This excerpt is from my novel in progress, Light in a Dark Sky. The book is about an artist named Nate who falls in love with Ras, a notorious crime boss.
I sit on the bed in the room I’d just started to think of as mine. I stare at my desk, where a haphazard pile of sketchbooks is sitting. I keep them like diaries, but with pictures instead of words.
I pick up the most recent one, where a black cat with Ras’s green eyes wanders across the pages, sneaking around the sketches. He catches mice and brings them to the center of the page as though leaving offerings for me. He’s occasionally got a rose in his mouth or is playing with a tabby cat with a torn ear.
I move to tear one of the more romantic drawings away from the book, but I can’t do it. I picture his tender eyes, and yearning in me crashes like waves rising higher and higher along the line of a crumbling cliff.
I pace, agitated, across the darkening sky behind the big window. I don’t know what to do or what to think or how to fucking weather the stormy sea inside me.
I pick up a palette and run my finger along the wooden curve, looking over my paints. I spend a long time thinking, and then I reach for them one by one.
If I stole the inky black and gave the night sky a color, it would be this deep rich blue I draw into the center of the palette. I add to it a brushful of a yellow warm enough to end winter, soft as the reaching petal of a sunflower, turned up to mirror the sun.
Next is a careful single dab of black, just a hint of darkness on the very end of the silky strands of my paintbrush.
It’s still too much, so I bring in a tip full of white, brilliant and pure like the blinding glare of sunlight, the day’s truest color.
It takes me a long time, and there’s paint on my shirt and pants because I was so eager to dive into these colors I didn’t even put on a smock. I throw three palettes down on my dropcloth and leave them there because they are so wrong, but finally, on the fourth one, I get it right. I take a big brush and slide a thick stroke of it across the canvas.
I look at the color for a long time. It’s breathtaking, spread that way, catching the light. I know it sounds crazy to think a color could be so meaningful, but it feels like I’ve been looking my whole life for this exact combination of pigments. It seems like such sheer luck and such momentous grace, finding it, that I can barely speak.
It’s beautiful, a symphony in a single tone, but it’s also melancholy, because I already know nothing this precious can last. And it’s so compelling that if I had to mix my blood in with the paint to make this color, I’d do it to fill this canvas.
“I like it,” says Ras, and I almost drop my palette. I turn quickly, blushing like I have a secret no one else could understand.
“It’s not really anything yet,” I say.
“You have a color.”
“Yeah, but I don’t know what shape should go with it.”
“Hmm.” He gazes at the canvas with its single fat brushstroke, as though he’s really thinking about it.
I look down at my palette, dip a finger in the paint. It’s cool against my skin and rich as silt when I rub my thumb and finger together.
I don’t know what I’m doing or why, when I step forward and trace the contour of his cheek with my finger, so I can see the color against his skin. But I stop breathing entirely, when I do. I might never breathe again.
Because the color is so right, and because I got to touch him.
He looks down at my palette, tilting his head and thinking, and then he picks that blue, that twine-along-the-stars blue, dips his finger in it and looks at it in the light. He runs that finger along the curve of my cheek in the same way, and once he does it’s like the moment freezes for a second, hangs in the air, because it’s too perfect to shatter right away and fall into past.
Sometimes I draw Ras as an evil sorcerer, standing atop a tower weaving black magic. And right now, it really does seem like he’s casting a spell, because I can’t look away from his eyes and the green on his cheek that matches them so perfectly. He has me enthralled, my insides trembling like a strummed guitar string, because the color I mixed has always been his, and so am I.
If you want to read more about my novel Light in a Dark Sky, including another excerpt, check out my works in progress.