By Sarah Wilson
The first time I met Sawyer Sharpe I thought he was the strangest, most unnatural boy in the world.
I was seven and busy splattering a rainbow of paint onto my sheet of cardstock. He scrambled onto the stool next to me and told me I wasn’t doing it right.
“How am I supposed to do it?” I asked him as I unscrewed the cap on Green. It was not a good Green. The school had no good colors and the paint was only the cheap water-based kind from Walmart. The colors were basic: one shade of each of the primaries, one shade of each of the secondary colors. In my mind, those were not good enough. At home every color came in a thousand different shades. I could use Forest Green or Spring Green or Green-The-Color-Of-Frogs.
“You’re supposed to draw a picture,” Sawyer informed me. “And then color it in.” His hair stuck up in the back, and it was a soft sandy color. His eyes were Dark-Chocolate Brown. He had freckles. He was maddeningly superior sounding and I had always had problems with authority. I drew back my brush and flicked the only shade of Green into his mouth.
As he gagged and ran off to spit in the sink, I decided that he was Laurel Green.
The second time I met Sawyer Sharpe, I decided he was color blind.
I was ten and sprawled out on the grass behind the school. His head blocked the sun when he stood over me and circled his hair with a golden halo. “Why aren’t you on the playground with everybody else?” he said as I stared up at him.
“Because I’m not.” I told him. “I’m sky watching.”
He looked at me incredulously, as if I had suddenly turned Purple-People-Eater Purple and snapped my fangs at him. Silly boy. All of my teeth were perfectly smooth on the edges.
“Don’t you mean cloud watching?”
“No, I mean sky watching. Come here.” I reached up, wrapping paint-stained fingers around his skinny wrist, and pulled him onto the ground next to me. “I’ll show you.” His leg and shoulder were pressed against mine. He smelled like detergent and soap and things too clean to be healthy. I laced our hands together and let them rest on the grass between us.
“See how blue the sky is? It’s called Cornflower Blue. They used to make calico dresses with Cornflower Blue patterns on them a long time ago. It feels like endlessness and freedom and summer, doesn’t it?” I smoothed my fingers through the air like I could touch the sky. It would feel soft and satiny.
“Colors don’t have feelings,” Sawyer Sharpe told me. “And the sky is blue.”
“The sky is Cornflower Blue. And everything feels like a color.” I told him. “School is Washed-Out Yellow.” Washed out yellow like a very light color of paint that’s been ignored for so long it becomes faded and sickly.
“No, school is school. What’s yellow about it?”
“The feeling. It just feels yellow. Are you color blind?” When I was little I would press my thumb to my lips and squeeze my eyes shut tight, because a world without color was just as bad as seeing nothing at all.
“No!” Sawyer said, sitting up. “I am not color blind.” Somehow without me noticing his hand had stopped being held in mine. Mine felt empty now, as if the smudges of Nighttime Black and Orchid Pink were no longer enough to fill it. It made me think of Sorrow Grey—the dark slate color of the sky before a tornado.
I leaned forward, resting my elbows on my knees and my fingers digging into the earth. Electricity crackled inside of me, along my skin and through my hair, turning Atomic Tangerine Orange, the color of excitement. I was so close to Sawyer I could count the flecks of Hazel Green in his eyes. “Prove it,” I said so softly only he could hear me.
I tilted my head back to see the Cornflower Blue sky. When I looked back, Sawyer Sharpe was running back to the playground as fast as he could. I watched him run away and decided that he felt Bittersweet Orange.
The third time I met Sawyer Sharpe he found something I didn’t know the color for.
Spring came late that year. In April the ground was still cold and hard, the trees leafless and bony. I was sitting on the front steps of the middle school, carefully drawing flowers on the rough stone in Tamarisk Pink. They spiraled out from the side, crawling over onto the top step. They were insatiable and untamable and I loved them.
Sawyer Sharpe sat next down next to me.
One of the flowers curled toward him, its stem bending over in a bow against his leg. He flinched away from the chalk. “Why don’t you care?” he asked me.
“About what?” I said. I did not have time for possibly color blind boys. My Tamarisk Pink flowers had to be there when everyone came in for school in an hour. I had to be done by then.
