Smoke swirled in the beautiful orange, purple, and red sunset as a dark voice met the indigo and purple clouds forming in the deep orange skies. A deep voice boomed toward that same sky as the smoke wafted from thin hidden lips coated by a thick, kinky dark brown beard. “I sense great curiosity in your eyes, boy.” The source of the smoke of vanilla a certain pungency that made the air almost feel as dense as the soft soil in which he sat on. The old master sat with his legs crossed with a long tribal robe with brown, light red, and deep green diamonds and tribal symbols running down the long robe covering his knees, looking into the same sky with intense, wise dark brown eyes, the shimmering off of his head. Another voice echoed aside the wise voice, this one, inexperienced, young. “I’ve been in Nirvana for as long as I can remember. It’s peaceful, Great Beard.” The young boy’s voice was as melodic as the breeze flowing through his slightly styled medium length hair. He was beautiful as he turned around to face the Great Beard with faint gray blue eyes filled with a desire to know more. To see more. His words danced off of his plump lips in a great gratitude as he added, “I’m more than grateful to know such a place like this can exist.” Great Beard laughed a grand laugh, echoing inside of the cleared meadow twinkling with a wistful serenity only a mixture of twilight and fantasy could possibly create. His voice traveled into the forest that twinkled like stars in the midnight illuminated by the full moon as he spoke. “But you want to know more don’t you, Rogue?” Rogue’s smile stretched across his soft, fair angled face, emphasizing his chiseled chin. “I just want to know if there is any more beauty in Aviane.” It was hidden, but Great Beard’s smile was great, bold like a sunray shaded by a stained glass. There was great happiness in his voice as he spoke. One that reverberated through Rogue’s soul, shining the truth hidden deep within him. “Well go, Rogue, find yourself in Aviane. More importantly, find someone else searching.” He understood the Great Beard’s words, and with those words, Rogue stood up, tall, wrapped in long, skinny turquoise jeans, bright multicolored plaid shirt, violet shoes, hope, and the sunset with determined eyes facing the sky. “I’ll find her, Great Beard. I’ll find my purpose in this world.”A smirk found a place inside of that great beard as a deep voice travelled through those coarse brown curls. “I know you will, son. Just remember to smile when you find her and come back when you do.”“I will, Great Beard.” The sunset continued to shine on his fair skin as he smiled up at the grandeur above Nirvana. With a twinkle of hope in his eyes, he added, “And I’ll bring her to you,” and with that, his journey began. With a light touch, a dainty, fair hand colored into the empty white skies above Rogue a violet and deep orange, capturing the moment in which he took his own destiny, the owner of that dainty hand wishing she could do the same. “Ari!” Captivating blue-green eyes looked up at the stiff teacher in a dark grey power skirt and matching blazer accented with a deep red tie wrapped around her slight neck with a distant stare. Sarcasm slipped viciously from the shrill voice of the teacher as she reprimanded Ari. “Now as talented as you are, what did I say would have to happen if I caught you doing your artwork in my class again?” Ari sighed and placed an exotic face with a creamy complexion, starry eyes, and pouty pink lips into the palm of her pale hand. “That’d I would have to go to the office….” Her bored tone was not lost on her teacher’s pointy exposed ears as she adjusted the red framed glasses on her slightly aged sagging face and answered with that same facetious tone of voice. “Exactly.” Shaking her head, Ari stood up, the male population of her class, all dressed in either ripped jeans and camoflauge shirts or polos with collars up, Aeropostle jeans, and Clarks, watched the slight curves Ari owned gather all of her belongings into her large black and grey satchel, and with long strides, she walked toward the door, but before she could make her exit, her teacher stopped her with one last added statement of smug intention. “And Ari….” Ari turned slight, her light bluish green eyes finding comfort in the corner of her eyes, looking past her long, wavy dark brown hair with sea blue and forest green highlights, past the teachers red framed eyeglasses, and into her dark brown eyes. “When you get back from the office, whether it be today or tomorrow, please keep the art supplies in your bag please.” With a slight chuckle, Ari retorted, “Now Mrs. Neve, you know the next time I step into your class, the only angles I’ll be drawing will be outlined with rivers and stars.” “Well maybe you should find a new geometry teacher who will appreciate your artistry because I certainly will not tolerate it….” The agitation in Mrs. Neve’s voice tickled Ari as she continued to chuckle in her own rebellion. “If every math teacher is like you in MHS, then I doubt there is a such thing as an understanding math teacher.’ Mrs. Neve smiled wide at Ari’s defeated feeling and decided to use that to her advantage to end the rebellious conversation. “You’re probably right. Goodbye.” But Ari just shrugged, face content and growing more so with each step she took out of the classroom until she was out in the hallways. She strolled through the dimly lit hallways with rusted beige lockers lined up on both sides with a content smile on her face and closed eyes feeling as though she could pirouette across the linoleum green and off white tiles, feeling as though she were free. Ari knew she was going to be suspended and figured there was no point in going to the principal’s office, so she decided to take a seat that leaned against a locker that had half of its paint chipped off by time, looking as though it were eroded naturally by the tides of time. She found peace in that spot, so she pulled out her sketchbook, wondering if she should finish applying the sunset to Rogue’s portrait, before another image filled her mind. One of stars, smiles, and exploration as she saw Rogue standing on top of adobe clay buildings, his violet sneakers standing upon blue tiles overlooking an enchanted city. And thus, her inspiration was born. Rogue stood on top of a building that looked as though it were erected the evening before, looking up at the stars with a great exuberance shining in his grey blue eyes. He had thought in his mind that he would never again see beauty that rivaled Nirvana’s skyline. How wrong he was as he stared up into the stars of the Highest Plane feeling as though he could weave his long fingers through the hairs of a nonexistent cloud and pluck raindrops with the touch of his fingertips. But as he heard a melody of the sweetest kind waft into his ears, he knew he was not finished experiencing beauty. Not just yet. He turned his head in the direction of the sweet melody with a smile already attached to his gentle and introspective visage and found a beauty whom was undeserved by the sky above him and the earth below him dancing with the gentle breeze serving as her guide and the sweet melody serving as her own inspiration. Her movements were melodic, a slight mist of the kindest blues forming around her golden brown skin, celestial forms becoming around her perfect curves wrapped in dancer’s tights and ruffled yellow socks around her developed calve muscles, and in that instant, watching her light brown and black kinky hair flail behind her movements, Rogue knew exactly what Cupid’s daughter would have looked like. Rogue knew exactly what love felt like. When the song ended, his curiosity had reached heights he himself never thought he’d be able to explore. He swore he heard the small pebbles his violet sneakers danced around speak to him. He swore he thought he heard the wind beckon him forth, and he felt as though he had no choice but to get close enough to see whether the blue mist forming around her body was tangible. Reaching out, he found the mist to be a mirage, but the goddess in front of him, not. She jumped at the slightest touch of his soft fingertips, nearly screaming until her dark brown eyes laid on his perfectly chiseled facial features, the smile hidden by surprise as he held his hands up defensively, quickly adding, “I didn’t mean to scare you, I simply had to see if that aura around you was real.” She took a couple of steps back and examined the tall boy of such a graciousness that she couldn’t help but be intrigued, and although she said nothing, her pounty lips and calm demeanor said volumes than words could ever fathom. Her body language spoke the language of interest. “What is your name,” he asked, the constellation filled sky serving as a backdrop to his wonder. She smiled a hesitant smile, not fully wanting to expose the desire she had for him. Not just yet. But she answered with statuesque face made for flirtation and seduction, tongue gently grazing the back of perfect teeth. “Storm….” Her hand found a place underneath her gentle pointed chin and with a coy shine in her eyes, she asked, “What’s yours?” His answer was quick, much quicker than he would have intended, but then again, he never intended on finding love so quick after his journey away from Nirvana. “Rogue.” He looked away for a second, wanting to tell her the truth, that desire illuminate by the purple moonlight shining down upon them. But there was a fear, a fear that she may not understand his brash. Understand his honesty, but the thought of her feeling the same way was overpowering as his honest nature gleamed inside of his blue eyes, the purest blue his eyes had ever known as the sight of her chased away the grey clouds that once occupied around his pupils. “Storm, would it be weird if I told you that I think I am in love with you already?” Storm shook her head slow as her dark eyes never left the sight of his Hawaiian clear blues, softly whispering, “Not if I feel the same way.” Rogue smiled wide and genuine as he slowly took her hand into his and said, “Can I know more about you?” She tugged his hand, telling him to follow her lead and that he did as his eyes surveyed every inch of her stride. Her footsteps led him to a place where he could sit comfortably. Rogue thought she was going to take a seat in front of him, but when she leaned forward, her plump lips found his and his soul gravitated into hers. She had full control of him now and he knew it, but furthermore, he had liked it, no, he had loved it, relishing her whispers as she said with a slight provocative nature, “Just watch and I’ll show you everything you need to know.” Under a trance that was truly unbreakable, he did just that, his eyes glued to her stride once again as she took her place in the spotlight of the light purple moonrays, shining