked up the phone before the loud ringing harrowed you.
"Hi" a gentle voice made you lean into the phone harder.
"Arthur?" You asked.
"You called earlier?" He asked.
When you follow the cord of the phone to your clock it was 7:35 pm.
"Yes, I did." You fell silent and scolded yourself for doing so because he fell silent most likely out of confusion.
"I called because I wanted to ask if you would like to come to the studio at my university so I can finish more work with you?"
You saw the spiral cord of the phone trimmer as you realized you were quivering from fear that you may be pushy.
"Yeah, that would be nice. When?" Arthur asks.
"How about tomorrow night at 7? It's going to take a few hours, is that okay?" You inquired.
"Yeah, I can do that and that's fine."
You nearly sigh in relief for a moment. You tell Arthur the address of the rented studio and as he writing it down you continued.
"I'll pay for the taxi. Do you have any questions?" You ask as if you were his employer. Which it began to seem that way.
"Thank you. It's nice talking with you." He stated and you realized you didn't know what to retort.
All you could say was a feeble 'you too.
When you hung up the phone, you felt your nerves bursting with chaos that you may be able to make the best series of work with someone that you're excited to paint. Just as interesting as it was that you painted Gotham, you never exactly got so personal with someone from there.
This may lead you to feel more comfortable to ask others to draw them as well but when you look out to the population of Gotham, they simply don't give the hysterical energy that Arthur is bustling with.
Maybe you could find that same energy as the asylum.
The very next day came longer than it should, it slugged its way through hours of talking with professors about your event and eventually talking small talk with other students from your class about art. It was apparent that your art was far surpassing the class. This was not a conceited thought as much as it was a staggering difference in quality.
You were an introvert who loved to paint for hours a day every day. It was only a logical path to have the skill behind hours of practice. When the sun fell asleep was when you put your baggy, Gotham clothes on and headed to the office to meet the man.
Marcus dropped you off and was parked near the building. You waited patiently at the bottom floor, peering through the glass doors until you saw a yellow taxi pull up to the curb. Unconsciously, you gussy up your appearance, making sure to trim out any unnecessary wrinkles in your clothing.
When Arthur stepped out, his tawny hair was slicked back as he pulled himself and his heavy brown bag out from the taxi door and stumbled straight. He peered at the door to see you and he smiled.
He took some time to size up the building and his mouth fell agape at the skyscraper. Then it hit you, probably this was a not a convincing studio space for how tall the building is. He flounders through the glass door, security glaring at him through their tinted glasses. It was apparent that he didn't have much wardrobe since his outfit was familiar but still fancy in its own way.
"So, are you ready?" You ask.
He leers and nods. As he paces behind you, you couldn't help but feel his bore.
And when you were in the elevator he was pressing himself to the corner.
"Are you okay?" You ask, turning to gaze at him and nearly scoffing at his dramatic posture.
"Yes. I just hope I'm not conjuring up all of this in my head." His eyes were feral with fear until you started to audibly snicker and went to pat his shoulder.
"I'm as real as it gets, there's nothing to worry about." You glean.
He eventually relaxes and breathed a heavy breath of what appeared to be a relief. When the elevator stopped on the 17th floor, you led him to the studio and he gasped at the city view from the inside. Even though it was dark, Gotham in a way looked beautiful from afar.
Arthur slips his bag from his shoulder next to the door and he wanders the room as you set up the painting equipment.
"This is a really nice place." He states and you continue to hurriedly fumble through drawers to find the right tools. You were eager to paint him where he stands.
"Yeah, it is isn't it?" You asked.
He eventually arrests in the middle of the room. He's glancing at you again.
"What are you looking at?" You asked, playfully grinning at him as his thin frame leans sideways.
"I'm trying to see what you're doing."
A large change from one of the stands made both of you jump as you scramble to get all of the tools.
"Oh, I'm just setting up is all. Hey, could you sit on that stool for me?" You ask.
He nods and paces to the stool. When he sits down he can't help but swing himself gently on the stool.
"I know I wasn't at the show the last time, but I have another one I was planning on going to..."
He alluded as he fumbled with the sleeves of his jacket.
"Of course I'll come by." You say as you squeeze the oil paint next to turpentine onto the wooden paint board.
"How long have you been doing this?" He asks you.
"Most of my life. How long were you in comedy?" You inquire when setting up the canvas on the stand and moving the stand closer to him.
"All of my life." He states.
