Ari was hyper or A.D.D or something but his mother didn’t believe in pills so he squirmed around while he was supposed to be sitting still for Miss Nash’s grade 10 art class.
Every time he moved, someone sighed or moaned or shouted “Fuck’s sakes, Ari!’ and Miss Nash, who was usually a quiet, calm person had had enough. She’d started yelling ‘Art is flux’ and “Explore” which sort of sounded helpful but was her way to shut people up.
Becca’s had put her paint brushes aside and decided to draw a skull. She should have laid it out in pencil first because she noticed the right eye socket was bigger than the left, but it wasn’t TOO bad. She’d used a really skinny marker for all the details but it looked BLAH on the page. Then, she’d gotten the idea to put a big fat juicy black line all around the outside to make it pop. And it did.
“Oh. My. God! ” said Leanne, looking over Becca’s shoulder. A few students in class glanced over to see what she was talking about. “Really cheery, Becks.” Leanne said. Then she rolled her eyes so everybody could see she was being an arch, ironic bitch.
Becca said nothing. She never did because she could never come up with stuff on the spur of the moment. She just put her drawing back in her sketch book.
Miss Nash moved quietly into the middle of the room. “Everybody?” she said in her gentlest voice to show respect to her student’s creative process, “It’s time to start thinking about cleaning up.”
All the chairs scraped back at once. Ari leapt off his riser and two girls raced each other to the sinks.
Miss Nash looked disappointed. She always did. “I want to remind you another time,” she said, her voice trying to rise above the din, “that shoes, backpacks and lunches are not acceptable objects to bring in for your still life assignment.”
“This is important, people.” Miss Nash shouted, clapping her hands for attention. “Our subjects represent us as artists. They say something about us. What you choose to paint or draw is deeply personal and it should tell me IMMEDIATELY where your artistic heart is. Josh, it’s you turn next week. Becca is the week after that. If you hav – ”
The period bell rang so whatever Miss Nash said was lost in the mass exodus. Becca waited for the sea of people to retreat. When the way was clear, she tossed out her painting of Ari and picked up her gungy paint brushes.
The bottom of the sinks were covered in gobs of acrylic paint. It was Becca’s favourite moment in class. Becca turned on the cold water tap and leaned over the sink to watch the paint blobs burst like fireworks. Vivid colours popped at first: orange and blues and mauves and white. Then, as the blobs thinned, the colour appeared in thinning spidery arms until the water ran clear and Becca couldn’t remember the last colour she’d seen.
Becca turned around with surprise. People didn’t normally talk to her.
It was the guy from the AV room. Becca frowned. “Are you in this class?” It was conceivable he was a classmate. She didn’t usually look around too much. Eye contact usually meant inviting problems down the line.
“Nah,” he said, pointing to a table behind a divider. “I’m working on an independent project. Nash lets me hang.”
Becca could see he was older than her. Probably in Grade 11 because he was shaving. Up close, his eyeliner didn’t look as mysterious as it did, ghoulish. It sort of bled out all over his eyelids and smudged under his eyes. He’d dyed his hair black which made his skin look über white and his freckles seem translucent. It was growing back in a pale brown. It was like he was albino and he was really, really hard to hide it.
“I saw you were drawing. Can I see?”
Becca hesitated. Nobody ever asked her to see her drawings. She walked over to her sketchbook and pulled the page out of her book. “It’s not finished,” she said, handing him her drawing of the skull. He studied it really, really seriously and mysteriously, Becca felt naked and exposed.
“Nice line work.”
Becca felt her cheeks flush. She quickly took the drawing back to hide it in her book. “One of the eyes is bigger than the other,” she said, because she knew it wasn’t perfect and she wanted him to know that she knew.
He nodded, like he’d noticed. “It’ll probably be the most cool part about it when it’s done. What’s your name?”
“Rebecca,” Becca said, surprised to hear herself using her full name rather than her mom’s diminutive.
He extended a giant hand. “I go by Raven Shadow pretty much everywhere but at school, it’s Dylan.” He pulled his shoulder length hair out of his eyes to talk more intimately. “I know this is none of my business but that girls who said stuff about this drawing doesn’t know shit, okay? They don’t know you OR what you’re drawing. Morbid is just a state of mind and I’m this is where your head is at now, right?”
Becca said nothing.
Dylan lowered his voice. “You’re depressed, right?”
Becca stared silently into Dylan’s ringed eyes. She was not going to answer him. And yet, he nodded and said: “Yeah. Thought so.”
Becca wasn’t sure whether he meant he was depressed too or that he could see Becca slipping off the deep end but how could he know? Unless he’d been through the same experiences, felt the same feelings. Maybe. Just maybe. He looked okay.
“Let’s go talk out there,” Dylan said, nodding toward the hall.
Becca glanced at the hallway a moment then picked up her markers and books and clutched them tightly to her chest. “I don’t think so,” she answered.
Dylan looked surprised as she brushed past him but the last thing Becca needed was to get cornered into talking to a lonely freak.
NEXT WEEK: Team work.