More Than Meets The Eye


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"Of all the senses, sight must be delightful"

-Helen Keller


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The autumn breeze embraced him and sent familiar shivers through his body. The crisp air filled his nostrils and pinched his cheeks to a rose color. His eyes were closed and his lips curving into a bright smile that emphasized his features. He had no scarf—nor a good jacket—and was left a fish out of water compared to the girls wearing boots and the men in elegant coats with warm scarves. It earned him glances from people who didn't already know him since he took the same street and went to the same place, never once making a modification to his schedule.

It wasn't as if he lived in a small town either. While the area he lived in was rather secluded and he knew all of his neighbors, the place he traveled to was not in that area. It was a very urban area where the bustling people always shoved around and moved in a hurry—never stopping like he did despite knowing his university was a good mile away now and that he had to get walking or he would be late on normal days. However, today was not a normal day. He had much more time and his only class for the day wasn't for hours. As he walked, his feet joining the tapping of many others, he decided to enjoy the day. It was autumn, it was beautiful, and the bakery was tempting him with a sweet aroma that danced and tickled his senses sweetly, luring him in and seducing his stomach.

Of course, he gave in. Rafael was never a strong person when it came to fighting off the cravings for baked goods (or food in general). He walked inside of the welcoming bakery, the sweet-scented goods tempting him without a second to waste. Admittedly, his mouth watered a bit and he walked over to grab a menu. There were many reasons for why Rafael adored this place in particular. There was the soft music that soothed him and sent his mind in a calm state, there were the baked goods that always melted sweetly on his tongue and felt orgasmic in the end. There was also the fact that it was a good place to go to when he had other assignments to do and needed to accomplish them. However, the main reason Rafael always came to the particular bakery was because it was the only one that carried menus in braille.

Rafael had been a normal child up until age six when he had taken a horrible blow to the head in a car accident and was left completely blind. It usually didn't bother him, he was fine with it. After all, there were so few memories of when he could see that it didn't matter. At least, that is what he told himself over and over in the steaming shower as scratches littered his olive arms. However, he would never forget colors. Vibrant colors that sang and shouted off of mountain tops, Rafael adored them. He loved them all, mostly red. Rich, burning, lively red.

He ordered a few of things which included a cupcake, an eclair, and espresso with milk. The cashier who saw Rafael a lot these days took note of a few things such as his lack of a prominent white cane or sunglasses. He was stubborn that way, refusing to back down and use things such as those unless his very life depended on it. While many attempted to inform him that this was a thing his life depended on, he refused to acknowledge it. It was a surprise the man had not walked into traffic already.

Finishing his treat up, Rafael reached his hand along to graze the outside of his watch where the nub poked out to tell him the time. He had a good hour before he truly had to leave. Though, the walk to class would take up half of that time. Oftentimes, Rafael desired to be a child again simply to avoid responsibilities and enjoy everything. Of course, that was not the case and he had adult tasks to attend to.

Standing up, he moved swiftly to get out with the leftover cupcake that he wanted to save as a snack for later. The crowd had died down a bit which was good on his part. It meant that he could push the white cane back and almost live as if he did not need it. He was sure of the path by now; he had to be. However, not even a few steps outside of the peaceful place he had accepted as a second home and he was on the ground.

Rafael winced for he had scraped his hands and got nervous when he felt his cupcake squashed beneath his palm and his white cane nowhere on his pants. Yet, that didn't distract him from the scent that he was picking up from another person who must have tumbled down to the cold ground with him. His mouth opened but closed just as quickly. He had no idea what to say and this was an embarrassing situation for him.

It wasn't pleasant like daisies but it was not unpleasant. It was pizza, cheap pizza. The smell of grease was strong but there was also something else that was a little less present. It was something sweet, something with great spice and silky sweetness. He tilted his head up towards where the second smell was more present.

"Some manners you have. Are you just going to sit there like an idiot, or are you going to stand up and apologize for smacking into me?"

Rafael's heart froze for a moment. He wasn't sure if he had gotten himself into a bit of trouble and it concerned him. The voice, though an octave or two higher than his own, remained intimidating and rather frightening with the manner that he was spoken to in.

"Are you mute? Come on, stand up, here, have your things," the voice seemed to be losing patience. Irritation but also curious as to why this man refused to stand up. The new man, who failed to notice everyone staring at him did not see the cane at his feet. Had he, it might have given him a large hint to the situation.

Rafael cleared his throat and tilted his head down, his hair brushing against the bridge of his nose lightly while he gave a forced laugh, "I'm not mute, but if you don't mind, could you possibly place my white cane in my hands so I do not have to embarrass either of us as I search for your hands?"

Blinking a couple of times, he cocked his eyebrow and then he noticed it. Those green eyes that seemed full of life could not see and it surprised him at first. He had never bumped into a blind person—or at least not like this—and now the stares he was getting were starting to make sense. His face went scarlet as he helped Rafael up and placed his things in his hands.

