Watercolor Lover

Watercolor Lover

A Story by Aaron M. Anderson

Kathryn forms a special bond with her disabled friend. A retelling of "Kathryn" from her own perspective.


Watercolor Lover

Visiting Evan in the hospital wasn’t the hardest part. I wanted to be there.

Watching him lay comatose on that plain white bed was slowly killing me. Mostly, my thoughts were preoccupied with his good fortune that the car accident hadn’t claimed his life. And I guess I was lucky too, for having been his "special someone" for two months, going on three.

Even good luck can be deceiving.

After the wreck, I wondered if Evan and I would have been better off if we had never even met. Then I remembered that one Sunday at the beach and our first, awkward kiss, and my mind was made up. I wouldn’t give him up for anything.

I left my house at seven one morning, three days after the accident, and drove to the university hospital. When I peeked into Evan’s room in the I.C.U. ward, I wasn’t surprised to see his mom, Elaine, stretched out on the recliner. She was awake, and I wondered how much she had slept in the night.

Come on in, Kathryn,” she said softly.

Good morning, Ms. Wilkes,” I said, leaving the door cracked behind me.

Almost no light came through the ochre-tinted windows behind Elaine, but a lamp glowed on the tan wall above Evan’s head. Elaine’s eyes were slightly pink-tinted, and she wasn’t wearing makeup. It was the first time I ever saw her curly red hair disheveled and unpinned. She slid slowly out of the chair with noticeable attention to her bandaged right ankle.

What happened to your foot?” I asked quietly, as if I were afraid of waking Evan. Oh, God, if only it were that easy, I thought.

Not much"I fell on my ankle last night after you left. But…” I started to speak, horrified, but she raised her hand to quiet me. “It’s nothing! Don’t worry about me! They put me on a muscle relaxer.”

I spread my arms and we hugged. I noticed she had on her same jeans and shirt from the day before.

It’s good to see you, honey,” she said, swaying slightly from side to side. We stayed silent for a few, uncomfortable seconds. I was determined to appear optimistic and hopeful. Mostly, I was determined to be optimistic and hopeful.

Are these new?” I asked, pulling myself gently away and stepping over to a collection of get-well-soon cards. I took a deep breath, and the tension in my chest crumbled like a clump of soft dirt.

Some of them,” Elaine said. She hobbled over to a black suitcase sitting in the windowsill and pulled out a prescription pill bottle. I picked up the nearest card and stared past it. I didn’t feel like reading it; they all said the same thing, anyway.

I want to go to the chapel downstairs this morning,” Elaine said. “Then I think I’ll rent one of those power chairs and explore downtown a little.”

Are you sure you feel up to it?” I asked hesitantly.

Honey, I feel fine,” she said, but there was no familiar sparkle in her gray-green eyes.

After a few moments, she was gone. I reached into her suitcase and took out the green sketchpad I had packed the night before.

I spent much of the morning stretched out in Elaine’s chair, facing the window with the sketchpad in my lap. I felt more compelled than ever to finish drawing Evan and myself together on the beach. Our silhouettes and facial features were already inked out, though I was beginning to have second thoughts about Evan’s pose.

I was satisfied with his expression"there had been plenty of time to capture the serene look on his boyish face while he slept. His figure stood to the left of mine in the picture, and what bothered me the most was the placement of his right arm. It stuck out, away from his body a little, maybe as if he were clutching a surfboard. I almost started to pencil one in for him, but it just didn’t feel right. I didn’t even know if he had surfed before.

The picture looked truer to life without it.

My likeness stood to his right, looking up at his face with a passionate expression. Was it idolatry? I rolled the ink pen’s tip over the curve of her mouth. Across the room, Evan’s chest rose and fell.

I sighed and curled up in the smooth leather chair. Only the ocean colors were left for me to finish. I felt I had made enough progress to take a short nap.

I was looking up at the wall clock, which read twelve on the dot, when a young guy about my age stepped into the doorway. He was skinny, with a bronze complexion and black shoulder-length hair. His tired eyes were fixed on Evan, and I was sure he hadn’t noticed me yet. I sunk lower into my chair as he stepped toward the bed.

I knew for a fact I had never seen this guy before, neither at school nor in Evan’s neighborhood. He stood frowning down at Evan and clutching the metal bedrail so hard his knuckles turned white. After a minute or so, he turned his attention to the cards on the bedside table, picked one up and began to read. Cartoon characters decorated the front of it. He laughed softly.

