This is the last chapter. I am so sad, and yet so happy. Look how far this little thing has come, you know? It started out with a window and a necklace, and now it's this THING that just… I'm just amazed, frankly. And happy. Yet sad. Here it is, the last chapter of The Inexplicable State Of Being There.
I looked at myself in the dingy mirror of the parking garage's bathroom, my garment bag hanging over my arm. My hair had dried nicely, in lovely waves that I decided to leave down. I rushed into a dirty stall and threw my dress on before dashing out as fast as I could. Ugh, places like these were so gross. But we were on a schedule, here.
When I came out of the bathroom after carefully sliding my delicate heels on, Brody was looking like he was debating with himself over whether he should lean against the dirty wall or not. "Don't," I told him.
He looked startled. "I wasn't going to! This is my only suit!"
Then he looked at me properly, his eyes skimming up and down my body. He had a little smile on his face, and it widened when he met my eyes. I swear to God I blushed down to my toenails—which were painted, luckily, silver, which matched my earrings and shoes. "You look beautiful," he told me, his voice containing that wonderfully husky quality that it had taken on just before we… my blush deepened.
"Not so bad yourself," I mumbled. It was true—I've always had this thing for boys in ties. Psh, who hasn't? That should be the REAL question, here.
"You ready to go up?" he asked.
I nodded, and he wrapped his arm around my shoulders. I pressed closer. He was warm, he was… he was Brody. Which was weird, when I thought about it really deeply, but when I wasn't thinking… it didn't feel weird. It felt natural. It felt… right. Which is probably why my heart was beating so fast and my cheeks were feeling like I got sunburned.
Brody didn't look fazed, though. He just had this stupid smile on his face, and he was practically bouncing as he held the door to the hotel open for me. He led me into a large gallery room—thousands of people, thousands of works of art. It was crazy. I'd never seen so much artwork in my life. Paintings and sketches and sculptures… it was just insane to me. How people can do that, with nothing but their hands and their minds, I mean. Just crazy.
I looked at Brody because he dropped his arm from my shoulders. He was standing awestruck, too, and I felt like his face was paler that usual. "You okay, Brody?" I asked him.
He nodded slowly, his eyes wide. "It's just… there's so much, and it's all so good, and…"
"Yeah," I agreed. "But I've seen your stuff. It's good, too."
"You haven't seen anything I'm showing tonight," he reminded me, his hands clasping and unclasping each other. He cracked his knuckles, and bit his lip. "Wow. Jeez. There's a lot of people here."
"Good job, Brody, I'm glad you've learned to count."
He swatted at me playfully before wrapping his arms around my waist from behind me, leaning his chin on the top of my head, because that's just how short I was and how tall he was—a ten-inch difference, if we're bothering to count. He sighed, and I felt it rustle through my hair like the wind of the city outside. "You want to see my sketches?" he asked.
"Of course," I replied.
He led me to a stretch of wall labeled Brody Hansen in bold lettering. I almost jumped for joy just from seeing his name there, until I registered the many sketches that surrounded it. Then, I just stared. And I think I gasped. Because it was me. I mean, they weren't all me. But a good few of them were. More than half. Brody was looking at his feet when I looked to him for any sort of explanation. "They're all… me."
Brody gave a little shrug, still deeply immersed in the staring contest he was having with his shoes. "Yeah," he said.
"When did you…" I looked through them all, my eyes not able to take in each one properly before jumping to the next. Me in math class, me in the swimming pool. One that I was sure was copied from a photograph taken when we were baking Christmas/Hanukkah cookies—there was flour on my nose. There was one of a girl's back (mine, I assumed, judging by the hair) as she looks down into a hot tub, her feet in the water, her hands support her at her sides. Thanksgiving? "How—why—?"
"Ah, you know." He still wouldn't look up at me. "At first it was like, just something that happened because you have, y'know, nice features… symmetrical, and all, and… then it kind of became something else. And then before I realized it, I was kind of… y'know… in love with you? And stuff. And. Yeah. That's all."
