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The Artistic Madness // Basma Nasir

Our story is about two people, no not the cliché kind where the girl falls in love with the bad guy nor it is about love at first sight. The story starts with Hayden Irwin, an art history student, was the kind of guy that everybody could not help but love, the kind that you would find in a bookstore sitting on the floor in between shelves engrossed in novels. He was attending the history of literature class for the second time as he failed the one before, and truly no one hated history of literature as much as he did and if anyone would have told him that this class would become his favorite over the next few weeks, he would have taken them to the doctor himself. Then again we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves, let the story start from the beginning.

Hayden attended history of literature three times a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the old Delphi lecture hall and always sat at the furthest seat in the corner of the hall. The hall was huge with worn seats and wooden desks, the fragrance of sandalwood was ever-present and the jolly Professor Brown, whose enthusiasm took the toll of such a mind-numbing subject, smiled lightly at the students who walked in their eyes glued to their phones. Though he attended class, he took little pleasure in actually listening to what Professor Brown talked about instead he focused his energies on doodling, after all, what actual use would this class have for an art student, he thought.

On the day in question, Hayden was suffering through a tough day and the history of literature lecture was the last place he wanted to be. It had been twenty minutes since Professor Brown started the lecture, Hayden had enough of it, but leaving the class would result in another absentee marked. Hayden sighed as he could not[A1] afford another absentee if he wanted to pass the class. “Why do art majors even have to take literature”, he thought, and he put his head down on the desk, trying to sleep. Amidst a slightly sleepy perception a stroke of inspiration came, Hayden suddenly woke up and rummaged his bag for his art supplies, emptying the contents of his bag all over his desk and realized he forgot them in his studio. He shuffled the contents looking for at least a pen or pencil, so he could draw.
“Ugh why today of all days” he whispered looking around trying to think what he can do, “Hey can I borrow a pen?” he asked the guy sitting in front of him.

“Umm… sure” said the guy as he gave him a worn ballpoint.
Now that he had the pen he thought to make do with what he had and started drawing the scene for his latest assignment; a novel cover for some of the writing students, on the desk. Hayden’s sole focus was drawing, he blocked everything out as he drew a couple passionately staring at each other’s eyes as the wind blew and fire raged in the background. He drew a tall, muscular guy shirtless; the kind that girls would fawn over, with his arms around a beautiful willowy girl who looked at him like nothing else mattered. The bell rang as he finished the last details, he took out his phone as he took a picture to save it for drawing later, and to snap it to his best friend Alex.

Layla Keller was late for History of Literature class; she ran across the courtyard trying to make it on time. By the time she finally reached, the teacher had started his lecture as she sneaked to sit on a desk at the back. Being a writing student, this should have been one of her favorites but she thought it was an absolute waste of time. Layla yawned as she looked around, trying to think of a distraction to help her past time. She saw that the front seat students were hurriedly scribbling noting down everything that the professor said, that is when something on her desk caught her eye. It was a drawing, yes it was the same drawing Hayden was working on, but Layla did not know it yet. Layla started critiquing the drawing, making notes on how it could be more realistic.
The next time Hayden came to class and went to sit on that desk to start working on his assignment officially, he took out his supplies. Just as he started to draw, he noticed the notes written on the desk, looking at them he let out a little laugh. A comment read; “Why is his navel so far down? Surely it should be higher?”
What kind of geek would critique someone’s doodles? thought Hayden, he was taken aback but he decided to reply back. “Seen a lot of men’s belly buttons, have you?” He smirks at his reply and notes down the advice as he finds it useful, maybe it will help him with his class.

Layla came back to the lecture hall for her class, Weirdo she thought sitting there as she saw someone had replied to her critique. “Seen a lot of men’s belly buttons, have you?” it read, she let out a little snort. It seemed as if the artist was offended by her commentary, grinning she decided to reply to the seemingly sarcastic artist. “Probably more than you, judging by your drawing”

