Sometimes he can't sleep. Sometimes she paints the town. On the one night they bump into each other, they realize that they don't always have to wander the 2 AM streets alone. Sometimes they like to have company. Sometimes they hold hands under the glow of flickering lampposts. Sometimes they cling to each other. Sometimes their love is so vibrant, even the walls color. Three-shot.
Just a little rush, babe
To feel dizzy, to derail the mind of me
Just a little hush, babe
Our veins are busy but my heart's in atrophy
Any way to distract and sedate
Adding shadows to the walls of the cave
Adrenaline coursed through Beverly's fingers like cheap alcohol, and she grinned beneath the bandanna that masked the lower half of her face.
She stepped back a bit to examine her handiwork, while her hands clutched the spray paint bottle.
The graffiti itself was something that she was quite proud of, even though it was a relatively simple design. It was just a boy in a black jacket with his back arched and his head a splatter of dark red blood. Near him, an aimed gun shot an array of colorful skittles at the body.
The sudden rustle of autumn leaves had her whipping around to the find source of the sound. What was she doing? She never lingered around after she was done. Throwing a glare at the stack of paper stencils that she had to pack up, she swiftly tagged her art and capped her spray bottle.
She thought she heard another crunch, but when she looked up, the alleyway was thoroughly empty. Shadows from flickering lampposts cast the corners of the back street into startling darkness. She had been sneaking out for so long, she had learned to ignore the incessant, paranoid voice in the back of her mind telling her that there were murderers lurking everywhere. But, at moments like this, the voice came back more frenzied than ever.
Her breath came out in a shallow pant, and she hurried to roll her things up and shove it into her duffel bag of supplies. Her fingers burrowed into the pocket of her sweatshirt, and she fingered another, different kind of can: pepper spray.
If need be, she could run like hell even with her full duffel bag.
The crack of a twig had her eyes snapping up and she took a defensive stance as her gaze darted around. She was confident that the source of sound was just some nosy passerby instead of actual policeman, but that did nothing to tamper her fear.
Growing irritated with the frantic pounding of her heart, she finally called out, "Who's there?"
To her surprise, a figure stepped out of the dark. Something about his familiar gait, stopped her from sprinting away right then and there. From the broadness of the figure's shoulders she could tell it was a guy. However, from her position, she couldn't make out his face; a gray sweatshirt was pulled low over his forehead, shielding his face, and a worn, black bomber jacket was pulled over his broad frame. Dark jeans that were frayed in some places hung low on his hips.
He was big enough to crush her like a bug, but, for whatever reason, his stature didn't seem outwardly aggressive. In fact, he took hesitant steps that made him seem curious rather than threatening. Something about his stature made him seem vaguely familiar, but she dismissed the thought immediately. Why would her classmate be outside at this hour of the night?
So, even though her knees were practically knocking together, she raised her voice to resemble a brave, confident tone, "Who are you?"
Instead of answering her question, he stepped closer and, nodding to the street art, said, "Did you do that?"
Beverly bit her chapped lips, wondering what it would cost her if she chose to tell the truth.
"What's it to you?" she finally bit back defensively.
He shrugged, which seemed to emphasize the hardness of his body. "It's impressive."
Something about his genuine, guttural statement had her cheeks blushing brightly beneath the cover of her bandanna.
"Thanks," she grunted, looking away from him. She was never used to compliments― especially compliments on her art― which she recently attributed to the damage her ex-boyfriend Levi did; in fact, he never really cared for her, much less praise her.
Beverly was brought back to the present when the mysterious stranger talked again.
"Why 'Nexus'? What is that?" he inquired, referring to the signature that she had tagged on her artwork. His voice was captivating her in such a way that made her want to take a step closer. Instead, she just clenched the strap of her duffel bag harder. For whatever reason this boy made her want to break her own rules, and, before she did something completely stupid, like ask him his name, she decided it was time to get go.
Frowning at the mysterious guy, Beverly pulled her black hood lower over her forehead and snapped, "Buy a dictionary."
And then she turned around and took off into the shadows. The tip of her nose stung as the wind pulled at the corners of her eyes. She could have sworn that, just before she turned, the boy called out, "Wait. D-don't leave!"
