“The only time I feel alive is when I’m painting.”
That was a quote by Vincent Van Gogh. A little cliche, maybe, but in my case nothing came closer to the truth. The feelings that I experienced while I painted were second to none, except perhaps for those I experienced immediately after I finished. I couldn’t imagine any feeling in the world more amazing than that of seeing something beautiful, and knowing that I had created it.
Mum often said that I was born with a paintbrush in my hand. Dad often quipped in return that he was there, and I definitely hadn’t been, but it would have been much more uncomfortable for Mum if I had.
I had, however, been painting since I was a small child, ever since I could hold a brush, and I honestly didn’t remember a time even before then when I didn’t love to look at beautiful artworks and dream of creating something like that myself someday. I used to paint in my bedroom at our old house, but when that got too messy my parents made me move my easel down to the basement. When the house was rebuilt into the one we live in now, they allowed me to paint in my room again, but insisted on installing a waterproof curtain between my easel and my bed to limit collateral damage, so that my room was divided into a sleeping area and a makeshift art studio.
The other side of the room was clean enough, since I hardly ever used it except to sleep, but the area around my easel was littered with papers, canvases, brushes, paints and art materials. I knew that it drove my neat-freak of a brother crazy, but I was only a perfectionist when it came to my work. I didn’t have time to keep things tidy when the muse was calling, and she called often enough to keep the room in a state of constant disarray.
This mythical muse of mine was the only woman who had ever held a place in my heart. I had little interest in girls, the way my brother did, but they seemed determined to follow me wherever I went regardless. It was annoying, frankly, though I knew Hugo resented me for it, and probably thought that I should be more grateful for the attention.
But I simply didn’t really feel any kind of need or desire for a girlfriend at that point in time. And I know how that sounds, but I wasn’t asexual. Girls could still make me… feel things. Emotionally, and, uh, physically. Romance and sex just weren’t priorities. And the whole flirting thing had never made much sense to me, anyway, so I wouldn’t have known where to start even if I’d wanted to.
School was the only place I really had much human interaction, and was therefore the source of the majority of the female attention I received. At this point I had spent a good three years taking classes with the same people, during which time I had systematically rejected every girl in my own grade who showed interest in me. The after-school Art Club, however, which was open to everyone in the school, was another matter entirely.
I had been a part of the club since I was a freshman, and in the intervening years had built up good relationships with the teacher and some of the older members. This year, we had welcomed four new members, three girls and one guy. One of the girls had already asked me out and been politely turned down, but the second had never spoken a word to me of her own volition – apparently, she was either painfully shy or totally uninterested in me, which did happen sometimes and was rather a relief when it did.
The third was friendly towards me, but had shown no romantic interest thus far, which I was grateful for because I wasn’t romantically interested in her either. Her name was Adelaide, and by objective standards she was pretty gorgeous. I didn’t doubt that she received a ton of attention from other guys on a regular basis. Perhaps she got a little sick of it as well. The thought that we might have something in common – or two things, if you counted her apparent interest in art – was enough for me to feel comfortable being friendly with her in return.
Today, Adelaide had set up her easel next to mine, and was painting what appeared to be a house, though it was difficult to tell. She glanced over at my work, and sighed.
“I’ll never be as good as you,” she moaned, dropping her paintbrush into the tray underneath her canvas with a loud clatter and scowling at her half-finished painting.
“Don’t say that,” I said, trying to sound reassuring as I lowered my own brush and palette to speak to her. “Things like this just take practice. It doesn’t mean you’ll never get there. Maybe you just need a few pointers in the right direction.”
She brightened at my suggestion. “Do you think you could give them to me?”
“Oh, um, sure, I guess,” I faltered. I was flattered that she considered me up to the task of instructing her, but wasn’t quite sure where to start in this case. I checked my watch, and realised it was almost time for the class to end. I didn’t want to disappoint her, but we didn’t have time for a private lesson right now, and she seemed like she really needed my help. Hoping I wouldn’t regret it later, I made a quick decision. “Do you want to come over to my place after this? I could show you some of my other work, maybe give you some ideas. You need to develop your style on your own, but maybe observing someone else’s practice could help inspire you.”
She was practically glowing as I made the offer. “That sounds like a great idea.”
When we arrived at my house later that evening, I led her upstairs to my room where all my painting materials were located. I could hear one of my siblings in the shower, but otherwise the house was fairly quiet. When we entered my room, I showed her to the easel, where my latest work in progress was sitting.
“This is something I’ve been working on,” I explained. As I stared at the barely-begun painting, I could feel the muse that had inspired it calling out to me again. I picked up my discarded brush and palette, deciding a demonstration wouldn’t be a bad idea, and continued to paint while I talked. “It’s supposed to be a mountain scene, but it might not turn out in the end exactly how I’m imagining it now. Sometimes, when you paint, you have to let it come to you one bit at a time. And if you screw something up, that’s okay too. You can always paint over it, or you can let it become part of the painting.”
Last I checked, Adelaide had been standing several feet behind me and watching with interest. I stumbled and almost dropped my brush when I felt her pressing up against my back from behind. As I grabbed at it to stop its fall, the head of the brush streaked over the canvas, leaving a long, yellow stripe in its wake.
“Uh… like that,” I muttered, doing my best to ignore her too-close proximity and continue with what I was saying. “So, um, you see… now I have a choice as to what I want to do with that mistake. I could make it look like it was there all along, or I could cover it up.”
“I definitely don’t think you need to cover up,” she murmured in my ear.
I could feel my face start to burn, so I dropped my palette and turned to face her, determined to say something before she got the wrong idea. Adelaide gazed steadily into my eyes, smiling coyly. She was very beautiful. But I wasn’t interested.
But before I could say anything, she had pressed forward, her arms went around me, and her lips were against mine. I was too shocked to do anything at first, but I caught a flash of movement over her shoulder. I glanced over to see my brother standing in the doorway, glaring at me as though his best friend had stabbed him, and I had supplied the knife. Shit.
I angrily pushed Adelaide away from me, but Hugo had already left, slamming the door behind him. As much as I wanted to go after him and explain, I could talk to Hugo later. I had to deal with Adelaide first.
I turned towards her, fuming. She blanched when she saw my expression, and tears sprang to her eyes. She quickly dropped her gaze to hide them. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
“You think?” I snapped. “Did you know that my brother was there?”
“Hugo. I think he’s in your grade.”
Her eyes widened. “Hugo? Oh, shit.”
I glared at her. “My sentiments exactly.”
The tears started to drip down her cheeks. “I’m sorry, Gabriel. I didn’t mean to cause problems. I just really like you, and when you invited me back here I thought… I thought that…” she trailed off, gazing at me imploringly. “Please don’t hate me,” she whispered.
Damn it. If I had one weakness when it came to women, it was tears. There was no way I could bring myself to be angry when she was crying like that. I sighed, and scratched the back of my neck awkwardly. “I don’t hate you, Adelaide. But I need to talk with my brother. I think you should leave.”
She nodded, still teary-eyed, and turned to go. I saw her out of the house before returning upstairs to search for Hugo. His bedroom door was closed. I knocked loudly. “Hugo?” I called. “Open up. I need to talk to you.”
There was no answer.
I sighed. What a mess.
This chapter is the third in a series of three opening chapters for Generation 4, told from the perspectives of each of the three heirs. If you somehow missed the first two, you can find Hope’s chapter here and Hugo’s here. Now that all three have been released, the heir vote will be up tomorrow! Look forward to more information about the voting process then, as well as heatshots of all three heirs as young adults, biographies, traits and Lifetime Wishes.