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Hilltop

Marcus Grant | Managing Editor


The sun was warm. It peaked through the sparse trees littered atop the grassy hill that overlooked the riverbed below. Children played in it, throwing handfuls of water at each other, their high yells reaching up to where we sat above. Summer vacation was just beginning for them.

Charlie smiled, twirling a paintbrush delicately between his fingers, thinking of the next stroke he would make in his notebook. It was incredible. He could create an image in his head and transfer it to the paper in only a couple minutes, easily producing images of the cats we passed by in the streets or the view from our small apartment in town. Watercolors came together on his pad. Today, they pooled together, the greens and blues taking the shape of the surrounding scenery.

I wonder if he will put this one on the wall. Perhaps he will hand it to me to hang up at work, though my collection is beginning to pour out into the cubical next to mine; the lady said she doesn’t mind, something about how it beat the dull grey cover of the wall.

My attention was drawn back to my own page. Mostly blank. A lopsided oval was lightly sketched in the middle, eraser shavings spread across the sheet. My hands are clumsy, haphazardly trying to recreate what I see while always being slightly off. The proportions or perspective slightly off; only enough to appear distorted. How did he capture the image so well?

The back of his paintbrush tapped on my pad. “Having trouble?”

“A little.” I smiled, slightly embarrassed. A few more trees marked his page. He was holding back, going slow, purposely. For me.

“What are you trying to paint?”

“I can’t tell you.” I pulled the notebook to my chest, hiding it. “It’s a surprise.”

“Keep your secrets then, my dear Elliot.” He wiggled his finger at me dramatically. “Close your eyes and think of whatever it is. Use the feeling to guide your brush.”

I complied, picturing Charlie in my head. The way his dark hair fell messily in front of his eyes. How it hung floppily and got water everywhere after a shower. The way his smile was a little crooked, hanging onto the right side of his face a little more than the left. How only one dimple marked his cheeks. The way his eyes were, deep and beautiful and brown. How a hooked nose sits neatly in the middle of them, adorned by a single gold hoop. The way the sun glistened on his skin. How it kissed his warm brown cheeks through the curtains on particularly bright mornings. I thought about the way his hands held pencils and brushes and the way that they were often dry no matter how much lotion he put on. The curse of being an artist, he said.

He made it sound so easy.

I opened my eyes, looking at the page in front of me. It wasn’t blank anymore. Splotches of pink and yellow marked the outer edge; the middle held a face held in place by long, black strands of hair. It wasn’t perfect, not by any means, but the eyes were soft and warm and the smile glowed brilliantly against the sheet.

A hand met my shoulder.

“It’s beautiful.” Charlie pressed his lips to my cheek, his scruffy beard lightly scratching the skin.

“It’s you.”

“Me? No way.” He snatched it up, running his fingers over the image. “My hair never looks this good.”

“You like it?”

“I love it.

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