A/N: Hey…just a short story I wrote. I'm trying to do a novel too….called turning into a butterfly…hope you enjoy this. I'll update it soon.
Don Heafey, a plump, ruddy and affable man, shut the trunk and mopped his brow. Looking up at Meander High School, he trudged through the front door, dragging his briefcase behind, and whistling snatches of songs.
Heafey was a satisfied art teacher of fifty years of age. He had a decent job, where he could dedicate his life to encouraging artistic talents in young people. There were no worries in his life; and he only had one goal, the same one every year, which was to help at least a few young people discover the beauty of art. Every year there were students willing to live in the world of art, and he was content. Heafey was a man that loved art. He loved everything about it; from the delicate lines made by a pencil to the rinsing of watercolor brushes. And Don Heafey's most treasured possessions were paintings.
He had many paintings. They cluttered the small house he resided in by himself; his wife had died a few years back. For the first year after her death Heafey felt like he did not want to live. But he was over that now, and he had grown closer and closer to art, scavenging garage sales and art shows. Most of the paintings he owned were ones illustrating nature, and beauty. Whenever he looked at them, he felt an overwhelming love for art and hope, and he was at peace. And out of all of his paintings, there was one that stood out from the rest and was Heafey's favorite.
It was a painting painted by an unknown artist, but to Heafey it was a 15" by 20" masterpiece. The painting was a swirl of colors mixed together, creating a morning, when the sun is just peaking out of the horizon. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, and to him it was everything he knew, everything he lived for.
A few moments later the man plopped down in a chair across from a tall man sipping coffee in the teacher's lounge. "Hey, Mark," said Heafey.
The man held up his hand, acknowledging Heafey's presence. It was then that Heafey noticed the dark bags under the other man's eyes and the worn out look about him.
"Something the matter?" he asked, taking out a bagel brought from home and taking a bite.
"Dessen," said Mark Dolan, his eyes twitching.
"Eric Dessen," the tired English teacher sighed. "He really is something."
"I'm still not following you, Mark," said Heafey, finishing his bagel.
"He's my cousin's son," explained Dolan. "He has no parents, and he's been sent to live with me, after being rejected from six other relatives, and ten foster homes."
"What's he like?" Heafey asked curiously.
Dolan shook his head and shuddered. "Horrible. Drugs, violence, alcohol, no education, everything parents are against. I'm sending him to school here, but I doubt he'll learn anything. He might not even show up to class," he sighed and sipped his coffee. "I think he has art with you, Don. See what you make out of him."
The two teachers sat in silence for a while, until it was broken by Dolan's shout at a boy who was passing by.
"Dessen!" the boy turned, his eyes almost covered by his blond hair. "C'mere, will you?"
The boy strode over, his hands in the pockets of his black jacket. Heafey took a good look at him. He was tall and lean, and wore all black, down to black boots. His blond hair was shiny and fine, the front a bit too long, and the back curling against the nape of his neck. He came over and stood by silently.
"Eric, this Mr. Heafey, your third period art teacher," said Dolan loudly.
Heafey held out a hand. "Nice to meet you, Eric."
The boy made no move, except to brush his hair out of his eyes. His gray eyes looked down at Heafey. Heafey startled at his penetrating eyes, and he recoiled, taking back his hand. With a small movement of the boy's head his silvery hair fell back, and for a reason Heafey wasn't sure of, he felt relieved.
Dolan gave a loud sigh. As if on cue, Eric turned around and walked away, his boots clinking on the floor. Dolan waited until he was out of earshot before he spoke.
"Never talks," he said, draining his coffee. "I want to help him, but I can't if he doesn't let me. I don't even know how much education he's had. He's so distant, so far away that I can't pull him back," he looked at his empty coffee mug. "I have something urgent this afternoon. I told him he had to walk home, but who knows what might happen with a boy like that."
Heafey wondered if he could reach out and pull the boy Eric back. 'He seemed sort of lost,' he thought. 'Maybe I could try and help him…'
"I'll take him home," he offered.
Mark Dolan raised his eyebrows. "Are you sure, Don? Doesn't he make you nervous?"
Heafey thought of his eyes, and his cool look. "It's alright."
"Okay," said Dolan, leaning back into his chair. "But don't try to small talk with him or anything. He won't listen, or reply."
"I've only seen him talk to girls. They seem to like him."
"He is an attractive boy," said Heafey, thinking of Eric's high cheekbones, his angular figure, his penetrating eyes and his pale, pointed face.
Dolan shrugged as the bell rang. He got up, and so did Heafey. "I'll tell him he's going with you. Good luck, Don." And Dolan left.