"Oh my gosh. I have to be the biggest jerk to walk," he muttered bitterly but meekly as he pulled Rafael up; or at least tried to.

"Ah, it's alright. You didn't know, after all, I don't look very blind. It was an accident. Thank you for helping me up, however. I'm sorry for running into you."

He shook his head, finally noticing the cane. Picking it up, he practically hit Rafael with the force he used to put it in his hands, "It's-It’s whatever. Uhm, you have cupcake all over your hand,” this had to be the most awkward situation he had thrown himself into, “Are you alright?”

Rafael shrugged and dusted himself off, "I'll be fine. I'm a bit sad that I have no cupcake, but it was all an accident."

Lorenzo blinked in confusion for a moment before shaking his head, "Whatever. I have to get going. Bye uhm..."

"Rafael," his voice was rather smooth and relaxed despite Lorenzo expecting a hint of irritation from him.

"Goodbye Rafael," he nodded and turned to leave.

Rafael lifted his other hand up wanting to ask what the stranger's name was even though he knew that the stranger was already leaving. Slowly pulling his hand back, he turned to the way that he knew took him to the campus.

Rafael opened and closed his fist for a moment as he began to walk and then proceeded to regret his choice to not ask for a napkin or something of the sort from the stranger because cherry filling and chocolate frosting were not a lovely mix.

He sighed, brushing the frosting off on his pants without a second thought and pulled his white cane out grudgingly. Perhaps—he would need to use it for a bit so that he could avoid situations similar to the one that had occurred. Random strangers getting embarrassed was not his idea of a pleasant afternoon.

Removing his thoughts from the incident, he thought about the project he needed to finish for his sculpting class as well as his final project which he had yet to start painting. He departed into the small crowd of people, not paying any mind to anyone else or the fact that he had somehow managed to get cupcake in his hair.

From the corner, Lorenzo watched him for a fleeting moment before turning and disappearing into the crowd.

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Sight is seeing with the eyes, vision is seeing with the mind

-Orrin Woodward


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Author's Notice: The death of a loved one can cause many things such as vomiting, loss of appetite, and a constant feeling of hopelessness. Especially when the loved one is someone that you were not expecting to die. Often, these symptoms may last from anywhere to a few weeks to a few years. It generally depends on the person. However, we must all remember that others care about us and to keep the emotions of the tragedy bottled up is unhealthy. Always try to share memories you shared with the person. Write about your life with that person, do anything that helps you remember them because I promise you it will help. If you don't want to share with somebody you know or with the entire web, feel free to talk to me, I'll listen. I understand the feeling of utter hopelessness. The air seems to get sucked out of you as you come to the slow realization that they are gone. Tears pour and you can't stop them, everything is on fire, there's constant pain. You get angry, you get sad, emotions fly everywhere. Sometimes you blame God, sometimes you blame them or even yourself. That is okay, it happens to even the strongest. Always feel free to talk to me, I'll listen. You shouldn't have to be alone. Death hurts and it hurts worse when you can't talk to anyone.


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Lorenzo bit his lip, rolling over and staring at the bin in the corner. His stomach growled, demanding food after he had tossed all of his into the porcelain bowl that seemed to taunt him more and more often these days. The fact that this was becoming a recurring issue greatly concerned him. The last thing that he wanted was to be left in the depressing state that he was currently in where he could hardly eat without feeling his stomach twist and turn in discomfort.

He pulled at his hair and in irritation, disgruntled and exhausted. His eyes lazily wandered along the crème colored walls, tracing the contours of everything as they moved slowly. Then, they stopped and Lorenzo's heart cracked and squeezed in his chest. A tear slowly trickled down his reddened cheek as his hazel eyes glanced at the picture where a certain man with eyes bluer than the skies smiled as he kissed his cheek while his eyes widened and his eyebrows slanted down in irritation. Though, the slight grin on his face gave away that he was not as irritated.

In fact, it was the opposite. Lorenzo was quite content and despite not expecting the action, the memory itself embedded itself into the corners on his mind. It was a blissful evening when he thought of it.

The way he was held and how he had leaned against him. He thought of the way that he smiled ever so slightly as those eyes gazed at him with a light and admiration that he struggled to adjust to. He thought of the way that their lips connected as the song played and the way he gently swayed to the music that played peacefully in the background.

Yet, the more he thought of such a good evening, the more his heart cracked and lungs crushed. His breath left him and suddenly, Lorenzo was once again the small figure of a man that he had been the evening that his sky of reds and oranges that glittered with passion received the touch of the Angel of Death who tainted his beautiful skies black and blue.

Lorenzo rolled over once more, not wanting to look at the wall anymore in fear of what it would do to him. Yet, it was too late and Lorenzo quickly stood up. Fast steps and a slammed bathroom door as his throat burned for the second time that day.

Days like this, Lorenzo wondered what he was doing and he also wondered if Alfred was weeping down on him from heaven as he watched.


