I got to drama a little late because my AP history class ran over. Ms. Jones walked to the middle of the stage. Paint splattered overalls replaced her normal dressy style “Listen up everyone. Our scripts still aren’t here so we are going to get busy painting scenery. We have canvases ready for painting. If you are talented in art, you can work on the forest backdrop. If you are not good with a paint brush, you are not excluded from helping. You will work on the stones walls for the castle. All you do with those is paint the whole canvas gray. Then later someone from the art department will go over it to make the stone outlines.”
She was about to walk off when she remembered something. “Oh and because of her excellent performance, Holly Scruggs will be performing her monologue for the parent teacher night scheduled next week.”
I stood there for a second while people half clapped and half chanted they were glad I’d done a good job instead of them as they got busy putting on paint smocks and heading to different painting stations.
I trudged up the steps to the stage and looked at the canvas destined to be stonewalls. I sighed grateful they had something simple I could work on. Surely, I could manage painting the whole thing gray. It was bad enough when my mom yelled at me at home. I didn’t want that here in front of everyone.
I grabbed a painting smock and snapped it up before grabbing a brush to dip in the bucket of gray paint.
“Why are you painting a gray wall when you could be painting a forest?” Theo asked from behind me.
I turned around so he could see me roll my eyes. “Um…because not everyone can paint like you.”
“Tsk…sure you can. All you need is a little guidance.” Theo took my hand and dragged me to the larger canvas no one had started on. I followed without protest. I didn’t mind Theo showing off to impress me. It was kind of flattering. My heart skipped a beat.
But instead of me standing back to watch him, he stood behind me, and took hold of my right hand while nuzzling his face by my ear.
“First, let’s start with green. The forest is made of different shades of green. Green means growth and life,” he whispered. His breath tickled my earlobe. Goose bumps pimpled down that side of my body in response. He guided my brush into the paint and then across the canvas with soft gentle strokes. My eyes fluttered when he tucked strands of my hair behind my ear. I’d never been held by a boy before. The feelings and thoughts were more than I could comprehend.
“If we mix the green with a touch of black, mix white for gray, we can create shadows.” He mixed the colors on a piece of cardboard box he held for a pallet.
We moved from side to side, up and down, covering the blank canvas with gentle strokes. His words still tickling each time he spoke. My heartbeat quickened and my breathing became a little more labored. I watched in amazement as my brush changed the canvas from white to shapeless shades of green and then into a forest thick with vegetation.
As the brush glided along the canvas, I breathed in deeply, the scent of pine trees rushed up my nose. I shook my head and tried to focus on the trees we were painting. The flat painted trees suddenly became three-dimensional. A brown and white bunny hopped into a bush and stirred the leaves, causing me to turn my head towards the motion just before a squirrel scurried up an oak tree carrying a nut in its mouth.
I swallowed and my breath caught as the trees began to surround me. For a second I was sure I was in a real forest. I could smell it. I could hear the leaves rustle while at the same time I could feel Theo still holding me guiding my brush across the canvas. My knowledge of what was true and my senses were in conflict.
Was the room spinning? My stomach was moving with it, or at least it felt like it. My mind couldn’t process what I saw or thought I saw while painting. I was sure the paint fumes were making me high. I had to get away from them. I stepped back from the canvas to get a grip on myself.
The dizziness continued and my stomached tightened. My breathing became quick and shallow. The room grew dim while stars sparkled over me. I was afraid I might faint or throw up. I pulled out of Theo’s grasp and bent over to catch my breath. Ms. Jones and some of the other students looked up to see what was wrong with me. It was bad enough to feel sick, but it would be too embarrassing to throw up or faint in front of the class.
“Holly, did you paint that?” asked Ms. Jones—her eyes wide with wonder.
I looked up at the painting. The forest was immaculate, but just a flat painting, not the real one I was sure I’d just been in with Theo.