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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LXXIV: Present

“This is Casey,” Orion mused. He pressed a finger against the raised paint from where a different painting had ripped the wall when Brendon had removed it. “But he’s not normally here. The lines from the frame are the wrong size, don’t match up with what was here originally.”

Brendon shoved his hands deep into his pockets and did his best not to look self-conscious.

“You were trying it.” Orion met his gaze after an unsettling glance across Brendon’s bedroom. “Did it work?”

With a slow shake of his head Brendon turned away.

“He’s young in this painting. Younger than I’d have imagined. You were friends for a long while? Had to be. First relationship. He bail on you? I can’t imagine you wanting to revisit him were it the other way around.”

Brendon cleared his throat, but didn’t say anything.

“You’re like a painting yourself, Brendon.” Orion moved closer, his voice going deeper, smoother. “All facing outward, your emotions like strokes across your skin. Dark, but not shadowy, yet hiding bits of yourself inside all the business of your work.”

Brendon took a step back, needing the space as his world shrank, zeroing in on Casey where he smiled on the wall and Orion’s steady, steely presence. “I wanted it to be real. I wanted to believe you. But it’s not. It didn’t work.”

Orion only nodded and turned back to Casey’s painting. “That is interesting. That had been another theory of mine. If it wasn’t the artist’s intentions, perhaps it’s the viewer’s.” He ran a finger through the air, miming stroking Casey’s cheek. Then he raised an eyebrow at Brendon. “Maybe the artist as viewer is immune.”

Brendon sank onto the edge of his bed, a visceral feeling clutching at his gut. The bed sagged as Orion sat next to him, the mattress too old to remain firm, pressing their thighs together as they dipped toward one another. Orion made no move to pull away. So Brendon didn’t either.

“You still haven’t told me about him.”

“We dated a couple of years in high school. On and off a little. He liked to drag race. Had an old Mustang. Always working on it or one of his dad’s beaters in his garage, place slick with oil rainbows. Until his dad died. Then Casey junked his dad’s old cars. Moved in with his mom for a while. Flitted around after that, going from one to ten different roommates at a time.”

“He was a mechanic?”

“Eh, somewhat. When he actually worked on the legal side of things.”

“What kind of illegal things did he get into?”

“Met a guy named Taylor. Taylor Lee Barry. Ended up dealing for a while. Think things just spiraled after that. Slow at first, then down so fast that when he hit…he hit hard.”

“And that painting you did for him?”

Brendon opened his hands to look at his palms. He’d done that, hadn’t he? Given the rope for Casey to hang on. That was why he avoided Becky’s invites. Because they felt, the both of them, responsible for so much.

“I don’t know what happened to it.”

“But there’s a part of you that believes Casey faced down that Le Mans. That’s why you keep bringing him up.”

Brendon sucked in his lips because he had nothing to say to that.

No, because he had so much to say to that.


Next Chapter Coming August 11th