Chapter 12 - Zombie (The Cranberries ; 1994)

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Ross


I nervously fiddled with my fingers as my hands stayed wrapped around the warm coffee cup I was holding. I was seated in the small coffee shop a couple blocks away from campus as I waited for Mr. Way and Mr. Iero to join me to discuss their plans for my artwork. I repeatedly checked the watch around my wrist anxiously, thinking that maybe I was far too early or far too late, and was about to start panicking until I heard the entrance bell chime, causing my head to snap up to the door.

Mr. Way and Mr. Iero were talking animatedly and laughing like they'd just heard the funniest joke in the entire world as they headed inside, both pulling off their gloves and caps. Mr. Way looked around slightly, and when his eyes landed on me, he smiled brightly and pointed in my direction. Mr. Iero turned towards me as well, a large smile also breaking on his face as he walked toward me with an extended hand.

I stood up from my seat quickly, almost tripping over my own feet in the process. I accepted Mr. Iero's gesture by taking his hand in mine and shaking it firmly. He left a few quick pats on my shoulder as well before he and Mr. Way sat down at the round table. Mr. Way order the both of them black coffees before they fully put their attention towards me.

"How are you today, Ryan," Mr. Iero inquired as we removed his scarf, lying it flat in his lap.

I was mid-sip on my coffee when he asked, and I quickly removed the cup from my lips in order to answer him. "I-I'm alright, Mr. Iero," I said, nearly cringing at my small stutter. "How about yourself?"

Mr. Iero laughed gently, patting my arm as he looked at me with soft eyes. "Ryan," he started softly, "you do not have to be so formal with me. Just call me Frank. Don't get me wrong, I love that you're polite, it shows me a positive part of your character, but let's save the 'Mr. Ieros' for the classroom and other colleagues."

I felt my cheeks heat up slightly, but nodded nonetheless. A waitress came over a moment later, bringing Mr. Way and Mr. I- Frank their coffees and giving me a refill on mine. It was silent for a moment before Frank turned completely to face me.

"So, Ryan," he started, one hand wrapped around his cup and the other placed gently in his lap, "I want to know- when I brought up the idea of having your work displayed in my museum, what were you thinking at that moment?"

I felt my hands subconsciously tighten around my mug as I pondered over the question for a moment before answering. "W-Well," I started softly, "I-I guess my i-initial reaction was s-shock. I never really g-gave my work that much c-credit, and then to be told that it was g-good enough to be displayed for others to s-see was a little, well," I paused with a short laugh, "shocking."

He nodded softly and motioned his hand towards Mr. Way as he spoke again. "Gerard has told me so much of your progress and your potential," he stated sincerely. "And, as I've said before, you've got so much potential that it would be a complete waste of your artwork and of your abilities to hide away the talent that you have at this early of a stage in your life. Sure," he continued, an amused tone to his voice, "it's easy for a thirty-something artist to display their works and others be in a state of awe at what they've produced, but to see works like yours that have been created by someone who's nineteen years old - not even the legal drinking age - it's absolutely astounding."

I blushed heavily at his compliments and nodded softly, a sign of saying 'thank you' without having to speak as Mr. Way picked up the conversation.

"Frank is absolutely right, Ryan," he said with the same amount of sincerity. "I've been telling you these things for the last two years that you've been in my classes, and I've meant every word. The fact that you hold so much talent at such a young age is incredible, and completely awe inspiring. Just think," he said with a small pause as he turned in his chair to face me, "if kids your age who are pursuing art happen to see your works, that could push them to want to be as good as you. The art community will continue to expand - even it's just a fraction - because your works will show them that they can follow their dreams, regardless of an obstacle as minuscule as age. You could bring out the inner artist in so many people."

I looked over to Frank to see him nodding gently along with Mr. Way's words in a way that told me he completely agreed. I thought over their comments for a moment, taking in everything they said. I've never even thought my art was important to me, let alone that it could be important to others, and yet, hearing how fondly they talk about my work and my talent is making me think that maybe I'm just not appreciating myself enough. I'd never seen myself as someone who deserved to be appreciated, and it's still scary for me to think that others could appreciate something as small as just a few graphite strokes on canvas.

I felt my lips curve up into a soft smile and I looked at both Frank and Mr. Way with a look of contentment on my face. "O-Okay," I said softly. "I w-want to do this."

They both smiled widely, each of them shaking my hand before turning back to their coffees before Frank addressed me again. "There is something about this that you need to take into consideration, however."

I nodded softly, leaning forward on my elbows, partly to hear him a bit better and also because it just happened subconsciously out of being so intrigued.

"I will need you to travel to Chicago with me," he said seriously. "You will have your own studio to work in, because I'm going to need more than just the pieces you have for this display. I want you to make an entire display out of that boy that you've been drawing. It's going to be an entire section all its own, letting viewers and onlookers interpret them in whatever way they want. Does that sound like something that we could work out?"

I nodded softly, giving him another small smile as he nodded back at me, taking another sip of his coffee.

I felt my hands tighten around my mug again as I settled on another realization.

I have to tell Brendon.

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