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Rafael listened to the soft crunching of the leaves beneath his feet and he sighed a small, exhausted sigh. A recent painting was clutched in his hands, the frame tapping the ground and scraping with an awful scratching noise. What did it matter? Another day, more paintings rejected when he used them in hopes of getting someone beyond the borders of the places he had known all of his life.

The problem was that people didn't go through with their promises often times. He would have someone commission his work only to have the person, time after time, reject the piece when he finished it for the most ridiculous of reasons. Either it took too long, it wasn't what they had imagined, or they found someone else and had not told him. Time after time it frustrated Rafael, leaving his hopes dragging behind him. Obviously, he took longer with his work, but it infuriated him when things like this happened. Even if it was only something that occurred 2/5 times, it was enough that it took money out of his pocket that he could not earn back.

It frustrated him, left his mind spinning and screaming while his motivation died down and the voice that once loudly slammed against his skull demanding for a greater something began to fade and tap instead.

He was the definition of starving artist. Dear God. If it hadn't been for the fact his family owned the house he lived in, Rafael would have been starving in an apartment in the center of a much too complicated city that would surely end up killing him in the end.

He missed his mother and oh, how he wished he could see his brother more than the short visits once a year that never lasted and was overall disappointing because the two knew absolutely nothing about the other anymore. João was somewhere else working on his novels and not as close with Rafael as he used to be.

The fact was, he could possibly try and visit João in Portugal if it weren't for the fact that he seemed to get the short end of the stick when it came to the people who commissioned him.

As he kept dragging his painting along, his stomach growled and he sighed in defeat. He checked his pocket; he had enough for something on the way. Pulling out his phone, Rafael drew one finger lazily over the screen and put an earbud in.

"Nearby fast food."

His phone read the results to him and Rafael decided to stop by a cheap pizza place and order one of those pizzas for one. He gave his answer and his phone began to pull up directions for him. Modern technology was a blessing, he would admit that. He couldn't imagine not being able to use his device for things. How many buses would he miss? How little would he know about the world?

God only knew.

Pulling out his white cane hesitantly, he began to walk to where his phone directed him. Another good thing about having a device that told him things when he needed was that he got a bit more freedom and was able to think about other things.

For example, the fact that he was frustrated.

This painting had been a good one too. Two people embracing in a canvas of dark blues. From the good feeling of the textures to how long he had worked on it—it all made him feel good despite his inability to actually see what he had created.

It was quite the blow to his pride when he found the person had not liked it and refused to pay for it. Rafael had not gotten the chance to open his mouth and argue on how it wasted his time and money, but the door shut on him and he couldn't do anything then without it seeming extreme.

The directions his phone gave him registered and he followed them. It wasn't a place that was very far actually. If it was any good, perhaps he would consider coming around to the place every once in a while when he was out of class.

Leaves crunched beneath his feet, becoming music to him. Everything seemed all the more relaxing and Rafael adored it. It was quite wonderful and the walk through the cool air relaxed his thoughts from the fiery flames that licked outward which he had been consumed in before.

But still, he didn't enjoy having to use his white cane more than he normally did in a day. It was quite uncomfortable for him.

"You have arrived at your destination," his phone chimed, bringing Rafael back to reality and all that it possessed.

The smell was familiar and it startled him for a fleeting second. He had never been to this particular part of town, so he wasn't sure why this smell seemed oddly familiar. Pushing the door open, Rafael walked inside and sighed as his heart began to race.

Chances were, this place had no braille menus. This meant that another flustering episode of "could you repeat the menu for the seventh time" was up and Rafael was not looking forward to it.

"Welcome—what the hell are you doing here?"

"Lorenzo! Be nice to the customers!"

Rafael's eyebrows furrowed and his face filled with confusion before he realized that not only was the smell familiar, but the voice as well.

He laughed brightly as he walked inside a bit more, "Stranger from the other day?"

"No, it's Barney," he responded snappily.

He ran his hands along the railing before tapping his white cane along the tile floor, his mind attempting to memorize the place so that he would not have to use his cane again, "What a coincidence to bump into you again. I just came to get some pizza."

"Really now! I thought you were here to sell me Girl Scout Cookies," he teased before rolling his eyes at his manager who was yelling at him to quit chit chatting and to actually work.

Rafael shook his head and snapped his fingers, "Sadly, I forgot all of my Girl Scout Cookies at home," he gave a cheesy grin before standing up straight, "Anyway, could you please tell me what's on the menu? I'm a bit hungry."

With a small, nonchalant nod, Lorenzo glanced up at their menu and read everything off in a monotone voice, "Alright, well, there's pepperoni, cheese—all that cardboard crap, you know?"


Lorenzo did not seem at all concerned and kept lazily reading things off and giving the prices with them. It took him a bit, but he read down all of the menu—and he read it again when Rafael asked. He didn't complain. That would be a dick move considering the situation the man was in.

It took a few repeats on certain things and questions on others before Rafael finally ordered a small Hawaiian Pizza (with a bit of screeching on Lorenzo's side). He found it amusing. He didn't understand the grand debate over pineapple on pizza, but he found it hilarious when people argued over it. He found it hilarious that this guy was working in a cheap pizza place and was screeching over pineapple on pizza.