Can’t bear to see you feeling bad,” he said aloud. “Get well soon, Evan.” He set the card back down and leaned over the bedrail.

I dunno if you can hear me, Evan…” he said. His voice cracked a little. “…But it’s me"Alonso. I just came to bother you a little"tell you how much I can’t stand you ignoring me the way you do.” He took a breath, ran his fingers over the cast on Evan’s arm, and mumbled some words in Spanish.

I tried to silently shift into a more comfortable position and realized, too late, that the chair had a creaking problem. Alonso looked up at me in surprise. I stretched clumsily and yawned, hoping he would fall for my play-acting.

Oh!” I said, staring wide-eyed at Alonso. “Good morning.”

Good… afternoon,” he said, blushing. “I… didn’t mean to wake you. I didn’t even see you there.”

Don’t apologize,” I said, taking the sketchpad from my lap and standing up. “I’m glad you came. Evan doesn’t usually get visitors.”

He doesn’t have many friends here, does he?” he said.

Not yet. You must be Alonso Rodriguez, from his old high school,” I said, setting my drawing pad on a bedside serving tray. A part of me wanted very badly for him to notice it.

That’s right,” said Alonso, holding out his hand. I shook it warmly. His grip was weak.

Evan’s told me everything about you,” I said. “I’m Kathryn Sandell; it’s great to finally meet you.” Alonso couldn’t take his eyes off of Evan.

How… how did it happen?”

I swallowed.

Wednesday night… he was on his way home from work, driving down Harriet Road"that’s just off the boulevard, and… they said he was speeding. His car went through a fence and hit a tree.”

The green Mazda?” Alonso asked. “He loved that car.”

My throat was dry, and I was beginning to feel off-balance. I wouldn’t have felt more nervous if I were asked to give a speech before a crowd of chemistry majors. I wasn’t sure why, either. It had been much easier for me to relate the details of the crash to Evan’s grandparents when Elaine was too shaken to speak.

Excuse me,” I said and left the room in a hurry.

I took my time at the water fountain down the hall. The whole floor was busy with nurses pushing carts of food trays into rooms and others pulling laundry bins out. Everything reeked of hand soap and rubbing alcohol. I walked back to the room, stepping lightly because of a tingly, half-asleep feeling in my left leg.

I stopped near the doorway, and looked just in time to see Alonso reach down and take hold of Evan’s hand. With a slow, worshipful pace, he bent lower, closer to his friend. Was he kissing him?

My heart did a somersault. I pulled myself back into the hallway and out of sight. Evan hadn’t told me everything about Alonso after all, had he?

Don’t be upset, Kathryn, just let it go.

I took another deep breath. Had I mentioned to Alonso that I was Evan’s girlfriend? Of two-soon-to-be-three months? I would make sure I slipped that bit into our next conversation. I spun around and almost ran straight into Alonso, who was coming out at the same time.

Oh, sorry!” we both broke into humorless smiles.

I uh… rode up here with my family,” Alonso said hoarsely. “They’re probably still driving around"there’s no place to park….”

He spoke every word as if it were an apology. It was really starting to bug me.

“…We’re driving up to vacation at Lake Michigan for a week or so,” he explained.

Oh!” I smiled pleasantly. “Sounds like fun. I’m sure Evan would be glad you came by on your way.”

Alonso dug through his coat pocket and pulling out a plain, folded white piece of paper. He handed it to me.

If Evan wakes up while I’m gone….” He nodded at the paper.

I’ll give it to him,” I said.

No cell phone,” he said glumly, sliding his hands into his pockets.

He took one more look into the room, then we said our goodbyes and how nice it was to have met, and he left.

I rubbed the thick, folded paper between my fingers.

For an instant I was convinced it was a sheet from my own sketchpad. Then I looked closely at it and sighed, realizing this was much heavier paper. Maybe even card stock.

A little bit of the writing inside was visible between the folds. Written in blue ink.

“’Scuse me, ma’am,” said a nurse, rolling a laundry bin past me and through the door. “It’ll be a few minutes,” she said. The door slid shut loudly.

I slid the note in my pocket, wishing I had gone inside for the sketchbook.

* * *

Evan opened his eyes around six that evening while I sat nearby in the window seat. I called out to the nurses in the hall, and they ushered me out of the room again.

