For the Love of Art


This is purely dream based. Had it this morning. Potentially a five-part story revolving around a possible sociopath art instructor with a niche for dark arts and an African American student of his whose world slowly opens to his dark one. Mild degradation, non-consent, but eh, ehhhh, he has blue eyes and black hair; he can do whatever he wants.


Ever have a feeling something life changing was about to happen, but you know it’s inexorable, an inevitable fate despite your premonition?

That’s how I felt in Mr. Ryne’s class. Everyday. Except my feeling was always a bad one. I can admit, most of it was in my head, me pointing out monsters where none existed. And then there were the instances the monsters were very real, and one of them, frequent.

But today was different. I watched Mr. Ryne prowl around the class art stand in that uncanny way of his, as though he was listening and monitoring at the same time. Observing. Preying. Again, all in my head. It had to be.

None of the other students were as rigid on their wooden stools in front of their canvases as I was. I was certain none of them turned their gorgeous art teacher into a sinister abstraction, as I did. But when you’ve sat in room 116 for sixty plus days, drawing the male out into a special kind of horror, you start to see things my way.

For instance, that round art table with the white concept foam of different shapes and fruits and items all clustered together, it had black dahlias imprinted against the mahogany wood—or maybe it was black hollyhock. Either way, they were a dark flower with a million lines and designs etched and painted into the wooden table, and whenever Mr. Ryne would stalk in a circle, going on about Discobolus and the epiphany Myron was enraptured by, he would always turn at an angle that would cause his raven curls to dip low over cyan blue eyes. He would proceed to ask the class a question, but did anyone see the glance he would slide me in between him asking and the question mark at the end? The look that made me sick.

I wasn’t crazy. It wasn’t just your average meandering glance. He would look at me—and it wouldn’t be but a moment, mind you!—and everything about the happy, reliable, trusting, artistic, eccentric art teacher of Cambridge University would vanish. His lips would thin, his eyes hardening, and recently, I’ve seen his fingers twitch when he gave me the look that wrote up the apostle of evil. As though he itched to touch me. Grab me. Strangle me.

But like I said, today was different. Today was the last day I would endure my immense fear of the man. The last day of the semester.

“I know my eager ducklings are hungry for their percentage grades and the sweet taste of Christmas with their families,” he said in a joking, light tone. The kind that made the students laugh and feel at ease, especially since he always did refer to his students as his “ducklings”, instead of prodigy or children as other art instructors were prone.

He held out a stack of loosely contained papers, looking at each of them with this smile of white teeth and three-day shadow beard. “I’ve high hopes for you all. Kylie, your surrealism portfolio has caught the eye of many at the European Art Exhibition. A sure sign you followed my advice and added your own idiosyncratic touch.”

The pride in his voice made the short haired girl perk up, a flustered, wobbly smile smattered across her face as he set her semester’s grade sketch facedown on her canvas bracket.

He did this to all of them as he set their paper down in front of them, and they were all fattened on his sweet nothings each time they turned the paper over and took a look at their grades.

Then he got to me.

He stood at the side of my easel, his tall form shadowing out the left side of the room. And it was but a quick moment, two seconds of him flicking the paper then easing it into the easel’s bracket cracks. But in this quick moment, his cyan eyes peered down through the inks of dark locks, meeting mine with a glacial hatred, or it was warning, or maybe it was even the root of all evil.

All in your head, Grace.

Regardless, my stomach turned, and I stuffed my hands between my legs when I realized they were shaking. All in your head.

“Is something the matter, Miss Larson?” His voice was deep, a depth found only in dismal cultures.

I quickly shook my head, not liking how his voice entered more than my ears. It seeped into my bones, wrapping around my awareness of him. His scent, I wished it was acrid, but it was actually a mix between past delights and something cool, something as strong as a night’s allure and minty things.

When he stepped away, I realized I hadn’t been breathing, so the breath rushed out of me for so long, I almost exhausted myself, head leaning to rest on my blank canvas.

None of this mattered. Him. Me. The horror I had painted in my mind. Though this was a two semester Anadolu Yakası escort class, I had dropped from taking the second course with Mr. Ryne, instead transferring the partial credits toward Mr. Frank’s 402 art class. Mr. Frank was an old, funny man who taught with age and rote gestures. A man who didn’t wear masks and make my skin crawl.

