Dwight, New York was a quiet place. Nestled nicely between Rochester and Buffalo, the mid-sized town saw a fair share of traffic and travelers down the main streets, but for the most part those people came and went quickly. This left the laid back folks of Dwight to lead soft, meandering lives.
This relaxed mind state and life style even managed to work its way into the heads of many students at the local university, Uppman College. Uppman was a small school, perfectly fit for a town like Dwight. With only a little more than a thousand students and a tight campus packed onto a single thirty acre plot, the students never had to go far for anything. They still had their stresses over homework, finals, and majors. But, despite the common college pressures, most students never rushed through their time at Uppman. But, in every case of most, there is at least one exception.
As the infant sun was waking up Dwight's delicate slice of the world, a small pick up truck rumbled through town, headed for Uppman. Behind the wheel of this loud and rusty vehicle was a person stuck with several piercings, clad in dark clothes and pale make up, with a light scowl on their face. This person was Charlie Ravensdale.
The trip Charlie was making was one that they made everyday since they became a student at Uppman. It was only the first few weeks of their sophomore year, but to Charlie it seemed like they'd made the trip a million times. They hated the repetition, as did Sheniqua, their rust bucket of a pick up truck.
Ever since the start of their schooling, Sheniqua had ran louder and louder with every passing day. It pained Charlie to hear the truck like that. They knew they were handy enough to fix whatever problems there were, but with school in the way, they just didn't have the time. School was the worst.
Charlie pulled their truck into a half empty lot on Uppman's east side. It was the opposite side of the campus that they needed to be on, but it was the only parking lot that ever had any open stalls. They got out of the truck, backpack tossed over one shoulder, and observed themselves in one of Sheniqua's side view mirrors.
They looked particularly boyish on that day. Not precisely what they were going for, but it didn't matter. A big perk to being genderqueer was there were a lot less stereotypes and standards to worry about following. Not like they'd care much if there were anyway.
Charlie was quick to start their walk across the campus towards the main academic building. They knew they didn't have a lot of time until their first class started. They chalked it up to enjoying sleep too much to be early to morning classes.
In the only sliver of Dwight spirit they seemed to have in them, Charlie took the swift stroll as an opportunity to take in the late summer surroundings. The world was still nothing but shades of gray, although Charlie was perfectly alright with that. Everyone had stories to tell about the colorful world. They either spoke out of supposed experience or the experience of their parents or friends. The concept of color sounded like bullshit to Charlie. Whenever they asked anyone to describe it, the response was always the same. It was indescribable, it had to be seen, it was far greater than the grays, whites, and blacks that others were aware of. To Charlie, those were the responses of non-creative liars.
Even if color did exist, Charlie figured, it would only serve to confuse a world that was perfect the way it was. As Charlie looked around at all the light and dark buildings, the slate gray sky and the few white clouds, they sighed with a small smile. Smiling wasn't something they did in public often, they reserved it for special occasions. But the simplicity of the world as it was was occasion enough.
As Charlie entered the center of Uppman's campus, they strolled into view of the administration building, the college's main hall. It was the largest structure on the campus, but to them it looked like the rest of the buildings, just puffed up a little bit. All the structures on Uppman's grounds were grossly modern. It was a sickening maze of steel, floor-to-ceiling windows, and exposed brick. Architecturally, the entire school held no value. In the eyes of an engineering major, like Charlie was, it looked structurally stable. But that was about all it had going for it. When Charlie saw things like Uppman's buildings, they were happy that they didn't see any colors.
Charlie continued the brisk walk beyond the administration building and towards the academic hall. Once they got close, Charlie affixed their eyes to the ground a few feet ahead of them. Just another part of the morning ritual.
There were several morning classes throughout the academic hall set for the same time as Charlie's class, which meant dozens of groggy students fresh out of bed were stomping their way to class as well. It was in the mornings that Charlie felt the luckiest that their family lived in the town. Not only did that mean not having to live on campus and pay for room, it also meant that they didn't have to sleep and eat around all the other students. Learning beside all of them was bad enough.
Once they reached the front door, Charlie's walk sped up. The entrance was always the worst. One set of double doors for the entire front half of the building. No matter how few students were trickling in at a time, they always reached the thin corridor at the exact same moment.
Shoulders touched when Charlie broke the threshold of the doors. They shoved through several people to get out of there fast. Contact with strangers always made Charlie uncomfortable. But it'd become painfully obvious through their time at the school that Uppman didn't give a damn about their discomfort. So all they could do everyday was make their trip through the doors as fast as possible, even if that meant knocking a few people over. Anything to move a bit quicker and leave the people they didn't care about that much further behind them.
Walking into the large lecture hall for their first class, Charlie took a seat in the back row. The professor always encouraged the students to get as close to the front as they could. Charlie never listened. It didn't matter that it was an engineering lecture. It interested them and it was a major requirement, but that didn't mean Charlie had to participate any more than the minimum.
There was still a few minutes until the class started, so to help pass the minutes Charlie pulled out one of their favorite tools. Their switchblade, a gift from their father, always helped Charlie kill time. The blade was small enough to not be noticed, but still large enough and sharp enough to make decent indentations into the desks. Charlie began carving, paying no mind to the outside world. They would never be on par with the snooty art majors at Uppman, but Charlie's desk carvings always gave them pride. It was something to help them ignore everything around them, if only for a little while.
Once their morning lecture had been adjourned, Charlie played the same mental game they played every other day. Standing in the middle of the hallway, Charlie stared up at two signs on the wall. To everyone else, waltzing into a bathroom took no real thought at all. To Charlie, however, it was a game of choice every time they needed to use one.
Each room held different fates, fates Charlie knew all too well. The men's room was usually the place where they got the most rude comments about their looks, be it their clothes, their piercings, or their hair. But, the women's room was more often the place of the confused glances and breathy whispers, and those hurt just as much as any of the men's loud comments.
After much consideration, Charlie sauntered into the ladies room. They knew they didn't have to be in there long, and just based on the sounds coming from each lavatory, the ladies room seemed less full. Identity was never the issue for Charlie. It was all about avoiding human contact.
Setting their papers beside the sink, Charlie turned on the faucet and began washing their hands. Actually going to the bathroom in any of the school's public restrooms often proved too stressful. But, one of their pet peeves was having dirty hands, something that driving in their truck always gave them. Sheniqua was a second hand vehicle given to them by their blue collar father. In his line of work, he always came home covered in some substance or another, and he caked the steering wheel of the truck with decades of that stuff. Charlie despised that dark, sticky residue, but still loved their truck despite it.
Charlie quickly got deep into their work scrubbing off all of the sticky substance, so deep that they didn't even notice the other person come out of one of the stalls and begin washing their hands beside them. It wasn't until Charlie looked into the mirror that they caught a glimpse of their company. It was a girl that they couldn't recall. On a campus that small, they were aware of most faces. This one was different. Must have been a history or art major, they figured. Charlie never saw very many of those around. The history buffs always had classes on the upper floors, and Charlie consciously avoided the artsy types.
After a few moments observing this girl in the mirror, she looked up at herself and Charlie looked away. It didn't seem like she noticed them noticing her, and so they kept at it, albeit surreptitiously. This girl repulsed Charlie, but at the same time they found her features intriguing. With her iron curled, light gray hair, her form fitting and revealing attire, and her sparkling rings and necklace, Charlie could tell that this girl was one of the rich ones.
There was a well-defined high class at Uppman. Their parents were lawyers, politicians, entrepreneurs, and the like. Each of them drove new cars, had trust funds in their back pockets, and ate out enough that it proved their meal plans worthless. It all disgusted Charlie, and this girl was the personification of that lifestyle.
But, despite the obvious difference between the two of them and Charlie's disdain for the privileged youth of Uppman, they couldn't pull their eyes away from this particular girl. Her expression was oddly inviting and soothing. Ironically, the calming effect this girl had on Charlie caused them to worry. They didn’t know why this stranger seemed like someone they already knew well.
