Authors: Hope Ryan
5032 Capital Circle SW, Suite 2, PMB# 279, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886 USA
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of author imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The Geek and His Artist
© 2015 Hope Ryan.
© 2015 Shobana Appavu.
Cover content is for illustrative purposes only and any person depicted on the cover is a model.
All rights reserved. This book is licensed to the original purchaser only. Duplication or distribution via any means is illegal and a violation of international copyright law, subject to criminal prosecution and upon conviction, fines, and/or imprisonment. Any eBook format cannot be legally loaned or given to others. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Harmony Ink Press, 5032 Capital Circle SW, Suite 2, PMB# 279, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886, USA, or [email protected]
Digital ISBN: 978-1-63476-066-9
Library of Congress Control Number: 2015933751
First Edition June 2015
Printed in the United States of America
This paper meets the requirements of
ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper).
To the real Jimmy and Ronnie, both of whom made my life so much better in so many ways. That you are still in my life after all these years, still my friends, means more than either of you can know. Ronnie, I’m glad you never got caught. Jimmy, thank you, for
To Ryan, the reason I wanted to write YA. You are a brilliant light in my life and I hope I can be a fraction of the mom to you that Jimmy’s is to him.
To Sara and Áine for encouraging me to explore my YA side and for reading as I wrote. It never would have happened without you.
And last, but not least, to Joe. Without your support, I’d never be able to do this writing thing. Thank you.
a little farther down on his seat, his half-eaten, half-squished peanut butter and jelly sandwich ignored on the table in front of him. An open can of Coke sat next to it, equally ignored. Behind those, his American History textbook sat propped open to a page he had tried several times to read but had yet to register a single word on.
Instead, he peeked, over the top of the book, at the table next to his. His fascination held a 0.5 mm mechanical pencil, and the hand it was in flew over the large white page. It didn’t seem human, how fast the pencil moved, how sure the strokes were. Yet the hand never faltered, never paused to flip the pencil over and erase, never set it down to pick up a separate eraser, never turned to the next page to begin again.
They weren’t always beautiful, what Jimmy could see of the drawings. They were sometimes messy, often sketchy, and most of the time, Jimmy never saw the complete version. His eyes darted up to the clock above the lunch line to see they had ten more minutes left, so he went back to watching the drawing unfold.
But, as they’d done every day for the last three months—since the first day he’d seen the artist a week after school started—his eyes didn’t stay on the paper. His gaze drifted up over long, thin fingers, past a wrist wrapped in a narrow leather bracelet, and along a lean but defined arm. The arm was currently covered in blue plaid flannel, but Jimmy knew how defined it was from watching it before the weather turned cold. He let his eyes travel farther, over a slightly stubbly, strong jaw and sharp cheekbone to the long, floppy blond hair. Jimmy knew the other side of the head was shaved over the ear, but this side was full and long, covering the left ear and part of the face.
He tried to force his attention back to his textbooks. Midterm exams were in two weeks, and if he didn’t manage to get his studying done, he wasn’t likely to pass the tests. His parents would kill him, especially since he was the one who had insisted on taking the advanced placement classes. He’d sworn he could handle it, it would help him in college the following year, and despite their reservations, they’d encouraged him.
But he found it very difficult to focus when the view beyond his textbook was so beautiful.
Every so often, the artist—Jimmy hadn’t yet worked up the nerve to even ask the guy’s name—would stick his tongue out as he worked on a particularly complex bit of the drawing. The first time Jimmy had seen that, he’d wanted to laugh. But as the weeks passed, it grew on him, and somewhere around a month ago, he realized the first thing he thought when he saw it was
, instead of
The guy’s faded blue flannel draped over one of his comic book T-shirts—they came in just about every color of the rainbow, even if Jimmy had never seen a full rainbow on him at any given time—and he wore jeans that frayed at the edges and Converse sneakers that had seen better days. His bag looked like it was probably the same one he’d carried all through high school and had rarely, if ever, seen the inside of a washer.
Not that Jimmy cared. His own backpack had definitely seen better days. He’d drawn on it in Sharpie, pinned buttons on it, sewn patches on it, and replaced all the zipper pulls with safety pins, to his mother’s dismay. But it was his and he loved it. So his mother helped him sew it when a new tear appeared and gave up trying to buy him a new one.
When the bell rang and Mr. Artist put his pencil in his pocket and closed his sketchbook—yet again before Jimmy could get a glimpse of the subject of the drawing itself—Jimmy sighed and scrambled to gather his own books and stuff them in his bag. He shoved the last bit of his sandwich into his mouth and swallowed without chewing, drinking as much of the Coke as possible as he hurried out of the cafeteria.
