Chlonath Week Day 3: Art
Everyone’s skilled in an art of some kind. Whether that’s the art of being awkward—Marinette, the art of being handsome—Adrien, or actual art—Nathanael, it doesn’t matter, because everyone’s skilled in an art of some kind.
People often believed Chloe’s art was being rude, and while she was exceedingly good at it, it wasn’t her art.
Chloe’s art was being strong.
She’d had to be strong when her father became the mayor. She’d had to be strong when everyone’s eyes followed her wherever she went. And she’d had to be strong when her mother left.
Chloe had gotten quite good at her art, but she kept it secret. She told no one—not her classmates, not her best friend Sabrina, not even her father—in case one of them might somehow take that strength from her.
She had learned not to trust anyone.
Which made her generally unhappy, but it kept her from hurting more than she was now—more than she could handle.
She could deal with the mundane, menial pains—things like school or being the mayor’s daughter—but the big ones—her mother—nearly killed her.
Of the mundane pains, class with Adrien was always the most agonizing for Chloe. Sure, she absolutely adored him and loved watching him think, but he always brushed her off in the most polite ways possible and she wanted for once to see him fight back. She wanted him to stand up to her and tell her to back off already. She wanted to see her own strength reflected in him. That would really sell her on her feelings for him.
And it did not help that she was in the perfect—er, least perfect—position to see Marinette practically drooling as she watched the back of Adrien’s head. It made Chloe want to barf.
She wasn’t one to get jealous; she was better than any person in any given place at any given time, and everyone knew it. She knew it was completely irrational to hate Marinette and her stupid face. She also knew focusing on it would only antagonize her agony over Adrien, but she couldn’t help the fact that everyone loved Marinette just as much as—dare she even think it, more than—her.
Marinette was sweet and adorable and Chloe couldn’t deny it. Sure, the dork was the clumsiest person she’d ever met, but it somehow added to the cute air about her.
It made Chloe hate herself and everyone else even more.
She’d had to climb and kill her way to the top of the totem pole and there Marinette was just accidentally falling upwards as she tripped over absolutely nothing.
Even Adrien thought she was cool enough to hang out with.
But Chloe couldn’t stand the way Marinette was so perfectly awkward and endearingly anxious. It reminded her of how much she wanted to be like that—how much she wanted to be able to be like that.
Everyone always went to Marinette with their problems, and while Chloe couldn’t care less about her classmates, she wanted to know what it felt like to be wanted.
No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t think of a single person who wanted her because of who she was. Sabrina wanted her for her popularity and her father had always wanted her to be the perfect little—compliant—girl. No one cared about who she really was.
Her mother certainly hadn’t. Her mother hadn’t wanted her one bit.
Chloe had tried to be the perfect little girl—tried really hard, actually—but no matter how hard she tried, she’d never been good enough. So she adapted. She discovered how to truly get what she wanted from anyone.
The first problem was that it hadn’t worked for her mother—had quite literally driven her away. The second problem was now she didn’t know if she truly wanted to be this way anymore.
She didn’t deserve to get what she wanted.
So as she dreaded attending class with the flawlessly handsome model and his grossly head-over-heels-in-love fangirl, she entered the classroom, bumping into a slightly taller unimportant mound of flesh.
“Excuse you!” she screeched, really not ready for interaction of any kind.
“Oh!” It was Nathanael. He crouched down to collect his things that had dropped before standing up again. “Sorry.” But he didn’t sound sorry at all.
“What is this?” She reached for the sketchbook Nathanael was trying to hide from her. She scoffed when she saw the familiar face on the page. “You’re drawing her again?”
“Well…Marinette is so sweet and it’s really quite easy to draw her.”
“Why don’t you draw someone who will actually make you look like a good artist—someone beautiful like me?” She flipped her ponytail over her shoulder.
Nathanael’s eyes were wider than any moon she’d ever seen. “O-okay,” he mumbled.
He squared his shoulders. “I’ll draw you.” He bit his lip for a split second before continuing. “If that’s what you want.”
He was actually offering to draw her. Chloe had spent her whole life living in the spotlight and being the best, but for some reason, she was only now feeling special—truly, unequivocally wanted.
“I’d want you to pose for me, of course,” he continued quickly when she didn’t respond. “That should only take an hour or two of your time at the most.”
“Two hours?” She could hear the annoyance in her voice, but she didn’t feel it. In fact, she was completely void of emotion, numb to everything but the fact that Nathanael, the quiet, reserved, red-headed sketch artist, wanted her to pose for him.
“At most,” he reaffirmed, though the strange look in his eyes left her wondering if that’s really what he wanted—two hours alone with her. “But I only draw people as they naturally are. That means no makeup, no overly-styled hair, and no dressing like you’re the queen of the world.”
