I’m at uni the next day sitting outside on a garden wall when Chloe comes up to me.
“Hey.” She says.
“Hey.” I stop drawing and look up at her.
“I didn’t get to tell you last night but you are an excellent painter.” She’s smiling.
“Thanks man. No school today?”
“So you’re coming here next year?”
“Hope so. RMIT has a really good photography course.” Her camera is around her neck. She must take it to school with her.
“What do you like taking photos of?”
“Everything and anything. Anything that looks good. Anything that gives people chills.”
“I get it. Totally get it.” I smile.
“Yeah. You do. Well I just wanted to say you’re talented. You have real talent. Don’t waste it.” She smiles and walks off.
I think about what she has said. Don’t waste it. Isn’t that exactly what I’m going to do? Waste it? To become a scientist. To formulate Proxy. What’s more important?
“Hey babe.” Rosie kisses me and sits down beside me.
“Whatchu doing?” She’s running her fingers through my hair.
“Nothing. Just thinking.”
“Painting. How I’m gonna have to give it all up. I don’t really want to.”
“Mmm, me either.”
“I don’t even like science. Not even remotely interested in it.”
“What should we do?”
“Tell Mr Spoon. Tell him to find some other students. Wouldn’t it make more sense if he got science students to help him?”
“It would make more sense.”
“Let’s go see him now then, and say we don’t wanna do it.”
“Ok. Let’s go now.” We grab our bags off the ground and start walking to Mr Spoon’s office.
“What do you mean you have changed your mind? You can’t change your minds. You have signed contracts.” Mr Spoon is furious.
“We are painters not scientists. You should get science students to help you. People who are actually interested in the field.” I say.
“Should I now?” Mr Spoon bangs his short chubby fist down onto his desk.
“Yeah. So rip up those contracts. Count us out.” I say preparing to leave.
“I can sue you. Both of you. You know that don’t you?” Mr Spoon is furious.
“How? Who is going to believe some short-assed man with crazy ideas about time travel?” I’m getting angry now.
“How dare you insult me? I’m an expert. I’m a man of science. I’m a reputable and respectable man of society.” Mr Spoon is shouting and going red in the face.
“If you’re all of that, then you’ll find it very easy getting someone else to help you. Come on Rose. Let’s go.” I say, and we walk out completely pissed off. I’m wishing his office door wasn’t so bloody heavy so that I could slam it closed.
“We did say we would help him. We did sign those contracts. You can’t blame him for being angry at us.” Rosie says, once we are outside of his office.
“I know. But we are allowed to change our minds.” I say.
“He will die from Lobadantriosis.”
“He’s at a good age. It probably is just dementia. Do we really know him all that well? No. We don’t.”
“What about the Gyliptin Sleep? We didn’t imagine that babe. I really was thirty-eight.”
“So was I. But how do we know we actually went to the future? He could have just put something in our drips to make us hallucinate in our sleep and make us think we were older and seeing the future.” I say.
“I never thought of it like that. You’re right. They could have done anything to us in our sleep and we wouldn’t even know. God. We shouldn’t have agreed to this.” Rosie is becoming annoyed.
“Forget it. Forget all of it. It’s a load of shit. You’re right.” I say, sitting down in Hungry Jacks. Rosie goes to the counter for us. I find my beanie and put it on. She comes back to where I’m sitting with a Whopper meal for me and a Whopper Junior meal for herself. I unwrap my burger and start stuffing my face. She’s dipping her chips into come ketchup.
A year and six months later, Rosie and I are graduating from our fine arts degrees, she with a high distinction and me with a distinction. Our parents have been sitting beside eachother in the rows of seating at The Melbourne Exhibition Building. We are outside taking photos in our robes and caps holding our degrees. Our parents are so proud of us. And Rosie looks smoking hot. She always does. She’s wearing killer black strappy heels too that make her long legs longer again. We take off our robes and caps and hand them back to a girl called Marina who is collecting them. I see what Rosie is wearing. It’s a short plain black dress with no straps. Her tattoos are visible on her thighs, and she seriously is the epitome of sexy. Our parents all want us to go out to lunch together so we follow them to the carpark and drive to Lygon Street where cafes and restaurants are plenty. Restaurant owners stand at the front of their restaurants asking us if we’d like to be seated, and it annoys all of us until dad finally gives in and decides we will eat at Copperfield. A waitress comes over with some delicious-looking menus and whilst we sit down, we order two bottles of red wine, and she returns shortly afterward holding six wine glasses. Dad opens one bottle and pours Roger and Mary, Rosie’s parents, some wine, handing it to them across the smallish table, before then pouring a glass for himself, Mum and I. It’s a very nice and sweet Brown Brothers Cienna, which is inexpensive but just perfect for the occasion. Everyone toasts to Rosie and me graduating, and then we toast to eachother, kissing on the lips and smiling.