He’d have to run to his next period; he always did, but he didn’t care. It was a small price to pay to watch
artist at work. With effort, he pushed the guy out of his mind and tried to remember what he’d studied for Latin class as he jogged down the hall to the warning bell.
passed, but only by the skin of his teeth. He’d tried moving to another table in the cafeteria, but he’d only found himself facing a different direction and watching from farther away. By the Friday before exams, he’d given up trying to study during lunch and dedicated an hour after school to make up for it. Since it was his senior year and nearly half of his classes were AP, he already knew many of his leisure activities were rare to begin with.
He finally admitted to himself he had a problem when he realized he was trading his Xbox time for spending his lunch period watching his artist.
As Jimmy boarded the bus for home, he considered the two weeks of Christmas break stretching before him. Normally he loved the holidays. He got to see his sister, Amy, and her husband, Dirk. And his parents, while not rich, did their best for him every year. In fact, they probably spent more than they should, but Jimmy had a long list of good Christmas memories to show for it.
This year, however, despite the good things coming, he had two problems. Not only was he faced with two weeks without his artist, but he was also going to have to either fend off his mother’s attempts at setting him up—
—with her best friend’s sister’s kid, or finally admit he was more likely to want to go out with the woman’s son than her daughter.
His parents hadn’t made much of an issue of him dating, leaving him to his not-entirely-comfortable closet. It was more comfortable than the alternative, anyway. He’d always been into video games, reading, his few friends, and academics, and for the most part, they’d left him to it. Over his summers he’d made himself scarce when he wasn’t spending time at the bookstore he worked at, claiming he was getting ahead on the following year’s reading or just hanging out with the guys. And it’d worked. Until about a month ago when his mother started making noise about him finding someone for prom.
He’d managed, thus far, to remind her he had
of time to find a prom date. But the last few nights, she’d given up on her previous heavy hinting.
“So, have you met anyone new this year?” his mom asked, and the casual tone did
fool Jimmy for a minute.
Jimmy considered trying to not answer, but she’d never let him get away with it before. He sighed. “Not really. Same people every year.”
“So… no one new, you know… no one you might want to ask out? Like… to prom?”
” He wasn’t going to whine, but he knew his voice teetered dangerously close. “I’ve got time.”
“It’s almost winter break. There aren’t going to be many options left, Jimmy.”
Jimmy sighed and closed his eyes. She had no idea how few options there were. “I’m sure I can find someone to go.”
“Listen. No, listen,” she said when he opened his mouth again. “Sunny’s sister has a—”
“Mom, please, I can get my own dates.” Jimmy was fairly certain his face was bright red by this point.
His mom sighed and gave him “the look,” and he knew he was facing a decision very soon, but he just couldn’t bring himself to say anything yet. He knew he’d never get away with telling her he didn’t want to go. She’d waxed poetic on too many occasions about how wonderful her own was. If he couldn’t find a date, he knew he’d end up showing up with his best friends, and that would just suck. He’d figure it out, but he wasn’t quite ready.
With any luck his mother would accept the excuse that he’d been assigned homework over the holidays, and he’d be able to avoid another conversation like that. He didn’t have hope it would last for too much longer, though.
He wasn’t sure how they’d react, which was part of the problem. Neither his mother nor his father had made any homophobic remarks. Rather, both were quite liberal in their attitudes. But Jimmy had known more than one kid in school whose liberal parents turned into raging assholes when confronted with the fact that it was
kid who was gay. So Jimmy put it off and stayed in his closet, not ready to find out which side of that his own parents were on, because if they were anything but accepting… well, he just couldn’t quite face that terror yet.
Jimmy settled into his normal seat about halfway back on the bus and stared out the window at the sea of students streaming through the doors and into the lot. Most cheered and laughed, excited for the start of break. A few looked unhappy, and Jimmy guessed they hadn’t liked the exam scores they’d gotten.
Just as he was leaning his head back, ready to nap on the trip home, he caught a glimpse of blue out of the corner of his eye. He turned his head, and sure enough, his artist was sitting on the wall in front of the school. Jimmy sat up a little to get a last look when he realized his artist’s gaze was on
Before Jimmy could do anything—though he had
idea what he’d do—the buses revved their engines and started the slow movement along the front of the school to leave the lot. Jimmy twisted in his seat, unable to look away from the other guy even as the bus pulled away. His artist’s green-eyed gaze remained on his until the bus turned at the end of the driveway. He tried to glimpse the guy again when they’d made the turn onto the street, but he could no longer pick the blue out from the crowd.