under the jealous light of the moon. With a snap of her fingers, the small, yellow boombox just outside of the spotlight began to play soft music that had never graced his ears, but he was falling in love with the music just fast as he was falling for her. Watching her movements was like the coming of the sun in Nirvana, a place where he planned on taking her quickly. He stood up and walked slow toward as she continued to flow along with the wind and the melody, until his steps matched hers and their dance became the tango of two lovers, his whisper only enticing more as said, “I want to take you somewhere beautiful. Would you like to go?” She wined against his body close, pulling his face even closer as a gentle touch caressed his slight cleft chin just before her lips found his once again. Those same lips whispering back, “Anywhere you want to go.” As Ari finished her sketch, she gasped out how beautifully it turned out, carefully examining every star that stirred in the violet and blue sky high above Rogue’s blonde and brown styled hair. She couldn’t help but smile, proud of her work, her personal “fuck you” to Mrs. Neve. As her heart felt as though it was going to burst with pride, she heard the sweetest melody floating through the empty hallways. Ari found herself swaying her head like the head of a palm tree in a calm Hawaiian breeze, and as though drawn in by a siren’s voice, Ari melodically placed all of her art supplies into her satchel and got up, walking toward the music room in a trance. The closer she came to the glass panel inside of the wooden door, the more the voice from inside of the room enticed her, making her place her face against the cool distorted glass listening to the sound of the songbird from inside blend gracefully with the plucks of the acoustic guitar and the strikes of the piano keys, giving birth to a song never heard. Lovely birdy, can you fly without your wingsThe air beneath your feet giving birth to your freedomLovely humming, without your voice you singSo beautifully even when not in season Ari’s ear moved closer and closer to the sounds until the entirety of her body leaned against the door, her whole body receiving a kind of high that could only come from drugs deemed experimental as she continued to listen to the duo perform a secret song until she fell through the door clumsily, barely catching herself just in time to see Papa Yolo, an older gentleman with long wavy brown hair that fell just beneath the perfect blend of aged and youthful jaw line, staring at Ari with a perplexed glare hidden behind thick bifocals, staring at her with an extremely short but beautiful girl with long lightly waved blonde hair girl with curves that belonged to Marilyn Monroe stared with Papa Yolo’s same perplexed expression with minute brown eyes lowered in confusion. Ari stood erect and lightly smiled. With a playful voice, Ari asked, “Did I interrupt something?” Papa Yolo shook his head, making Ari smile in seeing the older attractive with a face filled with a wisdom of life already experienced. He just smiled, looking into Ari’s pointy animated smile as he strolled lightly toward the bombshell, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and answering in a serious tone, “Ari. It’s lunchtime, the office has been calling you for about an hour, what have you been doing?” Ari rolled her eyes, thinking to herself, “Lazy bastards couldn’t have been looking that hard. I was just out in the hallway. They act like I ran away or something.” She shook her head and clutched her satchel close to her almost as though she were trying to feign kind of false shame. Then her head tilted up with a question apparent on her crème smoothed visage. Softly, she asked, “Papa Yolo, who was that singing earlier?” He beamed with a pride that could only come from hearing the compliments directed toward a daughter. Papa Yolo looked down upon the young blonde woman with content eyes and softly said, “Why that would be my pride and joy. The Little Yolo.” Little Yolo walked a couple of steps forward and extended her hand in greeting and with a sultry voice, introduced herself. “Hi, I’m Ashley….” But Ari backed away with her head lowered, her right hand clutching her elbow as though she were hugging herself. Looking away toward the set up drums to her left, her whisper wafted off of her pouty lips with cheeks blushed from embarrassment, humbled in the presence of someone who she felt was truly talented. “I’m sorry, Ashley…” Her sea blue green eyes slowly found their rightful place in front of her, taking in the young woman in blue shorts with white stripes and a grey shirt with her school name plastered on the bust of her shirt. Papa Yolo smiled in a teasing manner, caught aback by Ari’s shy presence. “This is a new side of you, Ari. I’ve never seen you this shy.” “It’s just, I’ve never met someone that talented before.” Ashley smiled, blushing, not really knowing how to take the compliment. Before she could say anything else, Ari quickly asked, “Are you somebody I should know about? Are you a famous singer?” Ashley and her father laughed lightly as his long, muscular arm found its way around her shoulder. Proud yet playful, he asked, “She is quite talented, isn’t she?” She continued to shake her head in a humbling moment. “No, no, no, sweetie, I’m just a college athlete. No red carpets for me,” she said holding her hand flat in front of her, dismissing the