College AU, sort of an apologia for Michiru Kaioh.
She rubbed a little bit of gold foil onto the canvas, rightwhere the beam of sunlight fell onto the edge of the flower. Thick, strong
black lines offset the oranges and corals, giving shape and suggestion to the
flowers and their bright gobs of sunlight. The largest exploded from the side
of the canvas, that bright mustard Haruka had picked up and dabbed on the end
of her nose.
The sunlight fell on her face, and the joy of the light overwhelmed
her as she detailed the painting. She forgot the words of her professor, who
had thought this painting so simple. Something an enthusiastic soccer mom might
hang in her living room, he’d said. She gulped down the coffee that sat next to
Flowers were a miracle, she thought. The ground was hard and
unyielding but still they came up out of their seeds with no thought but to
bring brightness to the world. Had her bulb ever bloomed, she thought,
detailing the tulip? Maybe it had just been in hibernation all this time.
Haruka had said she loved her. She had expected nothing in
return, not even the reply. It had frightened her. She had heard those words so
little. And never that way…she could not describe it, not with every word she
had available to her. It was the same way the sun hit her face now, almost as
if by accident, without hope or agenda.
She dabbed a bit of red onto the end of her brush.
She had begged Haruka to stop. Not to love her. Not to give
something she could never return. It had been too much, she could feel the
bright green bud splitting her heart open, refusing to stay in its place. It
sliced through carefully kept fences and pathways, it was forcing its way to
Where everyone would see.
But as she lay in Haruka’s arms this morning, she had found
it more difficult to care. It was as if mere proximity to her made her want to
break wide the dirt and burst open. The way she kissed Michiru’s hand, the way
she looked at her like she was truly good, it filled her with warmth and with
strength. It wasn’t as if she didn’t have enough money in her trust fund alone
to take care of both of them. Haruka could move in here, and she would get a
room in an apartment for Mina, and all would be well. She could live quite
A pall came over her face as she thought of her parents.
What they would say to her. What they would say to Haruka. She could hardly
believe in herself that she had anything in common with someone who mopped a
floor and read ESPN magazine. But then love was not meant to make sense, was
Yes, love, she thought, as she brushed the red detail upward
into a slow blush on the gold tulip.
She sat back and assessed her work. Haruka would look on it
so proudly. It was cheerful. Bright. Full of promise. She signed the bottom
There was a knock at her door, and she slipped off her smock
and hung it at the hook by the studio door, calling out to the sound.
“Who is it?” She washed her hands quickly.
“It’s Mother and Father, Michiru. We heard you might be
entering some pieces into the Marice Gallery show next month.” The disembodied
voice followed her as she checked her hair and makeup.
She opened the door where her parents stood, cool, restrained
smiles on their faces.
“Michiru.” Her mother spoke first. “You look tired, dear,
are you not getting enough rest?”
Michiru walked toward the kitchen. “Between my studies with
the violin and my side interests in art,
I suppose something had to give.”
Her father nodded sternly. “The director tells me you’re
doing well. You should audition for concertmaster as soon as you complete your
Michiru set two cups of coffee in her machine. “Yes, I suppose
that is the dream, isn’t it?” They stood in silence as the machine slowly
ground the beans and dripped the coffee into the two equal mugs.
Her mother took the first cup presented. “In any case, Tobi
Marice told us you might be entering some pieces into her show. I told your
father that we really should see what our little investment is doing.”
Michiru nodded and
led them to the studio. “I have several pieces I was thinking of entering.” She
stopped in front of a picture done in blue and greys, a slight trickle of red
in the center of the shadows. “This is The Harvest. It’s the first one Tobi
saw, and I assume why she tapped me for inclusion in the gallery.”
Her father appraised it coldly. “Ms. Marice has the eye for
art, not me.” He chuckled. “But it seems like the sort of thing your mother
“I was lunching with Rayna and the girls the other day, and
we were just speaking about how your oeuvre has finally moved to something more
mature. Remember all those paintings you used to do of, oh, what were they
even, space whales? Back when you were in preparatory school?” He mother smiled
and shook her head.
She did remember. The bright points of light, the freedom of
space, the sinuous lines of each whale. A giggling 15 year old imagining what
it might be like to swim through space as she did in their rooftop pool, joined
only by the stars.
“We never would have been able to sell those.” Her father
Michiru wordlessly continued, moving on to another, banded
with blue lines, sharp jagged peaks of black and grey and charcoal digging into
the fading blue. “This is Pinnacle of Hope.”
Her mother nodded. “Yes. Very good.”
Her mother’s eyes looked around the room and spotted the
painting by the window. She raised an eyebrow. “Michiru, whatever is that? Did
you paint that?”
Michiru stumbled for a moment over her own tongue. “Just a
She laughed. “I should hope so. My god, Michiru, it looks
like something someone would hang in the bathroom of a Motel 6. Tulips? Oh,
Michiru crossed her arms and looked down at the floor.
Her father appraised the work. “Is this what they teach you
at an Ivy League?”
“No Father, don’t worry, my professor told me it was
simplistic and shallow as well.”
“Well good.” Her mother added. “You are better than this,
Michiru, this is doodling on napkins for you. You are so talented Michiru, you
have a responsibility to reach the apex of your skills, not simply what feels
good. The reason we’ve done so much for you children is so you can bring your
talents to the world, what’s next, marrying a garbageman and making apple
“Of course, Mother.” Michiru tipped her face to the ceiling,
studying it very hard.
The night had fallen over the city. Michiru swallowed the
white pills, chasing them with her glass of white wine. She walked into the
studio, flicking on a dim lamp, following the small trail of light to her
painting, the only light reflected off of it the gold foil sunlight
illuminating the petal.
She took the thick brush in one hand, and covered the canvas
with thick black paint.