Just then, girl’s eyes shifted towards Charlie. They were quick to shoot their eyes back down to their hands. The gunk coating their palms was almost gone. They could feel the confused look beginning to sink into them. If they finished up fast enough, they could avoid any of the whispers that cut them so deep.
"Excuse me," a coy, polite voice came over the sound of the faucets, shattering Charlie's every hope, "are you in the right bathroom?"
Charlie's puzzled interest in this girl was instantly replaced with fierce madness. That was a question they'd gotten far too many times. They'd gotten used to hearing it, which was the worst part. Perhaps just as bad, they'd gotten down to a science the best way to respond to that inquiry.
Turning to this wealthy-looking girl with a dark scowl, Charlie pulled out their switchblade and flicked it open, revealing the short but sharp steel blade. "Are you in the right plane of existence? Because I can send you to hell if you'd like."
The girl's immediate response to the sight of the knife reintroduced Charlie's mad confusion. Most people would take a step or two back, put their hands up or something cliché like that. This girl did none of that. Charlie could see surprise in her eyes, but no fear to accompany it. She stood her ground and kept her hands by her sides.
"Sorry." The girl walked around Charlie to get to the paper towels.
Her words were ever worse. They seemed legitimately apologetic. Most people only said sorry to eliminate the chance of getting stabbed. Charlie never had any intention to do harm to people, but it was nice to see them relinquish their hate when faced with mortality. But this girl ignored it all. Still no fear, no fear at all.
Charlie turned and watched her dry off her hands and leave the bathroom without so much as looking back at them. Why wouldn't she do that? If Charlie were in that situation, they'd want to at least know the person with the knife wasn't about to literally stab them in the back. Did the girl not care for her life? Or did she just trust Charlie not to harm her? Either way, Charlie just couldn't wrap their mind around it.
They thought for a moment to run after the girl and grill her about all her odd behaviors. Charlie scoffed at their own idea. Run after someone? Charlie Ravensdale never ran after anyone, nor did they ever plan to. Still, the thoughts all lingered. A fog of confusion filled Charlie's mind.
In an attempt to get their mind off it, Charlie pulled some papers out of their backpack and looked them over. They already knew what would be on them, but it was the best that they could do. It was a collection of the first few assignments from the lecture they'd just come from, Structural Engineering. All A's, as usual. They read all the papers over, hoping to shake the thought of the girl.
For a few moments it worked, but soon the fearless face of this stranger crept back into their brain. That damn girl was going to haunt Charlie's mind for quite a while, and they were going to hate every moment of it. This rich girl had no reason to be on Charlie's mind, unique behaviors or not. Groaning spitefully, Charlie set down their papers and dried their hands. Consciously trying to put the girl out of their mind, they recollected the papers and departed the bathroom.
Charlie had a lot of work to get done, and not just homework either. They couldn't afford to waste anytime sitting around thinking over one person's infuriatingly interesting reactions. They weren't one of the rich kids. Responsibility plagued them. And so Charlie did like they did most everyday and wandered off in hopes of finding a semi-quiet place to get work done. Only now, that fog of confusion followed them wherever they went.
Charlie sat outside the doors to the academic building, enjoying the breeze of late summer. Normally, this would be the last place they'd want to sit. But, it was late morning now and the crowds were gone. The early classes were already dismissed and the mid-morning classes weren’t out yet. This left Charlie in perfect solitude for a little while.
With a small screwdriver and Swiss army knife in hand, Charlie tinkered around with one of their father's tools. Their father had been in construction for years, and accumulated a lot of power tools in that time. Many of them were old now, and beginning to break down. He'd given Charlie the job of fixing what broke. They didn't mind. They knew their father was busy and tinkering with his tools was a good way to pick up on necessary expertise for the future. Today's project was a large nail gun that their father had dropped and broken several days prior.
Charlie looked up from the gun every so often to watch for any security guard or nosy RA. They figured the Uppman administration wouldn't look too kindly at a student walking around campus with a nail gun. It was opened up, with several pieces taken out and sitting beside Charlie on the ledge, not to mention it needed compressed air to work. Still, Charlie thought that if any peace keepers saw it, it would be trouble. It didn’t help that it’s age made it look far more dangerous, and that their father had removed the safety contact trigger.
As they worked, the wind pulled at Charlie's papers from their backpack, left open on the ground beside them. The sound of the paper against the wind was a small stimulus, but an annoying one none the less. Finally, after several larger gusts of warm wind whipped past, Charlie set their project down and took the papers out of their pack. As they looked them over, Charlie read through a note at the bottom of one of the assignments. It commended them on their work, but encouraged them to participate in class and do more than the minimum. Charlie scoffed and stuffed the assignments into their pants pocket.
Charlie picked up the gun and got back to useful work. They never understood their instructors’ desire to have them participate. They got A's all around, was that not enough? Doing the minimum in their classes gave Charlie enough time to focus on other projects, like their father's nail gun or whatever problem plagued their second-hand pickup truck. They honestly couldn't fathom the idea of having to do more in classes than they already did.
In their deep thought, Charlie failed to notice a figure approaching them. It wasn't until this figure's shadow blocked out their sunshine that Charlie finally noticed. This didn't bother them that much, as long as the new person was gone soon enough.
"Fuck off," Charlie hissed, not looking up from their work to see who it was.
The figure cleared their throat loudly. "Excuse me, miss? What was that?" a snooty male voice inquired.
Charlie looked up finally to see that the figure blocking out their light was that of Stanley Remar, the school's Academic Vice President and Dean of Students. He loomed over them, showing a tight scowl and beaming, dreadful eyes behind tiny spectacles hanging off the tip of his long, abnormally skinny nose. Stanley Remar was a smart looking, yet freakish man. Exactly the kind of person Charlie always imagined running Uppman.
There was always reason for Charlie to hate Remar. For one, he stood as strict opposition to them not living in the dorms with the rest of the students. In addition, he never seemed to care much for their plight as a genderqueer student. He blew off every inquiry towards gender neutral bathrooms. Not to mention he commonly called Charlie by female pronouns.
"I'm sorry." Charlie put on a fake smile, "I told you to fuck off."
"You know, Miss Ravensdale, I could stand here and lecture you about a lot of things right now," Remar explained, "but I won't. I won't continue our argument over your housing, nor will I carry on the fight with you over these specially made bathroom spaces you keep crawling to me for. Hell, I won't even question that contraption you're working on right now," he gestured quickly to the dismantled nail gun. "I'm simply here to bear the news that you never finished your art generals in your first year."
"Is this the part where I'm supposed to cry and apologize, beg for forgiveness, all that?" Charlie looked up once again, far more aggravated now.
"You know, it would behoove you to simply listen to me."
"And it would behoove you to piss off, Madame Remar."
"Oh yeah," Charlie said, "getting called by the wrong gender kinda sucks, doesn't it, Stan?"
"I told you I wasn't here to argue this point with you today."
"Right, you're here to inform me that I didn't take courses that have nothing to do with my interests or major. What a damn tragedy. You ought to throw me in jail for the crime of not giving a shit about art class."
"Well whether you care or not, they're part of generals here," Remar explained through clenched teeth. "Therefore, you must take them. Now, I went ahead and assumed that you wouldn't do so on your own accord."
"Got that right," Charlie said, working on the nail gun again, hoping that this ordeal would soon be over.
"So I did it for you."
Charlie's head lifted back up in a flash. "What have you done?"
"I signed you up for an art class that fits perfectly in your current schedule. It's an introductory sculpture class, so you should be able to use some of that engineering skill of yours and put it to good use."
"Fuck yourself. You didn't actually sign me up for anything when we're already three weeks into the semester, did you?"
"I did." Remar appeared to take great pleasure in handing Charlie the late entry sheet for the sculpture course.
"Son of a bitch." Charlie read it over with a grumble. It was legitimate. Charlie was in an art class now. "You're an asshole, you know that?"
"You know, Charlie, you might want to do something about that awfully foul mouth you've got running." Remar strolled slowly down the steps. "It could be helpful down the road."