"You know, I actually spoke to your mother on the phone and she calls you Happy. That's actually endearing." You both smiled at each other and Arthur's gaze follows you as you set up the lights. When you turn it on he quickly covers his face by his forearms until he adjusts himself to the sudden flash.
The contrast of the crinkles in his smile made you stop your actions and glower over them.
"You think so?"
"Yeah" you reply.
You sit down and sigh for a moment to glance at his figure that was slumped and thin. There was a lump that was growing in your throat ever since he met with you at ground level and you were annoyed by it. But you began to draw his figure.
Every time you went to swivel at him the light only appeared to make his features more intense and those light viridian eyes made your feeling weep in some obscure language.
His hands slid into his pockets as his polished black shoes began to tap the ground.
"You nervous?" You ask as you continue your discipline on drawing his vague form.
"Yeah, you look fancier than me."
You didn't know whether to scoff because you were wearing baggy streetwear or whether you were scoffing because you too were nervous.
"Eh, thanks." You stated as you focused more on the work. As time went on you studied the wrinkles in his face to begin to question his age.
"How old are you, Arthur?" You ask he stiffens for a moment.
"I'm 34. How old are you?" He asks.
"18. About to turn 19 soon." You stated.
He heavily nods and begins to twirl on his seat when you interrupted.
"Stay still, Arthur!" You laugh.
He smiles back and apologized as he freezes. His face grew serious for a moment. For his age, and in the right light... he didn't look so bad to be mentally ill. It's rude to consider this but the thought couldn't help but enter your mind. You took notice of the crooked teeth he had whenever he smiled but somehow it remained a bit charming for him.
"Are you sure you're going to handle this for a few hours?" You giggle.
As time went on he was fidgeting but you continued to call him out on it. It wasn't until 2 hours have passed until you were ready to begin painting. You had let him out on a smoke break and when he came back you began to paint once more. It wasn't long that the more you glanced at him the more uncomfortable you felt.
And Arthur hadn't laughed one bit. He was scrutinizing almost as much as you were with him.
"So… you want to look at it so far?" You asked and he happily obliged.
You were so focused on his eyes that they had more work to them in which Arthur tilted his head.
"My eyes are done more than the rest of my body."
You laughed at his statement for a moment until he asked why.
"Well, I like your eyes-" you gasp.
"I'm sorry, that came out wrong." You rushed.
When you glanced at Arthur he was peering down at you. He was closer than you thought, again. Then you realize he was diligently glancing at your eyes.
You cleared your throat and pointed to the chair.
"Sit, Arthur, I've got to finish painting you." You tried your damndest to move him away from you. He blinks a few times before he paces and sulks down on the chair. The rest of the time was followed by complete silence but your emotions ran turmoil in your head.
Now, what was this man going to think?
I'm trying hard to create the conflicting feelings in this story. As I write, I'm finding that the reader character is fiery and robust but often can't deal with emotions which is pretty interesting and I'm on the ride with everyone to discover how all of this plays out. After I finish the story, I'll edit the chapters and add summaries. Thanks for reading everyone!
When you were home from the endeavor, you hissed over the frustration. You were completely misunderstanding and misunderstood. When you parted from each other, he didn't stop his observations of you even as he waited for the taxi.
Was he expecting you to say something?
Were you the one to actually initiate a conversation after the abysmal miscommunication?
You think not.
Your lips were pressed tightly together as if it were a clam hiding its pearls.
Whenever you snuck a peer at him, you would burn under his sight and further distance yourself away from him. You didn't want him to think about what your compliment meant.
It was nothing.
You laid in bed and eventually felt so frustrated you went to phone Chris to ease your mind from the ordeal. Probably his rants about work will appease your nerves this time. But the phone dialed and failed to reach him. You sigh and put the handle away and slept on nerves that made it difficult to sleep.
And when you woke up the next day, you were deprived of dormancy. Candice came to work early for the day; she made you breakfast and sighed when you came around the corner to the kitchen.
"You look like a mess."
She was deadpan as a clink on the wood signaled that delicious breakfast was on the table. It was an omelet.
"It was busy yesterday." You mumble.
She stood adjacently where you sat and you eyed her suspiciously.
"Eat and make sure you rest, please. You've been working so hard lately you haven't gotten any sleep. You are your father's daughter."
She went to grab a broom and tussles its wrangled end against the porcelain kitchen floor.
"Sheesh, I'm not that bad." You scoffed as you pulled apart bread with your teeth.
"I practically see no difference. How about you take a day off for once?" She asked.
"Because I want to host a show at the Gotham Museum."