“About Tad and Diana. They’re horrible to you and you don’t even care. How can you not care?” There was no sound but the scrape of my chalk against the steps. No sound except for my flowers slowly coming to life, line by Tamarisk Pink line. I liked it. There was no better sound in the world.
“I don’t have to care. They’re just bullies.” I told him. He was caught in my web of chalked shapes now, tangled and bound and he could not run away from me this time. “They’re stupid.”
“But you’ve got to care, just a little bit, don’t you? Is there a secret to not caring?” His voice was rough. I drew slender leaves with veins like branches as thin as a strand of hair.
“Damnit, Thalia, don’t lie to me!” Sawyer’s anger was Metallic Gold, but fractured and cracked on the surface. I didn’t know what the color beneath was yet. I flinched back from him, scraping a crooked line through my flowers. I turned it into a jagged fissure and smudged the chalk inside of it into hazy dust.
I didn’t say a thing, because I was lying to him. I did care, a whole lot. But sometimes it was easier to pretend I didn’t.
My silence said more then a thousand words could. He reached for my wrist, ripped the chalk out of my hand. His eyes were Crow Black now, darkened with something that looked like fear and rage and desperation all at once. He threw my brand new Tamarisk Pink piece of chalk onto the sidewalk. It made a noise like glass, tinkling and dull, just before it shattered into hundreds of pieces.
I hated Sawyer Sharpe so much I was choking on it.
His eyes were wide and shocked as I shoved him back. My hands curled into his hair and I yanked it. We were wiping away my flowers, smearing the dusty chalk that had brought them into being. It did not matter. They were already dead.
In the end, I was the one that ran away. There were tears in my chest, rolling down my cheeks and tasting salty on my tongue. There was Tamarisk Pink on my hands, my clothes, streaked across on my face. I ran until the Cornflower Blue sky whispered promises of endlessness and freedom to me. I ran until my head was so full of Fire Brick Red, the color of running, that I forgot there was no color for hate.
The fourth time I met Sawyer Sharpe he asked for forgiveness.
We were fifteen and it was that very beginning of fall that you could almost trick yourself into believing was still summer.
I was drawing on my skin with a Nighttime Black Sharpie, vines and roses that wound around my arm and up under the sleeve of my t-shirt. It was Sunday. I loved Sundays, when the comics were better in the newspaper and sometimes my brother drove me to art shows in the city. When my arms were full of ink I drew on my sneakers, coiling fanged snakes over the toe.
When they were covered I drew Artemis, goddess of wild things, and a boy with tattered bat wings on Sawyer Sharpe’s arm.
He did not run away, so I gave the boy devil horns and a piece of brand new Tamarisk Pink chalk.
He did not run away. Now there was a girl crying tears that drown the whole world and ripped it apart at the seams.
Sawyer Sharpe did not run away, so I wrote my name on his Snow White shirt, right over his heart.
“Are you done?” he asked me.
“No,” I said, even though I was. “What do you want?” Sawyer held out his hand. Reluctantly, I placed the Nighttime Black Sharpie in his palm. He drew on the side of the fountain. He drew two children lying in the grass, a little girl’s face bright and intense. He drew flowers with a fissure running through them and something broken on the sidewalk. He drew sorrow and fear and hope and love. He drew things of every color in Nighttime Black Sharpie on white stone.
“What are you trying to prove, Sawyer Shape?” I asked him. I swung my legs, stopping them short before my heels bumped the fountain.
“That I’m not color blind.” He said. He sat in the dirt and looked up at me, girl of the fountain, covered in chains she drew for herself. He was beautiful, and he saw the world for what it was.
When I leaned down and kissed him he tasted like Laurel Green and Bittersweet Orange and the Cornflower Blue sky.
The fourth time I met Sawyer Sharpe, I saw him for the very first time.
Sarah Wilson is an (almost) ninth grader at the Derryfield School. She fell in love with stories at a young age, and when she couldn’t find books that told the stories she wanted to read she decided to write them. She participates in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. In her free time she likes musical theater, reading and preparing for the zombie apocalypse.