Hayden reached the class just as Professor Brown began his lecture, he sneaked back to his desk, to find another reply from the mystery person. The comment was offensive and had hurt his ego. He sat throughout the lecture with a frown on his face as he played with the chain he always wore, twirling it between his fingers. By the end of class, he decided he needed to let that person know how upset he actually was, “Piss off” he wrote as he stood up and left the class.
Layla came to class early for once as she saw another reply, this time the artist was highly offended by the latest comment and had replied childishly. “Mature,” she wrote rolling her eyes.
When Hayden came to his latest class in Delphi lecture theater, he saw that his desk had another note written in the stranger’s script “Mature” it read. Laughing the comment, he replied to the stranger.
Hayden came to class early, grinning because the notes from this mystery person made him want to suffer this class. Their conversation went to and fro for a couple of weeks, and the light cypress wood had turned black due to their conversation. A sudden concern rose in Hayden’s mind, how they will converse. He was getting used to this mysterious stranger and their replies dripping with sarcasm and wit. Rummaging his bag, he found a post-it noted and hurriedly scribbled his reply, stuck it under the desk and drew an arrow pointing to it.

Layla arrived the class early, she had been coming early in anticipation of that strange artist’s replies. She lazily smiled at everyone as she went to her seat, looking for a new reply. The desk was dark with ink, but no new reply was in sight, just an arrow at the edge of the desk. Slightly disappointed she sat down, looking ahead frowning lightly. A guy sitting in front of her tried to sneakily put gum under the desk when she realized it;
“Of course.” She muttered as she looked under the desk and found Hayden’s post it. Smiling she read his reply. She took out a green sticky note from her bag as she wrote a reply and stuck it at the same place.
Hayden strolled in the class and made a beeline to his desk. He quickly sat down and looked under the desk to find a bright green sticky note.

“This will get worse for the environment, text me.”, it read with a number underneath it. He let out a laugh, this was probably the first time since he started university that he got someone’s number without much effort. That mysterious stranger who went by the name Layla texted him infrequently, it was always in intense short bursts. Hayden assumed, she texted him whenever she was free like in-between classes or maybe when she attended lectures. His best friend joked about how he kept reading too much into the situation and Hayden would brush him off saying he was just a bit curious.

Texting Hayden “the Artist” had become a routine for Layla, she would text him whenever she got the chance whether it be during her lectures or when she walked to class. She spent the majority of the time engulfed in her phone mostly texting Hayden. One such day she was walking to her writing class as she replied to his latest text and she walked straight into someone else, he was a lanky six-foot guy on his phone.
“Oh crap” she cursed and started staring at him, wow he’s gorgeous, she thought. Layla had dropped her phone, and the guy bent down to pick it up and was now seemingly staring at a screen. Layla was too focused on the guy’s sharp cheekbones, to notice the slight smirk on his face.
“I cannot help but notice who you are texting”, he says
Layla looks at him with confusion etched upon her face, trying to think of an answer but all of a sudden the guy starts giggling. He looks even cuter, thinks Layla staring at the tall guy giggling.
“You are texting me,” he says controlling the laughter in his voice as he straightens up and hands the phone back to Layla, “Too bad about that desk we destroyed, eh?”
“Wait, are you Hayden?” She asked as her train of thoughts halted.
“Yup. Hayden Irwin, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” he said, smiling as his dimples became even more prominent, putting out a hand to shake.
“Layla Keller, likewise,” she said shaking his hand as she grinned.
“So Layla do you have a class? Or are you just roaming around?” asked Hayden.
“Oh gods, I am actually late for my writing class, I have to go.” She said stuffing her phone, “I’ll text you later.”
“Of course, I’ll wait for your text milady,” he said faking a bow.
Layla gave a curtsy and waved as she hurriedly walked towards the building. She smiled as she walked into her writing class, they were getting their novel cover designs today.
“Yo Layla” Ashley; her best friend, waved her over.
“Hi y’all”, she said as sat on the floor with her friends, who were talking about their novels.
“Good Afternoon class,” Professor Hemmings said as the class began. At the end of the class the professor handed out the cover arts. When Layla received hers, she felt a mixture of emotions unsure of what to do she started laughing.
“What’s wrong?” asked Ashley grabbing the cover from Layla, “Oh my it’s so gorgeous, you bimbo why are laughing”
“He drew it, it’s his drawing,” she said between her laughs.
“Whose?” asked Ashely
Layla took a deep breath, calming herself down before answering, “Hayden, he drew that cover.”
“Hayden, that art guy” yelped Ashley, “Oh my gosh no way, you should thank him”
“I should have thanked him before class,” said Layla getting up.
“Before class-“started Ashley as realization dawned upon her, “Wait YOU MET HIM?”
“I ran into him,” said Layla rolling her eyes, “Literally.”
“Only you Keller” snorted Ashley dragging Layla towards the cafe, “You need to tell all the details.”
“There are no details Ash” laughed Layla.
“Was he hot?” she asked raising her eyebrows.
Smiling coyly Layla nodded her head, “Very hot.”
“See there you go, tell me how about him” mischievously grinned Ashley.