"The Gotham Museum will always be there. How can you host it properly when you're bustling about always tired?"
You knew that Candice was griping about your health but she was grating on thin ice with you these past few days and you just want to be left alone to work. You didn't want to rest. You knew as soon as you would stop, the feelings that you ignored over the years will bubble to its surface. You'll be much more exhausted dealing with that than to just cover over it with paint sessions.
You wanted to finish that painting with Arthur but you knew deep down he probably felt just as uncomfortable as you did about the slip of your tongue. Eventually, it will be time to ask him to come back and you can just explain to the poor man that you were mistaken and awkward.
That you were trying to appease the frequent silence between you two and you just happen to like to paint eyes more than anything else on the body, which was a lie. You love painting the entire body.
Just like him, you don't interact with too many people outside of your circle. But it wasn't a good enough excuse to throw at him.
The deep green irises that you painted haunted you. It was seeping at your nerves, threatening you to jitter without meaning to.
Arthur is a 34-year-old man, who works as a clown and still lives with his mother. Yet, you were beginning to grow hatred for discovering Arthur. Probably people hated him for how he made them feel and how he fumbles anxiously at himself before he would laugh at another inconvenience in his life.
What is wrong with you? And what was wrong with him?
Why didn't he just say something?
Why was he just waiting for you to speak?
You nearly growled as you ate the buttery grits that sat on your plate.
"Okay, I'll take a break. But it's just for one day." You admitted.
This could give you time to think and how to quickly diffuse situations like these so you can get to know him more and paint the feelings he can tell you.
Because obviously this man is doped up with pills and his action speak thousands of words.
Candice leered at you and began to clean the kitchen and took your plate once you were finished. You paced yourself back to bed. That day you relaxed and watched tv for once.
The next day you meet with Chris's parents.
It was the best idea to relax yesterday because now you were on edge. Red satin chairs were scooted back for you to sit. The glass table was covered with blanc silk lace. Glass to glass and metal clanks orchestrated throughout the diner. There was a moment when you were focused on the velvet walls that were conjunct with white borders and it eventually hurt your eyes. It was a reputable Italian restaurant.
Chris comes from a respected family, and this was the second time you were meeting his parents. His mother was a beautiful blond woman that graduated cum sum Laude at Yale with a law degree while his father sported darker hair and bulky frame and had a master's from Harvard in bussiness. The last time you visited them, it was splendid and they appeared to like you.
But to meet them again was still nerve-wracking.
When they told you their first name you honestly had forgotten by the end of the former dinner and kept referring them to simply Mrs. And Ms. Richardson.
They were proud of Chris and his achievements and you were envious of Chris because his family bared less money than yours. They had more love and time to give to him as he grew up while yours didn't. They were a genuine family.
When you sat with them previously the parents would reminisce happily over the first time they met as if you were daughter-in-law already.
Love Letters In The Sand by Pat Boone was playing on their first dance at a club full of swingers. Mr.Richardson would say he noticed her when she was correcting a flirtatious man about the law of harrassment.
Because of how quiet Mr.Richarsson was, she used him as a prime example of what 'a good man' is at the club. It he was such an example, she grabbed his hand and proceeded to dance with him. As they twirled on the dance floor, she couldn't help but notice he wasn't so bad looking and neither could he.
And by god how coincidental did it seem they loved each other not for the money but for themselves. Because of that, they have a relatively healthy son in the body and mind.
Chris was actually working at something that wasn't full of danger due to familial issues. He was working straight from his heart at a wealthy job. An earnest passion.
They gave you gentle smiles and you could feel the stable family oozing onto you. They spoke as you waited for lunch
"So, how have your exhibits been?" Mrs. Richardson asks.
"Good. I'm actually close to getting my work in the Gotham Museum."
Your dress was a fancy white pencil bottom but it was slightly tailored incorrectly leaving you even more uncomfortable around your chest. It became especially unbearable to breath when Chris slyly sifted his hand to your bare knee as you answered. At least with his parents involved, you can talk about your progress with work without being interrupted. As long has his wandering hand didn't stop you.
"That's wonderful, we would love to come by and see it. Right, David?" Mrs. Richardson asked.
"Yes, we would love to. When is it?" He obliged.
"In the next few months."
You weren't sure when it was. With it becoming unnecessarily inconvenient with Arthur, you were left without a concrete date.
"Well, tell us when it is. You make such beautiful art, you have to give us a painting for our foyer." Mrs. Richardson implied.
