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The Art Student

derula

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Could it be true? Did she really lose them?

Her hands tightly clasping the edge of her portfolio case, she stared out the window. No one on the road. Nobody following her.

Nervously, she unfolded the large cardboard cover. Why wasn't she responding? Gently, she ran the back of her fingers down the cheek of one of the faces she had drawn. 'Soon,' she thought.

The bus slowed down, starting to pull over. She dared not look up, afraid that there would be one of them at the stop. Attempted to look inconspicuous. Probably failing. But this was her only choice Her only chance to move forward. She closed up her portfolio again as the doors slid open, and turned her head away from the aisle. 'Please, don't be one of them, and if you are... don't notice me!'

The passenger walked by her row without giving her so much as a glance. She breathed a sigh of relief.

Joanna knew nothing about Los Santos, and frankly, it was for the better. The less she knew about the city, the less it would know about her, she surmised. All she knew was that she would be waiting for her there. More than exhausted from her coast-to-coast trip, and sick of motel beds and greasy diner breakfasts, she would fall into her arms. And she would finally be more than just drawings and a voice...

Of course it wouldn't be easy! But it would be so much better to be in it together rather than being separated by a couple thousand miles.

And also - she sighed. It would be a fresh start for both of them. She had grown more and more distant to everyone at school. Little wonder, with what had been going on there on a daily basis. Everyone had been watching her. It had been so tiring. Not even the bathroom had been safe. There had always been someone there. Watching. Listening. It had been so hard on her.

But it would all change. They would simply disappear in the big city. Become invisible. Nobody would be able to harm them. Nobody would notice them.

There would only be the two of them.

Only Miryam and Joanna.

...right?
 

derula

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Only she wasn't there. Miryam was supposed to pick her up, but she wasn't there. Confused, Joanna wandered around the block. Not a trace of Miryam.

Distant roaring of a motorcycle. That must be her, right? She's just late. Yes, that must be it! Intently, Joanna watched the bike draw nearer. She was getting more and more excited. She hadn't even known Miryam was a biker, but it made sense now. Everything did. She'd probably just had important business to take care of.

The vehicle came to a quick stop, along with Joanna's heartbeat. Unable to bare the excitement, she could scarcely move. Then, however, something confusing happened. All she heard the rider's masculine voice yell was a dismissive "Fuck you!" before he took off. She didn't understand. It was supposed to be Miryam, stopping for her. Nothing made sense anymore.

~~

Joanna found a quiet place in a park nearby. Once again, she opened up her portfolio, leaning the open cover against a tree. She gathered all of her little sketches, drawings, and paintings, and set them up all neatly and upright. A few dozen Miryams were looking at her, all with that slight, unmistakable smirk. Joanna focused on the portraits, breathing slowly, intently, listening...

"...anna..!" breathing in, out "Joanna!" in, and out "Oh my god I'm sooo sorry!" she wanted to yell at her, 'where the fuck were you,' but she was just so happy to hear her voice again. "I'm... impossible. I should have been there. Are you alright?" She was not. "Oh no, I'm so sorry! ...here, tell you what. I'll make it up to you. Pinky promise? You come down to Bahama Mamas tonight at 4. Drinks are my treat. Okay? I'll meet you there. You up for it?" Joanna just nodded, tears forming in her eyes. Not like she could ever deny her...

~~

She was tired. She'd stopped at a general store on the way there, and gotten some fast food, but hadn't felt like eating or drinking. How could Miryam just... go to nightclubs, just like that? Was she not terrified?

Joanna decided to be cautious. She climbed the stairs opposite of the entrance and sat on one of the stone benches there. Or at least, she hoped they were benches. And she watched. One of all these people arriving at the locale had to be a beautiful young lady with purple hair, and once she spotted her, she would run up to her as fast as she could.

It felt like she'd been sitting there forever. Her buttocks were hurting from the hard, cold stone. Joanna had climbed down the stairs a few times, intending to just peek inside, just for a second. But she couldn't even bring herself to cross the road that separated her overlook from the entrance of the club.

Suddenly, she heard gunshots. Saw gunfire light up the sky. After the second it took her to recover from her shock, she started running north. Just to get as far away as possible, as quickly as possible. Her mind was so focused on that goal, she neglected to look left and right before crossing a road, and missed the beach buggy approaching at high velocity...

~~

Joanna wasn't sure how long she had stayed at the hospital, or how she even got there. She couldn't tell why, but something inside her told her that she cannot leave. Her legs were still hurting, she was walking with a limp. She had to sit down.

Eventually, her moment of rest was broken by an LSMS officer, who asked her if she needed any assistance, which she insisted she did not. 'It's not safe here,' she thought to herself, 'people are going to start asking questions if you hang around for any longer.' Joanna knew: she had to leave. But where to?

Outside MD, she briefly got to meet a gentleman who, after initially starting to complement her, subsequently noticed that her facial features didn't align with his perception of beauty, upon which he transformed his praise into a dismissive insult. "Fuck you, too," Joanna urged him, and limped away in the direction opposite to where he was headed.