Had anyone taken interest in her other than for her looks and popularity? Had anyone ever truly cared for the person she was beneath all that?
Maybe her mother had once, but if she could see her now, Chloe knew she’d be disappointed. She’d love her no more and no less—but Chloe didn’t think it was possible to love anyone less than how much her mother loved her.
Yet here Nathanael was, picking at the threads of her tightly knotted heart, untangling her right here and now in front of the growing class.
How ironic that someone she’d been so rude to, someone she’d hated so much, was able to squeeze into the cracks she didn’t know about in the wall she’d built.
She wanted to laugh. She didn’t.
Suddenly quiet, reserved, Nathanael was telling her what to do without hesitation or palpitations.
All she wanted to do was agree.
“Alright.” And before she could stop herself, she added, “It’ll be a great honor for you, so you better appreciate me wasting my time.”
He nodded, unfazed. “Of course. I’ll make it worth your time.”
“You better.” And with a final huff, she turned to flee before she could agree to any more outlandish ideas.
She spent the entire class conscious of Nathanael’s eyes on her.
Why she had agreed she didn’t know. But she couldn’t help thinking that it may have been the fact she couldn’t come up with a better way to waste her time than to waste it for him.
Adrien was suddenly just another boy.
Nathanael held the sketchbook away from himself to get a different perspective, finally allowing Chloe to tilt her head to look at it. “I think you’re my favorite,” he mumbled absently, and Chloe wondered if he even meant to say it, if she was meant to hear it.
She wanted to. She wanted him to say it again. “What?”
Nathanael looked up briefly, his cheeks the color of his hair. She had heard too much, but he couldn’t back down now. “Out of all my work, your portrait is the one I would go into a burning building to save.”
She returned her eyes to the ones staring back at her. The portrait Nathanael had drawn of her was quite realistic, and though she didn’t look much different than she usually did, there was something about the way Nathanael had drawn her that made her seem so much…better…than the person she really was. He did always seem to bring out the best in her.
Had the portrait been any less realistic, Chloe might have chalked up the marvelous nature of it to Nathanael’s art style or him trying to make up for taking her time. But since it was extremely lifelike, Chloe couldn’t help but wonder if that was really how he saw her.
“You’d go into a burning building for that?” She scoffed. “I wouldn’t.” And it was the truth. It wasn’t that she didn’t like his art—he had drawn her quite fantastically—it was just that he had drawn her. She wasn’t worth being saved. Not by Nathanael, who was sweet and shy and everything right with the world.
She didn’t think she was worth being saved by herself either. It’s why she couldn’t pull herself out of this deep, dark hole she’d dug. It’s why she couldn’t be the person Nathanael saw in her, the person he drew.
It’s why she couldn’t be with him.
“Well, I would,” Nathanael replied firmly, pulling her from her trance. “It’s my finest piece. I wouldn’t sell it for a hundred million dollars.” His voice was thick, something hard stuck in his throat, and it made Chloe move her eyes from her graphite face to the very real, very quiet being beside her.
He had also moved his eyes from the drawing and was now using them to search her own, making her next words—”It’s just a sketch”—die before they could leave her mouth.
She absently wondered if he could see through her right then. She knew if he tried hard enough, asked the right questions, she’d let him break down the wall around her heart. So she wondered if he could see it in her eyes—the willingness to be free from her self-inflicted strength which only seemed to weigh her down—but she didn’t try to erase the pleading from her features.
She relaxed and let him see her for all she really was—weak, fragile, broken.
His breath caught in his throat and she closed her eyes, turning her face from him to the fading sun on the horizon. She listened to him breathe, waiting—wondering—wishing.
Would he comfort her? take her in his arms? stay with her until the sun rose again?
Would he even speak?
She cautiously opened one eye, peeking at him in her peripheral.
He had returned his attention to his sketchbook, his pencil moving across the page with lightning speed.
Chloe moved to get a better look, but he tilted it away from her. “Not yet. Let me finish.”
Annoyed, she removed her hand from his arm—when had it gotten there?—and turned back to the sky.
“A little higher,” he urged.
“Your chin.” He lifted his hand to gently tilt her head back, his fingertips ever so slightly brushing her chin. “And close your eyes again.”
He was drawing her again. For some reason, she hadn’t considered this as a possibility. She hadn’t thought he’d want to.
She surrendered to his will and her eyelids slid shut, suddenly heavy.
“Stay still,” he whispered to her through the night, and she hummed in submission.
She felt the wind in her hair, tangling it around her face and tickling her lips. She reached up to tuck it back behind her ear, but Nathanael grasped her wrist, staying the motion.
The huskiness in his voice gave her no choice in the matter.
With the wind in her hair and on her face, with the scattered sound of pencil brushing paper, with the erratic beating of her heart thumping in her ears, Chloe stayed still until she dozed off.