idea of superstardom, designer dresses, paparazzi, and movie star boyfriends, smiling for a camera that may not be there. Confusion set in Ari’s expression, at first thinking that Ashley had been deceiving her. “No one with that much talent could possibly want to deny it, can they?” Ari continued to look at Ashley skeptically, feeling as though she were staring at a goddess denying her right to enter Heaven. “Why not,” she asked, excited to hear the answer to that question. Ashley just smiled, “Just thinking realistically. There’s probably a million girls with that same dream with just as much talent if not more. I’d rather be different….” “By hiding your talent,” Ari continued her inquiry, slowly growing angrier and angrier at the thought of wasted potential. “How could someone with that much talent have a negative attitude to a God given talent? Is this the kind of world we’re living in? Where people would rather hide and fade away in obscurity rather than answer their calling?” As if reading her mind, Papa Yolo answered the question directed toward his daughter. “She’s not hiding her talent, Ari. She is simply exercising her other talents by going to school. She is one of the leading scorers on her soccer team and gets straight A’s and with her major, not an easy accomplishment, my friend.” Ari still looked perplexed as she stared at the superstar in disguise. “It’s not that I don’t love singing, it’s just that I don’t think I could sing and be that famous for the rest of my life. Having people talk about you, make fun of you, follow you everywhere you go. I don’t see that as the life for me. I’d rather just own my own business and just live a comfortable happy life.” That really threw Ari for a loop. The thought of being happy in a comfortable life with a husband and two kids never really appealed to her, and she never understood how anyone else could think this way. Papa Yolo turned toward his much shorter daughter and smiled with his hand relaxed out in front of him. “You see Ashley, Ari here is a very talented artist herself….” “Really,” Ashley asked, a sudden burst of curiosity spilling from the cups of her brown eyes. She looked up at her father as he nodded his head and they both smiled at one another. “So as you can see by her expression, hearing someone not pursue their natural gift is a little appalling in her mind….” “Sorry,” Ari said, not realizing her expression made her lack of understanding that obvious. “Can I ask you something, Papa Yolo?” They both looked in Ari’s direction with a readiness to hear her query. “Would you support her if she had wanted to be a singer?”Papa Yolo smiled wide and Ari thought she had her answer right there, but his next statement caught her by complete and utter surprise. “If she wanted to be on X Factor or one of those shows, me and her mother would be at as many performances as we could make it to, just like we would watch her younger sister kick but on the soccer field. It’s not about our dreams, only about hers. That’s what parents do.”Ari couldn’t help but smile at the answer. Papa Yolo always did have a way a painting a perfect picture of what a father is supposed to be like, a family perfected through time and love. Then an image of her parents shrouded in darkness and neglect flashed in her mind as she turned away from the two happy humans, trying to hide her sadness but unable to disguise the pain in her voice. “I wish my parents were like you, Papa Yother.”That’s when Ashley interjected. “What are your parents are like?”Her eyes searched the dark recesses of her mind, remembering the little girl by herself, holding her sketchpad close to her chest with the papers soaking her tears while her parents were nothing but arguing shadows cast over her. With a whisper, Ari answered, “Preoccupied.”“Who cares,” Ari said, borderlining heartlessness while she shrugged her shoulders, “It’s not your parents, it’s about you. You can’t live in their shadow, can’t survive in their shadows.”Papa Yolo shook his head and laughed. “As my daughter so eloquently put it, nothing can survive in complete darkness.” Ari rubbed her elbow nervously as it felt like it was the first time Ari ever truly revealed the sensitivity of an artist and the reasoning behind it. And the darkness inside of her ached his heart, but he knew there was a reason why he was placed in this magic moment with his daughter and someone who was in need. “I’m always saying Carpe Diem….”Ari smile and quickly interrupted, “That’s why we call you YOLO.”He laughed lightly, “Right.” Ashley looked up at her father with a large smile on her face, proud of her father as every daughter should be. “Well, find your way with your own light as Ashley has found hers. Let no one stop your exploration of yourself and this world. Your masterpiece is waiting for you, but it won’t walk to you nor will it create itself. It’s out there for you, Ari, and I believe you know exactly where it is.” Papa Yolo tapped Ari on the tip of her pointy nose and added, “Don’t you?”Her head instantly raised, confidence beaming from her long smile as she answered, “Of course.”