After stealing some ice cream from the cafeteria’s kitchen, Rachel headed to the cabin. She found the store room and grabbed a pile of newspapers the nearest shelf and turned around, almost colliding with someone. Again.
“Sorry, I didn’t see you there.” She said quickly.
“it’s okay, Rachel. I’m –”
“Connor, right?” She asked, remembering him from the previous night’s introductions. He had striking features, and when he smiled, which he did quite often, it was a warm welcoming smile. His cheeks would dimple and his eyes would crinkle in the most adorable way. Rachel blinked away the thoughts.
“Surprised you remember. New comer’s are in a daze on the first day, so they have to have second introductions a week after fitting in.”
Rachel chuckled, “Yeah, everyone keeps saying that.”
“Been here since I was a baby … sorry about your Nanna, must’ve been rough…”
“Yeah … thank you..”
“Sorry!” He laughed nervously, “I’m not really good at conversation and stuff. I-“, He froze, turning red in embarrassment and cleared his throat, “Wesson’s like a father to me.” He paused and added, “He is to everyone. You’ll grow to like it here.” His face twitched and he grimaced, clearing his throat again, “What brings you to the store room? We just dump stuff we don’t need any more in here-”
“I came here to get some newspapers. I wanted to paint a little.” She answered quickly
“You paint?” he arched an eyebrow
“What’s so shocking about that?”
He sounded so delighted to hear about her painting it was adorable. He worried at his lip for a second and let go of it the second he reached a decision, “Can I show you something?” he said, his eyes flitting to the second door in the living room
“Um ... yeah. Sure.”
Connor led Rachel to the second door. It had his and Anthony’s name on it. He opened the door.
The room had been divided into two sections. There were two beds, opposite each other, each with a dresser and a closet against the wall. Two study tables were at the end of the room, each with books scattered on them.
Conner led her to the cleaner side of the room. Rachel gasped. The wall above the bed’s headboard was covered in paintings; beautiful, breath-taking, three dimensional paintings.
“Connor, these are amazing. Did you do all of them?” Rachel said, walking up to them.
“Yeah, I draw on the walls when I’m bored. And if they’re any good, I paint them.”
Rachel ran her hand over the paint, smiling at a painting of a snow covered cottage, poking out from under the thick foliage of trees; candle light illuminating the windows.
“These are just stunning. I don’t think words would do them justice.” her eyes travelling up and down the wall, taking in all the paintings, one by one. Then a thought tugged at her mind.
“Do you ever get bored of looking at the same ones every day?”
He shrugged his shoulders and said nonchalantly, “I just clean the wall off and start again.”
Rachel’s jaw kind of dropped as Connor started laughing.
She lay the canvas cloth down on the floor and sketched the outlines of a couple of posters. Rachel labeled them lightly as if to remind herself what to paint and where. She turned on her iPod and put earphones in her ears.
She began working on the one for the living room. She started sketching. She drew a girl no older than seventeen, wearing a hood that hid most of her face. The girl sat on a couch with one leg tucked under her and the other hanging down. The girl wore a pendant of a musical note, dangling freely as she bent over a guitar
Rachel tucked her hair behind her ear and looked at it from a distance. Whenever she painted, it wasn’t as much about thinking as it was about … bleeding. Or purifying. She put the brush to the canvas and just let the magic happen. Rachel took the mess in her head and put it on paper, in color and it cleared her head. She painted to breathe, for peace of mind, for escape. Every shade was an outpour of emotion.
Rachel chose a variety of reds, blues, whites and blacks. As soon as the brush hit the canvas cloth, everything else was forgotten, as she poured everything she had into the painting.
She stuck her tongue out in concentration like she always did. If Nanna was around she would have hit Rachel over the head, ordering her to put her tongue back in.
She painted everything a shade of blue; the girl, the background, everything. The only red in the painting was the pendant, the guitar, the pencil and the spine of the notebook at her feet. Rachel gave the girl auburn hair that was showing from under the hood.
Rachel wiped her brow and pulled back to look at her work. She nodded in approval. It wasn’t all that bad. She took the earphones out of her ears and sighed.