"Fuck your stupid opinions," Charlie called to him as he walked away. "Piece of shit," they mumbled as they went back to work on the nail gun, slipping the enrollment sheet into their pocket with the rest of their papers.
Charlie could hardly keep their mind straight. They were fuming with anger. How could Remar just sign them up for a course without telling them? It was absurd and probably against some rule somewhere. Although, Charlie didn't know nearly enough about law or the college bylaws to be able to deal with it. Nor did they really have the time. All they could do was go to the class, grit their teeth, and hope they passed.
As Charlie got deeper into the work on the nail gun, the anger of the moment slowly flickered away. But, that fading ceased as soon as another figure approached them, blocking their sunlight once again. This time, Charlie took the effort to look at the person before telling them to go away.
There, standing in front of them with a bright, happy smile was the mysterious girl from before. Charlie had just gotten the thoughts of this odd ball their mind. They moaned audibly at the sight of the girl's disturbingly cheerful gaze and long, curly gray hair. They knew it'd take even longer this time to clear their mind of her.
"Hi there," the girl said bubbly. "I'm sorry about my comment before, I hope I didn't offend you."
"Your comment?" Charlie knew the one to which the girl was referring, but they just wanted to get her to say it again.
"You know, the one where I asked you if you were in the right bathroom?" The girl restated it without skipping a beat. Most people would fumble with it and make it awkward. Not this girl. She appeared too confident with her words and too sincere in her apology to worry about awkwardness. This mere lack of discomfort made Charlie uncomfortable.
"Yeah, I know that one." Charlie nodded.
"Well, I didn't mean anything bad by it and I'm so sorry for any offense I may have caused you," the girl explained, smile still painted on her face.
"You know what." Charlie recalled a peculiar point they'd wondered about previously, "I've got a question for you."
"Oh? What would that be?"
"Why are you even here talking to me? Most people wouldn't take the effort to apologize to me even if they felt bad. I figured the knife would've scared you off like it does to everyone else. Why aren't you scared?"
"Should I be?" the girl asked. "The knife was interesting, but I didn't think for a moment you'd actually use it. Call it just a feeling, but for some reason I'm just not scared of you. Besides, I kinda just wanted to talk to you again. I wanted to get a chance to clear the air, so maybe we could be friends."
"You weren't scared?" Charlie was even more confused. The knife scared everyone. Even without the knife getting pulled, most people who came into contact with Charlie were wary of them. Not her. Not even slightly.
"No, not at all." The girl shook her head. "I'm Lassiter, by the way, Lassiter McGillan. But my friends call me Lasso."
"I'm Charlie, Charlie Ravensdale," Charlie replied through suppressed laughter. "Your friends call you Lasso?"
"Like the circular rope thing that cowboys wrangle animals with?" Charlie was still chuckling to themselves.
Before Lasso could respond, some voices called her by her nickname from across the quad. Both Charlie and Lasso looked towards the voices. There was a large group of people waving towards her.
"It's something like that," Lasso explained as she turned back to face Charlie. "I've gotta go meet my friends now, it was really nice to meet you!" She started down the steps.
Charlie groaned at how much happiness oozed out of that goodbye. It was almost non-human. Charlie's questions from before had been answered, but now even more took their place. Why was she so happy? Why wasn't she scared like everyone else was? What made her want to be friends with Charlie of all people when she clearly had a lot of friends already?
After Lasso departed, Charlie tried to get back to working on the nail gun. Their train of thought didn't last very long. At first, only Charlie's mind wandered. Then they found their eyes beginning to follow their mind's lead. After only a few minutes, Charlie gave up on the project to simply follow where their eyes took them.
Some classes were starting to end now, and people were trickling out of the main doors. Charlie watched a lot of lone people stroll out and off to the rest of their day. Then came a few couples, those people were always the happiest. They were always talking to each other, laughing together, and looking absolutely carefree. The sight of the brought Charlie's mind back to the children's fantasy of color.
Color was always a ridiculous thought to Charlie. Everyone who'd found love in the world swore by its existence. Those couples, with their cheery smiles and constant happiness, had to be seeing something everyone else simply wasn't. But color was impossible to Charlie. They didn't even know what color was. All they knew was that it supposedly existed and made people realize just when they found their soul mate. Was that what made color so great, or was it the beauty of color that made love so great? Either way, Charlie doubted the existence of both.
Still, whether they believed the idea or not, Charlie knew there was no way they would escape the talk about it. Those who claimed to see it told great stories of the unmatched beauties of reds, greens, blues, purples, and oranges. All Charlie knew about that was that they were allergic to oranges, and most other citrus fruits. They didn't have the slightest idea what people were trying to tell them about the colorful world. All Charlie knew was black and white. And that was fine by them.
The following afternoon, Charlie had darkness and hatred in their eyes as they strolled into their new sculpture class a few minutes early to meet the instructor. This wasn't something the usually did. They never really cared enough to do so. But, with them being a few weeks behind in this course, Charlie figured it would do them some good to be the professor’s friend.
Walking into the large art room, Charlie wasn't certain what to think. It was a large room with a lot of empty space. There were a few tables coated with dried blotches of paint, with stools to match. There were open cabinets of paints, clay supplies, as well as woodworking and power tools. There were a few large pieces of machinery on the opposite wall, a band saw and a miter saw.
The room was all at once a place that Charlie disliked and a place where they felt they'd fit in. It was art, the enemy of academics. But all the tools around reminded them of their garage at home.
In a small corner of the room was a man sitting behind a desk. His hair was long and unruly, put back into a pony tail. He wore tinted glasses and a smile that reminded them of Lasso's, oddly inviting and, in their opinion, misplaced.
"Are you my new student?" The man, rather than stand up, relaxed back in his desk chair. So many people took it upon themselves to stand up when meeting new people. It was a gesture of kindness that Charlie never understood.
"Yeah, that would be me." Charlie sighed. "Anything I should know or do?"
"Not much that I can think of." The man smiled. "The name is Jack Schroeder. I prefer Jack over Professor Schroeder any day of the week. You're Charlie Ravensdale if my memory doesn't deceive me."
"Now I may be wrong, but it doesn't sound like you're very stoked to be here. Am I right?"
"Pretty damn right," Charlie said. The man spoke straight, and did it casually. He was getting more intriguing by the moment.
"Well, luckily everyone’s least favorite VP of academia put you in a sculpture course. It'll probably be easier for you."
A mutual dislike of Remar. Charlie couldn’t fight the budding smile from their face. “How do you figure that?"
"A lot of students interested in engineering enjoy sculpture," Jack explained. "It's a lot of construction and making sure things turn out exactly how they're supposed to, with the right dimensions and all that. Not to mention making sure the pieces don't fall over or break apart in a kiln."
"Can't be too difficult to manage." Charlie looked around at some pieces on display on the walls and on tables. They all inspired some sort of thought in Charlie's mind. They knew they wouldn't be able to compete with those, aesthetically speaking, advanced engineering knowledge or not. "But art is a peculiar world, and peculiar worlds tend to fight against my reality."
"Why's that?" Jack leaned back up in his chair.
"My reality is rational."
"Maybe I just don't see what everyone else does. I prefer my art to technical, not up to people's interpretations."
"Interpretation can't be technical?"
Charlie saw what was going on. They could see it in their new professor's eyes, even through his dark shades. He was grilling them to get to know them better, become more personal. A ploy to make a friend. Any other time, Charlie would've ended the conversation there and gone back into their personal hole. But Jack was an interesting fellow, at least interesting enough to warrant further conversation. "It can't be," they explained. "One person can think one thing, another can think another, all over the same thing. And they both can be right in their own, twisted up ways. How does that make sense?"
"I suppose you're a little right about that." Jack shrugged. "I'd love to discuss the rationality of art with you again sometime, Charlie. But, I don't want to get into something too deep when there's only a few minutes before class."