Or your body feel strange.

I balled my hands into fists at this, then yanked up the paper of my final grades. I didn’t need anything fancy. A solid 70% would get me the B+ I needed, and that B+ would get me the 3.5 GPA requirement for Nova Scotia’s graduate program.

I flipped the paper over with a silent prayer.

Instead of a final grade, written in that hard, too-straight penmanship were the words: ‘Stay after class.’

The sickness returned.

When I looked up, blue eyes stared back. He was regarding me with the edges of his mouth turned down. His fingers jerked.

I checked the paper again, as though the words might rearrange themselves into a percentage grade. But they didn’t. They glared. They wiped their teary eyes, knowing I would have to stand before the monster and discuss who knew what. That in itself sucked.

It was no news flash that I had intense anxiety. Couple that with my poor sense of resolve, and you could easily make me into a distraught damsel, lost with the world. That was what it was like now. Distraught. Utter malaise roiling at the core of my stomach, reminding me of the breakfast I had skipped for this exact reason. This room. Classroom 116. This instructor, Mr. Ryne.

He would probably tell me I failed so horribly, he needed a true explanation for how an African American woman could have actually been accepted at his university, and pass not two but three of the prerequisite art courses and make it to the final one, his. He was probably wondering right this second, what kind of art could I produce aside from ghetto graffiti or negligent scraps of what everyone had been telling me was art only because I surpassed your average stick figure.

What could I know about contours and the difference between shading and shadowing?

I mean, I did look pathetic and like I would be the type to draw up a soul sister with thick black corns and say it was my soul I was expressing. Never mind the fact that my hair conformed to light, soft curls to my shoulder and my skin resembled honey before it did caramel. No, when you were the only student of darker pigmentation, you were just black. And that could be why he singled me out to hate me. Because it couldn’t actually be my art. My artwork was subpar at least.

Why wasn’t I reassured then?

You can’t get into Nova Scotia without this credit. You need this man’s recommendation letter.

I guess I could pull from my older art classes for a letter of recommendation, but I wanted to pretty my application up with the prestigious Dimitri Ryne, the flamboyant young artist who wowed every judge at the La Plue de L’Art competition six years in a row, until he backed out and allowed others a chance, in turn, studying for a degree so he might have ”ducklings” to follow in his footprints.

But I hadn’t known the male was so . . . odd then. In the photos, he had always spoken with an open body, a smile that I’d bet my money is what wooed the judges more than the art itself. Because it was so white and the hair was so dark and the eyes were these unique blue that pierced anything they landed on.

“No, it’s an honor to be in your class, sir,” I whispered, practicing my line, my excuse, writing up my plea before the court started.

It’s an honor, and please give me a C.

It was minutes later when the class was released. Though they were released early, daylight savings had the sun retiring just as early. Because this was the last class period, 3:50-5:45, the clock read 5:25, and everyone—no matter how much they enjoyed talking after class about nothing with the teacher—was eager to leave, start their winter break, go have social lives. Meanwhile, I packed slowly, heart in my throat, stomach clenching angrily, as if it were upset with me that it didn’t have anything to vomit up.

I sneaked a peek up through curls I really should have tied back, catching the last student to mill out. Mr. Ryne was nodding and giving a light chuckle at whatever commentary had been stated, then patted Jordan on the back. Once the student was out, he closed the door and flipped off the lights, stroking his eyes warily.

I don’t know why, but the sudden change from bright room to creepily bronze, vaguely sun-touched room, sent my mind racing, my heart pounding. Dark things happened in dark places.

All in your head, Grace.

I stuffed the last of my paint brushes in the second fold of my holed and torn backpack before slinging it over one shoulder and walking slowly toward the desk Mr. Ryne was sitting at. Then I noticed the phone in his hand, and already, Anadolu Yakası escort bayan it was to his lips.

