"Damien." My stepfather greets from the stove as I trudge into the kitchen. I wave sleepily at him and plop onto one of the plain black bar stools. Evan slides two warm chocolate chip pancakes onto my plate and hands me a mug of coffee before tending to my dad who's just crawled out of bed.
I smother my food in syrup as Evan and dad kiss and talk quietly to each other. I'm concentrating so hard on getting syrup to cover the entire plate that I almost have a coronary when a thick blue envelope with a crest stamp is dropped in front of my eating space.
"What's this?" I'm holding the envelope between my thumb and forefinger as though it may explode.
"Your acceptance letter." Dad says nonchalantly, starting on his own breakfast.
"May I ask as to where I have been accepted?"
"Sebastian's Academy." At the name my mood changes instantly.
"Get rid of it." I snarl. "I'm not replying." I'm already storming up to my room. How dare they send my application to SAFA! I enter my bathroom to shower, already on the verge of tears. My art is why my boyfriend died. All because of me!
By the time I'm out of the shower, Evan's at my door immensely worried. I tell him to go away; I don't want to talk to anyone. Dressing in a pair of light purple lounge pants and wiping the water from my glasses, I curl up on my bed holding the green panda Aiden gave for our year anniversary. I swore that I'd never again do any art after what my paintings put Aiden's family through. The very thought of drawing again puts me in tears. Aiden's dead because of art, and my art died with Aiden. The last piece I plan to do was buried with my love, and may it forever remain my last piece.
Two that afternoon, the proclaimed lunchtime by Evan, dad comes up and enters my room without permission. I'm still cuddling the plushie and I glare at him as he sits a tray with my lunch on it on the nightstand and leaves. I see that Evan's made my favorite "mood" foods; a cream cheese, bologna, and hot sauce sandwich with several chocolate chip cookies and a glass of mountain dew.
Once I'm finished with my lunch, I feel a lot better but still carry my panda down with me to put my dishes in the sink. Dad and Evan are having "cuddle time" on the couch, something I used to enjoy doing with Aiden. Seeing the scene almost puts me in tears again.
After I rinse my plates, I turn to go back to my room, but the powder blue envelope catches my eye. Planning on ripping it to shreds, I grab it before going upstairs. On my bed, I decide to at least read the letter, and pull out the paper within.
We are pleased to inform you that the application we received April 18, 2008, has been approved." I stop reading, dad and Ev didn't send in my app. This was for the application from last year when Aiden convinced me to send my portfolio in. we'd wanted to go to the same school. I know he'd still want me to go.
That evening at dinner I surprise my parents. "I'm going to SAFA." Both adults fall silent and stare at me as though I've grown a second head. Dad recovers first.
"What made you change your mind?"
"The application was received in April. I'm gonna go." Neither man says another word about it, they understand completely. Later when I'm in my room and the 'rents are asleep, I pull out The Box. I figure I mine as well open it sooner, rather then later and pull the thin metal chain from under my shirt out and unlocked the cube. The first thing put in here, or rather the last, is a picture of Aiden, his sixteen-year-old face flawlessly preserved in the glossy photo. Below a half dozen more photos of both Aiden and I are my art supplies I'd packed away the day the police found his body.
Topping off the mound of pencils, paper, paints, and other things is a half finished risqué painting of Aiden I was doing for his birthday. Under the canvas is the photo I'd been recreating of him sprawled out across my bed, surrounded by soft lighting…shaking my head, I grab the canvas and photograph and begin finishing the gift, trying hard to stay in the present.
It's six the next morning, and I'm covered in paint, the portrait is finished, and I've just realized what time it is. Leaving the painting on the easel to dry, I once again admire the man in the piece, completely nude save the crimson sheet covering his genitalia, before going to shower.
Wrapping a towel around my waist, the first thing I notice are the voices coming from the other side of the bathroom door, my room! They're talking about my painting and I find myself becoming upset that someone's admiring him like I do…did. Almost silently I reenter my bedroom before saying anything to the couple.
"Why are you in here?" I growl quietly. "I don't want anyone knowing about or seeing that."
"It's a beautiful painting Damien." Evan compliments.
Glowering at them both, I point to the door. "Get. Out. Now." I keep my voice steady and quiet, still managing to punctuate each word with the malice that comes with yelling. Dad puts his arm around Evan's shoulders and leads him out of the room, mumbling something about giving me time, leaving me alone, breathing heavily from anger.
Still shaking, I yank open my nightstands drawer and blindly search for my MP3 player. Finding the desired electronic, I harshly shove in my ear buds and search rapidly for my classical music. It takes two trips through all my music to find the correct song, and once I find it, I fall onto my bed and try to sleep.
I wake at three and wander downstairs. Just as I'm about to enter the kitchen, I hear Evan telling dad something. "Maybe he needs to see the therapist again," he's saying. "He's not coping well with Aiden's death. It's been almost four months."
He's been getting better," dad replies. "So he had a couple episodes, at least he's taking an interest in art again." A moment of silence follows and I take the opportunity to step into the room.
"Hi," I start. "I'm sorry about this morning. I was tired, and that's a private project."
"It's okay Damien." Dad assures me. "Go ahead and get lunch. Evan and I are going to the store." I see the look he flashes to Evan and they head out to the car, giving me alone time in the house.
As soon as I hear the car go down the street, I grab a bag of plain ruffled chips and proceed to start up the play station two. Forty-five minutes later when they return from the "store", I'm shirtless, kneeling on the table, screaming the lyrics to Miss Murder, and stuffing my mouth with chips.
"Hey Damien, nice moves." Dad jokes and I freeze like a deer caught in headlights.
"You're back." I state, climbing off the table and shutting off the game. "I'll be in my room."
"Damien, please don't withdraw yourself again." Evan calls after me. I ignore him and climb the stairs. His plea is wasted; I'm already in my own little world. Aiden was the only person I was ever truly myself around. Deep down I was hoping that while attending SAFA I'd find someone that would accept me for me. Ever since Aiden's' death, I've refrained from going and seeing friends and family. It'll be four months since then in a week's time; the same day the new school years starts at SAFA.