"I'm sure it would be a blast," Charlie said with feigned sarcasm. To them, it sounded like quite the interesting talk indeed. At best, they'd get to shoot down the beliefs of a college professor. At worst, they'd learn a thing or two. "Anywhere I should sit?" They scanned the empty stools.
"We don't have any sort of seating assignment, and most tables in this class are only half full. Feel free to sit anywhere."
Charlie took a stool towards the far end of the room and sat down. It was the closest to the corner that they could manage, which wasn't very close at all. It was a huge downside to having such a large, scantily furnished classroom.
They looked down at all the paint splatters on the table. It just looked like mud to them. Some was deep black, while other places were covered in lighter grays and bright whites. Charlie thought about color again. Perhaps that was why they couldn't understand art. They didn't have the slightest idea about how to perceive or understand colors, much less the art made up of them. In curiosity, they scratched at some of the paint and looked at it underneath their nail. It just looked gray.
"It's blue," Jack's voice interrupted their thought.
"What?" Charlie looked up at him.
"The paint you're looking at, it's blue. Or, teal really. I haven't quite gotten the names of them all down yet."
"Great you're one of those color seers too then?" Charlie groaned. They'd already thought about the idea of color more on this day than in the whole week prior. It seemed to be following them.
"Yeah, I'm a 'color seer' if that's what you'd like to call me."
"Found your soul mate then?" Charlie put comical emphasis on the term 'soul mate'. "Married?"
"Not quite there yet," Jack said. "I only met her about four months back. But the color has been coming in pretty quick since then. It's kinda hard to fathom to be honest."
"How's that?" Charlie asked, interested to hear from someone who sounded to be equally confused by the idea of color.
"Well, you go through high school, college, and grad school learning all about art minus the color. Then, one day, it all comes into focus. My whole damn job has turned around."
"I never thought about that." Charlie laughed. "An art teacher just now seeing color? Your life must suck ass."
"From the outside you might think so, but no." Jack shook his head. "It's wonderful. It's a lot to take in all at once, sure. But everything is just so much more significant." He let out a happy sigh. "And it's all because of one great person in life. That's the best part."
Charlie wanted to ask him what he meant by that, but it wouldn’t be long until class started. They pulled out their father's nail gun from their bag and quickly started working on it. Charlie could sense that it was nearly finished, and they didn't want to fall behind when it was so close to done.
They knew that in the midst of conversation it would seem a bit rude to simply go to work on the gun. Not to mention they were doing it right in front of a faculty member. But Charlie had seen a fair share of far larger tools in the room already, very dangerous tools. They figured one extra wouldn't hurt that much.
"You know most people carry books and papers in their bags, not nail guns," Jack said, not seeming miffed at all by Charlie's sudden change in focus.
Charlie felt the folded up papers still stuffed in their pocket. "There's no space for anything with the nail gun in there. It's a project I've gotta get done."
"Understandable, I wouldn't pull it out in front of other faculty or administrators though," Jack suggested.
"Yeah, I know. But you've got a lot of worse shit in here, so I figure it's cool."
"Assumptions are dangerous, but you're right. I'm fine with it, we've got a nail gun in this room too, and a nice compressor to go with it."
"One of the portable deals?" Charlie inquired, not looking up from the project before them.
"Yeah. I wouldn't call it portable, the son of a bitch is still heavy. But it's got wheels, so it's alright."
Charlie was ready to carry on yet another conversation with this peculiar professor when an interloper entered the space and interrupted the entire situation. A shrill, joyful greeting to Jack entered Charlie's ears as another student came into room. He was quick to respond to them and start up idle conversation. Charlie didn't listen much further than that.
As the monotonous hum of small talk occurred in the background, Charlie continued to work on the nail gun. It was a lot of meticulous work, difficult on all their senses. As more people trickled into the classroom and made conversation amongst themselves, the work got harder and harder. But still Charlie charged on, until Jack finally brought a stop to the process with a loud proclamation.
"Alright, class, it's about time for us to start," he called out. As soon as he did, many of the conversations suddenly ceased.
Charlie slid their tools and their father's gun back into their bag and looked up at Jack. They were even closer now, so close to finally getting the innards of that nail gun to work just right, at their highest efficiency possible. But now it was stalled for another overly long class. Interesting professor or not, Charlie was still certain they'd dislike the subject matter.
"Okay class," Jack began, "so we've kind of been taking it easy with the assignments for the first few weeks, which I know you all enjoy so very much," a few laughs came from the students. "But, now it's time we talk about your first big project of the semester. So, what I want from you all is to create a sizeable scale model of any famous land mark across the world. It can be anything you want it to be, the Statue of Liberty, Angkor Wat, or the Pyramids, for all you under achievers out there. Whatever. It has to be built to a specific scale that you run by me first. You can use any media you'd like, even any mixture of media. Be creative. This will be a partner assignment, and no you can't pick your own partners," there was a collective groan.
Charlie liked the idea of imposed groupings. It always made them feel less awkward when they were the odd person out.
Jack began listing off names of partners, and that was when Charlie tuned out. Lists always bored them. They'd gotten good at returning to listening when they heard their name called. Jack droned through several groups before finally landing on Charlie's name, prodding them back to attention.
"Charlie," he said, looking over to them, then to someone in the front blocked from view by several other students, "you'll be with Lassiter."
It took every ounce of self control in Charlie's body to not swing their hands in their air, proclaim hell to the world and storm out. Such horrid luck that day. They'd never even seen this cheerful oddity of a girl throughout their whole first year at a decidedly small college. Now they couldn't escape her to save their life.
For a moment, Charlie hoped that there was more than one Lassiter at Uppman, and that this one didn't prefer to be called Lasso. But, when Lasso's curly haired head peeked through the wall of students between them and sent over a joyous grin, Charlie's hopes were dashed.
"You have got to be fucking kidding me," Charlie murmured to themselves.
"So, everyone ought to meet with their group members outside of class to figure a plan of action," Jack explained. "My suggestion would be to do this within the next few days if possible."
It wasn't in class work. Charlie now had to either actively seek out Lasso, or be hunted by her. They'd certainly be seeing a lot of one another now. Not sure what else to do at that point, Charlie returned to tuning out Jack's lecture and rested their forehead in their palms. All they could do now was curse their luck.
Charlie walked into one of Uppman's dorm halls later that afternoon. They'd never quite grasped the idea of living so close to so many other people. The walls were so thin, they could overhear so many things from the stairwell alone. People played instruments, talked loudly, played video games and watched TV. It made for a disorganized orchestra summarizing the collegiate lifestyle. It made Charlie grimace. They knew that was what college was supposed to be. But they were just glad that that wasn't how it had to be for them.
Walking upstairs to the top floor, Charlie slowly went down the hall, looking at the gray nametags beneath each number on the doors. It seemed like a barn to them. Each person got a number along with their name, becoming part of the partially-educated herd. But, each student at Uppman got a room to themselves. That was a rarity for any college, even small ones. In contrast to other schools, Uppman's living was luxurious, and that made Charlie feel much better they got into a school close to their home.
Walking by all the doors and all the numbers, Charlie couldn't help but let out a slight chuckle. These kids all got their own rooms, but the cost for their time in those rooms was astronomical. Charlie was no longer certain of the numbers, but they did recall a number with several zeros and a comma on the yearly estimate for room and board. All the students at Uppman paid so much for something Charlie got for free. But a lot of these kids were members of the privileged social classes. It made Charlie feel good that the shoe was finally on the other foot.
Reaching the last door in the hall, Charlie's thought process was broken. They'd reached their destination. Now all they wanted to do was turn back. Charlie hated themselves for even making it this far. But, they wanted to pass this new art class and put the whole art program behind them, and this was a part of that. Standing in front of the last door, they read the nametag. Even her door said her name was Lasso.
Lifting a closed hand, Charlie paused. Once they knocked, it was all but certain they'd be interacting with the peculiar girl again. It was hard to believe they'd just met her that morning, now she was a mollusk stuck to Charlie's hull. Wherever they seemed to go, this new girl went too. After some thought, Charlie decided to just get it over with, and knocked several times on the door.