Rafael stood where he was after he paid for his "meal". He cleared his throat, "Lorenzo's your name, right? At least, that's what I heard your manager over there screaming."

"Mhm. I think you called out something like Rafael to me when I left?"

"Yup! That's my name. Also, I'm really sorry about the other—"

Lorenzo scoffed, "If you apologize one more time, I'm hitting you over the head. Don't get your panties in a twist, nerd. It was an accident and for the record, I made you squish a perfectly good cupcake."

He gave a nervous laugh as he rubbed his shoulder, "I'm sorry—" He didn't manage to finish what he started to say before something small whacked him in the face, followed by unapologetic laughter.

"I told you not to apologize again, dummy," Lorenzo got up once the bell rang from the oven. He walked over, watching Rafael rub his face and attempt to figure out what had hit him in the face for a moment. He pulled the pizza it, putting it in a small box and scrunching his nose up as he walked back, exiting the register so that he could place it directly in Rafael's hands, "Here's your cardboard cancer with another reason I have lost faith in the United States tossed on top."

Rafael smiled when the pizza was placed in his hands and as he caught a whiff of the small treat, "Thank you, even if you died a bit on the inside while making this."

Lorenzo snorted, "A little?"

Rafael chuckled, finding Lorenzo's attitude rather interesting. His constant use of childish insults and words that fell out without hesitation made Rafael laugh and fill with a bit of joy, which was a really good thing for him considering the frustration of finishing up his last year of school as well as the constant terror of managing to provide himself food.

Taking a bite of the pizza, he slid his painting to the side and that was when Lorenzo captured a glance of it.

"Jesus," he muttered as he saw the painting for the first time, wondering how he had not seen the bulky thing, "Did you paint that?"

Rafael turned his head, putting his pizza down, confused for a moment before realizing what Lorenzo was referring to, "Oh! Yes! I'm a painter and visual arts student. I was delivering a commission today since I finished work and classes, but the person didn't like it, so no money for Toni today."

Lorenzo's eyebrows furrowed in confusion and irritation. He didn't comprehend the ability for anyone to look at a piece such as the one he was currently gawking at and not want to spend hundreds on it. It was gorgeous. Lorenzo was no artist, but he knew a masterpiece when he saw it.

This painting was monochrome blue, filled with wonderful swirls and shaded beautifully. It was quite texturized as well, making it come to life and seem to dance out to him. How had someone rejected the painting? He suddenly began to contemplate over things and wondered who the blind truly were when it came to things such as this.

He shook his head in disbelief, eyes wide, "What a dick. Must be compensating for something."

Rafael smiled, chortles bubbling their way up but clashing with the violent choking of his bite of pizza. He was so used to Gilbert being the one who spoke that way and it charmed him greatly. Even then, Lorenzo's humor and vulgarity contrasted greatly with that of Gilbert.

"Would you like to get coffee sometime?"

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Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.

-Gail Devers

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Within a week, Rafael had discovered a few things about Lorenzo and Lorenzo discovered many things about him. For one, Rafael discovered that Lorenzo had the habit of using insults as a way of establishing friendship. So, he often got called things like "dork, nerd, dummy, idiot, weirdo" and many others. He thought it somewhat adorable.

He also discovered that Lorenzo did not appreciate the collection of meme-based T-shirts that Gilbert had bought him. He called Rafael a meme-slut after finding him wearing a shirt with the mocking Spongebob meme. He now knew that Lorenzo really liked hazelnut and chocolate, which explained why he always smelled of chocolate and spice. He knew that Lorenzo was a culinary student from out of town. He discovered that Lorenzo would snort a bit and clear his throat when he found something amusing. There were many other things, but most of all, Rafael came to find that he was quite entranced by Lorenzo in the strangest way.

It was not romantic since he knew that something like that was different. However, this was more of something that absorbed him and caused him to fill with joy and amusement. He was entranced platonically.

Rafael wasn't one to make friends easily, and it often caused him to feel quite lonely. It wasn't that he didn't want to make friends. It was more that he didn't want pity. That was the one thing that he could not stand. As much as he loved talking and laughing with people, the thought of someone abusing his devotion—it was something that he could not stand. Thus, he tended to avoid friendships in general if they didn't include Francis and Gilbert.

But because there was something about Lorenzo, be it the way he spoke or the fact he had the tendency to call him "Turtle Dork" after discovering Rafael had an unhealthy obsession with them, Rafael liked Lorenzo and felt that this could possibly become another friendship that he could treasure and hold close to his heart.

Like this moment for example, where Rafael and Lorenzo sat at the bakery where they had their pleasant "meeting". Rafael was sipping at a nice cappuccino and Lorenzo cornetto. Both of them having another normal chat where Lorenzo talked about how much pride he took in his cooking and how it would best any Rafael's cheap frozen chicken nugget meals any day. Rafael talked about his most recent project which he had little motivation to complete. Both of them enjoying the morning before they had to head off to class.

