If you missed part one, click here. Also, don’t forget that tomorrow is the Interview with the Character blog fest, so sign up today while you can and check out previous posts for more details.
The Painter – Part 2
What did he have back there?
That question stayed with me throughout the night and into the long, school day. Whenever I went to school, I always felt like I was invisible. I just went through the motions until that fateful bell rang, signaling my freedom. When I walked to my car, I could see a bunch of popular kids hanging out by the car next to it. I tried my best to quickly walk by before any of them stopped me.
I wasn’t fast enough.
“Well, if it isn’t the newbie,” a tall, blond named Casey said. “Where’d you come from again?”
Everyone’s eyes were on me, looking me up and down. “California,” I said, quickly. I just wanted to get out of there and away from all the stares.
“How come you never talk to anyone? Cat got your tongue?” Casey asked, causing everyone to laugh.
From the corner of my eye, I saw Jeremy walk out of the building with his basketball friends. This caught the popular girls’ attention and they forgot all about me. They shouted Jeremy’s name and he looked over. His bright blue eyes caught onto mine and I looked away. The girls of the group rushed over to talk to him which gave me the space to slip into my car. I drove away with those piercing blue eyes of his in my head.
“You should have just smiled at him,” I said. “Nothing wrong with being friendly.”
Great. I was still talking to myself.
As soon as I walked into my house, I could tell that something was going on. The house was quiet and I couldn’t smell dinner coming from the kitchen. My mom came rushing down the stairs, wearing a knee length black dress and her hair in a tight updo. I looked at her strangely and she waved me away.
“Your father has an important dinner party to go to tonight, so you’re on your own. There’s dinner in the fridge to heat up. Don’t burn the house down.”
I didn’t even get a chance to respond before she went out the door and got into her car. I shrugged and went up to my room to start homework. The thought of being alone in a quiet house for the night excited me. I didn’t have to deal with fighting parents and I could finally have space to do what I wanted.
I heated up some left over lasagna and talked to my best friend, Tiffany, while I ate. I missed all of my California friends so much, but hearing her voice was enough to make my bad days better.
“Have you met any interesting people up there?” she asked after an hour of talking about her new boyfriend.
Immediately, I thought of my neighbor. I got up out of bed and went to my spot near the window. The adjoining backyards appeared to be empty except for my German Shepherd, Gina, chasing a bird around.
As Tiffany changed the subject to her boyfriend again, I looked up at the sun starting to set in the sky. My eyes went to his back door and stayed there. I knew he was leaving soon and I wanted to know where he went.
At that very moment, the door opened and he started his slow walk into the forest. I knew this was my chance to answer all of my questions.
Hurriedly, I got off the phone with Tiffany and rushed down the stairs, shoving my feet into sneakers on my way out the back door.
The chill of the evening hit me and I buried my hands deep into the pockets of my sweatshirt as I jogged into the dark woods. A part of me should have been scared, but my curiosity was taking over.
I crept my way through the darkened woods, following the old man’s footsteps that led deeper into the forest. I didn’t know where I was going, but the excitement of that mystery was bubbling over.
Before I knew it, his slow footsteps stopped ahead of me and I ducked behind a large tree as I peeked to see where we were. My mouth dropped open as I saw the huge lake ahead. The water glittering under the sunset. It was a magical sight surrounded by dark trees. The old man walked over to where a blue tarp hid something from underneath. With a flip of his hand, he revealed a tall, wooden easel. As he began to set up his equipment, I saw that my mother was right. He was a painter. I stood there with baited breath, watching his hand fly across the blank canvas. He began to create a colorful work of art that I had never seen before. I was almost mesmerized by how his hand controlled the paintbrush.
“You can get a better look if you stood closer,” he said in a surprisingly strong voice.
My heart leapt into my throat as I realized I had been caught. Was he angry? Would he kill me and throw me in the lake? My legs took control of my body and I crept towards him like a dog waiting to be punished after a bad deed.
“And who would you be?” he asked, his voice thick with a Spanish accent.
My eyes remained glued to his hands as he continued to paint. “Ella McCormack,” I said in a small voice. “Please don’t kill me.”
The sounds of his laugh caused me to jump. It echoed deep into the forest. “Rest easy. My name is Salvador Rios. You can call me Sal.”
Finally, I looked up at his face and saw the deep wrinkles set beside his dark brown eyes. My worries went away and I smiled. There seemed to be a kindness that surrounded him. This man had many stories to tell. My heart was racing as I tried to find my voice stuck inside of me.
“Why do you paint out here? What is this place?”
Read part 3 next Thursday!