The Secrets of the Gothic Artist

Prelude to Peril

I could barely stay awake through French class. It was the very first period in the day, and I was in no mood to parler la langue d'amour at eight o' clock in the morning. Unfortunately, the teacher was one of those overenthusiastic "love the world and every single creature in it" types of instructors and did not allow me even a moment of peace.

"Au revoir, classe! A demain!"

"Finally," I muttered as I stood up and grabbed my loose bag before quickly leaving the classroom.

As I walked down the hall I noticed Ace leaning against the wall, nodding off despite the glares of the teachers directing the student traffic. I chuckled as I neared him before not too gently prodding him with my elbow. However, I had underestimated how asleep he really was for as soon as I nudged him, he lost his balance and almost fell to the side.

"Ay, güey!"

I laughed as he composed himself and glared at me, "What the hell? What did you do that for?"

"You're going to be late for Spanish, aren't you? Your teacher hardly needs a reason to give you detention."

He waved off my warning, "Eh, doesn't matter. All I do is sleep anyway."

"Either case, come with me." I led him to the end of the hall where I took out a dollar to place in the soda machine.

"What are you doing?" He asked while stifling a yawn.

I didn't reply as I the machine dispensed my chosen item. I swiftly picked up the energy drink as soon as it dropped from the machine and handed it to him.

Ace blinked but accepted the can, "Thanks, man. What about you?"

"I can't take drinks into my art class, you know that." I shrugged, "I'll get one before English."

He nodded before glancing at his watch, "Whatever. I'll go see Zuki. I promised to meet him before next period. See you."

I briefly returned his wave before heading down the stairs located near the soda machine.

Nothing relaxes me more than drawing; well… sex was a real close second. Regardless, my true passion is something that allows me to express my thoughts and feelings—while often violent—in a calm and safe way.

I was often told as a child by my father that I was too intense. Not in a fiery kind of way but more in a… deep serious, "what the hell is wrong with this kid?" kind of way. I needed an outlet in which I could say and think what I wanted without causing people to shy away from my intensity.

When I discovered I had both a talent and a liking in drawing, sketching, and painting. That became my ardor.

Jayden the Artist was born.

I had won various awards growing up, my drawings almost an expert in their texture and color. Still, I refused to sell any or become a professional until I finished school. I planned on becoming a professional the right way: having a degree.

Before I could linger even further in my thoughts, my art teacher—and favorite by default—interrupted the class. Standing at five foot eight in the center of the room with honey cold spikes and a slight circle beard with a soul patch, he made an amiable and approachable figure at twenty-five. He insisted everyone address him by his first name, Paul, instead of Mr. Wilson which instantly made him popular with every student in his art classes.

"I'm gonna step out for a minute so keep working on your individual projects. Remember in two weeks we need the center theme of your portfolios. Preferably something you really feel strongly about." He gave a smirk before passing the table where I sat, sitting comfortably on the surface while balancing my sketchbook on my legs. "Show it to me before you color it, Jayden." He commented glancing casually at my drawing before leaving the room.

I had a special bond with him, having had him every year for my art classes. He noticed my zeal for art early on and paid extra attention to my projects.

Some might say favoritism, I prefer eye for aptitude.

Paul always took great care to pay attention to those who truly loved the art of… well art.

Now in Advanced Drawing Portfolio, everyone here wanted a career or at least a degree in drawing. It was a relief; everyone here was at least decent.

I looked my side to see Ember LeBlanc sit next to me. Another avid Gothic with an inclination to drawing, we became friends instantly while meeting sophomore year. We eventually dated towards the end of that year but quickly discovered we were better off as friends.

It had been a mutual decision and no hard feelings were kept. I was grateful. I really liked having her as a friend; she knew me better than I knew myself sometimes.

That was a blessing… and at times a curse.

I studied her deep blue eyes hidden under heavy eyeliner. Her short chin-length hair was cut stylishly to the side with various red and blue highlights. She was tapping her black nails against her closed sketchpad while crossing her legs clad in dark leggings with various torn holes under her short skirt. Her ankle-length gothic boots crossed at the ankles as she glanced at me.