“Well then you know what to do now, don’t you?” She did and she would as her smile only seemed to get longer.She stood underneath Nirvana with tears streaming from her closed eyes and thick smoke reflecting the purples of its contents and the indigos of the sky above her with contemplative cheekbones and pouty pink lips sucking in more of the intoxicating smoke. Her ears perked at the sound of Rogue’s loud, happy cries for a familiar name, one that brought tears to her beautiful light hazel eyes. “Great Beard! Great Beard where are you!? I have someone here I want you to meet….” Those same hazels cut into slants of her slight eyes, watching Rogue come up the purplish tinted green hills of greenery with Storm’s hand inside of his own. Rogue stopped short in shock of the beauty in front of him, smiling at the slender crème beige woman who stood as though she bloomed from the blades underneath her feet, truly a worthy representation of Nirvana’s beauty. With his smile still beaming, curiosity came in the form of a excited voice when he asked, “What’s your name?”Her eyes held their suspicions of the two in front of her as she held in the thick smoke, hoping its euphoric effects would come quickly. The softness of her voice reflected the suspicions in her mind, answering with a sharp, uninterested tongue. “Love.”Love turned her head away from the couple, and Rogue sensing her noninterest, shrugged his shoulders and looked around curiously for the large, bearded figure he had left just a couple days ago. His eyes sparkled with happiness as his smile seemed to only extend further. Thinking the large man was hiding the purple and yellow leaved trees of brown bark, Rogue chuckled to himself, picturing the large eight-foot frame of three hundred pounds in a tribal dashiki playing hide and seek. “Great Beard! Great Beard!” Storm wrapped her golden brown slim arms around Rogue’s lanky sleeved arm, sensing something was amiss as Rogue continued to call out to his mentor. “Great Beard! Great Beard!”But as Love looked away, there was an undeniable sadness in her stare as a tear fell in the same direction as her gaze. With a great depression in her voice, she answered, “He won’t answer you….” Rogue looked at her as though he had just been insulted and continued to call out to Great Beard despite Love’s statement. “He can’t answer you, friend.”Quickly becoming annoyed by her presence, Rogue whipped his in Love’s direction and snapped, “And why is that,” Storm jumping at the sudden bass increase in his voice. But his eyes bulged when he noticed the waterfall of silent tears crawling on a quiet expression. It was at that moment that something was horribly wrong.“Because he’s dead…”The stillness of her voice haunted him as he wondered to himself, “How is that possible?” He pulled his arm out of Storm’s grasp and left her standing in the spot, watching as he strolled closer toward her with his fists clinched out of a rising anger. He cupped his hands around his mouth and began to cry out, “Great Beard! Great Beard,” unable to accept that such an influence had been deceased.Love shook her head, her wavy brown hair following her head movements. While wiping the tears from her eyes, the image of her clutching the grass in the crevices in her fingers as she watched Great Beard melt into Nirvana’s fertile soil caused her a pain she was unsure if her composure could contain, and the sight of Rogue screaming his name into the purple and indigo night sky made her tears that much more felt. She screamed, “You don’t get it! Great Beard has been corrupted….” A loud, booming explosion occurred behind the trio as a sense of danger filled every one of their hearts and each one of their stares as they watched conflagration of bright yellows and oranges and smoke. Throwing her hand rolled joint to the side, Love grabbed Rogue’s hand and tugged him in hopes make him follow her lead and screamed, “And we have to go!”His feet moved involuntarily, matching her pace as Storm simply stood and watched the explosions get closer and closer. While matching Love’s stride, Rogue turned around with an outstretched hand and screamed, “Stormmmmmmmmm!” But it was too late, and as the image of Storm being sucked in by those flames reflected in his light blue eyes, he was forced upon another adventure, one where he would never know the touch of love again. Only Love and pain.Ari moved with the grace of a preying cheetah, a gazelle’s stride unworthy of hers as she walked with a new fire burning in her heart, the same flame that burned between Love and Rogue. “So what is there now,” Rogue asked while Ari continued her stroll for the bland maroon double doors that separated her from freedom.Love looked at Rogue with the corner of her eyes, thinking the answer to be obvious as Ari pressed onward against the double doors, ignoring the shouts from the principal coming from behind her. “I thought that would be obvious,” Love said with a hint of sarcasm. The rays of midday sunlight burst into the hallways of the school and Ari stood in the middle, only her shadow visible in the intensity of the light that flowed all around her. “We find out who killed Great Beard, stop them from killing anybody else, and go our separate ways toward our own freedoms. Just like Great Beard would have wanted.” Rogue couldn’t deny that logic. Great Beard’s last words to him still echoed inside of his brain. “Go Rogue, find yourself in Aviane.”He nodded his head in agreement, making him promise to himself that he would find himself, and as Ari stood in the midst in that great burst of sun, she smiled slight to herself, promising herself the same as she took that first step toward her own freedom.
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