“Hey, Kesong, class is over.”
Simon put down his brush and patted Kesong’s shoulder, “You down for a coffee?”
Cheng Kesong looked away from his homework, smiling “I’m down.”
There’s a coffee machine in the small canteen next to the school gates where you can buy a small cup of black coffee for 50 cents. The small plastic cup can be held fully in one hand and the amount is one gulp, which makes it very expensive.
Even so Cheng Kesong dropped a coin into it and waited for a long time before the machine prepared his coffee.
The private art school is located in the 14th arrondissement* of Paris, close to the Montpasnasse Tower and it can be considered a land boundary, meaning the school area is very small. That small restaurant had two coffee machines, two microwaves and a high table with chairs by the window, so there’s not much space left.
Arrondissements: One way to divide big cities in France, specially Paris. A “district”, if I must.
Even if they call it a school, In Cheng Kesong’s view, it’s equivalent to a two-story teaching building. There’s studios with computers where students have classes, the teachers office, bathrooms and the small canteen, and that’s all the school has to offer. As far as he’s concerned about a library and a playground, there’s none.
During class, more than a dozen students were lining up to buy coffee in front of the canteen.
Cheng Kesong picked his small cup from the machine, motioned to Simon and walked outside the school’s gates.
The front door of the school faces the street and there’s five small steps outside the door.
Under the steps there’s a sidewalk that’s one meter wide where a lamppost stand in the middle, with the asphalt road where a row of cars occupied the side of the road.
On such tiny piece of open space, many students stood in place, chatting together in pairs. Some were holding a plastic coffee cup the same style as Cheng Kesong’s, others were holding cigarettes and others were holding a coffee and a cigarette.
Is forbidden to smoke in any public space that has a roof in Paris so, between classes, those 18-year-old rushed to have their fun.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
Simon and Cheng Kesong talked two words and walked their way into the middle of the group of three boys who chatted together so they could talk together about last night’s game.
Cheng Kesong doesn’t smoke. He leaned on the the stone pier of the flower bed next to the steps as he drank his hot, bitter black coffee with small sips.
He didn’t want to finish it that soon.
The early summer in Paris was sunny, the temperature was pleasant and there was a cool breeze swinging around. There’s an aroma of roses blooming in the distance that he doesn’t know where it came from, gently patting his face, making the scene very comfortable and cozy.
Such a good summer, of course he needs to enjoy it a bit more.
Not to mention, that boy hasn’t shown up yet.
He shouldn’t finish his coffee too soon.
After a few minutes, Cheng Kesong had only one sip of coffee left. He looked down at the thin layer of coffee that was clear enough to reveal the bottom of the cup and shook it gently, letting the liquid with the bitter smell swirl around the cup.
The school door was pushed open again and a tall boy with golden brown and medium-long curly hair came out and a small piercing on his eyebrown flashed against the sun.
Chen Kesong immediately opened his eyes.
The boy followed the voice and, seeing Cheng Kesong, immediately turned around and walked towards him, leaning on the flower bed as he stood a step higher than him.
“Your class was about nature sketching?” Hugo asked.
He took a small paper bag out of his pocket, took a small piece of translucent paper, took a handful of tobacco from the paper bag, straightened the small sponge filter and skillfully made a cigarette.
His fingers are good looking, slender and agile with small joints, but not weak-looking. The nails are neatly trimmed with beautiful pink flesh, reflecting the stereotypical fair skin of Europeans.
His cigarettes were well-made and his fingertips moved quickly and lightly.
Cheng Kesong removed his eyes from those hands and replied, “Yeah, just saw a set of still lives.”
Still life: a painting or drawing of an arrangement of objects, typically including fruit and flowers and objects contrasting with these in texture, such as bowls and glassware.
“I saw that same set, it’s not easy to paint that one.”
Hugo finished with a smile, holding a thin cigarette between his lips before he lightened it.
There’s also a diamond stud under his lip and, with the slightest movement from his lips, it refracted the sunlight.
Cheng Kesong originally disliked that type of people with piercing on their faces. He felt that they were too girly, or too Gothic etc, which was totally opposite to his own aesthetic.
Until he saw Hugo for the first time.
