This is Part IV of Until You’ve Bled. Part I is here.
“Don’t call me Mr. Westmore. Call me Ned. Mr. Westmore’s my dad.”
He’s probably in his 40s. Doesn’t act like it though. Acts like a cross between a really old man and a kid. Or not a really old man as in some guy in his 90s. More like someone from a long time ago, like the 1700s or 1800s. Definitely not from this time. But combine that with a kid.
“Do you really want to major in Biology, Jess?”
She says nothing.
“Look. Art gets a bad rap for no reason. People think you can’t make money doing art. I’ve already proved everyone wrong.”
He continues. “I got that same lecture from my parents. ‘What the hell do you think you’re going to do with an Art degree, teach?’ Not that there’s anything wrong with teaching. But I’m teaching because it’s fun. I could have retired years ago.”
Again, she says nothing.
“You’re by far the best I’ve seen in years. Definitely better than any of these pathetically spoiled kids who only think they’re artists. You’re the real deal.”
She smiles, looks up in his eyes, then looks back down at her hands.
“Consider it. If you need me to guide you on the business side, you know where to find me.”
Ned’s cool, she thinks. No, really cool. That’s not one of those “yeah, he’s cool.” She really believes he’s cool.
He has a coolness to him where if she were some rich old lady who wanted to buy paintings, she’d totally buy out his collection. He’s just that cool.
It’s weird having nobody to answer to, except yourself. Most 19-year-olds these days are still under their parents’ wings. Or at least somewhat.
Biology’s cool. But the kids. And the Professors. None of them are like Ned. Nobody’s really full of life like Ned. Nobody has any passion like Ned.
He’s the real deal. He gets it. He is who he is and doesn’t have to change that for other people.
Jess is like that too. She’s always been like that, even when she was little. Her parents encouraged her to stand her ground and be herself. To have her own voice.
She had good parents. Really good parents. Talking to the other kids, yeah, really good parents.
Fuck! Just, fuck!
Jess is almost at her dorm. She really doesn’t want to talk to anyone right now. But she’s carrying her books.
There are bars open. And a few coffee shops. She’ll definitely see someone she knows there too.
Instead, she walks over to the creek. She’s still carrying her books and it’s too dark to look for rocks.
Jess looks around. She can still see some people. So she keeps walking until everyone is out of sight.
She puts her books down on the damp ground. Sits down, Indian style, buries her face in her palms, and cries. For the first time in a very long time, she cries. A lot.
She hasn’t felt this alone since her grandmother and great aunt helped her bury her father.