But it didn't matter. She was already running home.
The next day, at school, she was exhausted. Her eyes were covered in a thick eyeliner as if to compensate for the heavy bags that hung under her red-streaked eyes. Her hair was thrown into a messy braid, and spray paint still lingered around the edges of her nails and cuticles. Not to mention she was slumped in her seat, trying not to fall asleep before her economics class even began. She probably looked hungover to her classmates. Luckily, the opinions of others never bothered her.
However, the opinions of her close friends were a different matter.
As if on cue, Izzy came bounding up to her curiously, "What's up with you? Jesus, Bev, you look like a zombie."
Yawning into the palm of her hand, Beverly replied, "I stayed up late last night."
With a completely straight face, she answered, "Homework, of course."
Izzy just hummed in response, before asking, "Who's that guy?"
"Who?" Beverly asked in a bored, uncaring tone. She was only half-listening to Izzy as she contemplated the pros and cons of skipping next class period. Surely they wouldn't give her detention for just cutting one class, right?
"He's looking right at you, Bev," Izzy pressed in a conspiratorial tone. It was then that Beverly noticed the way Izzy's voice dropped to a whisper.
"Who's looking at me?" Beverly asked before turning around to glare at the rest of the class. Suddenly, her heart leaped into her throat. It was him.
Dressed in the same black bomber jacket from last night, he seemed to stop short at the sight of her when he entered the classroom. In the daylight, Beverly had a better view of his face, and she was surprised to find her heart skip a beat.
He wasn't conventionally attractive, but there was something distinctive about his face that snagged and held her attention. Dark, curly hair complimented his olive-toned skin. His eyes were deep set, and a striking light brown color that drew her in. The lines that made up his body were sharp and angular, and something about his edges made her stomach feel funny. His expression was inquisitive, but it didn't seem like he recognized her from last night.
She whipped around, and immediately rattled off a list of curse words in her mind. (As if that wasn't suspicious.)
But, at the same time, she couldn't help it. How did she not remember that he was in her class? And, more importantly, what was his name?
Breaking her frantic thoughts, Izzy commented, "Well...that wasn't weird. What the hell was that, Bev?"
Beverly opened her mouth to form some kind of logical reply, but, fortunately, the bell rang at that exact moment and the teacher began to talk, saving her from any explanation. Izzy just shot her a look that clearly said you better tell me later.
Beverly pretended that she hadn't noticed her.
While the teacher droned on about products and market size, Beverly was distinctly aware of his presence in the class. It seemed that, as the class went on, he kept shooting her more and more curious looks. It made the hairs of the back of her neck stand up; it was obvious that he had figured something out. And she wasn't quite keen on staying behind to figure out what that something was.
In an effort to avoid both Izzy and the curious boy, Beverly hastily made an excuse about needing to use the restroom as soon as class ended. She didn't even wait for Izzy to reply, she just left quickly and escaped to the bathroom.
Unfortunately, she was in such a rush that she didn't take proper precautions once she was out in the crowded hallway of her high school. So, as her luck would have it, she ended up tripping over the shoe of some oblivious freshman.
The glare she shot the poor boy, was enough to scare him away from even thinking about helping her pick up her scattered belongings. A string of colorful swears came out in a muttered hiss as she retrieved notebooks and folders. Her annoyance at the freshman only grew as she realized that people were merely stepping over her things instead of bending down to help her.
Suddenly a shadow loomed over her kneeling figure, and she wanted to shove those thoughts back into the recesses of her mind. The phrase "be careful what you wish for" fleeted through her thoughts and her jaw clenched.
"You okay there?" he asked, his deep voice concerned as he stooped down beside her to help. If anything, his question spurred her to gather her things quicker. She did not want to have a conversation with him.
She kept her head down and nodded; too scared to even trust that he wouldn't recognize her voice.
"Yeah, well, you should be more care―"
He stopped abruptly, and Beverly suddenly realized why.
His hand had lifted a book off a piece of printer paper to reveal a half-colored graffiti signature of her pseudonym, "Nexus."
