A few months ago, I entered a short story contest. I didn’t win, but I ended up with an awesome story that I’m proud of. I know that every time I complete a story, I become a better writer, whether it wins a prize or not. Writing this story was worth every second.
The Power in Paint
When I am with my best friend, art class is amazing, but when the teacher assigns partners, I’m in trouble.
Please, put me with one of my friends, I think. PLEASE.
Mrs. Sirico calls out, “Taylor and Olivia.”
I frown. The teacher is putting me with Olivia? Is this some kind of punishment?
“I have one canvas for each group,” Mrs. Sirico tells the class, “so you’re going to share supplies and take turns painting. When it’s not your turn, you can give the other person ideas.”
Olivia comes over, grabs some acrylic paints, and starts setting up our canvas. She opens a pack of paint-splattered brushes.
I roll up my sleeves, not wanting to ruin my new blouse.
Olivia asks, “What should we paint?”
I shrug. I don’t want to paint anymore. I watch as two of my friends become partners.
I pretend like I am busy brainstorming a picture when I’m really watching the clock ticking towards 2:30 so I can be the first out the door.
I kick my legs back and forth and let out an exasperated sigh.
Turning to look at the canvas, I see that Olivia is painting what looks like the structure of a house. She strokes layers of browns and grays across the canvas.
I do not like those colors.
I scoot closer to look at the painting. Right now it doesn’t look like much. Just a house without a sky.
Mrs. Sirico is strolling closer to us, looking at pictures, so I lean on Olivia’s chair and watch her smear yellowish paint to create a driveway.
“You want to add something?” she asks.
“Not really. I paint all the time.” That’s not true, but it’s the first excuse I come up with. Mrs. Sirico passes by, looking pleased.
I look back at my best friend, who is chatting and laughing. I wish I were having fun like her.
I glance over at Olivia, who’s adding purple to a little flower garden around the house. She dabs white flowers around the purple ones too. When I look closer, I see they are pansies.
I admit, only to myself, that she is actually a skilled painter. She adds subtle details and they make the painting come alive.
I can’t keep my eyes off the canvas as Olivia strokes red and orange into the sky.
It’s a sunset, I realize.
The colors are curving, and she brushes a sun vanishing behind the serene mountains in the distance. I wonder who owns the yellow house.
I notice that Olivia is starting to paint slower and her eyes are wistful.
She picks up the brown acrylic paint and squeezes it onto her palette. Taking her brush, she outlines a bench and fills it in. On it, she paints two people (one woman with gray hair and a girl that looks like herself) sitting next to each other, watching the sun disappear.
I turn to look at her. Her face is expressionless.
“Is that your house?”
She shakes her head. “It belongs to my grandma.”
Before I can say anything else, Mrs. Sirico claps her hands. “Class, it’s time to wrap up. Clean up your area. Decide – nicely – who gets to take the art home.”
Olivia says, “Um, Taylor, can I take it home? I want to give it to someone…”
Now I’m a bit embarrassed. I didn’t help paint. The teacher would be furious.
“You painted it,” I concede. “Who are you going to give it to?” I don’t know why I’m curious.
“My grandmother. She’s…in the hospital. She needs a reminder of home.”
I can’t help but stare at her. The painting is amazing. If I had painted that, I would keep it forever. But then it hits me what she had said.
“Oh. Your grandma’s in a hospital? I’m…sorry. Is she ok?”
She shrugs. We quietly clean together for a few minutes.
Strangely, I’m starting to like this girl. She is nice and thoughtful. I’ve never paid any attention to her before.
When we’re finished, I say, “I hope your grandma gets better.” I pause. “You’re a fantastic painter. You should enter the school art contest. Maybe you’d win.”
She lights up. “Oh, thanks. I don’t know if I would win though…”
I shoulder my backpack and head towards the door, with Olivia close behind.
I’ll probably never admit it, but I loved art class today. I think I’ll go do a nice thing for someone, because of what Olivia did.
I smile. Who knew a painting had the power to spread kindness?