"I'm thinking about completing my project in the park today. The weather app says it's going to be a nice day," Rafael commented as he took another small sip, his fingers typing away on his heavy typewriter. The keys clacked a pleasing sound to him, but a rather strange one to Lorenzo who was still learning many things.

For one, Rafael typed with this typewriter constantly since it wrote in braille and made his life all the easier. He also found that Rafael had strangely bright eyes. They haunted him at times. He had always assumed that the blind all had the same faded eyes, but Rafael's still seemed a vibrant green that scared Lorenzo since the man refused to wear sunglasses most days and often convinced him that Rafael could actually see.

"Mm, well, show me when you're done, nerd. I haven't seen anything new from you since that painting at the pizza place," Lorenzo clicked his tongue and glanced out the window. The day was nice. However, it was a bit chilly. Glancing back to Rafael, he looked him up and down. He wore a faded tan long sleeve shirt with a faded image of a slice of pie on the top left part of it. His pants were some crumpled up jeans that looked like they had fallen out of the mouth of a cow. His hair was messy, as usual. Flecks of paint that he hadn't managed to get out which amused Lorenzo sometimes, but also irritated him because of how often people believed Rafael was dirty.

Rafael hummed softly, "We'll see. You still owe me dinner for that bet last week."

Lorenzo rolled his eyes, "I didn't dare you to eat a whole pizza, moron, don't start. You had no reason for that idiotic move"

He laughed lightly and continued to type away, both of them sitting there in silence, quiet sips and the sweet welcoming embrace of hazelnut that Rafael adored more than anything.

There was a whimsical feeling about it. Normally they bumped into each other when Rafael went to grab pizza or asked Lorenzo to join him for breakfast. Even then, it had only been but a few chats and just getting to know the each other well enough.

"Everyone has a reason for things. Like you with cooking or me with painting. I had my reasons for eating an entire pizza even though it made me very sick."

Folding his arms and leaning back in his seat, "Mm, really now? Okay, loser, why do you paint?"

Rafael fell silent, his lips not exactly pursed, but closed and his posture straighter. There was a smile on his face, but the corners of it were pulled a bit too much and it was left plastic, "I guess you could say to rebel?"

Lorenzo's head tilted and his mouth opened ever so slightly as if to speak, but the words were robbed from him, "So, you paint to prove that you can do something?" His words were drawn out slowly and each laced in confusion.

Rafael pursed his lips for a moment and tilted his head back as he slipped into thought, "At first, that is exactly why I pursued art. I was six—and no six-year-old wants to be blind. I guess I decided that I wanted to be some special snowflake and be the best artist alive."

"Seems fair. You wanted to prove you could do crap for yourself," his shoulders shrugged lightly as he listened. Rafael's last phrase had ended on a melancholy note, which seemed an odd place to stop something.

"Yeah! And then, I actually started to like it. At first, I liked the praise I got for being able to push past expectation. Then, I realized that it was a bit dumb and that I truly adored art. Most of all, I enjoyed painting. It was something that was different because with a pencil, I never got to understand my final project; I only knew that it was there. But, when I was painting, I could make the paint come alive and I could make it poke and swirl and-and I could feel it when it dried. For someone who survives off of description, being able to get an image of what my finished project was, it became the best thing for me. So I pursued it more and more. I found that I really liked art, not for the praise of being different, because I don't want to be, but because it made me feel like I could enjoy something the same way that anyone else could appreciate it," he mused, a bright smile on his face, and his eyes filling with light, "Have you ever felt that? Feeling like you love something so much that you're willing to cling onto it for the rest of your life even if everyone else around you doesn't quite understand why?"

And Lorenzo nodded; for he did understand. Perhaps it wasn't painting—or in any of the fine arts—but it was in cooking. Living in a family of greatly accomplished people in things such as painting and sculpting, being able to find joy in something and knowing that it was a passion to take to the top gave him hope for the future and hope in himself. College was a terrifying thing and being able to dream towards an actual future gave him comfort.

"Yeah, turtle dork, I know how you feel."

Everything was silent, there wasn't much noise other than the slow shuffles of the people that were pacing along the floors, cleaning up, and the soft whispers that other people gave as they spoke calmly, enjoying the morning. There were a few weary college students who were still finishing up random papers, tired eyes that gazed wearily at bright screens and remaining unaware of the contrast they held between themselves and the beige walls that were painted with lilies and carnations. There was the normal city folk coming in for a moment into a paradise for a treat and sip of life before opening the door and heading off into the busy world once more without a concern.

But Rafael and Lorenzo, they sat, not really doing anything, and talking about anything and everything in the blissful warmth of the shop. Olive fingertips grazed the velvety fabric of the seat and hazel eyes looked around before glancing at the clock and standing up. With a gentle nudge, Lorenzo brought Rafael back to their own world and responsibilities that waited just outside of the bakery.

Another meeting, another talk, and despite everything that they knew, Rafael and Lorenzo still felt like strangers.