"Do you have your center theme yet?"

I shook my head as I answered her question, "No, I don't. Do you?"

"I was thinking a collage of natural disasters, like tornadoes and stuff. Paul said I could turn in my drawing through email."

While I preferred hand-drawn art, Ember focused on digital. She was pretty good at it too.

I chuckled, "Sounds like you."

She raised a brow, "Oh really? What about you, O Great Van Gogh?"

"I'm not sure… this is my chance to get into the Art Institute of Chicago… I need my theme to be the most original one I can think of."

"Why bother? You'll get in easy. You're one of the best artists here."

I smirked, "I wouldn't say that."

She rolled her eyes, "Yes, you would."

I returned her sly smile before continuing to draw on my sketchpad. She glanced over at the drawing and then looked up at me, "What is it? It looks like a giant wolf."

"Because it is."


I snickered slightly before continuing my drawing.

As soon as my art class was over, I felt my energy levels depleting. I quickly grabbed an energy drink and began chugging it down as I headed to my English class. So intent was I on consuming my drink, I was startled when someone ran into to me out of the blue.

I blinked and then grimaced when I realized who exactly had bumped into me.

The Queen… again.

Seriously, what the hell? I have never once exchanged words with Sarina, and now I am forced to interact with her twice in one day?

She looked as bewildered and shocked as I was which helped lessen my frustration. At least I know it wasn't on purpose. I realized some of her books had fallen to the ground and without thinking I scooped down to get them. "Are you always this clumsy, or is this my lucky day?"

Her surprise at my chivalry quickly turned to annoyance when she clicked her tongue, "Since you're blocking my way, I'd say you're the one off kilter today."

I rolled my eyes as she took back her books, "Whatever you say, your highness. As much as I enjoy our conversations in which you completely astound me with lack of good comebacks, I'd rather not run into you every other hour." I turned my back and began to walk away, but I only managed to take a few steps when I was yanked back with surprising force.

"Hold up, Goth boy."

I barely managed to steady my energy drink from falling but could do nothing of the books that fell from my unzipped backpack. I knew I should have closed the little fucker.

"Fuck! What the hell are you trying to do?" I snarled as I noticed some of the liquid had fallen on my new shirt and wiped it off.

"I'm getting your attention. Now that I have it, I have a little information you might find useful."

I readied myself as she walked up to me. What was she planning?

"I think the energy drink might be heightening some of your neurotransmitters influencing your—temporary I'm sure—daring nature, but I would be careful little Jayden on who exactly you are choosing to challenge. I'll admit you caught me off guard this morning, but I think nearly being run over does shake a person up."

I attempted to cut her off, but she placed a finger over my lips.

"However— "

I noticed how cold her finger was and snarled as I swatted her hand away.

"—I will give you this one final chance to stay out of my way and keep your oh so witty comments to yourself before you get hurt."

Wow… could anyone sound more deluded? She had nothing on me.

The Queen then turned to the group of students who had surrounded us. I hardly noticed them, but she seemed to as she approached a girl near her and handed over her books. "Hold these."

Of course, the random servant did as her queen ordered.

I raised a brow and sarcastically replied, "What exactly can you do to hurt me?"

She shrugged as she bent down to pick up my books.

I was instantly on defense.

"I can hurt you in a variety of ways, Goth boy. It all depends on the mood you find me in." She held up my textbooks, "We'll start with making you late to class. I hope you can catch."

Before I could figure out what the hell she was talking about, my books were sailing through the air. Like a hit to the head, I realized what the bitch had planned to do but could do nothing to stop it. I let my drink fall as I aimed to grab my books before they hit my head and caused a concussion.

Good news: I caught them.

Bad news: My drink spilt all over the floor and on my pants.

"Shit!" I swore I glanced down at the mess before looking up to see a smirking Sarina. "Bitch."

The Queen remained unfazed as she retrieved her books from the bystander. "Nice one."

I growled as she threw my earlier repartee back at me. My anger only grew when she gave her me her farewell, "Don't take too long. You wouldn't want to get detention now, would you?"