"Come in!" Lasso's familiar, cheery voice came through.
Charlie opened the door and stood idly in the corridor, getting their first look at this girl's room. It was well kept by normal standards, and astounding by the standards of a college student. The tile floor was spotless, as was the desk and all the shelves. The only clutter to be found was created by stacks of leather bound tomes in clusters throughout the room. The large books were great enough in number to produce the unmistakable odor of old print and dust.
The smell emanated out of Lasso's room and into the hall. It was strong, but at the same time rather appealing. Charlie never was a fan of candles or incense burning, but this was different. It smelled like a musty basement, but at the same time brought them recollections of knowledge and text books of past classes.
"This is something," Charlie said, peeking into the room to see just how many old books were stacked all around.
"Please come in," Lasso greeted, setting one of the books down and standing up from the desk. "What's up?"
"Just wondering what's going on with the project," Charlie explained, walking slowly into the room, wary of its overall oddity. "What's up with you?"
Lasso paused and looked up before addressing Charlie. "The ceiling," she said with a smile.
"Don't do that."
"Because I asked you not to." Charlie picked up on of the larger books off the bookshelf and looked it over. "Why all the big ass books?"
"You can call me a dedicated history major."
"Not even the most dedicated history majors are this dedicated. Have you read them all?"
"Kind of. Every time I get a new one, I try to read it all before going onto the next, but I never quite get there before the next one comes. I've read the first half of all of them I’d say. All of some of them. What I don't finish now I'm saving for retirement.
Charlie set the book back on the shelf. It was a five hundred page biography of a civil war soldier published in the late nineteenth century. As they looked around and examined the books closer, Charlie saw many of them were as old as that book or even older. Charlie began to see that maybe Lasso wasn't saving these books for reading material. The girl was probably paging through half of her retirement fund.
"Where'd you get all of these?" Charlie looked at their project partner, heavily puzzled.
"My family sends me a lot of money, and those books are what I use most of it for," Lasso replied.
And there it was. Another one of Charlie's assumptions had come true. Not only was this girl a history major, explaining their lack of interaction before that day, she was also one of Uppman's elite. There really wasn't anymore reason left for Charlie not to dislike this girl like they chose to dislike most other people. But still, the worst Charlie could muster was bemusement. They couldn't in good conscious dislike her, and they had no idea why.
"But you have so many." Charlie forced themselves to take their eyes off the numerous books in the room. "It's just a bit absurd."
"What you call absurd I call comfortable. I enjoy learning about new things, it makes me feel good."
Charlie could relate to that in a way. They always liked finding out something new. Although they usually picked up new things from hands-on work and chance occurrences rather than between the pages of old books.
Taking their eyes off the books again, Charlie looked back to the open door. They observed the nametag on the door showing Lassiter's nickname. A small smile came to their face.
"Can I ask you where that nickname of yours came from? Lasso...it's kinda weird."
"People started calling me that a long time ago because I'm so good at making friends," Lasso explained joyfully. "I can just reel them in, you know? It's fitting."
"Yeah," Charlie said, "fitting."
Charlie wanted to change the subject. They knew well enough that if this conversation continued, they'd only end up poking fun at the nickname more than they already had. Lasso seemed like a resilient soul, but for some reason Charlie didn't want to push it any further.
"So any ideas for the project?" Lasso brought up a new subject of her own.
"I don't have any idea." Charlie laughed. "I honestly have no clue where to even start with this. What do you think?"
"Well I think it would be cool to do the Roman Coliseum. Everyone else in class seems kinda focused with tall monuments, I wanna break the mold."
"The Coliseum? Doesn't that seem kinda really damn intricate to you?"
"No. It'll be a challenge, but I like a challenge. I didn't perceive you to be someone to back away from a challenge either. I'm doing a minor in sculpture art, so it'll be good to work with something like that. But, if you don't feel good about it, we can do something different."
"Hold on," Charlie backed tracked, "you're telling me you're at Uppman as a history major with a minor is sculpture art? That is honestly one of the most random things I've ever heard.”
"I know, but I want to do what I want to do, not what people tell me goes well with one thing or another." Lasso shrugged. "Doing what you want to do is surest way to live a happy life."
Charlie peered to the ground and scratched their head. Lasso made a little too much sense sometimes. Her personality was a puzzle, but her words were solving puzzles in Charlie's mind.
"You're a bit of a renaissance girl, aren't you?" Charlie said.
"Yeah, a lot like my parents."
"What do your parents do?"
"Well they run a brewery back home in Seattle now," Lasso explained. "But my dad started out as a biochemist and my mom was a plastic surgeon for a long time."
Charlie got a very clear picture of just how Lasso's family managed to afford all their daughter's ancient books. "How does that translate to brewing?"
"It was just a hobby of my father's that my mom got into too. Now they've got a really big brewery just outside the city and ship all across the west coast."
"Well damn, I guess you are kinda like your parents then."
"Yeah." Lasso gazed out her window. "I wish I was more like them, though."
"That's not something people our age usually say, you know that?"
"I know, but they're both so happy with life. They love each other, they love their jobs, they love their lives. I wish I could live like that someday."
"Yeah, me too I guess," Charlie admitted softly. This girl's nickname was coming quickly to truth. Charlie could feel themselves getting closer to Lasso. They had to get out of there. "You know, I've gotta get home to help with the," Charlie paused, "garage. I've gotta fix the garage. It's broken."
"Well that sucks," Lasso spoke with genuine apology. "Maybe we should meet up at the art building to start working soon. Does tomorrow night at eight work? Or will your garage still be broken?" Lasso grinned.
"Yeah, that works just fine," Charlie accepted the time. Anything to sneak away quicker. "And the more I think about it, the more I think that the Coliseum is a good idea."
"Yeah. And you're right, I never back down from a challenge," Charlie said with a smile, stepping back out into the hall.
"Cool. It seems pretty doable. Have a great day."
Charlie moved fast down the hall and away from the room, muttering to themselves as they went, "You're pretty doable."
They stopped their walk instantly. Charlie tapped themselves on the side of the head with the ball of their hand. They couldn't believe that'd just come out of their mouth. They could hardly believe they even thought that. Sure, Charlie would admit it, Lasso was an attractive girl. But she was still a rich, overly joyful, creative-type who was very invested in her schooling. She was everything Charlie simply wasn't. Still, Lasso just kept Charlie wondering. They didn't make fun of her like they did to other people. They didn't want to argue with her. Charlie was stopping themselves from doing most everything they did to other people. None of it made sense.
Lasso must've put them under her spell. Charlie had fallen victim to her friendship potion that she must've slipped everyone else on the campus. Charlie had never wanted to consciously befriend someone. Now they just wanted to keep talking to Lasso, despite their simultaneous desire to keep their distance.
Charlie thought about the next night. They'd be meeting together to work on their project. The art building would probably be barren then. It would just be them. The mere thought brought an interesting feeling to Charlie. They'd felt it a few times in the past, mostly when they had to talk in front of large crowd. Charlie willed these feelings away with all the fury they could muster.
Once darkness had draped over Uppman's campus, the halls of Lasso's dormitory quieted down and the once bustling building became a much more solemn structure. Lasso always liked taking some time to absorb those calm moments of each day. Sometimes she took the opportunity to study in places other than her room, and other times she simply enjoyed the ability to relax in a nice quiet nook of her building.
After the dinner rush ended each day, the building's kitchen closed up shop and most people drained out of the large, open room. A few people trickled through most evenings. But, by the time night fell the place was usually deserted. Lasso took advantage of the cafeteria's emptiness to sit at one of the tables with nothing more than a cup of warm chamomile tea in front of her.
All day everyday Lasso was doing something. She was either in class, working on homework for classes, reading from one of her history books, or spending time with her ever expanding group of friends. She knew well that many people in the world would do anything to live a life like hers, so she didn't complain. But, extroversion aside, it was nice to wind down alone at the end of each day.
