My friend, Angela, asked me to write something for her. I don’t know what sparked this story, considering I’ve never experienced divorce or anything like that. This story is entirely too dramatic, but that’s okay! 🙂
Blues and greens and browns swirled from the tip of my favorite brush as I stroked it across the canvas.
I didn’t quite know what the end result would be. I never knew. All I knew was the calming peacefulness that filled me while I painted.
It took my mind off of things. Off of… Well, I didn’t want to think about it.
“Chloe? You’ve been in there all week. Please talk to me!”
I ignored her. She was trying to drag me out and make me think. But it was too painful.
I squeezed a tube of red paint. A satisfying blob came out. I swirled it with a little white.
“Chloe, you can’t stay in there forever. Spring break ends tomorrow… You have to go to school.”
Ignored once again. I continued to cover the canvas in small, delicate strokes. I heard a large sigh from behind the door, and footsteps fading as my mom gave up and walked away.
It’s amazing just how quickly one’s life can turn upside-down.
One moment, I was happy.
The next, I was shattered.
School that day had been normal. Boring, as usual, but I was glad it was Friday, glad spring break was just hours away.
I remember the weather. It had rained earlier, but was sunny by the time school was out.
My bus splashed through some of the remaining puddles as it approached my bus stop.
I got off and skipped home. Spring was my favorite season, and I was happy it was finally here.
I opened the door and kicked off the shoes.
“I’m hoomeee–” I loudly announced, but stopped in my tracks.
My parents stood stiffly in front of me. Both were paper white, lips in a straight line. Hands awkwardly at their sides.
“Is everything alright?” I asked, looking from one parent to the other. My dad glanced at my mom, and she nodded stiffly. They gestured at me to follow them, so I did.
We approached the dining room table, and I sat down next to my little sister and older brother. Nobody said a word.
“I need to talk to you all about something,” my mom said softly, slowly, after taking a deep breath.
All of a sudden, I knew what was coming. Scenes flashed through my mind, memories of shouting and arguing after dark, keeping me up at night.
“You- you’re getting divorced,” I whispered, looking again from parent to parent. Tears flowed from my eyes when neither one of them said I was wrong. My mom just nodded stiffly.
“We just need you guys to know that we love you all very much, but–” my dad started, rehearsed. I stood up, turning my chair over. My little sister, Cassie, flinched at the noise.
“Don’t give me this cliche crap of a speech that you found on the internet. Shut. Up!” I screamed, running up to my room. Slamming the door. Turning the lock. Spilling tubes of paint as I clumsily tried to squeeze them onto the easel. Swirling paint around to form a picture, any picture, even though it was morphed by the stream of tears.
I didn’t come out of my room for the rest of the week except to pee. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I just cranked out picture after picture as my mom pleaded me to come out for just a second.
I dreamt of this scene the last night of break. I woke up screaming, relieved for a second that it was just a dream. Then filled with dread when I realized it wasn’t.
I did go to school the next day, but I left the house without a word. I put on a mask at school, fake joy for all my friends. I joked and laughed with them, hiding the pain.
When I got home, though, I was mute again. I walked hurriedly up to my room, backpack, coat, and all, and shut and locked the door.
And I painted. And painted.
I didn’t do my homework. All I was willing to eat was lunch at school, and the occasional bite of dinner Cassie or my older brother Cole would slide under the door.
The teachers started getting concerned. But I didn’t care. My parents threatened to take me to a psychiatrist, or to a counselor at the very least. But how could they, when I was locked in my room?
All that kept me sane was my painting.
The divorce became official two months later.
This life I had chosen for myself lasted three whole months.
“Did you sign up for the art show, Chlo?” My best friend Eryn asked me one day. It was a couple weeks after court, and about two and a half months since I’d first gotten the news, and my life had changed forever.
I shrugged at Eryn’s question.
“Not yet. I don’t know if I want to do it,” I muttered. Eryn sighed.
“Hon, this can’t go on forever. I know you’ve been through a tough time and that sucks! But you need to get over it.”
