The Artist

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Chapter One

“You look like a rat bit you, stop hiding and come in,” Mr. Dave laughed making me smile awkwardly from my position behind the door of the art room. Mr. Steve was at the long raised bench for graphic design, working on a poster while Toby was typing away on his laptop by his desk. My eyes lingered on him for a while, but I looked away sharply when he looked up at me.

I walked into the room and closed the door behind me before heading to sit on one of the donkey benches close to Mr. Dave who was etching away on a sole to create a stamp.

I sat there for a while, just watching him work. He eventually looked up from his work, giving me a confused frown before muttering a small ‘oh.’

“I forgot that I sent someone to call you,” he said, giving me his full attention now. I smiled awkwardly before looking down at my lap.

“You don’t have a part-time job this summer, do you?” he asked. I shook my head, watching as he nodded at my response. I never got a job during summer — well, I never got jobs at all, I just spent time in the art studio at home, or attended events with parents.

“I was wondering if you’d be okay with working here this summer.”

I raised a brow in confusion at his words. “As in, summer school?”

“Yes, you’d be taking middle school if you accept,” he said, smiling at me as he folded his hands across his chest. “Usually I take summer school with Mr. Steve for additional pay but I’m traveling to see family and he’s not interested in taking it this year since his son is coming home from college this summer.”

“I don’t know...” I trailed, watching as Mr. Dave turned towards Mr. Steve who was now behind his desk. The dark-skinned man looked up from his computer, smiling at me as he gave me a mock salute.

“Come on, they’ll give you money,” he said, cocking his brows in a comical manner that made me and the other art teachers laugh. I could hear Toby’s laugh, and I suddenly felt a bit self-conscious knowing that he was listening in. I turned my gaze a bit so that I could see him, but I looked away when he turned my way.

“Toby’s going to be taking summer classes, he just needs help, so it’d be great if you joined him,” Mr. Steve said when the laughter died down. I nodded, staying quiet. Mr. Steve must have seen the fact as being on the plus side, but it was kind of a negative. I’ve been wishing for the end of the school year for months now, and now it was around the corner — just a day away.

I’d thrown myself into my end of the year exams to prevent myself from overthinking things — wishing that I’d done something differently when telling Toby about how I felt. He behaved as normal as every other day after I’d told him. He did seem to have been affected by it in any way, and I wasn’t sure if I should count it as a good or bad thing.

“It’d be great if you said yes. I want extra pay, but I don’t think I can take that many classes by myself. We’ll be having kids from other schools as well.”

I blinked, coming out of my thoughts. I was a little shocked to hear Toby say that. I looked up, turning to find him smiling at me.

“You won’t be doing anything you don’t know how to. You’re just going to guide kids through their classes, most of them just need brushing up,” he said before turning his attention to Dave. I turned to Mr. Dave too before looking away at the sight of his expectant gaze.

“We’ll give you some time to think. You can come in tomorrow to tell us your decision,” Mr. Dave said, smiling again before dismissing me. I got from the donkey and left the art room after taking a look at Toby’s direction.

Teach summer school, eh. I thought to myself as I walked into the empty hallway. Most people had already left school since the school day didn’t have a definite end today. I spent the rest of the day in the library, and at one PM I decided that it was maybe time to head home. What I didn’t expect was Wyatt standing by my locker with his boyfriend and friends.

“Did something happen?” I asked when I got close enough before making to open my locker when they made way for me. Wyatt shook his head, returning his attention to his phone as I changed my books.

“Mum said we should come home together. Xander’s there already,” he said, making me let out a small ‘oh’ in realization. Xander was our cousin from Canada that was going to be spending the summer with us until he transferred to the liberal arts college he’d got accepted to here. He was extremely reserved, so I’m guessing that for most of his stay we wouldn’t even know he was here.

“Come on,” Wyatt said, leaning off the locker he’d been resting on before making for the main entrance. Ji-Hun went up to him, walking by his side while Aiyana and Ben walked side by side behind them. I just trailed behind them, feeling a little out of place as they chatted amongst themselves. We soon made it out of the school building, and then out the school gates as well. The weather outside was warm, and the pavement and streets were deserted.

“I can’t believe we’re graduating!” Aiyana said all of a sudden from her position up front. She’d made her way there a while ago, and was presently doing a backward walk so that she was facing all of us.

“I just want Felix to come back, to be honest, I’m not excited about anything else,” Ben said, making the others laugh. I let my gaze move to him, watching as he shielded the screen of his phone with one hand and tapped against it with the other.

Is he talking to Felix? I wondered, looking away.

“Yeah, he’ll be back in a week or two for summer,” Aiyana said with a smile before turning away from us and walking in the proper direction as she continued to chat with them. I let my gaze fall to the floor. It was odd being here with them. They just talked to each other, but I couldn’t blame them for not giving me much attention. I was a reasonable distance away from them, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to talk to them either — I wouldn’t know what to say. Social interaction wasn’t my strong point. I spent most of my time focusing on my art. I really didn’t have any time to talk to other people so most interactions made me uncomfortable.

Now that I think about it, did I even have friends? I talked to some other art students that visited the studio from time to time, but I struggled to remember their names so they probably didn’t count. I really didn’t talk to anyone but my teachers and sisters.

Eventually, Wyatt’s friends dropped off at their homes, and we were left alone together. I still tagged behind him, not sure if it was wise to walk beside him.

“You should talk more.”

“What?”

“You know, talk to people more so that they don’t think you’re stuck up,” he said, stopping in his tracks until I caught up with him. “I’m not saying you’re stuck up, I’m just saying that it seems that way. Plus, friends are great to have, what do you have to lose?” he asked, smiling at me softly.

I blinked, looking away as I ran a hand through my hair.

“Nothing. I guess,” I mumbled, looking up at him. His smile widened, and he turned and started to walk again. This time I went up to him, and we walked side by side. We didn’t talk, and the walk home was silent, but it was a comfortable silence.

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