I watched as she turned away and entered her classroom, various scenarios on how to murder a person going through my head.

"All right, move it people! You have lives, so live them!"

Ember made her way through the dispersing crowds carrying brown paper towels. I had to give a grin as she arrived.

"I happened to be walking by and noticed the showdown. Props; I haven't seen anyone challenge Sarina D'Aubigne in a while."

I accepted the towels and began cleaning myself up, "It's not all it's cracked up to be."

Em shrugged as she cleaned the floor, "Maybe. But you seemed to be able to hold your own. That's saying something."

I finished drying myself the best I could and tossed the paper into a nearby trash bin, "Right." Em did the same before smiling as she tossed the empty can into the recycle bin.

"Well, gotta book it. I'll see you later."

"All right, thanks!"

The final bell began to ring. I knew I had to run if I was going to avoid detention, and so I began my mad dash to English.


"What, Ace?" I snapped softly while looking away from the problems in my textbook. I quickly glanced at our teacher to see if she had noticed, but she seemed immersed into whatever was on her computer. I had been officially late having entered the classroom one second after the bell had stopped ringing. Luckily, my English teacher hadn't been in the room, and so I managed to slide into my seat as she walked in.

Still, I did not want to risk getting in trouble. However, my best friend had other plans.

"I have to deliver after school. I need you to come with me."

"What for?" I asked confused. There was a lot of danger being in the drug dealing business—I know, no shit—but Ace handled deliveries fairly well despite it all.

"The dude needs to deliver a message to Terry. I don't know, güey, but he said to bring you."

I sighed, "Fine."

If I got beat up or killed, I'll make sure to come back to haunt my stupid brother.

A few more minutes passed and the bell rang signaling the end of the period. I sighed in relief as I stood up.

"I'm hungry."

I glanced at my friend as we walked out of the classroom. "We'll go get food and then meet Ember near the bleachers outside."

Ace nodded, and we walked down the hall together. After a while, we arrived at the cafeteria and waited in line for a few minutes before grabbing our food and heading outside. If there was one thing this school did well, it was their food.

Em waved at us from her spot on the bleachers surrounded by our other friends. We arrived at the bleachers, and I barely managed to put my food down and turn to greet her when a fist came flying out of nowhere and hit the left side of my face.

I barely managed to avoid falling on top of the food as I rolled away and landed face-up. The side of my face throbbed, and I felt it swell to the size of a cantaloupe. I grabbed my eye while glaring at the face of The Queen's bulldog. Great… had she sent him after me because of our little encounter?

"What the fuck, man?" Ace instantly was on defense as the other football players appeared behind my attacker.

Em was at my side, "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," I brushed her off. I've been hit far worse. I stood up and faced a fuming linebacker.

"I warned you to stay away from my girlfriend, you little queer."

I raised a brow. What was with this guy assuming I was gay? Since when did I give any indication of my sexual preferences?

"First off, I never gave any hint of my sexual orientation therefore I can only assume your fascination with homosexuality stems from your own underlying issues." I ignored his growl of warning as I continued, "Second of all, I was not the one who bumped into me by not watching where she was going."

"I don't give a damn what you say. I warned you to stay away from her. Now you're going to pay, you little shit!"

"Hold up!" Em interfered, her eyes ablaze as she set them on the fuming football player. "What the hell is your problem? I would think your girlfriend would take care of this herself? Did she send you to handle her dirty work?"

I realized this must be a sore spot for the linebacker as his face became even redder, and he lunged. Whether he had wanted to aim for me or her I'll never know as I shoved Ember out of the way and met the bulldog straight on.

If there was one thing that has always been to my advantage, it was speed. I had my own share of fights before, and my agility was always my greatest asset. It proved once again to be true as I ducked the titan's attack and slammed my fist directly in his gut.

He doubled over instantly, and I tensed as he went still until the sounds of numerous footsteps reached my ears. I turned to see many students heading our way and rolled my eyes. Could teenagers get more pathetic?

My thoughts were cut short as without warning, the bulldog lunged again. I dodged and hit him in the back with my elbow, hoping it would be enough to knock some sense into him—literally if necessary.