As Heafey left the lounge he spotted Eric lurking in a corner, watching the other students rushing to their classes. Checking his watch, Heafey hurried to his first class.
After school, Heafey found Eric already there by his car, talking to a redheaded girl. As he approached the two, the girl smiled at Heafey and waved good-bye to Eric as she walked away.
"Who was that?" he asked when they were in the car, and as he started the car engine.
Eric waited an interval of time before answering. "A girl."
Heafey tried to be patient. "What was her name?"
"Ginny Sullivan," said Eric, offering no conversation lead whatsoever.
A little while into the ride, the Art teacher noticed that Eric didn't have his seatbelt on. "Don't forget to buckle up," he reminded cheerfully.
The boy didn't move. "Remember to buckle up," Heafey repeated, louder.
Eric turned and looked at the fifty year old man coolly. "I heard you the first time." He did not, however, make a move to buckle up his seatbelt.
"So," said Heafey, a few minutes later, "what do you like to do?"
Eric looked at him sullenly. "What's it to you?"
"Well—you know, I'm curious, I want to know what you're like," he said, stammering.
"What if I don't want to tell you?" Eric snapped.
"Well… then I guess, it's your choice," said Heafey, surprised by his malevolent manner.
"Damn right it is," said Eric.
"Well, do you want to know what I love the most?" asked the teacher, refusing obstinately to give up.
He waited for a reply. There was none. Pretending as if Eric had eagerly said 'yes', he continued. "I love art. You know what art can do? It inspires me. Just a bit of paint thrown together, it makes you feel all these different emotions by just looking at it. It can show how beautiful the world is with just a few brushstrokes.
"Don't you think so? Such a vast place, so many aesthetic beauties, nature's wonders. Art can capture that. Don't you ever wonder why our Earth is brimming with so much fascinating and--"
"Is this your idea of conversation?" Eric interrupted rudely. "Because if it is, I'm not interested," Heafey was taken back at Eric's lack of respect. The boy continued. "And as for the 'our world is beautiful' crap, I'm not taking it. The world is ugly and cruel, and I hate it."
Heafey wanted to say 'Without dark there would be no light', but he didn't. It was clear the boy did not want anything to do with him, or anyone else, for that matter. There was nothing he could do. Heafey shut his mouth and did not say anything more.
The boy was queer and callous, he mused, looking at the boy out of the corner of his eyes. Eric sat stiffly in the seat, showing that he did not enjoy being there, and yet he looked as if he was lounging in his own living room. He did not look around, or turn his head, but stared straight ahead during the whole ride, except when he interrupted Heafey. The boy's mouth was set in a firm line, his brow stitched. He looked like he knew what he was doing, like he was prepared for anything.
"What a peculiar boy," he soliloquized, talking in a barely audible voice, so that Eric would not hear.
But he turned sharply towards Heafey, who was startled. The boy met the older man's eyes with an obtrusive glare, and Heafey tore away from his look quickly.
As Dolan's house came into view, Heafey hesitantly started speaking again. "Why do you hate the world?" he asked. "Why do you dislike everyone and reject everyone without giving them a chance? Shouldn't you try to be friendly to everyone instead?"
"Because I'm not going to stay," said Eric, his tone harsh. Heafey started at his immediate response. "It happens every time. I've been to sixteen different foster homes, and none of them have lasted more than two months. It's the same thing every time. I go to a crappy school; the people take one look at me and run away. Why would this one be any different?"
The boy was starting to open up, thought Heafey. "Why don't you try to make friends? Being sullen isn't going to get you anywhere. You've never even tried accepting people," said Heafey.
Eric looked at him shrewdly. "What would you know about what I have and haven't done?" he snapped.
Heafey was temporarily stunned. "So that's your plan?" he said, as he recovered. They had pulled up in front of the house. "Reject before you get rejected? How can you not love the world? The mountains, the trees, the clouds, the living creatures! The fresh cool air, the smell of summer flowers, how can you reject that?
"You know, there's this painting I own. It's just the most wonderful piece of art I have ever seen. The artist is no one famous, but that painting just captures the beauty of life. It's a sunrise, see and it shows the marvelous things each new day br--"
Heafey was abruptly interrupted again as the car door slammed shut, and he watched Eric head up to the front door, trampling on the grass. The art teacher sighed. It seemed to him that the boy cared for nothing, and was rude and ungrateful. However, Heafey refused to believe that the boy was incorrigible.
He waited until Eric was safely in the house until he drove away. As he headed home, he noted that Eric didn't say good-bye to him, or even look back, as he shut the door to Dolan's house.
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