The sharp edge of wing-tipped masks lurk around every corner as Andy darts through a maze of strangers. Their eyes glowing red, gold, black behind the oval cutouts. Andy feels a scream in her throat, but the sound never reaches her lips. The claustrophobia settles in to her pores as her elbows brush against black satin, her knees pressing up against yards of tulle, her feet tripping over spiked heels matted in gold leaf. Red lips opening and closing as if urged to say something to Andy, but remembering last minute that she’s not worthy of the energy. Not worthy.
Andy feels her feet moving, but looking around her surroundings never change. The concrete walls seem to be tumbling in towards her as the same masked strangers circle around her. A tongue drags across a pair of red lips, someone breathes against Andy’s neck, the sound of teeth cracking against bones. Andy shivers violently and feels warm blood being to drip from her elbow. She looks and sees no wound, but the warm dribble of slow-moving blood still tingles through her body.
“Andy” a voice seems to fill the entire space with its desperation. Her eyes dart from stranger to stranger, but none seem filled with the desperation her name had echoed with. “Andy” again the voice comes desperately, urging something from Andy. What? Andy finds her voice still stuck deep in her throat. What do you want? She spirals and screams as the world around her begins to shake. The vibrations seem to shatter through the concrete walls, cracking across the hungry eyes surrounding Andy.
Andy wakes with a start, gasping for air, as Jasper maintains a firm grasp on her shoulders. The room spins into a tilted focus: peeling wallpaper dotted with sunflowers and water stains, cracked wood frames on angled windows, the modern and out of place bed frame surrounding her own naked body. Jasper hovers over her, confident in his nudity, relief filling his eyes as Andy meets his stare.
His hands linger trailing across her shoulder blades briefly before he stands up and gathers the scattered pieces of his evening attire. Andy lays speechless on the bed, taking in her naked form, attempting to connect the image at hand to her memories from the art show. New bruises pop out from her long, thin legs, and she feels an ache spreading from her right elbow.
Jasper slowly gathers his scattered attire and redresses in his black dress pants and pressed button down shirt; both crinkled with the memories of all the drinks, kisses, conversations held last night. Andy tries desperately to connect the dots of her path last night. From the floor of the concrete art room, her head spinning, her elbow jamming into a crack low on the wall slowly rubbing a wound open to this room covered in peeled wallpaper and unfamiliar furniture. Jasper remains the one constant.
Andy sits up, rubbing her palm against her forehead and delicately peers at the wound on her elbow. Dried blood spreads from her elbow to the back of her wrist. Nausea comes over Andy like a wave and her hands bolt to her mouth as she lays back down urging her body to calm down. As her head tilts to the side she sees Jasper disappear out the door. He leaves the door ajar, letting in the echoes of the hallway and beyond: bare feet against the old hardwood, the sound heels clicking the staccato rhythm of a hangover, a soprano giggle, the rustle of clothing being removed or returned, and the movement of brushes, canvasses, charcoal.
The more Andy heard, the more certain she was this house wasn’t abandoned as she had originally thought late last night. Is this some sort of artist colony? Is this where Jasper has been living? She urges herself to sit up and gaze around the room once more. Her eyesight falters between the blur of still being drunk and the clarity of being painful hungover. She swings her feet over the side of the bed and fights the nausea in her stomach as she pushes herself forward to standing. She waddles like a newborn baby around the room looking for some clue as to what this place truly was. The peeling wall paper and faded appearance of the furniture only reiterates the age of this house. She runs her finger across dusty window ledges, stubs her toe against an ancient metal bed frame, before finally finding what she’s been looking for. A fresh set of paints and blanched canvases sit tucked just underneath the head of the bed. Andy tugs them free of their prison and rolls the horse-hair brushes between her fingertips. These are gorgeous. These are fuckin expensive brushes. How did Jasper afford these? She trails her fingers across the canvasses: hand-stretched oil-primed linen.
The sound of firm footsteps in the hallway startle Andy, she clumsily pushes the paints and canvasses back underneath the head of the bed and jumps under the covers. The footsteps pass, Andy’s heart is in her throat, though she can’t quite pinpoint why she’s so nervous. She crawls back out of bed, her head beginning to spin with each sudden movement, and sits on the floor to stare at the paints and canvasses. How the hell did he get these nice supplies? Is he really making that much money off his work?
Andy grabs out one of the linen canvasses, staring at the blank space begging to be a creation. It’s a sort of ritual for Andy, losing herself in the canvas before she even smells freshly splattered paint or brushes her fingertips across the edge of her paintbrushes or smears untouched charcoal between her thumb or forefinger. As she sits and stares at the canvas the bustle in the house grows louder, more masked faces awake from their slumber and pull out canvases of their own. The hum reverberates through the floorboards and Andy snaps back to the old, abandoned house. What the fuck is going on here? She slams the canvas to the floor and shakes the metal bed frame out of place as she tries jamming the canvas back into its hiding place.
As she yanks the metal bed frame away from the wall she finds not plaster or peeling wallpaper, but a square package taped firmly in a hollowed out nook. The package runs the length of the bed and is wrapped in the same wallpaper the room is slowly shedding. To a passing glance, it wouldn’t be noticeable. It’s not often someone sits on these wood floors and examines what’s behind the headboard.