How long will it be until he’s totally awake?” I asked a straggling nurse. She was on the phone, dialing the number of Evan’s doctor.

It could take several days, maybe as long as two weeks… I really can’t"” She lapsed into a hurried conversation with the doctor, and I strolled over to a waiting area. I sat with the sketchpad in hand, staring at our portrait. Evan smiled up at me from the black-and white beach, and it made me uncomfortable. I could think only of Alonso’s penitent expression. I tried to forget it, but it was etched in my mind for good.

Elaine and I continued to camp out in Evan’s room for the next few days. He would open his eyes for short periods of time, seemingly waking just to look up at us and then drift back into sleep. I spoke to him a lot when Elaine wasn’t in the room"I made up all kinds of stories about school and Lee’s rock band. I even told him a crazy story of how his friend Isaac had hooked up with a well-known pop singer. Elaine gave me a funny look and took me out of the room to remind me that Isaac was gay, and we laughed a bit about it in the hall.

It reminded me of Alonso's visit, and somehow my mood was spoiled for the rest of the evening.

But for the rest of the weekend, Elaine was content just looking at Evan and smiling, squeezing his hand every so often. She said he squeezed back Monday afternoon.

On Tuesday morning he looked up at me and said my name. He followed that with “got any food?”

Evan!” I shrieked. “You’re really awake!”

He looked around the room groggily.

God, I feel awful,” he said. “When was the last time I ate anything?”

I held my tongue. He hadn’t noticed the I.V. cords yet. Did he know he was in a hospital?

Can you get me something to eat, Kathryn?” he asked miserably, rubbing his eye with his healthy left arm.

Wait! I’ll go get the nurses,” I said, feeling a sensational rush of some long-neglected hormone. “And your mom, too!” I shouted over my shoulder. Just don’t fall asleep again, I prayed.

They moved him to the Neurology ward that afternoon. He became very talkative, and we filled him in on most of what we knew had happened during the week. We didn’t ask him much besides how he felt all the time. “Sleepy” and “it hurts” were all he would say. I constantly felt for Alonso’s letter in my pocket.

I dreamed most of the time,” Evan told me later that night when we sat facing each other in his new room. The view from the new windows wasn’t much"just a brick wall and a construction site around the corner.

What did you dream about?” I asked.

Love, mostly,” he said, and I smiled. I leaned in for a kiss and he raised his head to peck my cheek. I felt his eyelashes brush my face--that always used to make me tingle all over.

Evan, am I… the one you love?” I asked cautiously.

Yeah, I do,” he said without missing a beat. “I mean, you are. What do you mean?” I giggled and kissed him again, and he sighed over my shoulder. We shared a few bites of his shrimp and noodles.

Alonso actually came by here to visit you on Saturday.” I offered him a bottle of 7-Up.

He became very still and glanced out the window. “I wish I had been able to say something.” He took the drink from my hand. “I can’t wait to get out of here.”

It’ll be a little while,” I said, and then hated myself for being so negative. I wondered when Alonso was coming to visit again.

What did he say?” Evan offered me another bite of noodles.

He said he missed you a lot, and that he was going to see the Great Lakes for a while"on vacation with his family.” I still couldn’t bring myself to show him the letter, much less read it myself.

Did he leave a message?” Evan asked. “A phone number or anything?”

I blinked.

No, nothing like that.” I said.

Ms. Wilkes limped through the door, carrying her own brown bag of food. “Lord, those kids take forever! You would think the ‘fast food’ workers would get faster over time, no?” I smiled. Her sparkle was coming back.

Hey, Evan,” she said, beaming. “I’ve got all your favorite Asian foods here, if you’re hungry.”

Thanks. I already ate, but thank you for remembering.”

You’ll be hungry later tonight,” she said. “God knows, those nurses do take care of us! They told me they’d make room for any of our food in the staff refrigerator if we want them to.” She pulled her pill bottle out of the suitcase beside Evan’s bed. “It turns out they got a call from my orthopedic doctor today, and he’s already written me the refill prescription I requested"thank the Lord!”

Are you feeling better, mom?” Evan asked. Elaine swallowed her pill with a mouthful of 7-Up.

I know it looks horrible,” she said, massaging her ankle through the bandages. “It is feeling better today, though.”

We talked and laughed for a while about Elaine’s pain pills, the cold weather, and the blonde nurse who--Elaine was certain of it--kept hitting on Evan.

