The best thing about blogging and participating in online communities is all of the wonderful, interesting people you're able to meet.
I recently informed a friend of mine from Flickr, whose name is Vanilla, that I had an idea for a story and would like him to illustrate it. He agreed, and the collaboration began.
I am posting Part I of that story here now. Part II has already been written, and once it is illustrated I will post it as well.
A link on Vanilla's photostream directs his viewers, who have been following the series, to my blog. I hope that new visitors and regular readers alike enjoy Captain Vanilla and the Great Adventure.
Early afternoon sunlight poured in through the classroom windows, illuminating the copper hair of a young female instructor who stared with an anxious look at an orange-haired boy.
"Vanilla, I think you should stay."
He paused, then looked toward the door, from which he could hear the echoes of laughter as the other students left for the end of the semester.
He turned back to his professor.
"No, I don't think so," he replied, brushing a long lock away from his freckled face. "I don't think I can."
"Vanilla," she said, her brown eyes looking into his bright green ones. "I know it's been hard. I know it's been difficult. But the first year is trying for many people."
The boy turned away and did not answer.
His professor had worried about him all this year, concerned for the quiet student who spoke little and seemed to drift into a different world from the others.Often, during tests or while giving lecture, she'd circled the room to find him doodling in the margins of his notebook, fantastic images of flying ships and huge lizard birds.
For all his brightness, though, she sensed in him a loneliness she didn't know how to alleviate. It was improper at the university level for her to inquire into her pupils' personal lives, but still, she wondered.
"I miss my family," he said finally. His eyes moved to the floor as he said it. "And my friends, from before. This place is not for me. It doesn't make me happy."
"But Vanilla, what will you do outside of here?" she asked. "You're an intelligent young man, someone I know could go far. You're nineteen years old. Where else would you be?"
"Anywhere," he answered immediately, his pretty face turning into a sad smile. "I'm sorry, Professor. I have to go now."
He swung his green backpack over his shoulder and hurried from the room, leaving her standing alone, as worried as before.
He dashed through the gardens outside, fighting the urge to cry.
"Vani!" a girl's voice called.
He turned around to see Stacy, a smiling brunette from his music class.
"Where are you going?" she asked.
"Home," he said, and ran off.
During the bus ride back to his apartment, he stared out the window.
Paris was such a beautiful city in the summertime.
When he arrived home, he sat at the kitchen table munching on a candy cane.
The apartment was his alone, a luxurious, wood-paneled affair complete with a chef who came every other day, a gift from wealthy parents.
The sun dipped lower beneath the horizon as he ate and read, until one moment he looked up and the slihouettes of the city's tallest buildings were laid out on his living room floor.
He called his sister, who was studying far away, and reached her voice mail.
"Hey, sis," he whispered into the receiver. He wasn't sure what he wanted to say or why he wanted to talk to her. "I miss you. Call me."
After the sky had darkened to black, he turned on the shower. He'd meant to get in and out, wash his hair and be done with it, but the shower was his thinking spot, where he went when something was bothering him, and subconsciously he'd been drawn there that night.
Why was he like this?
It was something he wondered often.
He'd just made a major life decision, the decision to drop out of college after one year, and he didn't even know why. Was it something to do with everyone else, the way their interests seemed to diverge from his so sharply, the way they spent all of their free time in nightclubs when all he longed for was a field filled with daisies?
Was it that his chosen field, architecture, didn't really inspire him but that he didn't know how to quantify what did?
How do you tell the world that the things you love the most are blue skies and bright flowers, and chocolates and sugar cubes and warm blankets on cold days?
What did any of that mean?
He got out of the shower and pulled on some underwear.
Before he went to bed, he wiped the fog off of the bathroom mirror and stared at himself in the glass. Who was he, anyway? Who was this person with tiny shoulders and long orange hair and a smooth face that had never known a razor? It was almost like he'd been trapped in a child's body, never to grow up.
It would have bothered him if it weren't such a lovely thought.
As he walked into his room, he stared at the stuffed pink rabbit that sat on his dresser.
"What are we going to do now, Lapin?" he asked.
The bunny didn't answer.
He climbed into bed and fell asleep straightaway.
His dreams were always magical, but that night they were truly marvelous.
He was flying upward through a green sky, passing through fluffy clouds that were so realistic he could feel the cool moisture coming off of them. Next to him, soaring in the air, was a black-haired boy about his own age who waved over at him.
The boy yelled something, but Vanilla couldn't make out what it was.
"I can't hear you!" he shouted back.
The boy cupped his hand to his ear and shrugged. For some reason, it made both of them laugh.
Vanilla's head smacked against something hard, and his vision went black.
He was in bed again, his sleep disturbed by the sounds of morning. Birds chirped in the gray predawn light, and tree branches blew back and forth in the wind. The noises were oddly loud, though. Had he left a window open before turning in?
Without warning, a draft of freezing water doused his face, waking him as he gasped and sputtered.
He jumped out of bed, and his bare foot came down on a wet wooden board.