I couldn't breathe. It was all so surreal, you know? I'd never been one of those girls scratching away at my diary, dreaming of my prince charming to come and sweep me off my feet. But still. The thought had occurred to me once or twice that maybe, you know, true love was out there.
Not that this was true love. Oh god. I'm just saying, maybe it's leading in that direction… I mean, not to be crude or anything, but the sex was pretty great. Not that I've really got anything to compare it to. But still. It was good. And drawing pretty pictures of me while being really good in bed is definitely going to get Brody Hansen very far, let me tell you. "God, Brody, you're amazing," I finally breathed, leaning into him. He looked surprised, but wrapped his arm around my waist.
I really liked this new development. The one where Brody committed serious acts of PDA in… you know… P… He was just so soft and warm. My body melded so easily against his and… cue mental sigh. "Amazing?" he asked, a little teasingly sardonic tone creeping into his voice. "I don't know about that."
"I know about that," I argued. "He's amazing," I told a woman who was examining Brody's drawings. "Tell him he's amazing!"
The woman looked down her nose at me, peering through precariously perched spectacles. "And who, exactly, is he?"
"He's Brody Hansen!" I said. Brody looked mildly embarrassed.
The woman looked at him, then at his name, and then back at the rest of his drawings. "You're the model," she commented. Yeah, thanks lady, I didn't know. "Yes, he's good."
I beamed at Brody. "See, she thinks you're good!"
"Of course I'm good," he said nonchalantly.
The lady with the glasses chuckled and moved on. I smacked Brody's arm. "You're supposed to be more modest!"
"Sorry," he grinned. "I'm not a liar."
We saw the judges making their rounds, and I encouraged Brody to be a little more fucking humble when speaking with them. He agreed reluctantly, and was a very grateful, polite young man. The kind of young man I'd be proud to bring home to my parents. But from what I'd heard recently from Micki, Brody had had his fill of dinner with the parents—crazy enough to last a lifetime.
Later, after we walked around to view other people's works, we went back to stand by Brody's stuff. Then the lights dimmed and a spotlight came on and a few people audibly gasped, turning in the direction it was pointing. A man in a suit with a balding head and a clipboard came up in front of the microphone—lowering it a little on the stand to account for his short stature. "And how are you all doing?" he asked, holding the clipboard up to shield his eyes from the spotlight so he could more easily view the crowd, who murmured various affirmatives—some even whistled or clapped.
"Great!" he said. "Now, we at the Competition for Young Artists of California are not art snobs!" He waited for laughs, which he did, in fact, receive. "We are not going to use big words like Neoclassicism and Impressionism. We are not looking for the person in here who buys the best brand of paper, or the best brand of paint. What we are looking for… is raw talent. Who has what it takes—not the money, not the knowledge—the talent—to have the right to call themselves an award-winning artist. And let me tell you all, have we got some raw talent here tonight!"
The audience cheered, I along with them—perhaps loudest of all. Brody kissed the top of my head and pulled me closer. The man continued. "Unfortunately, we only have seven categories, so though every single artist I have seen tonight probably deserves a prize, they are not all going to get one."
He now looked at his clipboard, and I swear the entire crowd as a whole leaned forward, not wanting to miss what he was going to say. "So I'll just jump right in. We've deliberated, and let me tell you, it was a difficult decision." The entire crowd held its breath. "For the Best Charcoal piece… 'Wednesday,' by Lola Trepina!" The crowd cheered and a pretty little redhead went up to collect her award. "Moving on to the Best Acrylic… 'Starshine,' by David Chang!" A cute Asian guy, probably in his early twenties, went up, grinning widely. "For Best Oil… 'June Afternoon,' by Dahlia Oxford." She got it, and after the winners for Best Watercolor, Best Sculpture, and Best Ink Pen had gone by, Brody was getting nervous.