She swore her heart stopped beating, and, within a nanosecond, she had snatched up the paper, shoved it into the bottom of her bag, and stood up quickly with every intention of running away.
However, she didn't get very far since his hand shot out to grab at her elbow.
She yanked at her arm, but he just tightened his grip and stepped closer to her. "You...? You're the girl from last night?"
Even though she had already acted guilty, she still attempted to maintain a straight and innocent face. "What girl? What are you talking about?"
He paused for a second, his eyes roaming her face with such intensity that she squirmed and blushed under his piercing gaze.
"You're lying," he decided with narrowed eyes.
She finally ripped her arm from his grasp and growled, "What's it matter to you, anyway?"
He didn't seem to have an answer for that, and his hand immediately sought out the back of his neck in sheepish unease.
"I...Look I didn't mean to scare you away last night," he finally settled on. He dropped his raised arm, and shoved both of his hands deep in his jean pockets. She couldn't help but notice that a slight tinge of red covered his high cheekbones.
Beverly crossed her arms, and replied, "You didn't."
"Well then why'd you run?" He asked, tilting his head as he examined her. His gaze was too sharp for her liking, and she angled away from him, choosing to scowl at the lockers that bordered the halls.
She didn't have an answer for him; she just shrugged. To her utter shock, her turned her face to meet his with the gentle tip of his finger. Before she had a chance to snap his finger off, he had already let go.
"Well I'm sorry either way. I didn't mean to bother you..." he trailed off expectantly, and she couldn't help but roll her eyes.
"Bev. My name is Bev," she filled in. She meant for her voice to sound curt, but it came out as more of a breathy reply.
"It's short for Beverly," she explained. Just to try and reclaim her normal self, she hissed, "Not that it's any of your business."
Instead of being put off like she expected, he seemed to find amusement in her brusqueness. "My name is Landon."
It was at that moment that Izzy chose to interrupt us.
"I have to go," Beverly said firmly, stepping away from, and trying to remember how to breathe normally.
He glanced at Izzy, who stood a few feet away from them, before his mouth broke out into a wide, easy-going grin. "I'll see you around Beverly."
She couldn't stop the shiver that ran up her spine even if she tried.
Three days later she was listening for the sound of her parent's slow, even snores before she snuck out to go paint the wall behind the local grocery store.
She hummed quietly to the soft lullabies emitting from her laptop as she scrolled aimlessly on a social media website. Suddenly, a small ping caused her to sit up straight, and examine her profile page.
1 new friend request from Landon Ford.
Beverly's breath seemed to catch for a moment before she accepted his friend request. It was such a silly thing but for some reason, seeing that Landon Ford wanted to be her friend made their interaction all the more real.
Another ping caused her pulse to leap; she quickly checked her profile page.
1 new message from Landon Ford.
Her mouse hovered over the notification before clicking the message hesitantly. Her heart seemed to flutter at the action, and she fought to stifle a smile at the sight of it.
Landon Ford: Hey.
Beverly Banks: Hey.
Landon Ford:So I ended up getting a dictionary.
Beverly's nose crinkled in confusion.
Beverly Banks: What do you mean?
Landon Ford: You told me to buy a dictionary when I asked about Nexus.
Beverly's eyebrows shot up into her hairline. She couldn't believe that he actually listened to her exasperated reply. She hadn't actually meant for him to take her so seriously.
Beverly Banks: So what did you find?
Landon Ford:The definition is a relationship or connection between people or things. I don't get it. Explain.
Beverly Banks: I'd rather explain later. In person.
Landon Ford:Oh so does that mean you wanna see me?
Beverly Banks: Shut up Landon.
Landon Ford:Haha fine. So how often do you go out to graffiti the town?
Beverly Banks: I prefer the term 'street art'. And I go often enough.
Landon Ford:...You're going out tonight, aren't you?
Beverly Banks: What makes you say that?
Landon Ford:Where are you doing your art this time?
Beverly Banks: How do you even know if I'm going out?
Landon Ford: Well aren't you?
Beverly Banks: ...I was gonna tag the wall behind the grocery store.
Landon Ford: I knew it! Are you leaving right now?
