1. From amateur picture to school project
Author’s thought: “If you don’t open yourself to others, you are missing out on the good things too.”
Here I was, the crazy girl, sprawled out on her belly, covered with leaves in the schoolyard.
No, I wasn’t bullied.
It wasn’t because I was popular or skilled enough in martial arts. I had presumed they just hadn’t decided to do it, yet. Besides, I would have done anything for my art, regardless of what others might have thought.
“Alice, maintain that pose, and let me just get that off.” Linda, my best friend, spoke as she bent forward to remove a leaf from my face.
“Now it’s perfect!” She exclaimed and resumed her work.
She was amazing and very loyal, and I loved her for that. Linda was Korean, not that it mattered one bit. I would have loved her even if she had horns and a tail. If anything, it made her even more special. We became close in eighth grade when she had transferred to our school. We just clicked. One day, when I was going back to my house, I noticed her walking on the other side of the street, and just like that, we ended up talking a lot.
Her family had moved to our city because of a job her father had taken up. Now she lived just a few away from me, and we were together most of the time. We did look a bit strange together, because I was one head taller than her, even though she was seventeen-years-old like me. I wasn’t any giant, rather, she was just small. No, not a dwarf, but just a ‘pocket girl’ in the words of my father. That’s what he liked to call her. Linda’s facial features made her look very cute.
With her long, luscious, black locks which were mostly up in a ponytail, sharp yet understanding tar eyes, and a perfectly flat belly which she liked to show off by wearing short tops. Even her legs always seemed longer than they actually were because of the tight shorts she usually wore; today being an exception.
It didn’t matter to me, though. What mattered was that she understood me by only looking at me. Her cheerful and positive aura along with her sharp mind had the power to make even a dreary rainy day brighter. There was never any judgment in her eyes, and she was very supportive.
She took a few steps backwards, angling her new phone in her tiny hands to take the most creative picture of me. It was what I requested her to do, and the reason why I was rolling on the ground, covered with dry leaves and pale yellow sunlight, falling down on me with a soft glare, in front of other students. Like I had said, I didn’t care what they thought of me. I liked being different.
I needed the photo to make a portrait. I was trying to paint the four seasons and it was time for Fall. When I heard the click of the shutter, I glanced at Linda’s face to see if she was happy with the result. She stared at her phone for a second longer and I placed my head in my palms.
“Is it okay now?” I questioned, getting a little annoyed by how long she was taking.
“Oh, yeah! You can get up. I had just got a new comment on my blog.” She explained and I groaned audibly.
“Seriously?! I said I was tired, but not that tired to enjoy laying on the ground, so you can gossip with someone about your weekend.” I spoke with an irritated undertone, while removing the leaves from my clothes and hair.
“Relax! Here, look at the photo. It will cheer you up.” Linda said and showed me the picture.
I took it from her and inspected every little detail. I was a perfectionist at heart. I liked to make sure my paintings were nothing less than amazing, and this photo was going to be my muse.
“Oh, Ms. Alice! Glad I found you here. Outstanding! I wanted to speak to you. ” Mr. Webster called out to me and increased his pace to reach where Linda and I were standing.
Mr. Webster was the dean of our school. The man was easily in his late fifties, with a receding hairline and sported a salt-and-pepper hair look.
“Ms. Kim,” he added with a nod when he stopped near Linda.
She shrugged and mouthed an inaudible, ‘Why?’ just when he turned to talk with me, and I tried my best to contain the laugh, that was bubbling inside me, and threatening to break through. He always referred to me by my first name, for reasons I was unaware of; I was the only kid I knew whom he subjected this to.
“I think I have something you would like to be a part of. We will be repainting the walls in the gym building, including the walls in all the rooms. We have decided to let the students carry this out as an art project. Now, this is where you come in. If you wish to, of course,” Mr. Webster rambled and when he saw me exchanging looks with Linda, he added, “It will give you extra credit. That is the idea. One of the ideas, I mean. There will be other students from detention too, so you will have help.”
I scratched the side of my forehead in thought, measuring the pros and cons of the deal, while Linda stared at her phone again, as she tuned out our Dean, not even bothering to mask her boredom.
“What kind of painting are you implying? Just some colors or is there more?” I asked, unsure how much art a kid from detention can do.
“Oh no, not just colors. You can do whatever you seem fitting, as long as it doesn’t bend any rules or offends someone.”
“All the walls? The gym, the swimming pool, and the halls, as well?” I questioned, as my curiosity piqued at the opportunity.
“Yes, Ms. Alice, all of them, except the locker rooms, of course. We will have them painted. ” He finished off with a soft smile and waited for my answer.
It sounded like a fun idea. I could give it a try, and maybe forcing everyone to look at my artwork by putting it there for years to come, wouldn’t be that bad, after all.
“Okay, so how do I do this? Do I sign somewhere or...?” I trailed off, as I raised an eyebrow at the dean, and he flashed me an excited grin, his eyes wrinkling at the corners.
“Outstanding! Come to my office after your last class today. I will be there to give you more detailed information. I am afraid I have to go now.” He stated and with a quick ‘goodbye’, he brisk walked towards the parking lot.
When he was away from the hearing range, I playfully punched my best friend who was deep in thoughts, staring at her phone. She yelled in surprise and rubbed the spot I punched with a pout on her lips.