I shrugged again, fighting off tears. I knew she was right.
“I- I guess I’ll do it,” I said softly. My friend smiled warmly and gave me a big hug.
“I’ll help you get through this. Don’t worry. Now, first things first…. Let’s get you signed up for that art show!” Eryn said, taking hold of my hand and dragging me to sign-ups.
For awhile, I simply pushed the thought of the art show to the back of my mind and attempted to continue doing what I had been doing.
Meanwhile, Eryn invited me over nearly every night to talk, do homework, eat snacks, and play basketball and soccer outside, one-on-one.
Slowly, my teachers took notice. My grades were improving. I participated more in class, if ever so slightly. My mood was better; I was talking to my friends more.
The pain caused by the divorce was almost…. Forgotten. For the help Eryn had given me, I was eternally grateful.
Before I knew it, the art show was in a short one and a half weeks. I still had no clue what I was going to present!
For the next week and a half, I was kept busy by art. Nothing, however, would satisfy me.
Thanks to Eryn, I actually felt the urge to do well. I really wanted to win the thing, to see a shiny first place ribbon hanging on my work!
So I painted.
I kept throwing paint-covered canvas after canvas to the side. Most were good… But not what I was looking for. They were boring, even slightly cliche.
But I kept going.
I heard screaming and jolted awake. I tried opening my eyes, but they were still fuzzy with sleep.
It was only then that I realized that the screaming was coming from my own mouth.
I sighed and lay back down, head resting comfortably on my soft, fluffy pillow. That same dream had come to me again.
I looked at my clock. I groaned when I realized I had 2 minutes until my alarm would go off.
I lifted the covers off and swung my feet off the side. I switched the light on, and came face to face with my calendar. Today’s date was circled. My stomach dropped.
Today was the art show.
The school gym was hot, and I was sweating under my tshirt and skirt.
I glanced at the clock. The show would start in a few minutes. I turned around to make sure my table was set perfectly.
My large canvas was covered in a cream-colored sheet. It stood upright on top of a white table. I had decorated the area with simple flowers to add to the effect of the painting, and a card with my name and title of my piece was at the front of the table for people to see.
The way our art show worked was a little different from other ones. The guests sat on the bleachers as a teacher walked around the gym. She went to each person and said their name and the title of their piece, and then had them whisk the sheet off. Afterwards, the guests walked around to get a better look of the pieces and voted on the best one. The judges counted the votes and made an overall decision about the winner. So the guests’ votes didn’t completely nominate the winner, but they helped solidify the judges’ decisions.
I held my breath. One minute left.
“Welcome to the 34th annual Washington High art show!” The art teacher, Mrs. Travis, said.
I bit my lip as she walked around the circle of students, revealing their art. Some were…. Well, let’s face it. Some were pretty awful, and I knew I had a chance winning over them. But others? Others were simply amazing.
“Here’s Sophie Rysk, with her sculpture ‘Magical Dreams'”.
Oh crap, Sophie’s was good. And, worse yet, she was only a few people away from me. Mrs. Travis was getting closer!
I breathed in deeply through my mouth, letting it out from my mouth a few seconds later.
Get a grip, Chloe, I told myself.
The art show had never mattered much to me before. Why was I suddenly so obsessed with winning?
“And now, here’s Opal Green with her drawing ‘Childhood Fantasies.'”
As the girl next to me whisked the cover off her picture, it suddenly dawned on me. The reason this was so important to me.
“Thank you, Opal. That is lovely”.
I wanted to make my parents proud.
“We now have Chloe Hawk with her painting ‘Light in the Darkness!'”
I took a deep breath, finally looking up at the crowd, where dozens of eyes stared at me expectantly.
My right hand gripped the worn, cream-colored sheet. And there in the crowd, I saw my parents.
Sitting there, in the bleachers.
As I yanked the sheet off the glowing picture of Eryn, the one who helped me get through all of this, I realized something.
My parents didn’t care if I won. They were proud of me no matter what.
And life would get better after all.