Hugo is a tall guy with a delicate appearance. His forehead is different from the average guy, his brow bones are stretched and a pair of eyebrows are drawn straight, slightly lifted and slightly lowered on the end, with a sharp tip. The shape of his eyebrows is a nice one and is not awkward to look at, it actually adds a lot to his face.
Similarly, he has beautiful shaped lips, not too thick and neither too thin. The center of his lower lip sink inwards slightly and formed a delicate den on the lip edge, where it happens to have a small piercing.
There are three piercings on Hugo’s face, located on the right eyebrow, the bottom lip and the left ear.
Each one looks right, not too public and not vulgar. It’s almost invisible if you are too far away, but when he walks in the sun, it will always sparkle and caught your attention.
Cheng Kesong felt that love at first sight wasn’t enough to describe.
“Well, it’s probably not difficult to you” Hugo smiled. “Your art is always perfect.”
“I just paint. Mr. Fran said that my painting has only skills and no aura” Cheng Kesong said.
“You just didn’t put emotion into it” Hugo smiled and looked at him. “You always feels so mysterious. You don’t talk much and your expression is always neutral, like nothing can move you.”
Cheng Kesong watched Hugo’s almost blinding smile in the sun and blinked innocently.
Of course there’s things able to move him, the person in front of him is one.
But maybe chinese people’s emotions are always more subtle than western’s. Cheng Kesong can’t show any emotion on his face. However, he quietly enjoys that odd boy’s company. He stands still and talks with him on the fifth step everyday between classes and, after returning home, he may occasionally flip through his Facebook page to see what other drawings he made.
However, he never asked the number of the tall boy from the other class.
Hugo extinguished the nearly extinguished cigarette, glanced down for a while and then patted Cheng Kesong’s shoulder.
“Class will start now, let’s go back.”
Cheng Kesong drank the last sip of coffee and followed Hugo inside.
At the end of the lesson, Cheng Kesong’s teacher Mr. Fran and the students stayed in the classroom.
“Ladies and gentleman, it’s June.”
Mr. Fran played with his perfectly-done beard and blinked playfully, “In June we have an event that everyone’s been waiting for…”
“Creative challenge?!” A student screamed immediately.
“Miss, could you please not take away my chance to reveal the event?”
Mr. Fran sighed, pretending to be disappointed and changed his expression as soon as he heard the audience of students laughing. “Yes, the event is a week-long creative challenge!”
The audience cheered.
“Please, please don’t tell me you are happy because you will not have classes during the challenge” Mr. Fran expressed a very grieved expression.
“Of course not, sir!” Simon raised his hand and shouted. “We cheer because we like the challenges!”
“Oh, that’s good news” Mr. Fran smiled at Simon who sat at the table next to him before he continued to explain the weekly challenge mission.
“We will be dismissing class so you can work with classmates you never worked before to create a story — that includes a research report, a storyboard and at least four complete papers of drawings. Your topics and teams are all randomly selected and you only have one week to complete this challenge. Isn’t it exciting?”
This time, instead of cheering, the audience became depressed.
“What? We need to write a research report?”
“Storyboard? Is the type of storyboard that needs a drawing for everything?”
“Oh my god!”
Simon shouted as he hugged Kesong’s shoulders, “Mr. Fran, please let me and Kesong be in the same group! My omnipotent Kesong!”
Mr. Fran lifted a finger and shook it: “No, no, Simon, you can’t be in a group with your classmate, Kesong’s omnipotent powers belong to others. If you check the hallway now, you can see who are your lucky teammates.”
“What? The groups are already prepared?”
“Yes, you may go and check your groups now” Mr. Fran clapped his hands and signaled the class ended.
The students immediately jumped from their seats and rushed to the crowded hallway.
Cheng Kesong didn’t bother with checking the groups first because no matter which group he ended, it would make no difference to him.
The relationship between him and his classmates is no different from his relationship with people from other classes — except for Simon who is friends with everyone, he doesn’t have many good friends around.
But Simon still took him by the shoulders and pushed him around the crowd, so he ended up in front of the display board with the groups information posted.
Cheng Kesong stood a few heads away from the exhibition board and looked up to find his name on it.
In the dense group standing in front of it, before he could even find his own information he saw a picture with a delicate face. Hugo’s name was under the photo with a “Captain” written next to the name.
Cheng Kesong’s eyes immediately flashed — he saw his name in the list below captain Hugo.