You didn't want to make landscapes for his family. You weren't interested and they were too nice of people to fail them with half-assed paintings.
You gave them a coy smile and nodded
Chris was silent.
Oddly so. It wasn't until you saw the shifty eyes of his parents that you realize you weren't in on the clue. You glance at the profile of Chris to see a ghost of a smile. His parents looked to be forcing their mouths shut.
When the waitress came to take orders, audible pent up breaths sifted from their lips.
You took your orders and you sat in silence until Ms. Richardson opened her mouth haphazardly. Broad eyes around the table longer to her.
"We wanted to invite you to a family get together."
"Oh, that would be nice. When?" You asked.
Mrs.Richardson's grin was so wide you almost winced for her sake.
"It's actually next month. We know it's far down the line, but we couldn't help but ask right away as soon as we knew."
You glanced around the table quizzically before your eyes settle on Chris who's eyes shot away from you as soon as you tried to meet them. Mr. Richardson was especially silent. In fact, he didn't even look like he could breathe as his face was turning a shade of red and his chest inflated.
You scoff at the scene.
"Well, yeah, sure I would love to come."
Mrs.Richardson's shoulders perk up in excitement as she took you by your strayed hands on the table. Her lithe embrace on your palms only made you more nervous.
"Oh, it will be so splendid!" She exclaimed.
You nervously scoff your way through her conversations about Chris and his cakes childlike full of love and happiness. It was something you yearned for so much, you cringe after 5 minutes of hearing about it.
By the time your food came, you were mentally exhausted. No offense to sweet Mrs. Richardson but she has the mouth of an auctioneer with an endless supply to the auction.
By the end of the dinner, you hugged everyone goodbye and smiled at Chris's wink as he pulled away from your embrace.
When you got home you found yourself lazily spread onto your bed. Your fancy dress unzipped and leisurely slipping from the security of your body. Before you knew it, you had taken a nap.
A ring scares you and bile attends to your throat when you sit up. You swallow to appease your dry throat and glance at your crying phone. You groaned with angst as to who may be calling you.
When you pressed the cold handle to your ear, you cleared your throat.
"Who is it?" You ask in annoyance.
Arthur spoke your name into the phone and you immediately erect your back from the bed.
"Arthur?" You quickly ask.
"I wanted to come by again tonight-"
"Oh, Arthur listen, is it okay if we do it another time? I have to uh-"
You quickly thought of an excuse and the only one that came into mind was possibly going to be a huge mistake. You were too exhausted to meet with Arthur.
"I have a date to go to with my boyfriend tonight, so I won't be able to do anything."
There was a faint scoff on the other end of the line.
"Can I see you tomorrow?"
"Why?" You questioned
He giggled this time and paused for a moment until he could speak.
"I just wanted to see the rest of the painting finished."
"Oh… okay, uh…" you sucked in a breath. "how about 7 again?" You ask casually.
"I can do that."
"Okay, well I'm… I'm going to hang up now, okay?" Fuck you were being stupid again.
"Have fun on your date."
You were going to hang up the phone but you lingered. For minutes you two lingered on the phone until you heard a faint click and the line cries dead.
That was weird.
You put the handle on its rack and laid back down in bed to find that you were miserably sore.
You had slept until Candice woke you up to bring you lunch and eventually you revved up to put in just a little work in for the day by finishing the mural of the prostitutes.
When tomorrow came, you were in class and giving your sketches drafts for your finals. And a few of the sketches were of Arthur and some of the others that you found intriguing on the train. As the critic passed by and you spoke of your concepts, you placed the expectation to see the clown again in your later drafts.
In which tonight you were preparing yourself to do. You had made sure to change when you got home and counted counted your bills and put them in a neat, white envelope in your bag.
When you saw Arthur later that night you noticed that his hair wasn't slickened away from his face as it usually was on your meetings. It was shaggy like it was on the train but you couldn't help but notice that outside of the dim train lights, he didn't have a sliver of silver in his hair. And the light wavy curves of his earthy hair complimented him.
When you rode the elevator you notice he wasn't stuck to the corner but he was standing beside you with his eyes bowed to the floor.
When you arrived in the room, you repeat the procedure to get your tools out again as he sat on the stool.
"How did your date go?"
Your eyebrows scrunch in confusion. When your head peaked over your stool to look at him, there was a scowl on his face.
Then you realized something unfathomably obvious.
Was he… jealous?
There was no way he could be. The age gap between you two was an indefinite wall you were sure he wasn't tempted to cross. You pushed your suspicions aside.