Beverly Banks: Yeah probably.
Landon Ford:OK. I'll see you there.
Beverly Banks: ...Wait. What?!
And that was how Beverly found herself walking side by side with Landon.
He was clad in similar outfit from last time. However, instead of a grey sweatshirt and a bomber jacket, he wore a dark red sweatshirt underneath a Letterman jacket. A small smirk graced his face as he ambled beside her, and she stifled the smile creeping up on her face. His curly hair seemed to be even more unruly than the other night, and she had to stop herself from fixing it.
They walked calmly. Like they weren't out past curfew― like they weren't about do something illegal.
It was one thing for Beverly to go out alone every night, but, with the two of them walking side be side, she was more aware of the repercussions of her actions.
"So how do you pick where to do it?" Landon asked quietly as they entered the back parking lot of the grocery store. Beverly maneuvered herself around the large, army-green dumpsters, and started to hand a bandanna to Landon.
"Well...I guess I try doing it in a place that's not really noticeable unless you were really looking around," Beverly replied, her eyebrows scrunched up in thought.
Landon just nodded before tying the bandanna over his mouth. Beverly quickly followed suit. When she finally unzipped her duffel bag full of spray cans, and supplies, a buzz seemed to start at the tips of her fingers, causing the hair on her arm to stand up. There was a frenzy in the cavern of her chest that seemed to take over when she painted the town.
There were rare times when she'd be able to see people's reactions to her street art, and she liked the way they reacted: often, they'd do a double take before their lips curled in amusement, or fascination. In that nanosecond of observance, it felt like her art was more than just a common crime; it meant something to people and that attention was enough of an addiction to keep her awake so she could color her small city.
And so maybe that's why she was the slightly nervous around Landon when she unrolled her stencils and tightened her bandanna. From his keen scrutiny, he probably noticed the way her fingers clamped around the nozzle of the can; he probably noticed the stillness in her body as her arm arced across the concrete canvas in front of her.
It was then that she realized how deeply intimate this was for her. She felt like her very insides were on display as she allowed him to watch her passion― her art― unfurl like yarn across her makeshift canvas.
Bev could practically feel tension rolling off of her body with every spray, and she wondered if she looked peaceful to him. There was something incredibly cathartic about seeing her art grow and expand in front of her to resemble something that she was proud of. She liked the control she had with her art. Every spray of paint was precise and measured whereas every other aspect of her life seemed chaotic and turbulent. Painting was her reprieve and graffiti was her solace. And so she welcomed the paint that stained her fingers, and the harsh smell acetone that tickled her nose.
Eventually silhouettes of black and grey shadowed bodies emerged on the wall in front of her. The silhouette's hands were held up, bloodied palms wide open in surrender. Underneath was the clear, crimson message of "hands up, don't shoot", which stood starkly against the neutral beige of the building.
A small gasp had her turning around just as she finished tagging the graffiti painting with her signature. She couldn't help the wide smile that crept on to her face at the sight of an astonished Landon.
He stood back and slowly lowered the bandanna away from his wide, gaping mouth. She liked the way his hooded brown eyes looked when he was in awe of something. The way his head tipped back, like he was looking at undiscovered galaxies instead of her measly scribbles; it made her feel like her heart was about to burst out of her chest.
Landon looked at her, and his expression made her feel wobbly. She kind of wanted to fall just to see if he'd catch her on the way down.
"Bev-Beverly, you're amazing. This...this is amazing," he stuttered. If he was anyone else, she would have dismissed his words as nonsensical babbling; instead, she turned pink under his fierce gaze. How was it possible to feel so strongly for someone even though they had just met?
He stepped closer to her, and, for some reason, that small, minuscule motion made it seem like he had just jumped chasms to get to her. The humming in her chest seemed to grow and the meager distance between them. She couldn't help but wonder if he expected her to close the remaining space.
And just as she was about to step forward, the tell-tale beam of a flashlight swept through the empty lot. Beverly's eyes widened, and she reflexively fisted her hand in Landon's shirt.
Not a second later, a gruff voice called out, "Hey! Who's there?"
