The weather was a strange medley between snow and monsoon, and as Lazarus stared out of the cafe's windowsill, beyond the glass and the succulent plants, he saw droplets of rain being changed to a flurry of snowflakes miraculously. They knocked on the glass with a fury he admired. The coffee shop was quiet, save for the whiplash of snow against the windows, and Lazarus could hear the beat of his heart in the silence, resolute and steadfast like it'd always been.
He loved the quietness for how it accentuated the symphony of this heartbeat generously, how it brought out and broadcasted it within Lazarus's ears like a strange melody that only he could hear. He listened to the systole and the diastole, listened to the way its coronary arteries tensed and relaxed. A person's heartbeat, to Lazarus, was a handwritten lullaby buried so deeply within them; on sultry nights when he couldn't sleep, he would simply focus on its serene tempo and it would lull him to a candy-sweet slumber.
The only sound that rivaled a heartbeat was the now-gentle pitter patter of snow on the tinted glass.
He gave the misty, vague skyline of the capitol one more longing look before averting his gaze back onto the papers before him. The words and sentences, the villanelles and sonnets, that Lazarus had jotted down in the last few hours were now nothing but a gigantic swirl of dark lines to his eyes. He'd thought of it as beautiful, the way each line flowed so seamlessly into the next, if the mere sight of them didn't agitate him as much. There were stories written on each paper, a mixture of anecdotal and imagined, but not the sort of stories that resonated. It was so frustratingly easy for stories to become mere statements if they lacked the magic underneath.
Lazarus hadn't found that magic for a while now.
He looked for it in sock drawers, scavenging through each bright and hopscotch patterns desperately. He looked for it underneath his tousled bed. He looked for it, back again, in the distant capitol skyline cloaked with mist and frost. He looked for it in the way his mother knitted her browns tightly whenever he'd spend days writing. He looked for it in the grey tombstone of his father, and the flowers growing upon it. He looked for it inwards, in the heartbeat.
He looked for it in the dark surface of the coffee mug the waitress set in front of him. “Thank you,” Lazarus rasped at her as his cold fingers rushed towards the cup's warmth. “I wish you sold stories as magical as this coffee.”
But, looking was a fool's errand; stories couldn't be dug out of the earth like sleeping, ancient relics.
Lazarus was, by birthright, a poet. He was a beautiful monarch with his marbled wings outstretched to the sun. He was a sift of gold dust, glistening as it catches the light filtering in from the window. He was everything he could envisage himself to be; that was a poet's ultimate power — to dream and to imagine, to spin a chain of lovely daises from a mere strand of thought. In his poems, he was omniscient. In his poems, he was a god, revered and worshipped. In each of Lazarus' poems, hid a fragment of his heart.
Poetry, for Lazarus, meant rebirth.
He was suggested to turn his poems into a more physical, concrete form by an old flame. The man was wise and Lazarus entertained him because of this wisdom — a man that did not have something he could use was not fit for Lazarus's criteria — because their tongues understood each other, both in physicality and words. Most days, they sparred through words and jests and this affair continued until Lazarus grew tedious with it.
He remembered the exact setting, remembered the precise mise en scene and the correct ambiance. It was a sultry night in which temperatures soared cruelly and they were out on the veranda, cigarettes between their fingertips and gold champagne flutes rested on a small, mahogany counter. The air was fragrant, fat with the scent of the red roses Lazarus had cherry-picked, and he watched as the other man inhaled in it heartily, chest heaving as he did. Lazarus remembered wondering if the scent of roses could grow into thorns in one's chest when breathed in. The other man was handsome and divine, bristling with grace and elegant, but Lazarus knew he was too. There were two gods on the veranda that night, both of them equals.
“Fuck,” Curtis began and Lazarus swore silently at himself for letting the other initiate the banter, “it seems as if the world's aflame.” Even his swear words flowed so eloquently, and for a flicker of a moment, envy rose within Lazarus' chest.
After recomposing himself, he leaned against the veranda's stone railing, the material hard and pressing against his ribs. “I would love to see that, though. I truly think the world would look beautiful when it's shrouded in flames,”
Lazarus said, and then turned towards the scenery ahead of him. The Capitol's lights coruscated brightly, almost too brightly, and he could feel the heat of each light enveloping his physique like a cruel second skin.