"I'm not going to win," he said, more to himself than to me. "All that's left is Best Overall Piece, and there's no way I'll win that out of all these people. There's no way."
"It's possible," I tell him. I believed in him, I did. But honestly… there were so many people, all of them so talented… It was hard to say. I wanted to have faith in Brody. But at the same time, it seemed a long shot.
"And finally," the man at the front said. "Our Best Overall Piece. Now. We had a really hard time picking this one. Overall piece? What does that even mean? How does one compare a sculpture to a sketch to a painting? Who are we to decide? But what we have done here tonight… is make that decision. Our choice was based not only on extreme artistic talent—with a bright future ahead—but also on feeling. How many have you looked at a piece and felt something?" The audience murmured, some raising their hands. "Feeling. And that's the thing about this award—maybe one person will look at a piece and feel something, while someone else looks at the same piece and feels nothing. It all depends on the outlook.
"However, tonight, we don't care about your outlook—" to which the crowd laughed nervously—"This is about our outlook." He gave a wry grin. "Everyone. Put your hands together for this year's Best Overall Piece…" Brody took my hand and squeezed. I squeezed back. Time seemed to freeze in that moment, and right then, I could tell it didn't matter to him if he won. He knew he was good, and he didn't need to win this competition to know that, because now he had me. And I was going to tell him how good he was, every day. Because I loved him. And no matter how long it lasted, no matter how much crap we'd been through or have to go through in the future, at least we were together, in that moment, here. It was love, it was magic, it was… it was…
"'Inexplicable,' by Brody Hansen!"
At the time, I didn't know which piece it was that had won. All I knew was that Brody was kissing me, and then he was gone, walking up under the bright spotlight to accept his award. He shook hands with the short man, and he grinned at the crowd that was applauding for him. When he returned to my side, he gathered me in his arms and picked me up, holding me under my thighs as I wrapped my arms around his neck and my legs around his waist. "Hey, sexy, I'm an award-winning artist. How 'bout a date?"
I grinned. "You got it." He kissed me thoroughly while the man at the front thanked everyone for entering, encouraging all to come back next year. When the spotlight went of and the lights came back on, Brody let me down. "Which one was it?" I asked. "Which one won?"
Brody grinned and pointed. It was one I hadn't noticed before—a boy's hand grasping a necklace, opening his fingers slightly to let it fall into the palm of a girl. I could understand what they had felt when they looked at it—I was feeling it, too. It was innocent, but it was passionate. It made you feel like… like something more was going to happen. Something you couldn't quite figure out. Something a little bit like cookies, a little bit like art, and a lot a bit like love. Something… inexplicable.
We were driving back down high-five, the windows of Felicia's silver Prius down and a cool breeze making her hair fly everywhere. Jesus, I was glad I was driving, or we'd have crashed. She began to shiver, so I rolled the windows up. "I was enjoying that," she pouted.
"Leesh, it's eleven at night, I think we may freeze to death if you keep them down any longer."
"Aw, look at you, being all protective," she said, purposely condescending.
It was funny, how now that we were in love and all, everything about me that used to annoy her was suddenly cute. Not that I'm complaining. I, in fact, enjoyed it immensely. "I want to kiss you but I can't because I'm driving," I told her, and she giggled, squirming in her seat.
"If we crashed and died kissing, would it be so bad?" she questioned innocently.
I scoffed. "Of course it would be! Ma would bring me back just to kill me again for sneaking out and then getting myself killed!"
Felicia laughed. "That's true. You know, my parents are going to be so mad at me when I get home. They'll probably try to ground me, but I'm an adult so I figure I'll just leave in such a case, live at Kyoko's for two days, then Heather's, then Brit and Bria's, maybe Shalini's… Freddy and Sam could take me on the weekend and…"
"Felicia, don't be stupid," I grinned. "They'd make you come home after one night at Kyoko's. I have met Tom and Sadie before, you know."