“Did you hear? I will be making history.” I gloated sarcastically with a laugh and she joined in. We sobered up and walked towards the entrance, but we both knew that I was excited about the project and ideas were already boiling in my creative mind.
A few torturing and seemingly never-ending classes later, I was finally walking towards the dean’s office. It was at the end of a long corridor with benches placed on both sides. Other than that, there were six other rooms. The school’s nurse, our psychotherapist, a few rooms reserved for the teachers and the Dean’s office. Being in this corridor only meant two things--either you messed up or you were somehow hurt.
I walked slowly, tightening my hold on the right strap of the backpack, as I tried not to bump into someone’s knees, which were almost in the center of the corridor as they sat on the benches… and stared at me, wondering what I did to deserve to be here. What have they done to be here?
Avoiding their inquisitive gaze, I reached the door with a small, intricate wooden sign, which had ‘Dean’ on it. I took a deep breath and knocked on the door twice with my knuckles and patiently waited for someone to answer. A moment later, I heard a feminine and muffled voice, inviting me inside. Assuming it was Mr. Webster, I pushed open the door and walked in.
I had never been in there, so I was surprised to see a small waiting room with another bench with cushioned seats pushed up against the wall. I had thought it was the Dean that called me in, but it really was a female after all.
A woman in her forties, with silvery hair which was cut in an immaculate bob, dressed in an official brown jacket, and thin, wired frame glasses perched on her nose. She was sitting behind a desk right next to the door, completely absorbed in some paperwork. I walked to stand in front of her which made her look up and give me an appreciative look.
“Ms. Stevens, right? You may sit there. Dean Webster will talk with you soon.” She spoke in a hurried yet professional tone and resumed her work, not even bothering to point where the supposed ‘there’ was.
The room was bright and had decorative plants placed everywhere. It looked like a small jungle with the amount of green present in the room. An old wooden bench placed on the opposite side of the desk where the woman was, along with a small glass table, the only other furniture here. I wondered how it was still standing, given the weight of all educational books placed on it, seemed more than it could hold.
I made my way to sit by the table where a guy was already seated. I decided to not pay any attention to him, but soon changed my mind and turned my head towards him to say ‘Hi’. However, before any word could have left my mouth my eyes caught sight of him and the words got stuck in my throat.
Oh My God!
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I knew that face. I could recognize it anywhere. I was starstruck; I was pretty sure I resembled a gaping fish at that particular moment because of how my eyes widened, and my mouth opened and closed simultaneously to form a coherent sentence.
A teenager who was very famous in our town. He was a talented singer and guitarist and played in the band called Victory Run. They released one song on the local radio a month ago, and most teen girls went crazy over it. It was a big hit and became a favorite in no time.
He was absolutely stunning, looking like Alex Band from The calling in the song Wherever you will go. I was not the one to be easily impressed, merely by the physical attributes. ‘Looks aren’t everything’, that’s what I believed in, yet here I was, with words stuck in my throat; speechless.
“Are you just going to stare at me?” He questioned and I noticed how his lips twitched to contain the smile for a fleeting moment. He didn’t even turn his face to look at me, since he was looking at his phone from the moment I entered the room.
“Err… hi.” I stuttered out, as I came back to my senses and grabbed some random book from the table, acting like it was something I would read. He did not answer back and I subconsciously frowned.
Maybe he was this way because he was a famous ass. Why should I care if he replied to me or not?
An awkward silence surrounded us like a thick blanket on a hot summer day, almost suffocating me with its intensity. After a very long and agonizing five minutes later, the door to Dean’s office was opened by a chubby, red-haired woman. I jumped from my place, disregarding what someone might have thought, like I always did, and walked towards the Dean with tentative steps.
“Thank you so much, Mr. Webster. I appreciate you taking a chance on my boy. I promise you will not regret this!” She said, her cheeks turning a deep shade of red. “Come on, Thomas. Let’s not waste any more of Dean’s precious time.”
She beckoned the self-absorbed guy sitting on the bench, waiting for him to get up and walk to her like a little boy. I smiled, unafraid of him noticing, and dared to steal one more look at him, before going inside the office.
Damn, he was hot!
He had small, black hoop earrings adorning his ears, and a thin, silver braided metal chain around his neck, which glinted now and then as the light fell on it, and rested perfectly on his collarbone. A black t-shirt hugging his seemingly ribbed torso, complemented by an unbuttoned jean jacket, and black, distressed skinny jeans finishing off the look.
Sitting with his legs apart and elbows resting on his thighs, anyone could have made out the annoyed look on his face from a mile away. He sure didn’t want to be here. His lustrous, blond hair flowed like a serene river, ending on his cheekbones, covering a part of his forehead, and almost obscuring his steely, icy blue orbs from my vision, as they pierced my own. I whipped my head away from him, almost getting a whiplash.
I am not one of those girls!
I shook my head to get rid of the lustful thoughts, as I mentally chastised myself. I could not have a crush on someone who had never met me, learned who I really was and what I liked. I would never fall for the bad boy attitude!
“Outstanding! Goodbye, Ms. Black, Mr. Black. I am looking forward to your success here!” Mr. Webster exclaimed happily with a clap. Just like calling me by my first name, he was used to saying “outstanding” way more often.
As I closed the door behind me, our eyes met again. I looked away almost instantaneously and cursed under my breath for letting myself get caught for looking at the famous, pretty boy for the third time.