And then she was dragging him and her incriminating duffel bag behind the clump of dumpsters, near the freshly painted wall. Her very blood seemed to stop cold when she saw the legs of policemen from the small gap in between the dumpsters.
Behind her, a small swear was muttered, and Beverly immediately turned to glare and Landon. Jeez, he's so close. And suddenly, her heart was pounding for an entirely different reason.
Landon's eyes seemed to darken as stared at her, and it was then that she noticed the position they were in. Her knees were pressed under her chin in an effort to make herself as small as possible, and his right side was pressed against her back. His breath was hot against her cheek, and she barely detected the faint scent of his aftershave.
"Hey Jeb! C'mere and look at this! Somebody decided to graffiti the back of this place!"
Landon's eyes widened and Beverly suddenly felt his hand tighten around her shoulder in reassurance. If she wanted, she could count each and every eyelash due to their proximity. Instead, she chose to commit every shade of brown in his stunning eyes to memory. (But even she knew, she couldn't ever recreate something on paper that made her gut tighten like that.)
"Kane, the paint looks fresh. You think the guy is still around here somewhere?"
Beverly knew that sitting behind a cluster of dumpsters was about as unromantic it could get but she couldn't help the way her eyes darted down to Landon's lips every now and then. Just the way his eyes searched her face caused heat to flush through her system.
"Nah. I doubt the dude is still around here. He probably booked it as soon as he was done. Let's just go back. There's no point hanging around here when he's gone."
She held her breath and pressed closer to Landon as she listened for the exit of the cops. Only when she heard a pair of car doors slam did Beverly exhale.
"Hey, hey are you okay?" Landon asked in concern, as he helped her stand.
It was so silly, but something about the worry lacing his tone was her undoing. And so she yanked him towards her once again, only this time, she wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders and pressed her face into his chest.
His soft chuckle fluttered against the shell of her ear, and her very ribs seemed to coil and twine inside her stomach.
"Hey don't worry. They're gone. They didn't find anything on you," Landon reassured quietly as he rubbed soothing circles into her back with a wide open palm.
"Landon that was so close. God...if anything happened...especially with you here―" Beverly stopped abruptly. The last part of her sentence seemed to tumble out without any warning, and she suddenly felt incredibly vulnerable in his arms.
But then Landon's arms tightened around her shaky body, before pulling away and cradling her head with both of his hands. She shivered at the feel of his cool thumbs rubbing her cheeks delicately. The way he was looking at her made her heart leap into the base of her throat. All she really wanted to do was tilt her head back and breathe him in.
And god, did that scare the crap out of her. She had only just met him, and she already felt like she was splitting at the seams whenever he so much as glanced at her. That, above all, was not okay.
"Beverly. Look at me― just breathe, okay? Everything's okay. And nothing is going to happen to me. Nothing's going to happen to us."
She didn't trust herself to speak. She just nodded instead, before stepping abruptly away from his hold and glancing away from him. The change in the atmosphere around them was nearly tangible. Suddenly, the comfort that Landon provided was tainted by Beverly's sudden, intense fear.
"Let's go. Before they decide to come back," she finally whispered gruffly, avoiding his intense gaze. Everything seemed too much, too soon. Just the fact that Bev could feel his breath washing over her face was enough to send her reeling backwards.
And maybe that's why she clenched her jaw against her turbulent emotions when he responded in an equally curt voice.
She closed her eyes.
A/N: Jeez, it has been quite a while hasn't it my pickle monsters! School has been unbearably busy what with schoolwork, marching band, and college craziness. When I do get a break I'm usually watching Friends or reading Jily fanfiction instead writing anything. That's definitely going to change because I'm participating in NanoWriMo this year! Yay!
Anyways, what do you guys think? This will be a three-shot since I was feeling anxious about not putting up what I did have written. I hope you guys like it despite the fast-pace of their relationship. I wanted to explore how quickly I could make two characters fall for each other without it being unrealistic and I hope I captured that in this chapter.
Review Challenge: Favorite part of autumn? Are you participating in NanoWriMo this year (and, if so, how excited are you)? What book are you currently reading?
Love you all! Take care of yourselves,