While sitting in her solitude, Lasso stared down at her steaming cup and got lost in thought. She thought about Charlie, her dark yet peculiar new friend. Charlie was different to say the least. But that never stopped Lasso from making a new connection before. Although, there was something very new in Charlie. Even with her personable persona, Lasso was always careful when befriending people. She knew what could happen if she ended up getting too close and too personal with the wrong people. But when she spoke with Charlie, her caution was nowhere to be found.
It'd been a long time since Lasso had shared her desire to be so much like her parents with anyone. Charlie was right, it was a very odd thing to think. So why was she so quick to share it? It perplexed Lasso why she would act so carelessly. But, even more interesting was that it didn't seem careless at all to tell Charlie. Lasso found her new friend trustworthy, for no real reason.
Lasso's thought process was broken by the sound of loud footsteps echoing through the dim, empty cafeteria. She turned towards the door to see a familiar figure walking towards her. Her stomach fluttered a little. It always seemed to do that when they came around.
"Hey, Lasso, how's it going?" A tall young man approached her, wearing a bright smile.
"Hi Carter." She smiled back innocently. "I'm okay."
Standing before her was Carter Harmon. He was much like her in many ways. He came from a privileged family on the West Coast and was quick to make friends around both campus and town. Although they did differ in how they chose to use the financial aid their families gave them. While Lasso focused more on her educational needs, Carter always seemed to be buying up the latest fashion trends and new products to mend and style his light, curly locks of hair. Carter was the far more stereotypical Uppman rich kid, but that difference didn't bother Lasso. It didn't seem to bother him much either.
Lasso took great interest in Carter. She'd been mesmerized by both his good looks and charming personality since the day they'd been introduced. They hadn't had time to communicate much since then. He was a science major, which meant he was cooped up most days in the labs across campus. But she'd come to understand some basics of his schedule. She knew he got out of classes in the afternoons or night. And now here he was, spending that minimal free time talking to her.
"You mind if I sit?" Carter pointed to a chair beside her.
"Not at all," Lasso replied, unable to stifle her large smile. "So what's up?"
"Well, we've been friends for a long time, don't you think?" Carter looked at her with his enchantingly dark eyes.
Lasso nodded. She wasn't quite sure where the conversation was going, and spoke with a degree of confusion, "Yeah, we have been. But I wish I could see you more than just a few minutes at a time," she chuckled a little, even though it wasn't a joke.
"Yeah, I wish so too." Carter laughed along with her. "So, I was thinking maybe we could work on that together."
"Oh? How so?" Lasso was beginning to form an idea of where the conversation could be going. The thought alone made her heart beat a little faster. She could start to read it in his expression. He looked very content, but at the same time she detected a hint of anxiety, like he was about to ask an important question.
"I was wondering if you wanted to go out and grab dinner with me Thursday?"
It wasn't as forward as Lasso expected it to be. But she also knew just how often people's expectations are only met part of the way. She figured, if she could gather enough courage to do so, that she could build up the other half of the bridge.
"Like a date?"
"Yeah, like a date." Carter nodded, his perfect smile still shining.
"Sure, yeah, I can do that. What time?"
"How does seven sound?"
"Seven sounds great."
"Awesome. Can I just meet you at your room then?"
"Yeah, that sounds awesome." Lasso's smile got even bigger. It was a purposeful motion, as the larger her grin got, the less noticeable her quivering lip became.
"It'll be great." Carter looked at his watch. "Look, I've got a lab report to do for Chemistry tomorrow. I hate to leave so soon-"
"It's okay, I understand. I'll be seeing a lot of you soon anyway." Lasso's butterflies began to produce a whirlwind within her.
"Cool, I can't wait. See you around." Carter stood up and started off.
"Bye." Lasso waved him off. Just like it usually was, Carter was there one second, gone the next. But he sounded sincere about his proposition. Lasso imagined that if they ever did fall into dating one another that he'd be around a lot more often. Now, that thought was coming to life, and she wasn't sure what to make of it.
It hadn't come out of nowhere. Lasso had taken notice to Carter making more of an attempt to see her when he could. He was even late to a few classes, all just to talk to her. She had a feeling that it could have been a romantic interest. Now she was certain.
Looking around the cafeteria just to ensure that she was alone, Lasso let out a short laugh, followed by a large sigh. "Wow," she muttered to herself. Her mind raced all around. What would all her friends say about it? They'd probably be thrilled. What would a date with someone like Carter be like? He was such a nice guy, and it always seemed like he could get something that he wanted, no matter how far fetched it was. For a college kid, he was connected. What did that mean for a date? Lasso had no clue. Thursday was only two days away, and still she couldn't wait.
Not sure what else to do, Lasso just looked down at the table. She saw her tea, still steaming. It was far easier to drink now that it was cooler. She'd forgotten all about it up until then.
Lasso stared down into the tea in her cup. To her, it was just darkened water. But now she found herself wondering what color it actually was. She knew all the stories already. Lasso could never comprehend color by word alone, and had spent most of her life waiting for the day to come when her life would become illuminated.
At this point, she had no way to be certain if Carter was that person or not. But, with the butterflies floating around in her stomach and her mind still racing, Lasso knew she had plenty of reasons to think that he might be. Now all she could do was look around her dark, black and white surroundings and wonder if Carter Harmon would be the one to colorize her life.
Stanley Remar sat behind the desk in the school's security office. The whole security building hadn't been updated in years, and even the small four person force had outgrown the tiny quarters they were given.
Remar wasn't a person to frequent a place like the security offices, much less be there at that time of night. But there was an issue of student safety that he was tasked with informing the security team of. So here he was, sitting sleepily in the uncomfortable chair behind the head desk. Standing across from him was the security force, all waiting to be informed.
They weren't the best out there, far from it. Each member of the force was either middle aged or beyond. Not one of them was anywhere near the fittest they could be either. But, to handle security for a small campus like Uppman, they all did just fine.
"So, perhaps you've heard about what's been coming onto campus recently?" Remar addressed the group.
"Not much really," the head of the force, a portly, bald man said. "I hear it's a drug."
"You hear right," Remar replied. "Both Uppman and the town of Dwight is seeing a steady spike in prevalence of a new kind of party drug. It has come to the point where I jmust ensure that any possible situation is brought under control as soon as possible."
"What are we looking out for exactly?" the portly man asked.
"You're looking for pills. I hear that they're all marked with a small 'X', so buyers can tell what they're getting."
"Does it have a name?"
"Whattaya me 'no'?" another security office asked. "Every drug has a name."
"This one doesn't.”
"Not even any street terms?" the portly man inquired.
"Not that anyone has heard." Remar sighed. "Look, I know that this is a very hard thing to ask. This is a drug that is brand new. We're running on rumors mostly. But it's spreading across our campus fast, and for the safety of our students we need to put an end to it."
"Can you at least tell us what it does?" a security guard asked.
"From what I hear, it makes the user see color."
"Are you shitting me? No wonder it's spreading so fast." The head guard couldn't help but let out a chuckle.
"How is this funny?" Remar grumbled. "People can O.D. on this stuff."
"I'm not saying that it's not serious, but I can see why it's spreading. These are kids fresh out into the world, eager to find their color. Now they have a way to cheat? This stuff is gonna spread like wildfire."
"It won't if you do your job! Find who's selling it. If you can't do that, find whoever the hell is buying it. That can't be too hard." Remar put on a hateful gaze, aiming it at each of the guards. "I know this might sound harmless now, but we can't have this stuff around our students. It could mean serious trouble for all of us. Do whatever it takes, and crack down on this stuff as fast as you can."
"We'll do our very best." The head guard nodded.
Remar nodded in return, looking over the security force one more time. It pained him to think so, but Remar figured that what the head officer had said was true. Whether they're intervening in it or not, this new substance could tear through Uppman like an atomic blast. He wasn't about to let that happen. Remar would keep it from happening, by any means necessary.