After finishing our mains the waitress collects our dishes and plates and we decline her offer of desserts but opt for coffees. Mum snaps some photos of everyone on her phone and promises to text them to Mary as well. Mary is wearing her red beret despite it being an Australian December day. She really loves that beanie and I still have no idea how it ended up in Rosie’ case.
“Rosie and I have been chatting and we’ve realised we’ve got enough pieces that if we put them together we could rent our own space in a gallery somewhere and display them.” I say, swallowing a mouthful of my cappuccino.
“That’s a brilliant idea, except you will need to find a job that pays you more. Or you’ll need to pick up some more shifts at work.” Mum says to me.
“You too Rose.” Mary looks at her whilst scraping the froth off the top of her cappuccino.
I work at JB Hi Fi two days a week and Rosie works at Readings two days a week. I guess now that we have graduated, we will have more time on our hands to work a lot more.
“Renting a space in a gallery isn’t cheap.” Dad says.
“No, the cost of renting anywhere has increased enormously.” Roger says, agreeing with Dad.
“We’ll have to work our bums off then.” Rosie quips before sipping her hot chocolate.
“You could always have someone sponsor you, and pay for the rent.” Mary says.
“Sponsor us? And get some of the end costs?” I ask.
“Yes, of course. These people are quite wealthy. They’ll either buy the paintings off you themselves or they’ll pay for the space where they can be displayed, with the condition they get at least forty per cent of the total cost of each painting.” Mary explains.
“It isn’t a common thing mind, because we are talking about thousands of dollars here when a painting might only be on display for a week.” Mum says.
“Knowing me, mine will probably be there for the full three months.” I say and laugh. Rosie hits me.
“No, they won’t be Bax. There are loads of people who love what you do. Especially your abstracts. I could see some of them in a living room in Melbourne somewhere.” Rosie says.
“I do have a few abstracts don’t I?” I just remember that I do. They’re all sitting in the garage wrapped in fabric. Some of them have been there since year ten.
“See darling? There is hope yet.” Mum says, winking at me.
“What about the black painting Bax, with the cobalt blue and grey strikes through it? Someone would pay a pretty penny for that I would think.” Dad says, supportively, not knowing much about paintings as digital symbols and photos are more his thing.
“The one I painted in year twelve? Yeah, I liked that one. I forgot I still had it.” I say.
“I haven’t seen that one.” Rosie says, looking up at me all doll-like.
“I’ll show it to you when we get home.” I say, kissing her head.
On the way home, we are sitting at some red traffic lights at the intersection of Collins Street and Queen Street, in dad’s car when all around us, men dressed in black clothing and wearing black balaclavas demand dad unlocks all of the doors. Mum tells him not to, but he ignores her because he has a gun pointed straight at him through his driver’s side window. When Rosie sees this, she screams, and Mum is hysterical and crying, and Roger and Mary are already a block ahead of us in their car and have no idea we have been stopped in such a way. Dad unlocks his door only, unbuckles his seat belt and gets out. The man pushes him down to the ground face-down, while another man runs around to Mum’s side of the car and screams at her to get out. She’s trembling and scared and I can’t do or say anything to make her feel better. She unlocks her door, unbuckles her seat belt and steps out of the car whilst a man grabs her under her arm, asks her to lie on the road flat on her stomach and be quiet. There are cars driving past us, as the lights go green, and when they see what is happening they slow down, take a good look and keep driving. Only two cars pull over and get out of their cars and call the police on their mobile phones ten metres away. The balaclavered men take no notice of these bystanders, for they have come with an intent purpose and by the sounds of their voices and their attire, acquiring what they have come for will take only a matter of seconds. Nothing these bystanders can do will intervene or impede their plan.
“Get out!” A man screams at me and Rosie, and we unbuckle our belts, fling our doors open and stand with our backs against the car.
“You two are coming with us.” He screams, and we are violently ushered into a black BMW and told to sit down and put our belts on. Mum and Dad lie helplessly on the road, each have a man kneeling into their spines with guns pressed into the sides of their heads, to stop them from moving or trying to get up. Mum’s face is crushed against the tar and I’m furious and I feel an angry volatilic pressure building in my abdomen. The BMW we have been thrown into speeds away and I can’t see which direction we go in because the windows have been tinted a very opaque black. I can hear police sirens, but we have been long removed from the scene, and I know that by the time they arrive at the intersection of Collins Street and Queen Street, there will be no trace of us. The calls from the witnesses will have been made in vain and this will be one difficult car to track down not having number plates on it.
“What the fuck is going on?” I scream into the seat of the balaclavered man who sits in the front seat with his body turned on a 180 degree angle with his gun pointed at me and Rosie who are sitting huddled into one another in the back.
“You will find out in due course.” He says.
“Where are we going?” I ask.
“You will find out in due course.”
“Why are we here?” I ask.
“You will find out in due course.” His answers are always the same. Automatic and on autopilot.
“Mr Spoon.” I say, to which he says absolutely nothing. Rosie says nothing. She’s clinging to my arm and sobbing into my shirt. So much for a nice graduation. We’ve just been kidnapped.