Around ten, Evan told us he was much too sleepy to go on socializing. Elaine kissed Evan goodnight, picked up her suitcase and stepped down the hall to gossip and to leave Evan’s leftovers with the nurses.

Are you staying?” Evan’s voice was weak.

Well, I have to go,” I said. “Your mom can’t drive herself home, and I’m not sleeping here with you.”

He sniffed. “Guess not.”

Well, sweet dreams,” I said, reaching to turn off the light.

The small lamp above his head, like the one he had in the ICU, gave his face an angelic glow. A single tear on his cheek became clearly visible.

What’s wrong?” I asked. Even after seeing him immobilized and dressed in a pale blue gown, I was not used to this sensitive side of Evan Wilkes.

He didn’t leave me a card? Anything?”

I wished I hadn’t tried any of the shrimp. It was making my stomach turn.

Who?” I asked, as if I didn't know.

Alonso,” he said. He stared at me expectantly.

I… maybe he did.” I stepped over to the table where Evan’s get-well cards were displayed. I pulled Alonso’s letter out of my pocket and pretended to pick it up from behind the card with the cartoon bears. “Here’s something!” I said with enthusiasm. “For sure it wasn’t there the other day. I can’t believe I wouldn't have noticed it.”

Evan reached for the note. Apparently, he couldn’t either. He didn’t look up at me again.

Well, goodnight Evan,” I said. My voice sounded too pleasant--too disgustingly sweet.

Night,” he said, leaning against his pillows and looking out the window. The folded note lay on his chest.

I picked up my sketchpad and left with Elaine.

* * *

The head doctor of Neurology called us around seven the next morning. Evan’s situation was critical. We left Evan’s house immediately and sped the whole way.

A nurse had discovered Elaine’s empty pill bottle while checking Evan’s vitals earlier that morning.

He was still breathing, she said, but would not respond to her attempts to wake him. There was a chance that he might not recover, they told us.

* * *

What happened?” Evan asked, his voice barely a whisper.

Why did you do it?” Kathryn asked.

Day twelve after the incident, and Kathryn couldn't yet keep the tears at bay.

D****t, Evan, why did you take those pills?”

He was positioned with a window view. A thunderstorm was brewing outside.

I heard you,” Evan replied.

What?” Kathryn said.

I heard you yesterday, and I heard you the day before. I just couldn't answer then. God, It feels so bad. You want to speak, blink, move your head to the side... and you can't.”

Why did you do it, Evan?” Kathryn said.

Does Mom know I'm awake?” he asked.

She and Alonso have been staying at your place. I called them thirty minutes ago.” I choked away some sobs and collected myself. “We love you, Evan. And... damn it you pulled some crazy s**t when you took those pills. Now why did you do it!?”

I brought my right fist down on an empty food tray. The noise it made made Evan flinch, and I wished I hadn't done it.

Why couldn't you just tell me, Evan?”

I don't know!” He cried. “D****t, I just...” He looked out the window. “I'm sorry. I've spent the last few days listening to what you and mom have said to each other, to me, to the nurses. It was painful.”

There was silence for a few moments.

Elaine and Alonso came through the door, and Elaine ran to her son, embracing him and crying.

I couldn't take any more. I was so drained. I pushed past Alonso, standing in the doorway and just sat in my familiar hall chair. I looked down at the drawing pad I had left there earlier. A few of the pages I'd had a week ago I threw away. Lately, I hadn't had time to draw. I sat down and texted my mother, telling her the usual drill. “won't be home til lunch, mom. Evan's stable. c u @ 2.”

Alonso came out and sat down beside me. The truth had come out shortly after Alonso arrived; he wasn't here with his family to see the Lakes. He had hitchhiked here from Texas and was crashing at a high school friend's place until Elaine took him in. At that point, I wasn't even sure his parents knew where he was. He didn't have a phone.

He's awake,” Alonso said. His eyes were baggy.

Yeah. He is.” Kathryn stared at Alonso. He smelled like he hadn't showered in a few days, and all his clothes were a size too big.

So, you're his boyfriend?”

There, I finally said the words aloud.

Yeah, I am,” he said. “Or, I was.” His eyes betrayed his emotions. He looked just as hurt and lost as I felt just then.

Oh God, why does this have to be so complicated?

Well,” I said, “I'm Evan's girlfriend.” Alonso just kept staring straight ahead.