*  *  *


His toes curled in the grass, body leaning forward, and tongue poking out of wine-stained lips in concentration as he moved his brush carefully. His paint splotched white shirt drooped loosely at one shoulder, revealing a rather muscular arm from beneath. Rafael tugged it up lazily, getting more paint on the shirt as he did. No second thought was given and he let the shirt fall lazily once again.

It gave him a delicate appearance, one that was quite interesting as it contrasted with his physical appearance and made him look like a gentle giant.

His skin was also littered in goosebumps as it was rather chilly out and his jacket was somewhere on the ground, neglected for the time being. It was too much of a hassle to struggle with it while painting, so suffering from the cold seemed a much more logical solution.

After a few more strokes, a wine bottle met his lips and the fruity liquid going down his throat. It was a reward for him. After all, it was the first time in a while he was rather focused and serene rather than vexed. It tingled, the sweetness kissing his taste buds before rolling down his throat.

He had invited Lorenzo to come join him if he wasn't doing anything after class, but the response he had gotten was a maybe, so he assumed he had been rejected due to complications in scheduling—which was completely understandable. He filled with disappointment, to say the least. Having Lorenzo around to talk to seemed rather relaxing and overall a refreshing thing.

He normally didn't work around other people for various reasons, but he had wanted someone to talk to, strangely enough. Why the sudden change of preference, Rafael did not know.

Preference wasn't the right word. It was more of a comfort issue.

Taking another large sip of wine, Rafael put the large bottle down next to him and hummed softly as he continued to swipe gentle strokes. The world around him seemed quieter.

Instead of the busy noises of the streets and the collected voices of people who ran everywhere in hectic storms, Rafael was in paradise. The music from his phone played softly adding to the fall aesthetic that swirled around him. Every color that he would never see again, every tree he could never comprehend the same, and every object that stood in front of him all seemed to fade away and all that existed was his art.

Then a soft tingling grasped his senses. Chocolate and spice. He snapped from his peaceful state of focus and reached his free hand out gently. It moved through the air aimlessly before touching a soft fabric that left his fingertips just quickly as he had brushed to it. Bringing his hand back to his lap, he smiled faintly, "How's my favorite cook?"

"What if I had been some random stranger, hmm?"

Rafael's titter filled the air around them, "Not many random strangers smell like chocolate and spice when they come up to me—or at least not that boldly."

Lorenzo stepped back from Rafael's hand and watched him with a look of amusement, "Whatever. So, what's the nerd working on now?" He leaned on the seat Rafael sat on with folded arms, looking at the canvas.

It was confusing at first, each color contrasting greatly, but it was aesthetically pleasing regardless. Blues and oranges, purples and yellows—each spread throughout the canvas and bursting to life as they contrasted with the bleakness and the austerity that the weather itself cried out with.

Rafael did not pull his paintbrush from the canvas and kept working to get the textures correctly. His focus was on nothing else at the moment. Although, he was still listening to Lorenzo, "Just an exercise since I need to think about what to do for my project. I am dying and avoiding it way too much. Too bad I still don't want to do it. So now, I paint out here."

"Without shoes? You look like a stinky hobo," he snickered.

"You're too kind to me, Lorenzo."

Lorenzo shrugged, sitting down on the grass and pulling out a book to read while Rafael painted next to him.

The music continued to play softly, Spanish that Lorenzo could only partially decipher from his limited knowledge of it. It was beautiful regardless, the sweet strums of a guitar and the honey voice that sang, giving the entire thought of autumn a more satisfactory and blissful appeal.

His attempts to translate the song were all in vain and ended in mystification. He settled to listening to the lyrics instead and pretending that he knew what was going on.

Tawny eyes grazed along the green grass, fallen leaves, small dots of paint that littered the ground, and then landing upon the large bottle of wine that sat comfortably in the grass.

A sick feeling filled his stomach for the briefest moment and Lorenzo felt his lungs close shut. It was only a moment, but it still happened, and it took him a moment to gather himself again, ignoring the bottle entirely.

Rafael didn't notice, how could he? He kept painting, humming softly to the music as he did. Lorenzo read, glimpsing up at him every few moments to see his progress before going back to reading and laying on the grass. Rafael would sing actual words every few moments. Lorenzo listened, translating what he could and feeling relaxed.

Rafael talked to Lorenzo when he wasn't humming. He asked him about school and Lorenzo did the same to him. When Rafael mentioned it was his last year of school, Lorenzo choked on his breath, shocked to find that Rafael was twenty-six.

"What the hell? I'm barely twenty!"

Rafael laughed, shrugging, leaving a very confused Lorenzo to sit there excogitating over the fact that he was a year away from being legally allowed to drink and Rafael was four years away from being in thirty-years-old. It was strange to think about. Especially considering the way Rafael acted and dressed. His mannerisms convinced the Italian that he could not have been any older than twenty-three.