How rude was that! I was careful not to scowl as I stared at him. His perfect lips, faint tints of pink and purple, surrounding by the shadow of a beard. He had one ear pierced with a red jewel of some sorts. I couldn’t tell if it was real or fake, but the way it caught the sunlight and refracted with a similar coruscation as the jewels of his eyes told me they didn’t get any purer than that. He was a tall man, lean and fit. Black jeans topped with a silk white long sleeve shirt fell in grace atop the sinew of his muscles. The sleeves were pushed up above the elbows, showing the tone of his forearms.

In his chair, he swiveled, eyes crinkling though whatever had been said on the phone hadn’t been funny enough to make him laugh. “Thanks, Nathan.” Pause. “Mm, no. I might be here a couple hours or so longer—alright, I will be here a couple hours after, if you want me to tack my words to the wall and etch it in stone. It really depends.”

He looked up at me when he said the last part, traces of humor swept clean from his eyes.

“Tell Donnie not to wait up then.” Whatever was said in turn drew a low chuckle from him.

I shifted my weight onto the other foot.

You’d think I’d have lit one of his paintings on fire. His lips thinned, jawline flexing as the anger brought his teeth together. “I have to go. I’ll call you around eight.”

When he put the phone down—too softly—I stared, grabbing at the sleeve of my large button up shirt.

He didn’t say anything.

I continued to stare, though in my head I paved my escape route to the bathroom, where the air wouldn’t be as tight, the toilet readily accessible. The art building was a big building, and I knew where every bathroom existed, knew the nooks and crannies of nearly all their stall locks.

Still no words.

I swallowed and glanced down at my paper from the flagrant gaze. “You wanted to see me?”

“Miss Larson,” he said smoothly, no anger present. “Have I kept you waiting too long?”

I shook my head.

“Not how it would seem. Your feet, their words did not relay the same thing your lips are.”

What was he getting at? The shifting I did with my feet? “It’s just that you were on the phone . . .”


And? “And I just think its somewhat disrespectful. It didn’t sound urgent enough to keep someone you requested waiting.”

Not that I had anything better to do. No boyfriend to go home to, friends to hang out with. College may be the place of socialization and making extraordinary long-term friends, but somehow I had none—well, not counting Becky, an accounting student who I’m pretty sure used me to paint herself in a better light. I did have a fat guinea pig that sometimes let me hold it. Man, I was pathetic.

“Respect?” Mr. Ryne asked incredulously, rising to his feet. I couldn’t take back the words I had said, and the ball game always change when people come to their full height before you. My 5 foot measly-two didn’t work in my favor either. “Everyday you enter my classroom dressed like some degenerate from the streets.”

These were the only clothes I’d brought from America with me. All extra funds after tuition went towards class material and food. Did he want me to dress like those cliche art hippies with the beanie and scarf, camisole dangling around me? I balled my hands and stared at the place he once was.

He rounded the corners of his desk, holding a familiar green binder in his hand. “Your attention is faulty, you’re always lethargic. I ask the class the most elementary of questions and you are the only one who fails to know the answer. Apathetic. You spread your apathy within these walls of my classroom and believe you warrant respect? You present finals like this?”

He thrust the binder at me and I grabbed hold just before it hit me in the stomach, taking a step back.

Bathroom, first left, five feet, a right, last stall. Decrepit lock.

Hands shaking again, I looked down at the binder. Clean title tag, printed across: End of Semester Portfolio- Concept Sketches. Dark green borders. Light.

Though I didn’t look up, I knew he now stood in front of his desk, too close to me, his heat spoiling the clarity of my escape route. He didn’t know this was a nightmare class for me, when it was supposed to be my favorite like every other student. He didn’t know it was him that stole the answers from my stalled tongue and kept me counting sheep into the thousands at night.

I needed medicine, that was it. I needed medicine, but my insurance was still in America and I’d yet to be doctored into the Canadian system.

“You must be mistaken. Mr. Ryne, it is an honor to be in your—”

“Open the binder, Miss Larson.”

I did, and when he said nothing, I flipped from the title page to the first piece of art. A sketched pear, its shadows escort bayan captured perfectly, the gradient easy and forgiving, no erase marks, perfect arches with the B12 led. I flipped to the next one. An apple, same as before, perfect. Without fault. I looked up at the douchewad. Honestly, his perfect face made me want to hurl the binder at him and not ask for an explanation for my lack of grade.