After a short walk, she found a fountain, and decided to sit there and stare at the water for a while. The cool liquid felt good running over her bare feet. She could almost forget the pain in her legs like this! ...but she knew it wouldn't last. She had to keep walking. But... where to?

She had this feeling that she needed to get out of the city. She wasn't sure why, but she knew she had to. Glad that she brought her trusty old compass, she started limping north. One of the few things she knew about the island is that this would - eventually - lead her out of the city.

Along sidewalks, across roads - but carefully! - she passed all kinds of buildings, structures, bridges - and, eventually, found herself blocked off by a fence. Exhausted, she turned around and examined her surroundings. There was some noise - where there people there? she couldn't even tell. Her vision was getting somewhat inaccurate, and her hearing unreliable.

There appeared to be an entrance of sorts. Open. Inviting. She pushed herself into the interior, and immediately passed out from exhaustion. "Sleep now, Joanna... you are safe here..."
 
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AnimalWheat1102

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This is some amazing writing! I didn't want to interrupt the flow of the paragraphs but I have to give credit where credit is do. Can't wait to read more.
 
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derula

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This is some amazing writing! I didn't want to interrupt the flow of the paragraphs but I have to give credit where credit is do. Can't wait to read more.
Thanks for the support, I in fact wasn't sure if I should keep going with this. I do want to though, so I appreciate the feedback :)
 
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derula

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Joanna found herself in a little community. Surrounded by other people who were let down by the city, she was now living in the shell of an old bus.

It's not like everyone wasn't being very supportive. There was Johnny, a buff dude who lost everything to his gambling addiction. Charlene, an older lady who sought refuge here after her family had died in a house fire. And, of course, Sgt. Peters, a war veteran who had been forgotten by the government after returning to his home country. They helped her as her wounds were healing. They were acting like a family. And of course, Joanna did appreciate that. But regardless... she knew that this was not her final stop. She had to keep pushing.

~~~

"I'm sooo sorry," Miryam said in a very dramatic tone. "I didn't expect that... I didn't think I would lead you to..." Joanna rolled her eyes, knowing that she couldn't see her. "Don't worry about it, okay? I'm fine!" she insisted, which Miryam replied to with a sigh. "I just feel like... it's all my fault... and now I can't even come see you..." Miryam always had to be so negative, and Joanna had to pick her up again. "Hey! We'll be alright, okay? We can fix this..." Once again, Miryam responded with a sigh, seeming unconvinced. "...okay, what's your plan?"

~~~

"You really leaving us, Jo?" - "Do you think your little girlfriend can provide for you?" - "What has she done for you so far? It's her fault you ended up in the hospital!" - "Nobody cares about you like old Charlene does, you know this, right?" - "It's a battlefield out there. If you have to go, go, but I won't be the one who will drag your ass out of the mud when things go haywire! No siree!" - "What even is your game? Are you gay or something?" - "I already lost my grandchildren once, don't make me lose them a second time!"

Too much noise. Too much noise. Too much noise. Too much noise. Too much noise.

~~~

One afternoon, Joanna woke up from a nap, and the noise was gone. It was eerily quiet around her, in fact. Nobody in sight. No one to judge her. As quickly as she could, she used this chance to gather her stuff and just started walking. Northwards. She climbed some nearby steps, had some water and fast food she had brought, and off she went.

Having studied the map intently, she knew exactly where she was going. After a short uphill hike, she already spotted the famous letters on Vinewood Hills. That was her goal for the day.

~~~

20201024211833_1.jpg

A gentle breeze was blowing across the countryside as she got closer and closer to the giant capitals. The path was steeper than she had anticipated, but she had no choice other than to keep pushing. In moments like these, she liked to imagine Miryam's face, her gentle, supportive expression, bearing a slight smile. She could almost hear her voice: 'Come on, you can do it! I'm waiting for you! It's not long now! We will soon be together!'