Sitting at home that night, Charlie went about their usual nighttime routine. Their father always came home late in the afternoon, just in time for dinner, and went to bed shortly after that. Today was no exception. This left Charlie to care for her brother, Aaron, throughout the remaining hours of the evening.
Charlie, like most older siblings, had many reasons to dislike their brother. He was just shy of two years old, and quite a vocal complainer. Aaron was a messy, diaper-clad toddler that controlled most of Charlie's after school time. There was no reason why he shouldn't have been a burden for Charlie to hate. But they didn't hate him. There wasn't a shred of disdain in Charlie's being towards their brother.
He was hardly able to speak at this point in his life, but Charlie still liked talking to him. Aaron was still too young to pass judgment. They liked that. In addition, he had a face like their mother's. With his wide, playful eyes, big ears, and room-brightening smile, Aaron was the spitting image of her.
Aaron's first day on planet earth was their mother's last. All the doctors kept saying was the term 'unforeseen complications'. No real answer ever came to them. The doctors explained it to their father, but he never spoke about it. Nor did Charlie ask. Their mother was a wonderful person, and thinking about that day only served to destroy both of their moods.
It would have been very easy for Charlie to hate Aaron for that. They could have looked at that smiling, innocent face with nothing but contempt for the death of their mother. But, they knew there was no way their mother blamed him, nor would she ever hold ill will towards one of her children for the mere act of being born. So Charlie didn't either.
Over the two years that followed, Charlie became a very skilled caregiver to their new brother. They learned all the tricks to keeping a baby and toddler healthy and happy. Caring for their brother was second nature now.
Tonight, like most nights, Charlie was sitting on the couch staring at the television, Aaron placed right next to them. Charlie never really listened to the words, but the pictures kept Aaron interested and Charlie found the background noise soothing.
"So, how was your day?" Charlie inquired at their brother. Aaron returned several babbles of varying volume and pitch. "I heard you played with the babysitter's cat today. How'd that go?"
"Bubbles," Aaron spoke one of the few words he knew.
"My thoughts exactly." Charlie laughed. They liked talking to Aaron about their day, about their life. He never gave any useful feedback, but it was a nice feeling to express feelings to someone. "I've had a pretty weird day. I met someone kinda," Charlie paused to think of a good word, "unique."
Aaron let out a few babbles before finally looking over to Charlie for a moment. Just like all the other times they talked, there wasn't any judgment in his eyes.
"I know, I know," Charlie said, "me, meeting someone? Well, not someone, you know? Just someone. It's a weird thought. But they just kinda appeared, now they're everywhere. You'll have that happen some day, I promise."
Charlie pondered over Lasso. They sat forward, putting their chin into their palms, wondering about the fluttering in their stomach. Aaron let out a happy giggle at the TV. Charlie looked at him and smiled, but still couldn't shake Lasso from their mind.
"Can I ask you something?" Charlie asked their brother. He babbled and blew a raspberry. "Have you ever had someone that you just wanted to hang out with, and you can't quite figure out why?"
Aaron just let out a chuckle and a coo in response to their question. Charlie didn't expect anything different from a toddler. But, like most other things they admitted to their brother, it felt good to get their feelings into the open to someone.
"But, at the same time, it's different than that, Aaron. It's different. This girl is weird, this girl is different, this girl is really cute." Charlie laughed quietly. "But what am I doing thinking another person is cute? I don't think people are cute. At most I think they're hot. But this girl isn't hot," the sighed. "No, they're definitely cute. I don't know what to make of it. And on top of it all, this girl is one of the rich ones. She doesn't dress in designer clothes or drown her hair in spray like most of them do, but she rolls with that crowd. She's part of every crowd. I'm part of none. We're on opposite ends of the life spectrum, what am I doing getting infatuated with someone like that? What am I supposed to do?"
"I would if I could, man, I would if I could." Charlie smiled. It was nice to just be listened to and not talked at afterwards. Charlie didn't mean to dump their problems on their brother, but he never seemed to mind that much. For someone so small, Aaron always managed to lift the weight off Charlie's shoulders.
Lasso was still present in their mind. They knew it was hopeless to wish otherwise. But there were less thoughts clawing to escape. And Charlie had Aaron to thank for that reprieve.
Scooping up their brother in one arm, Charlie shut off the television and made their way to the stairs. Aaron put up a small fuss at first, but after a few bounces in Charlie's arms, he calmed down. He always calmed down when Charlie held him.
"Let's get you to bed," Charlie said, walking their brother to his room.
The following morning, Charlie was awakened by the sharp, invasive beeping of their alarm clock. They were quick to smack the top of it, bringing the beeping to a swift end. Rising from bed slowly, eyelids barely opened, Charlie shuffled their way through their room. The only times they actually picked up their feet was to avoid various pieces of clothing that they had yet to pick up.
Charlie was never a very cleanly person when it came to their room. The only time it ever bothered them was in the mornings. They hated the mere act of getting out of bed that early, and stepping around all the things on their floor only served to exacerbate their frustrations.
Meandering across the hall into the bathroom, Charlie opened up the medicine cabinet and grabbed a bottle of vitamins. As the old cabinet refused to stay open on its own, Charlie wrestled with the child-proof cap. Finally getting it off, they looked up to reopen the now closed cabinet. The moment Charlie saw themselves, they froze.
They were caught off guard by their own eyes. The irises were no longer dull gray. Charlie's eyes were brighter, and tinted with a shade they'd never seen before. They were gorgeous, but at the same time terrifying.
At this point, Charlie was beyond shocked. Not knowing what else to do, they turned away from the mirror and screamed. What was wrong with them? What the hell happened to their eyes? Would they go blind?
A few seconds after the scream, their father rushed to the door of the bathroom. His burly figure nearly knocked the door off its hinges. After running into the door and struggling with the old handle for a moment, their father finally got it open.
"What? What happened? Are you okay?" he bombarded Charlie with frantic questions.
"My eyes, dad! There's something wrong with my eyes!"
"What happened to your eyes? Can you see okay?"
"Yes, I can see fine," Charlie said as they composed themselves. They turned back to the mirror to look at them again. The sight of them was just as horrifying as before. "But they're fucked up. I don't know what's wrong with them. They look really weird. I don't know what I did. What'd I do to them?" They looked at their father.
Their father cocked his head in confusion. "Charlie, there's nothing wrong with your eyes."
"What the hell do you mean there's nothing wrong? Look at them!"
"I am looking at them. They're a bit wide right now, but they look just fine."
"Bullshit!" Charlie conquered their fears and got up close to the mirror to look at their irises. "They've gotta be infected with something really weird, I swear. Like a fungus or something. There's no other reason my irises should look so damn different."
"Your irises?" their father asked. "Oh my God, Charlie, are you seeing color?"
Charlie spun around, "What the hell did you just say?"
"Are you seeing color?" Their father widened his broad jaw and smiled at them. "It sure sounds like you are."
"Don't smile at this, this is not cool! This is the antithesis of cool, dad. What the hell is happening to my eyes?"
"Nothing is wrong with them from my perspective. They're the same beautiful green they've always been."
"Green?" Charlie looked back at their reflection, their eyes almost glowed. "What the fuck is green?"
"Green is," their father paused to think, "like emeralds, or a scummy pond. Things like that. Your toothbrush is green."
Charlie looked at their brush beside the sink. They had no idea what their father was talking about. "My toothbrush is black."
"For now." He smirked.
"Don't say things like that. This is just a dream, or some weird prank, or a stroke. This isn't actually happening."
"Come on Charlie, you should be happy if you see color. It means you've found your soul mate."
"I know what it means!" Charlie hissed.
Looking back at the mirror, Charlie’s mind wandered. If this was color that they were seeing, it could only have been for one person. The only new person they'd had any real interaction with: Lasso. They nearly lost their balance at the thought. All the peculiar feelings and emotions they'd felt around her made a lot more sense. But that didn't make them any less scary.
"Shit," Charlie muttered.
"You should be happy," their father said. "Your eyes are wonderful," he peered into the mirror along with them, "like leaves on a tree in spring."