Later that day Layla called Hayden, “Hi Hayden”
“Hello Layla”
“Are you free?”
“I’m in my art studio, why’d you ask?”
“Can I come over? I have something to say.”
“Yeah sure, I’ll send you the address.”
“I’ll be there soon”
Layla was nervous as she reached his studio, she took a deep breath as she knocked. Suddenly Hayden opened the door smiling nervously.
“H-hi” he stuttered, “woah”
“Hello, woah?” she asked tilting her head
“It’s just that, oh my, you are even more beautiful than I realized” Hayden said smiled.
“Thank you” said Layla shyly.
“I’m sorry for making you stand outside, please come in” Hayden said quickly.
Layla entered his studio, it was an utter mixture of colors and drawings, and she followed Hayden to one corner where mismatched sofas and chairs were littered around a large coffee table. The coffee table itself had multiple mugs with tea stains, stacks of papers, pens and a notebook littered on it. Sitting there she could see the whole room, the walls were covered with drawings and paintings, in the center there was a table on which there were art supplies and drafts of drawings.
“So you wanted to talk?” asked Hayden sitting in front of her looking at her.
Layla looked at him, Hayden had dark brown curly hair, striking grey eyes with angular features and dimples that were full on display as he smiled at her.
“Well I had to ask you?” Layla started as she took out the novel cover, “It’s yours?”
Hayden smiled even wider, “It was your novel?”
“It was, this is so beautiful” she said pointing at cover.
“Come with me” he said taking her hand as he took her to the other room, turning on the lights. The room was covered with drawings, of the two people on the cover. Hayden had drawn multiple scenes from the novel.
“This is”, started Layla her eyes flickering across the drawings.
“I hope you didn’t mind it.” Hayden muttered hastily.
“Mind?”, she asked turning around to look at him.

“Yeah well, these drawings are kind of inspired by you.”, Hayden says waving an arm towards the drawing a wild look in his eyes.

“Err… I should probably head back, it’s late.”, Layla says, this is getting weirdly stalkerish, she thought.

“Why? It’s only 10.”, he states staring at her intensely.

“Well.”, she starts.

“Stay for tea or coffee”, he insists, “You can leave afterwards.”

“I can’t”, she says giving a small smile.

“Stay”, he said adamantly.

“Okay, just for tea then”, she agrees with a bad feeling in her gut.

“Come on in then.”, he walks back in.

Looking around one more time she walks in hurriedly as she goes to sit on sofa. “It’s just a doubt, you are overreacting”, she thinks, there is nothing to worry about. Hayden walks in with two mugs of steaming hot tea, as he places one in front of Layla and takes a seat sipping his own drink. She takes the mug and takes a sip, that tastes weird, she thinks, maybe he does not know how to make tea. Just to be polite Layla keeps on sipping the tea, an awkward silence keeps them company like a third person. A queasy feeling takes over Layla as the dizziness kicks, the mug slips out of her hand as she whispers, “what the-“

“Sorry”, he whispers, sweeping her hair off her forehead.

Layla blinks her eyes as she wakes up a bit disoriented, looking around at the unfamiliar surroundings. All the sudden, the event from last night come crashing back as she tries to get up and leave, but the ties on her hands make it impossible. The doorknob rattles as rays of light seep in the room followed by a shadow of a man.

“Oh, you are awake my muse.”, he says with a dimpled smile, moving towards her.

Layla starts scream on the top of her lungs as he lightly smiles and says, “No one can hear you.”

Tears start forming as she chokes, “wh- why are you doing this?”

“What do you mean why?”, he cocks his to the side as if thinking.

“What do you want?”, she sobs.

“I want you.”, he states.

“But why”, she starts.

“Because you are my muse”, he shrugs.

“You won’t let me go”, she pleads.

“You can’t go anywhere now”, he says.

“Why”, she whispers, as he hands her a newspaper, the headline reading University student killed and mutilated. She starts crying as she looks at him with red rimmed eyes with loathing.

“YOU ARE MAD”, she shouts.

“I am an Artist.”, he grins lightly as she stares at him with disbelief.

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