What a hell of a way to come out, huh?” I said. “I just can't believe that our relationship... that these last few months... have been a lie.”

He does love you, if he said so,” Alonzo replied timidly. "He doesn't tell lies."

Oh!” I stomped off toward the water fountain. Coming from his secret gay boyfriend, how was I supposed to take that?

The more I thought of it, the more I wondered, had Evan and I ever established, in words, what kind of relationship we had?

On the other hand, what the hell kind of love leaves you in the dark about something so big, I thought.

Alonso followed. I turned, wondering who he thought he was. At this point, any reminder of him made me feel sick.

And then I stopped. There he was, holding my drawing pad. It was turned to a certain page. He held it out for me to see.

I cried on his shoulder for a while and found only comfort and warmth there.

* * *

You're going to have your own wheelchair soon,” I said, “but for now, the friendly folks at the Scooter Store have lent you their royal chariot.”

I waved toward the power chair with a flourish, and Evan rolled his eyes.

It's better than me having to push him around town,” Alonso said loudly, kicking the wheelchair. “You've been on your a*s for two months, and I think you've gained some weight. Just sayin'.” He laughed and jumped out of the way when Evan swatted at him.

God, it's good to be outside again,” Evan said. The three of us were at a street corner in downtown Platteville, Wisconsin, just about ready to head down and enjoy a cozy dinner.

Alonso picked Evan up and placed him gently in the scooter. “Nice ride” he said. He held onto Evan's left hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.

You two look great together,” I said. Stay just like that, and let me get a picture. I snapped a Polaroid and returned the camera to my bag. I paused and pulled out my drawing pad. I had finally finished the watercolor beach picture, and it was more beautiful than ever. It was the picture Alonso had discovered in the hospital a few weeks earlier, before most of our healing had taken place.

Do you have the ring?” I had reminded, more than asked, Alonso, just an hour before when we were preparing Evan's first outing since his hospitalization.

Got it,” he said. It was a beautiful silver engagement ring. “It was my dad's before he died.”

I'm sure he'd be proud of you, Alonso. I know I am.” We hugged in the dining room at Evan's house.

Thank you, Kathryn,” Alonso said. “You've been nothing but supportive of us--of Evan, especially.”

I just smiled. Moments later we had hit the road with Evan in tow.

There were things I wanted to say that night. Conflicting emotions raged within me, but the most prevalent of those was my love for Evan Wilkes and for all of who he was and for who he would become. 

I wanted to say, “I'm still your Kathryn. I'll always be here for you, Evan.”

I think he knows.

I'm proud of how my picture turned out. The watercolor finish is glossy and vibrant. Evan stands in the spot he always has, eyes sparkling, hair mussed by the ocean breeze.I love his smile.

Alonso stands in the once-empty spot to Evan's right, supporting Evan with his whole side. He and his soon-to-be-fiance stand close on the watercolor sand, gazing at something to the east--something very close to them, but fully hidden from those of us outside the picture.

© 2011 Aaron M. Anderson

Author's Note

Aaron M. Anderson

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Featured Review

So you're writing from a woman's perspective...cool! Very interesting story. It moves along at a nice, comfortable pace. The story's turn took me by surprise. I thought she was going to hold onto the letter longer and I was getting more and more pissed, lol. I'm really, really liking this.
You have a nice, polished writing style, clean grammar and spelling. Nice work!

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Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


you captivated me at the title and the story definitely did no disappoint. it was a perfect length, not too short but not too long either. I loved that you wrote from Kathryns point of view. kudos.

Posted 9 Years Ago

What a beautiful story. Thank you for a wonderful read! Love it.

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

So you're writing from a woman's perspective...cool! Very interesting story. It moves along at a nice, comfortable pace. The story's turn took me by surprise. I thought she was going to hold onto the letter longer and I was getting more and more pissed, lol. I'm really, really liking this.
You have a nice, polished writing style, clean grammar and spelling. Nice work!

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Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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3 Reviews
Shelved in 2 Libraries
Added on July 6, 2011
Last Updated on August 4, 2011
Tags: love, angst, gay, watercolor, teen


Aaron M. Anderson
Aaron M. Anderson

Raleigh, NC

I'm a young writer from North Carolina. I enjoy creating unique worlds for people to experience and enjoy through my stories and poems. Thank you for visiting my profile page. My favorite lyric.. more..