“This is amazing.” Joey said and Rachel jumped, alarmed.
“Joey, STOP DOING THAT!” she said turning around and then stopped short, “Hi there.” Mark, Jess and Connor stood in the doorway, their mouths agape. Anthony’s head poked out from the side.
“Guys, please fix your jaws back in place.” Rachel said, picking up the paints, “What’s up?”
“Oh my God, Rachel, this is so beautiful. Where are you going to put it?” Jess asked.
“I was thinking the living room?”
“Yeah. Wow” Mark answered
“Guys, stop, okay? It’s okay, it’s not that awesome.”
“She loves selling herself short for attention guys. She craves the ego boost.”
Rachel flicked paint at her.
“What’s up though?” she asked again
“Right, we came here to ask you if you wanted to join our basketball team.” Jessica said smiling.
“Yeah, I mean, I play basketball.” Rachel shrugged.
“Well, our team is Blue Cabin plus the Green Cabin. We’re facing the Purple Cabin plus the Orange Cabin.” Joey added
“Yup, there’s a tournament every year.” Mark smiled.
“I’m in.” she shrugged
“Okay, then. Let’s head to court.” Jess ordered. Everyone left the room except for Joey and Rachel.
Joey smiled, “I’m kinda glad I didn’t let you buy those posters.”
“You? It was my-” she paused and shook her head as Joey shrugged and walked out, “You didn’t answer my question!”
Rachel jogged to the basketball court next to the nursery. A cardboard sign that said, “TRYOUTS FOR THE DRAGONS” was taped to the door.
She saw Joey waiting outside, “Dragons? Seriously?”
Joey looked offended, “Dragons are awesome you uncultured swine” and then added “We get a really cool uniform though.”
“You tryin’ out?”
“Nah, not this year.”
“Why not?” Rachel asked. Joey remained quiet.
“Go get ’em, tiger” Joey shoved her through the double doors and followed.
Kids were grouped and given time to warm up and divided into teams.
Joey stood by and watched the tryouts. She hooted time and again for Rachel. At one over excited whoop of joy, the coach glared at her until she shut up and sat down.
Jacob Wesson, the cabin head, was sitting in the bleachers, watching the tryouts.
“Evening, Mr. Wes!” Joey chirped as she sat down next to him
He shook his head, smiling a little “Joey, you have that knack for nicknames that I don’t exactly enjoy.”
“My apologies, sir” She tried, “Would you mind if I ask you a question?”
“No, go on … shoot.”
“I’ve never seen you at the tryouts before. This is the first time I’m seeing you in court, actually.”
“Ah, well … Rachel’s the new kid” he paused, his eyes on her at all times, “We don’t get many new kids. I just wanted to see if she was fitting in alright.”
Joey nodded, “She’s doin’ great.”
“Is she happy?”
“I mean, no one is at first. Remember what a handful I was? She needs a little time and space. Hopefully she’ll be fine by the end of the week.” Joey said, fishing out a stick of gum from her pocket and offering it to Wesson.
He looked at her and let out a laugh, “You’re something, Joey. 4 years and I still haven’t been able to do anything about you.”
Joey shrugged, “Dude, I spent my first two years hanging out with the Reds. We all know what they’re like.”
“And I get stuck with you.” Wesson said, shaking his head
Joey suddenly stood up and made at attempt at “silent” hooting and sat back down.
“What are you talking about? I’m a joy to be around!” Joey exclaimed.
Joey looked down and saw that the P.E teacher was ushering out most of the kids.
Almost twenty kids remained and Rachel was one of them. Wesson stood up and left the court.
“I think I may have made the team” Rachel beamed and then gestured towards the door, “Now, get out before the coach sees you.”
Joey pulled her baseball cap low and started to move towards the door. She was halfway there when she heard a voice.
“HURRY UP, RIVERS! WE HAVENT GOT ALL DAY.”
The kids let out a few laughs as Joey rushed for the door, turned around, saluted the coach, and ran out the door before the basketball hit her.