"Yeah," she sighed. "Still. It'd be fun to, y'know… be on the run. A delinquent. Et cetera."
"Riiiiiight," I said. "You should get some sleep. That way we can trade off in a couple of hours."
"Alright," she agreed, leaning her seat back. She settled in to sleep, before speaking quietly, "Brody?"
"I'm sorry I was a bitch those coupla weeks. I was just… scared. I didn't know if you wanted me, or didn't want me, of if you wanted Ashley, or… I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry I went anywhere near her," I told her honestly. "Let's just… forget it happened. We're happy now. That's what matters. All that we need to remember about Ashley is that I don't have feelings for her anymore, besides maybe a feeling of mild disgust."
She giggled a little, sounding sleepy. "Are we like… y'know… goin' out now?"
"I want to. We should. You want to?" my hands gripped the wheel nervously.
But Felicia smiled, nodding. "Yeah. Yeah, I want to. Let's do it."
I found myself positively beaming. "Yeah," I repeated. "Let's do it."
When we arrived home, Felicia was the one in the driver's seat, and she woke me up as we pulled up to the curb. The sun was just beginning to rise in the east, and it was chilly as we walked together up to her porch. We would have to say goodbye here, because I definitely wanted to be out of sight before I could witness the inevitable, "FELICIA ERICA MCADAMS. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?"
"So," I said, placing my hands on her hips—it was quite a stretch, let me tell you. Sigh. My little munchkin girl. Eh, five-foot-four's not that short. Well, it is when you're six-two. Which I was. "I'll see you later. You owe me a date."
"Mmhmm," she said, standing on her tiptoes to kiss me. I pulled her closer, mostly because I wanted to but also because she was warm.
"Love you," I whispered.
Felicia grinned. "Love you too."
I let her go, picked up my bag, and let her watch me as I walked down her front path, across the sidewalk, and then up my own. I gave her a little wave, which she returned, before we simultaneously headed into our respective houses.
When I entered, Micki was sleeping on the couch. She heard me, woke up, and positively tackled me before I could move. "San Francisco, really?" she shouted.
"Shh, Mick, you'll wake up—"
"I cannot be-lieve you! You just skip out on us in the middle of the night to go to some art thing in San Francisco… and you didn't even take me!"
I blinked. "What…" Of course that's what Micki would be mad about. Me not taking her to San Francisco, where the gays supposedly run rampant. "Well, jeez, Micki, I'm sorry. I'll take you up there sometime, okay? Promise."
She still looked offended.
"If it helps… Felicia drove me."
"We figured when her car was gone and yours wasn't," Micki said, uncrossing her arms. "So what happened?"
"I won Best Overall Piece at the competition," I supplied.
"Yeah, yeah, you're a great artist, we know. I mean what happened with Felicia?" Micki's brown eyes, so like mine, were shining with hope and questions.
So I just shook my head, grinned, and let out a sigh. "Well, M, it's kind of a long story."
And so ends the tale of the inexplicable state of being there. You can think of it as a fairytale, a realistic fiction work, or as a guidebook. It was magic, but it happened, and when you get stuck in a place like There, here's what you do: You love your way out. Sometimes you'll get your heart broken; sometimes you'll be the one to break someone else's. But you'll always change because of it. It won't always be huge, but it'll always be here—always full of magic, full of questions, full of love. Always inexplicable.
I am so sorry for the cheesy ending. I simply couldn't help myself.
Thank you so much to everyone who has faved, reviewed, etc, especially reviewed, I love reviews, I am a review whore, I admit it, it's great. I don't know what my next work will be, but I hope a good number of you will be there reading it. Thank you all so much for your support. It's been a year and four days since the first chapter of this story was posted. I loved every moment of it. Thank you all so much, again, for everything. This is the first story I have ever finished. Thank you.