The chants and excited shouts from the onlookers were muted to my ears as I groaned when I realized the hit did not deter my attacker none.

However, before we could continue I was grabbed rather roughly.

"What is going on here?"

I almost flinched when I recognized the voice of our principal, Dr. Gregory. The man could be intimidating standing at six foot two, loose blue-black hair with free strands falling across his eyes, and square-rimmed glasses that caught the light and made it impossible to see his eyes. Despite his thin frame, the man was imposing nonetheless.

At the same time, Officer McCauley apprehended the still fuming football player. The African-American police officer looking outraged as he addressed the audience that had gathered around us.

"What are you all looking at? Get back to lunch!"

The students quickly began to disperse, and I rolled my eyes at the notion that soon rumors—far-fetched mostly—would roam around the school in less than a minute. I was literally dragged away from my thoughts as I and my attacker—who I still couldn't recall his name—were led to the building.

Thankfully, Dr. Gregory loosened his grip when he realized that I wasn't struggling. The same could not be said, however, for the incensed linebacker. As I watched him thrash about, I smirked when he was reprimanded.

"Maximilian, stop struggling, or I'll arrest you!"

Max! That was it. Now I could name the asshole who made my face turn a very unflattering shade of red quickly turning purple. Speaking of which…

I groaned as my face throbbed. Did I mention that I could no longer see from my left eye? That's how hard the mother fucker hit me.

I did smirk when I noticed he began to limp as he calmed down.

Victory could be bittersweet…

"Jayden! You look horrible…"

"Thanks… You know how I love hearing that."

Em had the decency to look embarrassed for a moment, "Sorry. I just…how'd it go?"

I shrugged as I walked down the hall to my fifth period: Study Hall. I had missed my fourth period due to the visit to the nurse's office to make sure I would live and then lectured severely by our principal, and not one—but both—police officers.

Thankfully, the security cameras revealed that Max had attacked first, and so I was released with a stern warning not to take "advantage" of self-defense.

Yeah, I don't get it either.

"I was lectured before sitting for an hour and a half with an ice pack on my face."

"Oh well… your eye is a lot of better." She touched my face gently, "At least you can see now."


We reached the classroom where my study hall was located, and I turned to her. "Still, the bastard had to pay a three hundred fine for assault and was suspended for a week. I won't have to deal with him for a while."

"No," Em turned to look inside the classroom, and her eyes landed on a particular girl sitting on the teacher's desk with her legs crossed, her icy eyes observing and analyzing everything and everyone. "You'll just have to deal with his girlfriend."

I followed her gaze and scoffed, "I'll deal."

"I'll see you later."

"Bye, Em." I returned her wave before entering the classroom. Instantly, I felt eyes on me. Eyes that I could almost feel like a physical presence, eyes that calculated and took in every aspect of my being, eyes that could only belong to one person.

I sat down and met the gaze of The Queen. She seemed to study me, her face emotionless. I met her stare head-on and as cliché as it sounds… the rest of the world seemed to disappear.

Not to say she overwhelmed my senses in a fairytale love story kind of way. All that reached me was the intense color of her eyes. Like the color of a recently polished blade… it sliced through my every thought until it was all I could see. As I kept holding her gaze, I found it hard to do anything else. Even if I had wanted to look away, I had a feeling I couldn't.

It wasn't until someone came up to talk to her that our… intensity was broken. I blinked and realized it had been one of Max's friends who had been there during our fight… though this football player was a lot bigger than Max with black hair instead of dark brown.

I shook my head and turned to my bag where I brought out my sketchbook and decided to entertain myself.

As the door opened and our teacher stepped though, I looked up curious as to what he would say.

Usually Mr. Moore told us to do whatever we wanted as long as we did not bother him. That was fine with me.

"I have a phone call I must take, so I will need you all to behave yourselves and not act like hormonal baboons in heat."

I snorted with amusement. This dude was something else. In my opinion, he needed to get laid… badly. However, with a sickly appearance of being nothing but bones, and light brown hair streaked with gray, along with unappealing features made his choices slim.