Charlie scowled. "Leaves are this color?"
"Yeah, but they'll change soon, when fall comes."
"What? What happens in fall?"
"You'll see," their father replied.
"Patrick Richard Ravensdale, what the hell happens in fall?" Charlie was transitioning their fear into intense frustration.
"We've talked about using my first name, Charlie. I'm dad, don't disrespect."
"Tell me what happens in fall, Goddamn it!"
"Look, Charlie. All this color stuff isn't something anyone can really explain to you. You've gotta experience it all on your own. I will tell you something though, only one thing ever comes in that quick. It's usually the eyes or the hair, something about you. Everything else just kinda comes in subtly. It'll save you some paranoia to know that. I know when it started for me, I stared at my car for hours because I thought I saw blue coming through and I was waiting for it to pop like the eyes did. The thing never did, it took about a week for it to really come in."
"So I'm just supposed to take my mind off it?" Charlie asked.
"Well, I've got a problem for you to fix. I know how that usually helps take you mind off things."
"The nail gun."
"I fixed it though," Charlie said. They'd spent days tweaking it, they were certain they had it working by the end.
"Yeah, that's kinda the problem," their father said. "Follow me."
Charlie did as they were told and went along with their father down the stairs and into the garage. He flipped on the light and turned on the large air compressor in the back of the garage. Charlie watched him attach the nail gun to the air hose, all the while scanning the room for anything that'd become slightly more colorful.
"Okay, watch this," their father called for their attention over the sound of the air compressor.
Charlie watched from the doorway to the garage. They stood there so they could listen into the rest of the house. With all the noise they'd made with talking, and now the sound of the compressor running, it was a miracle that Aaron didn't wake up. He was a heavy sleeping child, but Charlie always wanted to be sure.
Their father picked up a two-by-four and put the gun up to it. He pulled the trigger and a nail came out. The problem was immediately apparent as the nail went straight through the board and stuck itself into the garage door.
"You fixed it a bit too well." Their father shut off the compressor and set the nail gun on the work bench. "Get it working normally again if you can." He patted Charlie on the back as he stepped inside. "Maybe it'll take your mind off color for a while."
"Thanks," Charlie said as their father walked into the house. To most children, extra work would seem like a punishment. But Charlie's father knew them well. He knew they liked hands-on work, and that they found it soothing.
Stepping into the garage, the concrete floor was cold against their bare feet. They walked quickly to the bench and sat down to look at the nail gun. But, as they were opening it up, Charlie's eyes wandered.
They looked at their father's truck, it was still light gray. But, the harder they looked, they could almost see a hint of something else. What their father said was beginning to show truth. Charlie probably could sit there and look at the truck for hours, hoping for more color to come.
Charlie had spent much of their life thinking of color as nothing more than a fairy tale. Now it was here, slowly creeping up on them. They weren't sure if they ought to be excited or frightened. It was such a small, yet drastic change. They could only wonder how Lasso would take it.
Lasso. Charlie couldn't believe that she was the one that they ended up seeing colors for. It was a mystery to them why Lasso, a cheerful rich girl, would be the one to colorize their life. They wondered what that bubbly girl was up to right then. It was still early. Perhaps she wasn't awake yet. Would she see color at the same time as Charlie? Would she see more of it at first, or less?
A mess of questions clouded Charlie's mind. They could tell why their father wanted them to drop the subject. It was quickly becoming too complex to fathom. Doing anything to take their mind off all the questions, Charlie looked over into a dirtied mirror across the garage. They were staring into their own eyes again.
"Green," they whispered to themselves. It was kind of a pretty color.
Letting out a large yawn as she stepped out of her shower stall, Lasso was ready to get a start on the day. Wrapping herself in her towel and wrapping up her hair in another, she stepped out into the rest of the bathroom. There was no one else in the restroom at that time. Solitude while showering was the main reason she always got up so early.
Walking up to the sinks, Lasso checked her teeth in the mirror. They were their usual white, no spots of gray to be seen on them. But there was something new, although she couldn't put her finger on it. They seemed to be a little bit brighter than usual. Lasso chalked it up to her new toothpaste and went back to her normal routine.
Leaning down and away from the mirror, Lasso shook the towel on her head to better dry out her long hair. The towel's twist always came undone in that process, but it was easy enough to put back on.
Coming back up, hair no longer dripping wet, Lasso started resetting the towel as she looked back in the mirror. What she saw made her drop the towel off of her head. At first she thought it was an illusion, something created by the frizz that came from shaking out her hair. But the sight just stayed there. She moved from side to side, straightened it out with a comb, but to oddity remained.
Lasso could feel her heart race. What'd happened to her head? Then it hit her. Color. Her heart rate doubled and a smile of disbelief grew onto her face. She never thought that color would actually find her. Now, so suddenly, it was here. She shook her hair more, combed through it again, ruling out for certain it was just an illusion. It must've been color. She had no clue what else it could be.
"Oh my God." She fought back tears of joy.
Her parents always told her when she was little that her hair was a beautiful strawberry blonde. She never understood what the word blonde meant, and her hair never really tasted like strawberries. Now she could see it. And they were right, it was beautiful.
Lasso just stood in the mirror for several minutes. She stroked her hair gently. In her mind it even felt different. The presence of color made it feel much softer. It was the most gorgeous thing that she'd ever experienced. And she knew who she had to thank for her new beauty.
Carter had been on Lasso's mind ever since the night before. The thoughts of the two of them actually going out, actually being close with one another, must've signaled her brain to produce those hormones and chemicals she learned so much about in health class. That had to be what triggered her brand new perception. Her brand new color.
Just then, footsteps and talking came from the hallway. Lasso's mind stopped. As the sounds moved right on by, she breathed a sigh of relief. Standing around in a towel while other people were in the bathroom made her uncomfortable normally. Now, even though other people couldn't see it, Lasso's bright hair made her all the more self-conscious.
Wrapping her hair was far more difficult now. She didn't want to stop looking at it. But she knew she had to keep a schedule in order to not be late to her morning class. Once her hair was gone beneath the towel, she made her way out of the bathroom and ran as quietly as she could to her room. As soon as the door shut behind her, the towel on her head came off and she was at her mirror admiring it again.
While she ran her fingers through her blonde hair, Lasso thought more about Carter. He was such a sweet guy. It always seemed like he was carving out time for her in his days. At first she thought he was just interested in her for her looks. But now things were different. He must have felt something more for her. Now he must have been seeing his own color too. She couldn't wait to talk to him about it.
But what if he wasn't yet? The thought stopped Lasso's thought process immediately. She'd always been quick to make friends. Could that mean she'd be quick to see color for her soul mate too? If she professed seeing color for him and he didn't see it yet, he'd think she was crazy. She decided to wait for him to bring it up.
Taking her mind off that idea, Lasso thought about the date that afternoon. It'd be wonderful, she was sure of it. Although now she might screw it up by touching her hair too much. She thought about what clothes would go with her new hair. She figured the whites would do better than the grays or black to go along with it.
She went to her closet and swung open the door. A small frown came to her face when she didn’t seen any new colors hiding in there. Lasso had hoped that color would all come at once, even though everyone she talked to said it came gradually. She wanted it all there right away. But, she knew there was only one way for that to happen. She wondered what her date that night would do to her world. How much of her life would be in color after that? What did the changes depend on? Were they sudden? Would she even notice them?
So many questions swirled around in Lasso's mind. She loved all of them. She loved them because she knew that the answers were beautiful. The only way for all those questions to get answered was for her to experience more color, to reach a completely colorized world.
Lasso looked around her room, wondering if anything had changed colors. She looked at her books, then to her bed sheets. Unfortunately, nothing had changed. But, she knew it would soon. She knew her world would be full of colors soon enough. She could hardly wait for all this new beauty to come. Color was such an exciting thing.
I hope you enjoyed the sample chapters of Color Blind. Pre-order on Amazon HERE. Color Blind will available on an online retailer near you on December 5th!