After a couple of comments on how Rafael was an old man, the both of them sat on the grass, eating cheap park food and waiting for Rafael's painting to dry enough for them to leave. Well, for Rafael to leave. Lorenzo technically could leave whenever he wanted, but he was being nice for Rafael's sake.

So they sat, Rafael, finishing up homework for other classes and Lorenzo talking about how he looked, taking advantage of the fact that Rafael had no idea of what he was like.

"Large man, spiky green hair, piercings on my nose and lip, and I wear red contact lenses."


"Really. Also, I sound like a dying walrus when I sing."

"I'm sure you don't."

Their conversations carried on, meaningless things thrown into the crisp autumn air and Rafael sitting there feeling more at peace than he had felt in a long time. It was nice to be able to talk to someone again. It took his mind off of a lot of things.

It was a new thing for Rafael to get used to. While he knew the names of some of the people in his classes and everyone in his neighborhood, his friends were limited to Gilbert and Francis. But now, there was someone else joining in the friendship circle.

"Hey, you asked me why I painted the other day, but I never asked why you cooked," Rafael finally broke the silence.

Lorenzo initiated it again. He bit his lip and thought about his inspirations and what had brought him to this point, "Well, I used to cook a lot as a kid. My grandpa worked a lot, so I would have to make something for Feli and I. At first, it was a dumb chore. Then, I realized that I really liked it because one, I got to eat what I wanted and what kid doesn't like that?—and two, I got to explore a lot with things and it became my own form of creation. My creation was delicious too, so bonus. Suck on that you Vanhoe," he stuck his tongue out and blew a raspberry at Rafael.

Rafael stuck his tongue out, mirth plastered on his olive face. He was quite enjoying himself really. Talking to Lorenzo gave him more motivation to paint. That was something that he hadn't experienced in a while. It was amicable, really.

"My grandfather teased me a bit when I was younger about it, but he grew more and more proud as I grew older. Although, he still thinks that I need to be warmer to people," he chuckled lightly, "What did your family think of your painting?"

Rafael clamped his mouth shut for a moment as a sigh escaped him, "My mama loved my painting and my brother thought it cool, at least. But my father, he never liked it. He thought it a bit dumb and said I was putting myself up for disappointment. I never listened to him about it because, in my heart, I knew it didn't matter if I couldn't see. I don't think he ever quite accepted that " he shrugged lightly.

A small cloud of sorrow seemed to hang over them, or Rafael at least. It was there, barely hanging over before it disappeared, leaving nothing but a momentary thought of it. If not gone, it was no longer noticeable. That was at least decent.

He sat up for a moment, slipping his socks and shoes back on, the warmth becoming a strange sensation to his cold feet that had gone a bit numb from the amount of time that he had entangled them in the cool mess of the damp grass that currently soaked the backs of both of their clothes.

Swaying gently, he began to hum again to the soft crackling recording of an old song. He turned towards Lorenzo and let his head fall gently to his shoulder, "What does the day look like?"

His voice gently brushed Lorenzo's ear like a nymph that pressed a gentle kiss to him in sorrow. It startled Lorenzo in the strangest way, causing him to look over as Rafael's vibrant eyes seemed to stare into the deepest parts of the universe, seeing beyond what others could only imagine. It sent lighting swift shivers through him before a feeling of slight sorrow filled him.

"It's a nice day. There are leaves on the ground—orange and yellow. The sky is grey, but there is some blue that is peeking through," he started, not seeing any harm in describing the day, "There are people walking by wrapped up. The trees are almost bare from the fact the leaves have fallen. It's just a dreary mix of browns, oranges, greys, and reds. But, they work, nicely, you know? It's calm and sweet, and neutral."

A soft sigh went past his lips and Rafael lay back in the grass, imagining what Lorenzo described as leaves and grass caught in his shaggy brown curls. It had been so long since he had seen the autumn weather and the world in general, "It sounds wonderful."

Silence took over once again, an awkward feeling settling in with both as it reintroduced itself into the scenario. It only added to the neutral feeling of autumn. They were made of browns and greys; hues that circled them and attempted to enter their minds only to get rejected because despite the boring and repetitive neutrality of their conversations—the fact was that it was nice and that they both found great joy in the plainness that filled the autumn environment.

Not everything needed bright colors. In fact, neutral was nice. In all of the drabness, it was much easier to find joy.

And that was how Rafael's slow hums as they sat in the grass, bored, but not moving, turned into words that rang softly only for their ears. The small voice singing through the speaker was drowned by Rafael's sweet voice that sang boldly despite being quiet. The boldness itself did not come from Rafael, but the way that something so flattering and elegant could be in the same place as neutrality.

Eventually, the two did part their ways, Rafael leaving to go get cleaned up so he could leave to work, and Lorenzo headed off to go buy some things at the store. The sun was setting by then, bright blues fading to oranges, reds, and the slow fingertips of purple that reached to any remaining light as if clinging to it and wanting the fugacious light to linger for an ephemeral moment more. The neutrality was pierced by coolness such as that of the shivering brushes of blues that dominated the once grey-blue sky above.

To Rafael, nothing had changed.