“Just imagine the whole of it colored in auburn, tangerine, imagine how the fire would dance with the shadows it creates. Just imagine how ... clean the world after the fire would become, reduced to nothing but a floating, warm pebble in space. Does it scare you? Imagining what I said?” He whirled back towards the other to face his chiseled face.
“I don't get scared easily, baby doll.”
The edges of his mouth arched into a smile at the nickname, not because he loved it but because it was so ridiculous. Every time the other uttered it, Lazarus wanted to laugh at his countenance.
He was not a baby doll, certainly not his.
He loathed how most lovers saw a relationship as an ownership for a person, not a symbiosis. Lazarus remembered why he'd broken things off with the man. He hadn't even bothered to keep his name taped to the walls of his head. He brought his cigarette to the curvature of his mouth and sucked in the nicotine.
He did not exhale it back out.
“You're so creative with your words, I wonder what else you are creative with.” He said, with a sly smile that was more of a beckoning towards the bed rather than a line of pretty ivories. He said it plainly, hoping for no impact other than to make Lazarus' lips seek his, but it stuck a chord within Lazarus.
He wondered what else he was creative with, after excusing him out of the man's apartment, whilst staring at the night's sentient, blue eye. He wondered feverishly and the moonlight drew ideas from within him maddeningly like it drew the tides to make their rise and fall. In the middle of his wonderment, Lazarus stepped on a magazine that seemed to had fallen from a careless pedestrian's bag.
It was a simple magazine, minimalistic when it comes to design, using only pictures, brief titles, and a large expanse of white space, like a blank canvas, to capture the reader's eye. He remembered each fashion item exhibited in there, from the cornflower boutonniere to a lovely shimmering dress that seemed to had been made out of condensed light. He wondered what else he was creative with, and the world tossed the answer on his path.
It was a calling, he realized.
He was eighteen that night, bacchanal and young. He was still eighteen the morning after, when he browsed through a fabric store and, carefully, felt each material with a curious hand. Silk was a drift of warm air through his fingertips, cascading so fluidly, and velvet was the same. Cotton was like touching the clouds above. His favorite, however, were the brocade fabrics, their intricate embroideries reminiscent of a bush of wildflowers.
The critics branded his creations as ornate, with a pleasant undertow of whimsicality beneath.
Each attire was a surprise, demanding to be unraveled slowly, and akin to his poems, they held silvers of Lazarus' soul. He was threaded to each poem and each clothing by a thin, gossamer strand of soul. Each poem he wrote, was used to structure each attire he made. The piece about the red ruby laying in a bush of cornflowers made a beautiful, rubescent dress that had cuffed, cornflower sleeves. The random, idle ramblings about stars made a suit that shimmered and twinkled whenever it moved. The poems were the matches, and the clothes were the all-consuming fires. If he ignited a match, a blaze would shortly follow.
Out of all of his muses, Mackenzie Pryce caught Lazarus the most off-guard. The boy was far from the god he was, but perhaps that was precisely what had caught his eyes — Mackenzie's raw, untarnished mortality that he wore as an eroding crown.
He was so utterly human, all broken bones that had only begun to heal and all crooked smiles that rapture like dawn's light, and Lazarus became curious about what that would feel like: to be so human.
This curiosity took him to the Capitol recruits.
This curiosity forced him to showcase how much better he was than Mackenzie's current artist who dressed him modestly, not divinely. Lazarus would accentuate Mackenzie's humanity, like the quiet accentuated one's own heartbeat, and showcase it. Perhaps, he was the magic beneath the words Lazarus was seeking for; perhaps, he was the story Lazarus wanted to observe as it unfolded. Blue eyes raked up and down the lad's frame, and a smile bloomed from one corner of his lips like a stray, red gardenia.
“Your name is Mackenzie, right? I am Lazarus, but you can call me Laz.” There was wind in his gaze, surging towards this new muse of his.
“I heard you were one of the Capitol's golden boys. I am here to help you be the onlyone.”