"I will leave Miss D'Aubigne in charge." He gave her a yellow-tooth smile, she showed no emotion, but I had a feeling she was disgusted.

Good, at least she had some morals.

No one dared to complain as our teacher closed the door behind him on his way out. People were quiet as everyone watched The Queen to see what she would do. However, after a few minutes it dawned on my classmates that she would not say anything.

One courageous soul began speaking to a friend next to her, and when it became clear that Sarina would not interfere, the bravery spread until everyone was having different conversations.

I ignored everything else as I concentrated on my drawing. After a while, I became so engrossed that I did not hear footsteps until they stopped in front of me.

"It's amazing such a feeble boy like you could do so much damage to Max."

I looked up to see her royal highness sit on the desk in front of mine, staring at me casually showing no hint of the fascination implied by her words. I thought about ignoring her, but since she had taken her time to walk over and honor me with a comment—no matter how insulting—I knew she would not leave.

"What's even more amazing is that you sent such a weak servant to fight your battles."

She raised a brow as she crossed her arms. She opened her mouth but closed it when she realized everyone else staring at us. Her eyes narrowed.

"I'm sure you all have something to do."

It was not an order, her voice never rising above normal level. However, it had the same intonation as a direct command, and everyone turned to mind their own business. After she was satisfied that we had some sort of privacy, she replied. "I did not send him. In any case, I would have been vastly disappointed by his performance."

I snorted, "So what? You complained to him about me. Got him riled up before allowing him to come and fuck me up without a good reason."

"You came out all right." She leaned forward, and I jerked back before she touched my face. She gave a faint smirk before drawing back her hand. "I wasn't the one who mentioned our little… encounter. The grapevine got to him first. However, I will apologize for his behavior. I don't think physical assault will solve our little problem."

"We have a problem?"

This time she let the smirk show, "Indeed we do, Jayden. You seem to think you're immune to my kingdom. The sooner you accept that I rule this school, the easier it will be for you in the long run." She leaned forward, and faster than I could blink, she had my chin in her hand. "I can make your life completely miserable if I wanted."

I growled as I pulled away. What was with her touching me?

She let out a small chuckle, "I haven't been challenged in a while. I'm sure this will be fun. But be warned that soon a challenge wears thin, and I will be forced to ruin you completely. That swollen eye will feel like euphoria compared to what I can do." She smirked as she stood up, "Bye, Goth Boy."

I watched as she casually walked back to the main desk. I glared—or tried considering half my face was swollen—at her retreating back. If she thought she scared me she had another thing coming. It was high time someone defied her, if it had to be me then so be it.

That thought in place, I proceeded to block everything else out and finish my drawing.

Biology was pretty boring… especially if it was AP aka Advanced Placement but more commonly known as Classes For Those Who Want A Break From Morons. Ironically, I was a moron for choosing an optional advanced science class. I always had a knack for science, but I was more interested in astronomy than anything else.

The life of a leaf really didn't excite the average high school teen.

I doubt I could get out of there fast enough when the final school bell rang. Immediately, I spotted Zuki coming down the hallway and waved him over.

"Hey, Zuki. We're gonna meet Ace and the others in the parking lot."

The younger boy nodded before following me past the crowded halls until we managed to step outside miraculously unscathed. I was surprised I hadn't been ambushed by the other football thickheads, but I wasn't one to take blessings for granted. We walked into the parking lot carefully managing to avoid the speeding vehicles that were under the impression that we are all in the Indy 500 all the while blocking out the constant honks and sound of screeching breaks as teens fought the road rage curse.

We managed to make it to Ace's truck and joined the other boys hanging out on the back. After ten minutes, Ace checked his watch and announced that he had to leave. I took the hint and said my goodbyes before leaving to mount my motorcycle.

I had a feeling the "dude" that wanted to meet with me was none other than Jagger, a drug dealer that would soon put all other drug lords to shame. I had warned Terry about getting involved with the guy, but my brother had only shrugged and stated he didn't have a choice. By association, I was involved as well.

All I knew for sure was that I had to be careful, or a cemetery would be my next stop today.