*  *  *


"How much do you love me?"

"A lot."

"Then please, let me help you and tell me why these cuts are on your cheek…"

"I'm not the one who needs help."


*  *  *


He had been sitting there for hours on end, his fingers running over the familiar cover of Les Miserables and the Frank Sinatra record replaying for the seventh time in the background.

He had never felt this unwilling to do an art project for any class. Yes, he had his dreading moments where he would much rather cook, clean, or attempt to do many other things than to work on his sculpture. It was a rotten feeling that caused his insides to curl and quiver in denial and disquietude.

Rafael rolled over, wanting nothing more than to fling himself into a hole or perhaps the sun. He had not even been able to work on his sketch paper, tearing up the paper over and over, unsatisfied and unsure of what he was doing.

"Paint a story using something that inspires you"

He pulled at his hair, hoping for a fleeting memory of his mother's face or maybe Gilbert and Francis. Yet, nothing came up and what did come up did not hold a feeling that dear to him. Image after image using his limited memories and abilities to tell what faces looked like but still nothing came to him.

He gave up after a while, only laying on his couch before work, wondering how on Earth he was ever going to find the motivation to do this project when he could barely manage to get up at the moment. It was awful at the moment as he had little motivation.

Not knowing what else to do, he slammed his face into a pillow. It was a soft, relaxing him a bit when he hit the lace fabric. His couch was very soft in general. He limply lifted his hand to run his fingers along the velvety couch in attempts to possibly at least come up with ideas for what he would do for this project.

He wanted to paint his mother, more than anything. Yet, try as he might, Rafael couldn't see her face as clearly as he had seen it years before. There were blurry images of who she was and despite the number of times that he had touched her face in admiration and love, it was not the same. The images seemed to flutter away and all that was left was a cracking and fading image of his mother. All he could see was a faded flower print skirt and beautiful blue eyes with tiny flecks of green. He had looked into them many times as a child, memorized them, admired them, and they still seemed to be the one thing that he could never forget about the days before he lost his ability to see.

He'd paint those. A small smile creeping on his face. Although, he wanted more than some faded flowers and a color of eyes. He wanted a face to go with it, but there was no face left in his mind that he felt worthy to place with her eyes. He didn't want to attempt to paint Francis and fail to do him justice and Rafael could only imagine attempting Gilbert. He needed someone—something that he could touch and paint.

Sighing, he kept thinking, and then an idea started to grow in his head. A small seed that grew and snaked its way through his mind. Biting his lip, he shook his head. It wasn't a good idea. Lorenzo's description of himself didn't seem like something that would fit. As much as he adored his friend, spiky hair and beryl eyes did not seem to match together well. At least, not in the image he was imagining for the painting.

His phone seemed to stab him from behind, urging him to do it anyway. What was the worst that could happen? Plus, Lorenzo was a friend and Rafael would be able to easily attempt to paint him.

His fingers hovered over his phone and earbuds, the question of whether he should or should not call Lorenzo running through his head.

One one hand, it wouldn't do any harm. In fact, it would be good since he would be painting something and someone he hadn't before and would stretch his skills and would end up a good way to exercise.

On the other hand, what if it turned out that he didn't find Lorenzo to be an inspiration or at least enough of one to influence his project? He wanted to ensure that he was making the correct decision.

However, the more that he thought about it, the more the pros came out and the cons began to eliminate themselves. It didn't take long before Rafael picked up his phone and called. He waited, his heart pounding against his ribs apprehensively. The phone began to ring and Rafael waited, his free hand tugging at his shirt.

"You are one lucky bastard since I just got out of class. Why are you calling?"

"I wanted to know if you'd be my muse and allow me to paint you," he chirped, asking right away to avoid any chances of nervousness getting in the way.

It was silent, oddly silent. It sparked a fleeting flame of concern and demurral. The only sound was of something being stifled, but he couldn't thoroughly elucidate it to himself.

"I-" his voice cracked in bewilderment, "You want to paint me? And why?"

His nervousness began to take over and he had to fight to keep himself from cracking, "I know it's a bit sudden since we've known each other for like—a week? But but! You're becoming a good friend and honestly, I'm pretty sure that I would be in the middle of a mental breakdown right now if I didn't have you to at least ask to paint," he confessed.

Lorenzo went silent again, but Rafael still listened and swallowed anxiously. There was a small sigh and Rafael smiled, already imagining how Lorenzo was reacting at the moment, "Sure. Why not. We can meet up and talk about your plan for whatever you're doing and decide on whose dump we're going to."

"Sounds great! Bakery?"

"Bakery. Now, I have to get going because some of us have actual responsibilities and work to do. Talk to you Friday, loser"

"Got it! See you then!"

Lorenzo hung up and left a very ecstatic Rafael ready to jump up and down the walls. Deciding it to be a moment of celebration and believing that he deserved a reward, he pulled out some wine and poured himself a glass.

Had it not been for the fact that he had to head off to get to work in a few minutes, his lips would have been left wine stained once more.

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