The Literary Way
a newsletter for Xavier University of Louisiana's English majors, minors, and honors students
A Wandering Eye (continued)
At 7:13, and without official invitations, the twins showed up in complimentary earth tones, holding hands.
Lake busied herself in conversation with her old painting teacher, who'd shown up in a proud bow tie and grilled her about her rather public life after graduation: the multiple scholarships she'd been offered, and her early college dropout; how she'd pursued a life in street art and had ended up arrested with a backpack of spray paint, trail mix, and marijuana. It was thanks to Dr. Mason that she'd been able to hold her exhibition at the school in the first place, however, and so she answered the questions, feigned having experienced recent moments of great epiphany. She hoped to sidle through the evening without having to spend much time around either of the twins.
The gym filled with shuffling, quiet guests, in horn-rimmed glasses and cardigans and thrift store brooches. They ambled through the semi-circle, pausing for the required ten or fifteen seconds before each of the nine paintings. As the night wore on, Lake's work looked to her like not much more than swirls of steel gray and navy, purple and yellow and Avatar blue. Sometimes the lookers offered a hushed comment. With full, anxious pocketbooks tucked under their arms, many took long stares at the painting of A Wandering Eye, the piece Dr. Mason had suggested be made front and center in the showcase. There was the slender form of the female alien, naked other than a second skin of eyes in varying shapes, sizes, and colors painted all over her white-gold skin. She stood shackled to a chain-link fence with binds of ragged USB cords. From that canvas, all night, Kaydence's eyes seemed to stare straight at her.
When Dr. Mason finally walked away, she moved to the catering table, swirling her third glass of Cabernet in its cheap plastic cup and wishing for a cigarette.
She jumped. Kaydence wore a brick-colored dress that clasped at the nape of her neck, the body draping down low in the back so her tattoo of the swimming Nevermind baby showed. She had a rolled-up program tucked under her arm.
"Oh, hey, Kay."
She avoided her eyes.
"Hey, congratulations; everything came out so beautiful."
She reached out a hand ornamented with studded rings and metal bracelets to wrap around Lake's shoulder.
When she took the hug, Lake smelled her, like vanilla and honey, and hesitated before laying her hand on her shoulder, her bare back, somewhere, but finally only feeling it more awkward to not touch her at all.
She ducked out of her embrace.
He pounced on her then from behind, grabbing her so that her tasteless wine almost spilled over the brim.
Turning to face him, she pulled him into a hard kiss, while his sister stood close enough to be the third wheel. She told herself he still tasted like that mysterious hippie creature she loved, yes, and the feel of her lips on his was still nice.
Next to each other, they were so alike, the oddest mix of hard and soft. Male and female. They were two creations from Anaheim, Berkeley graduates working now as costume designers for a couple of local theatre companies.
Kaydence tapped his arm to take his attention.
"I was telling her everything came out so great."
Ken nodded. He checked out the night's crowd.
"You're gonna make some money tonight."
"Even when it sucks, everything always comes out true on the canvas."
They took a moment to sit in the sentiment. Finally Ken turned to her.
"Hey, why didn't you text me back?"
"I meant to, I just—"
"I told him you were busy, you didn't have to invite us, of course we would come to support you."
It was hard to figure out for sure if the look in Kaydence's eyes was mocking, or just ironic.
Half an hour later, Lake tugged at the hem of her shirt and moved to the center of the room, cleared her throat. All the high school's benefactors obliged, moving forward with the air of tipsy delegates.
"Thanks for coming out," she began. "I'd like to, um, answer any questions you guys have about my pieces now."
Dr. Mason's hand raised before the statement was even heard by those still hovering at the catering table.
"Where did the inspiration come from for this painting here?"
He gestured to A Wandering Eye.
"Oh, that one..."
She rubbed her foot against her calf.
"That one's about the allure of the future, being shackled down by the mode of the present. The alien woman is tied to a fence, with USB cords…she's got eyes everywhere, so she can always watch, to see what's coming. It makes me think that she must have seen this coming, seen whoever it was that got hold of her, but maybe she didn't know what their plans were for her. She didn't know that they would tie her up, and try to keep her from doing whatever it was she came here for."
"Who is she?" Asked Ken, with a smirk.
"The model is actually my boyfriend's twin sister, Kaydence Ransom."
She motioned toward her, and there was hushed applause.
"I've never used a model before, but I thought it was important to get that sense of realism in this case, and I was lucky to get a beautiful model to work with me. You know, though, my personal favorite painting in this collection is the one behind me, it shares the title of the exhibit—"
"It looks like she likes it, though," said a younger girl then, a red-haired girl who stepped out from the center of the crowd. Her short legs were wedged tight in high-waisted jeans and boots that laced up to her calf. She was just old enough to be a student at the high school, and from Dr. Mason's double take, Lake assumed she was. "It looks like she wants us to see her like that, not to help her get out of her situation, but because…I mean, look at her expression. It's like a still from some kind of alien porno."
The crowd was still for a moment, everyone looking with raised eyebrows at the artist in the cutoff tee shirt and denim shorts standing before them. Waiting for a response.
"Art is all about whatever you see, what you've experienced and can bring to the piece yourself."
A few heads nodded. Lake opened her mouth to say they were running out of time, and had to move forward, or something, but the girl pushed on.
"Is the emotion there on the part of the model, or the artist?"
Lake sighed, scratched her head with a light finger.
"All of art isn't a conscious process, I can't really say."
"My aunt is really into lesbian bondage type stuff, I'm just asking because—"
Kaydence hardly rose her hand before blurting:
"The model is a lesbian. But she's not into ‘bondage type stuff', and if anything, I think she and the artist both were feeling held back while this piece was being made, and that's what you're seeing."
The silence turned formidable. Lake's eyes fixed on Kaydence, who'd fixed her eyes on her.
"I don't see any lesbian themes in my piece at all."
All eyes in the room turned toward the work in question.
"This has nothing to do with any…I'm not into girls, so…the collection is urban sci-fi. It‘s about fear and awe of the unknown."
Of all the eyes in the room, Ken's and Kaydence's were on hers now.
"Maybe sexuality is the ultimate unknown," said Kaydence.
"Don't worry about it, Lake."
"This whole thing is just awkward—"
"You made it that way. I let you decide."
"I'm not gay, Kay, I'm really not. I'm sorry."
Kaydence smiled, shrugged.
"You don't have to convince me. Everything comes out true on the canvas, right?"
Ken's eyes darted beneath furry brows between the two girls. The red-haired girl raised her hand along with her chin.
"I'd like to bid nine hundred. Are we bidding yet? I totally made up the aunt thing."
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