“What do you see, Miss Larson?”

Beautiful features turned into warm honey, sunlight turning fantastic edges of a stubbled face into a bronze and golden dream. Lips made to trace the planes of bellies, brush the knolls of breasts, suckle buds until—

I blinked rapidly. “W-what?”

Oh God, what the hell was wrong with me? I was staring at his lips, and that fear that had been in my stomach all hour, something else pushed up against it, a hunger that I no longer knew what for.

Something had changed in his gaze, a feverish eclipse taking the gold from his features and revealing an animal reined and caged. “What do you see, Miss Larson,” he whispered.

I looked back at the portfolio, the thing he had been indicating all along. “An-an apple? An apple.”

He nodded, that ravenous hunger fading from his eyes and making it possible for me to semi-breathe again. “Yes. An apple. Tell me why I shouldn’t mark you with a 50%.”

I felt my face convey the horror. “What? It’s conceptual sketches. I-I did the lines perfectly. The shading. The shadows. The vantage points. I-I don’t understand. Why would I get a 50%? You said we could choose the art style of our portfolio. You said . . .” I stopped talking before spittle flew from my mouth and I regressed into a sputtering bull.

“No, Miss Larson, it is perfect. But that was not the assignment I instructed. I specifically ordered my students to come to me with any art style of their choosing, to portray the lessons taught over the last few weeks and wow me with their creativity.” He plucked the portfolio from my hands. “Does this look at all creative to you?”

After a moment of collecting myself, I drew my eyes back to the apple. “No . .?”

“Yes or a solid no? Because right now, it sounds to me like you really don’t know the difference between creativity and imitation art. This,” He motioned all around the edges of the apple. “This is not art. This is considered plagiarizing in this course. This has been done a million times before, and by extension, it falls short of my clear instructions.” He dropped the portfolio on his desk. There was genuine anger in his eyes, fury even, as though I had failed him on a very personal level.

I had stayed up for hours drawing and redrawing those damn fruit. At one point, I even had to come up with the lines myself since the display room had been closed to students after That had taken me just as long as the other students, who I guess were just fantastic baby Picassos.

I clutched my sleeve tighter, understanding what he was saying but not. My five fingers had made those curved lines, those straight lines, all in between those lines.

He let out a frustrated sigh, closing the binder and dropping it back onto his desk. “So, do you want to fail my class?”

At this, I looked up at him. “A 50% shouldn’t fail me. At most it should leave me with a 73%.” He was just being a douchewad, that’s it. Any other student, he would have waved a hand at, found a strong point in their art and bumped the fifty to seventy percent. So why did he have it out for me?

I hardly said anything to him to make him hold such an intense and very apparent abhorrence.

“No, it shouldn’t fail you—but I will.”

“You can’t do that!”

“Do you want to test this? Final grades for this class aren’t entered into the system until the 21st, and it’s only the 9th.”

I opened my mouth, but words failed me. If I failed this class, I would be forced to retake it again next semester. He was the only one who taught Universal Arts 401.

“Speak up,” he demanded. “Do you or do you not want to test this?”

“I just don’t understand, is all.”

“I only know so many ways to spell out a lack of creativity—or is it effort, Miss Larson? Have you devalued my lessons and taken the slackers road? Don’t look at the floor, look at me when I speak.”

Holy shit, my eyes were beginning to burn when I managed to lift them, but there was no way I would cry over a stupid man and his stupid perception of what was acceptable art forms. I sucked in a breath and found it rugged, jumpy, like any moment I would burst into a crying fit before the man.

Not trusting my voice, I shook my head.

“And do you want to fail this class?”

Another shake of negation.

He searched my eyes for a second, the disgust still present in his. “Then go stand at the demonstration easel. Leave your bag at your chair.”

He turned toward his desk the same time I turned to go to the the place he directed me. With his back to my actions, I wiped my eyes quickly, taking in a silent sniffle and a little paste to the cracks in my composure.

Was he going to make me prove I could do my own concept sketches? I knew how to make concept sketches, but I found you couldn’t go wrong when you didn’t stray from what was taught. Apparently I was wrong.

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