She had expected the Vinewood letters to be more impressive from up close than they were from afar - but the graffiti on them and the signs telling her she shouldn't have come here were kind of ruining it for her. Or maybe it was her exhaustion. With thunder roaring over the city, she had to find some roof to sleep under.

~~~

Joanna woke up at 5:45 in the morning, near some kind of radio tower. Though she couldn't remember it, she must have climbed over the fence, and fallen asleep behind a corrugated-iron shed. She pushed herself up off the ground - she was hurting. She must have fallen last night, or... something. But it didn't matter, she had to continue her journey.

20201024225215_1.jpg

And down the hill she went, continuing north-northeast. Her compass and her sense of direction helped her find the way - though she did stop and ask at a gas station for confirmation, not that she needed it.

After hours of walking, but before the heat of high noon, Joanna finally arrived at her goal: Sandy Shores. Here is where the two of them had agreed to meet. Miryam had said, 'you'll know where to find me when you see the place! Just look around for a bit.' And so she did. There were some residential buildings, some stores, car rental... nothing that particularly stood out. Joanna had been looking for half an hour and was starting to get annoyed. Why couldn't Miryam just tell her where to go?

Then she saw it: the tattoo studio! Of course! That's so her! Joanna knew that that's where she would find her. She went straight there, convinced that's where she would find Miryam. She wasn't waiting outside the door, so she must have gone inside...

Joanna hesitated. Her heart pounding, she stopped in front of the door, handle in hand. Thoughts racing through her head, tumbling over each other. She wanted to open that door. She really, really did. But the noise... it was back, louder and harsher than ever before.

YOU KNOW SHE'S NOT IN THERE. COME BACK HOME, THERE'S NOTHING FOR YOU HERE. YOU DON'T EVEN WANT TO KNOW IF SHE EXISTS, DO YOU? YOU ARE SUCH A TRAIN WRECK. WHAT, ARE YOU GAY OR SOMETHING? I WON'T PICK YOU UP, NO SIREE! ALL OF YOUR ART, DID IT HELP YOU IN THE END? HA, YOU SO DUMB, YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW! DID YOU REALLY THINK GOING HERE WOULD MAGICALLY FIX SHIT? NEVER MIND, YOUR FACE UGLY AS FUCK. JOANNA, MORE LIKE STUPID FUCKING BITCH!

'SHUT UP! All of you, just... shut up! You know nothing about me, you're all lying! I don't need you, I never needed any of you! Just leave me alone... please!'

But this time, the noise... didn't go away.
 
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derula

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Distraction. Yeah. That's what she needed. And her art. She needed to see her face, right now. Hear her voice.

It was a new morning in Sandy Shores. She hadn't slept well, if at all. The noise had made sure of that. But that's life, right? Sometimes, things go well. Other times... well, this. It... happens.

She opened up her portfolio. Just seeing Miryam put a smile on her face. But... where was it? Her favorite painting - her masterpiece, if you will, appeared to be missing.

It couldn't be. Did she lose it? 'Nah,' she thought, 'it gotta be here.' She found a nice, open spot nearby, under a parasol. Lowering her portfolio to the ground, she knelt beside it.

Piece for piece, Joanna took her artwork and spread it out in front of her, securing it with rocks and dirt she could find lying around. Many faces staring back up at her, she had to find the one.

She scanned all of her pictures, over, and over, and over. Again and again, she checked her case to see if there were any she forgot. Where was it? She knew she didn't drop it. It had to be there!

~~~

Hours had passed. Judgmental voices had gotten louder and louder. Joanna couldn't keep doing this. Though she knew she didn't lose the picture, it also became more and more obvious that she would not find it this way. Carefully, she brushed the dirt off every single piece of paper, and put them back into her portfolio.

If she couldn't find it, she had to recreate it. Yeah, she would do that. She would just take a canvas and a brush and start-

Stupid, stupid woman. All of her art supplies were back home! She didn't even bring a sheet of paper or a pencil. What had she been thinking?! What kind of idiot would forget about what's most important to them?

A car pulled up next to her, breaking her self-deprecating trance. "Are you alright?" the driver asked with audible concern. "Uh-uhm, yeah, I'm fine," Joanna stammered in response. She didn't think she had sounded very convincing, but the stranger seemed to have bought it as he left with an understanding confirmation.

But she wasn't fine. Not without her 'magnum opus.'

~~~

"Sorry ma'am, fresh outta canvases," the store clerk joked. "Why don'tcha try the city? All kindsa stuff you can buy there!" Joanna nodded and, after some hesitation, asked, "Uh, when are you getting more in?" The clerk responded with a chuckle. "Ya gotta be new 'ere. Listen, ma'am. We don't got no art supplies here. 'less ya want a ball-point pen? Can sell ya that for a dime." But she declined that offer.

~~~

"Excuse me?" she asked the driver of the car that had pulled up next to her, right in front of the medical center. He had asked her a question, breaking her inward focus. "I said, are you a paramedic?" - "Oh, uh, n-no, I'm sorry." She genuinely was. Made the poor guy stop by walking in front of this building. "Uhm, but..." she couldn't let this chance slip. "Do you know where I would be able to find art supplies?" - "What supplies?" - "Art. You know, for drawing, or painting." - "Dunno, the black market?" The- what? Joanna was thoroughly confused by this answer. Maybe she shouldn't have asked. "Just kidding, I don't know, maybe try a general store?" - "Oh," Joanna replied with some disappointment, "sure... thanks." - "Yeah, no problem."

'Really, asshole? Guy had his passed-out friend on the passenger seat and clearly looking for medical attention, and you ask him for art supplies?' ...oh. Yeah, that did seem a bit inconsiderate, in retrospect. 'You worthless piece of garbage. You don't even deserve talking to her again. Maybe you should just give it all up.' No. No, you won't. I came this far. This far! I'm not going to just... 'Oh, you won't even need to give up anymore... because you already have.'

The noise... it was tiring. And the day had passed by very quickly. Joanna just wanted to lie down. Earlier, she had come by a rusty old wreck of a trailer - not very comfortable-looking, but a roof's a roof, right? Making her way back there, she tried to make sense of it all, and to hatch a plan for the next day.

If she would even wake.
 
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