"It went well. How was your day?" You tried to change the subject.
"It was okay."
"That's good. If you feel uncomfortable, you can take a smoke here. I'll just open the windows. Its better than having to go 17 floors down every time. So…"
He crosses his arms and snoops his glare away from you. He takes a cigarette out of his pocket pack and lights it. You were quick on your feet to tilt open the room's windows. When the rugged stench of nicotine hit you, your nose inadvertently scrunched.
As you turn on the lights he blinks a few times to adjust but keeps his face is turned towards the light.
"Do you watch the Murray show?" He asked you.
You shook your head as you selected another neutral tone from the messy paint board.
"No. Not really. I find him… kind of fake." You admitted.
"Really? I love the Murray show. I watch him with my mom sometimes." He spoke as he glanced at the floor again. His cigarette lazily bobs between his fingers.
"That's nice." You stammer, "He's just got that…. Classism going for him. I don't find him funny."
As Arthur glanced up, his leg wriggled and his forehead scrunched by tilted thick eyebrows.
"When I become a famous comedian, I'm sure I'll be on his show! Will you find it funny then?"
The question struck you by surprise and you snickered before giggling louder. You were sure Arthur was wholly serious but his innocent question had so much nonsense that you couldn't help but agree with laughter.
"Yes, I'm sure I'd find his show appealing then. You're pretty funny, Arthur." You scoff.
Arthur had a grin that broadened at you.
The feeling crept up your back again. A demon the ogled you into a submissive of qualm that rattled to the bone. A sixth sense that couldn't be kicked.
When glancing at Arthur, he pierced back and blinked in wonder. Probably because you were scowling at him.
There was something that was off.
You decided to gulp the bundle of nerves in your throat and wait until there was some evidence with this grating impression. It was a few minutes too long that passed and your lips slipped open.
"I'm sorry about what I said yesterday. That was inappropriate and I didn't really mean anything by it." You explained.
He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. He glanced over and around to find an astray for the expired cigarette. You look to unused metal tray you had for mixing paint and placed it on your artist desk to beckon him to put it out.
Once he put it out, he sat right back down on the stool.
"It wasn't inappropriate." He smiled to reassure you but his eyebrows scrunch in pain.
"I like your eyes too."
Your paintbrush threatened to bob out of your fingers and you stare holes into the painting.
"They are lively, and soft like you've never seen pain before in your life." He nearly whispered.
You looked at the unfinished, thin form that had stray sketch marks.
"You can look away, but it's the truth, isn't it?" He followed the question with a chuckle. It turned into a howl that you've never heard from him before.
A high pitch cackle that made your eyes wet when you failed to blink at his first compliment.
"Sometimes when you look at me, I can see how scared you are."
Your lips quivered as your sight blurred. The definitive profile of Arthur on the textured canvas went to a mesh of colors.
"You don't have to be afraid. I wouldn't ever do anything to you. This is actually something good that's happened to me in a very long time." He coughed and straightened himself. His voice was like a child's.
He was still smiling at you. Genuinely.
You blinked and nodded. You couldn't work yourself to complete the painting any further. This was beginning to get out of hand.
"I'm not scared of you, Arthur. I'm scared I might treat you the wrong way on accident."
"What's the wrong way?"
You didn't want to talk anymore about this. You yearned for silence. This man was prying into like you were a crab and he was breaking your shell for the flesh.
How can a mentally handicapped man be this observant in the chaos of his own mind? You stayed silent. He repeated the question softer, to beckon you to continue.
"I don't want to come off creepy."
He chuckled at your sentiment.
"You're not creepy." He coos.
When he smiles his dimples contrast with the warm light of the lamp. You found yourself observing the crinkles of skin around his eyes. Look away.
"Okay." You scoff almost nervously.
He hummed and stood up. You flinched at the screaming stool as it skids a foot behind him. He was waltzing towards you to glance at the picture.
"You did a lot more this time. It looks great." He smiles and leers down at you. You shrivel into yourself at the sudden pressure of your heart drumming in your chest.
What the fuck type of ecstatic feeling sprinting around your body?
The closer he held himself to you, the more you hear the steady tempo of your heart.
"Thanks." You murder and glance up at him.
He held your gaze and his smile gradually fell into a deep scowl. To see his smile fade so suddenly must've meant something felt off to him, right?
He eventually paced away and sat down on the stool again with his hands in his pockets.
