Entry Nickname: Cheshire 💜s Alice!
Word count: 70k
Genre: YA Contemporary
#ownvoices bisexual, mental health
Rhodes Ingram never thought she’d peak at seventeen. She’s dedicated six years of her life to her education as a visual arts track student at Alabama Fine Arts Academy, but depression threatens to undermine all her work. In spite of an empty portfolio and plummeting grades, Rhodes has one last shot at success: The Birmingham Arts Collective’s New Horizon Scholarship.
Iliana Vrionides has spent the last two school years struggling to prove she deserves to even darken AFAA’s doorstep. What she lacks in technical ability, she makes up with ferocious commitment to creative expression. But when her parents lose her college savings in bankruptcy court, a last-minute scholarship may be the only chance she has left.
By day, Iliana and Rhodes tear each other down to the studs as they compete for the same scholarship. By night they unknowingly piece each other together again through Slashspot, their school’s anonymous fan fiction community. Then, Iliana’s laptop is stolen by an online bully who knows way too much to be a stranger, and before long their steamy relationship becomes public knowledge. The senior show looms on the horizon, the scholarship hangs in the balance, and when their identities are revealed, both girls must reconcile their love for each other online with their combative relationship in real life.
Iliana Vrionides rests a hand on the curve of my shoulder, and a singular dimple emerges when she smirks. To anyone watching at a distance, this would look like friendship.
This has never been about friendship.
Studio B’s windows are wide as they are tall, bathing the room in glorious, priceless natural light. Air conditioning rattles in the exposed pipes overhead, and Iliana’s breath curls hot in the shell of my ear.
“The difference between a dog walking all over a canvas with paint on his feet and a human doing the same thing is creative expression.” She gestures to the sketch pad that sits across my knees. It’s embarrassingly empty, devoid of anything save a few sketches in the corner.
Every day, we take seats across from one another in Drawing III. We spend seventy-five minutes glaring over the tops of our sketch pads at one another, ignoring Benjamin Talley’s blathering, endless artistic direction. In spite of this, Iliana manages to churn out one sketch after the next, light-handed and fluid and the kind of technique that’s carefully hidden beneath what she’d call personal style. Her voice.
Every day, I pray the Lord smites her ass straight off the face of the Earth.
Each prayer is a reminder that God doesn’t listen to me.
“I don’t draw.” A class-mandatory 2b pencil with a blue shaft rolls between my fingers, and I fix my gaze on the purple ponytail in front of me.
This is a lie.