You silently continued your endeavors. Whenever he licked his lips, you froze. When his mouth curled, your face flinched in response. When he fumbled with his sleeves and glanced down at his hands, you failed to paint him and instead gawk at his slim form.
It was torturing you as the fear grew in you that maybe he was too real for you.
He was too honest.
What scared you the most was how sane he seemed. So sane that he could see passed you.
And even your lies.
He wasn't as ditzy as he made himself to be. The youthful nature that he expresses in his behavior coupled with laughter made it seem like he wasn't so keen on observation.
What if he told you something about yourself that even you didn't know?
"Classism? I should make that a joke." He speaks like a child.
"Yea. I'd love to hear it sometime." You blink and refocus yourself on painting. When you took note of how deep his scowl was, you couldn't help but breath words without thinking.
"Just like I look scared, sometimes you look like you hate everything, Arthur. But, you know, you're more gentle than you appear." You continued.
"How so?" He asked with a smirk pressed against his face. His head tilts as he bends his elbow and rests his cheek upon his hand.
"Well, for starters, you're a clown just trying to make an honest living. And you take care of your mother. And you've been kind to me so far. I don't see why people want to hurt you." You say in one sigh.
He shrugs his shoulders and chuckles along.
"I don't know either." He admitted.
After some time stillness between you two, you were mistaken. The silence was just as bad as the conversation. You were cowering from completing the painting. You didn't want to look at him. You couldn't. You made it in your mind that you would buy a stereo by the next day to drown out the conversation into something else other than what it is and to take away the silence.
"Its probably because of my condition."
Pangs of laughter erupted from him. You knew he was crying and you felt bad for the man. He couldn't help the way he was. Even though you heard his feelings your body never shifted to face him nor your eyes almost the rest of the night. You were afraid you were going get caught in a gambit of your own emotions.
Arthur noticed your silence and only glares at you as you glared at the painting of him. He was smoking again and his legs were trembling beneath his weight on the stool and he just couldn't fucking move his sight away from you. You put the paintbrush down quickly, almost splattering khaki green onto the empty space beside Arthur's figure.
"I've got to go home. It's getting late, Arthur."
You pace yourself to the door to find a bathroom sink to wash the excess slivers of paint off your hands and brushes. At the bathroom, you scrubbed your hands in the sink. You hiss having to walk across a long hallway and two left turns to get to a sink. You spent time spreading the fine brown hairs of the brushes between your fingers to get the paint out.
By the time you came back Arthur was still seated in the middle of the room, beside the amber lamp, and on the stool. Tendrils of smoke parted around him as he ground his palm with the cigarette to his knee. Then he stood up and skidded his feet against the ground and gathered his bag.
His shoulders were slumped and his movements were slow. He was probably ruminating in his own dejection again. Either way, you steadily avoided his keen eyes when you paced across the room.
You sift a white envelope out from your artist bag and wordlessly hand it to him. Your arm stretched to its greatest length to him as you struggled with stubborn legs that didn't move your body closer to the man.
He looked at the full enveloped puzzled.
"Wha- what's this?" He inquired.
You bob the envelope in front of him.
He slips it from your grasp and as you looked at your artist's desk, crinkles fill the room. Then a gasp the straightens your spine and nearly stops your heart.
Out from the slit of the torn envelope peaked $300. At first, there was a giggle but it died down into ragged breathing.
"I can't accept this, I-"
"It's yours. You worked for it." You interrupted. Before he could speak, you paced to the side of the room to put away your tools and brushes and sling your bag over your shoulder.
You heard a whine from Arthur's throat. It was such a weird sound you turned to it to find that Arthur's eyebrows were scrunched up and his Adam's apple bobbing as he swallows on presumed nerves.
"Let's go." You say briefly.
Quickly, you trying to find the will to push away the flooding receptivity that made your heart float and filled your lungs. Arthur put another cigarette out in the makeshift ashtray.
"Thank you so much." He muttered.
You turn to smile at him and your fervor almost left your body as you see Arthur chortling to himself. Instead of his eyes being glossy full of sadness, it was a dawn of happiness that pooled a calm blanket over your body and warmed you when you observed him. You bit your lip and bobbed your head to beckon him to follow you out of the room.
When you were waiting for his taxi you felt his arm against yours as you both sat on the sofa inside the lobby. It was a cool and professional atmosphere with gray and white as its main aesthetic. It may have been boring to others but the colors balanced the erratic night especially after the rollercoaster of angst and confusion made earlier.
When you heard him sniffling, you knew they were happy tears.
Because he didn't laugh.