I love to read it in books. The words describe it so fluently, so magically. A twinkle in the eye. The corners of the lips twitching upwards. And then the laughter. I’ve heard it described as if it were like twinkling bells on a breezy summer day. Such a happy sound. But we don’t have that here.
Everything here is too gloomy for such sweet sounds. You can’t get through a day without having any ounce of fear, in some way. But without fear this society would have been built on nothing.
Everything changed, though. It’s crazy how one person can make such a difference in a world like this. I’m sure you’d like to know what happened? Well I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you all about her.
Another depressing day, week, year. Especially at school. I’m pretty sure school is proven to make you stupider at some point, because eventually people just stop caring. Haven’t you heard that grades get lower the higher the grade you’re in? Well I’d say it’s true, even for me, the neatest, most “fear of failure” kid you’ve ever seen. Everything about school screams “depressed” and “bored”.
The hallways of my school are just painted grey in some areas and beige in others. No exciting colors anywhere in the school. It’s because of that that I notice the locker right away. In the middle of a set of dark grey lockers stands a brightly colored one, obviously painted by someone. I see a few people admiring it briefly before walking away. As people begin to move to class before the bell rings, I walk closer to it and examine the brightly painted thing. I touch it, noticing that the paint is dry and that it was probably painted sometime after school last night. This was not here yesterday. And then I notice the number. 1125.
This locker, this painted, brightly colored, annoyingly beautiful locker… is my own.
I put in the combination and my locker swings open. Who… did this? Why would somebody paint my locker, out of all the options? Do they not have their own?
Suddenly, I feel a breath on my back and I spin around, face to face with a girl. Her eyes are big and curious, and her face is makeup free. Nothing covering up the blemishes or pimples, but somehow, she’s still beautiful. Her blonde hair rolls down her back in waves. She wears a brightly colored outfit that isn’t the standard grey school uniform.
“Uh… hi,” I say. Our faces are inches away.
“Oh, so this is who it is…” the girl mutters to herself, almost too quiet for me to hear. “Obviously, I made the right choice.”
“Um, sorry… who are you?” I question her. She makes eye contact with me and I subconsciously note that her eyes are different colors.
“Yes, that! I’m Lorelei! What are you called?” This girl named Lorelei asks me. That’s a very strange way to ask someone what their name is.
“My name is River,” I say. “River Jade.”
“Nice to meet you River Jade!” Lorelei says in a singsong voice. “I knew I painted the right locker.” Lorelei then turns and walks away, a little hop in her step, humming to herself.
“Wait!” I say, closing my locker with a hurry. “Wait, stop! Aren’t you going to tell me why you painted my locker? What about why you knew it was the right one?” I start to hurry after her. “Please?” But her figure has already disappeared around the small crowds in the hallway.
“Lorelei?” I feebly call out her name, but I know she’s already gone.
My third class, art, is the next time I see her. As I walk into the classroom, I see paints stacked in a corner and a large paintbrush resting on top of one. A ladder stands next to those things and when I follow it up with my eyes, I see that the ceiling tiles are beginning to be filled with color. Someone runs past me, and I watch as that long blonde hair flows behind her while she picks up the brush and climbs the ladder.
And, getting paint everywhere, she begins to paint the ceiling. Just splashes and spots of color and brightness. I find my seat, not wanting to take my eyes off of her piece as she works.
When class is over, I walk over to the bottom of the ladder.
“Hey, Lorelei…” I say, looking up at her and trying not to get dripping paint on my face. “Your piece on… on the ceiling is beautiful.”
Lorelei looks down at me from her spot on the ladder.
“You know why I think they call things like this a ‘piece?’,” she asks, beginning to paint again.
“Well… uh, why?” I ask, confused. She takes a minute to do another couple brush strokes before answering.
“Because it’s like a piece of me. I’m painting myself. But it’s not just that, I think it’s a piece of you too. All of you! You and you and you and you.” She points at random places around the room. I follow where she points, but nobody’s here. I look back up at her.
“It’s a piece of everyone?” I ask.
“Yes! It’s a piece of everyone that I’m putting down right here. Or maybe I should say putting up. Because it’s the ceiling.” She giggles to herself and starts to paint again.
“Hey, I just wanted to ask… is… is there a reason you painted my locker? Out of everyone else’s?” I ask as she climbs down the ladder to wash her brush and grab a new, just as bright color.
“Of course!” She says, not looking back down at me.
“Can you tell me what the reason is?”
“Sure!” Lorelei says. “Because you’re the one I picked, River Jade.” She stops painting to look down at me, resting her arm on the top of the ladder.
“What does that mean?” I ask. Lorelei looks back towards her painting and paints a smiley face with her new color. Then the bell rings, and I rush out of the art room to my next class, already knowing I’m late.
The next day at school comes fast. I practically run to my locker, only to see that it’s the same as before, the paint still brightly standing out against the cool grey. I look around to see if Lorelei is anywhere in sight. When I don’t see her long blonde hair in the crowd, I walk to my next class a bit disappointed.
In art class, I finally see her.
“Lori!” I say when I see her sitting at a table drawing swirls with her pencil. She looks up and smiles.
“I’ve never been called that before, River Jade! I’ll have to tell that to people when they ask what I’m called.” She looks back down and focuses on her next curve. I sit down across from her and pull a piece of paper and a pencil out from my bag. She doesn’t look up from her paper as I begin to copy her movements, drawing swirls and twirls in every place they’ll fit. And then I feel her hand on mine.
“No,” she says, without looking up or stopping her pencil from flowing across the page. “Still not open.”
“What?” I ask. “What do you mean not open? What’s not open?”
But she doesn’t answer and she doesn’t take her hand off mine. I look at my swirls and then look at hers. Not knowing what else to do, I begin to draw again. This time, I close my eyes. I feel her hand lift off of mine. After a couple minutes, I open my eyes again. My paper is filled with twirls, but there isn’t enough space on it for more. I reach down to get a new paper from my bag.
“River Jade, what are you doing?” I hear her say. I look up into her eyes. They still shine at me with different colors.
“I’m… getting a new piece of paper,” I say. “Mine ran out of space.”
Lori shakes her head.
“You can’t do that.”
Lori doesn’t answer. I look at my paper. The lines curve round and round, but I notice that the swirls are one continuous line. I follow the line to the end. It runs off of the paper. I look at Lori, who looks at me expectantly.
“Your eyes,” she says quietly. “Your eyes aren’t open.” She chuckles, with a twinkle in her eye. “You asked earlier.”
I look down at my paper and the line that ends so abruptly. I take my pencil and place it on the edge of the paper. Then, without thinking, I continue the line off of the paper and onto the table. I hear a laugh, not knowing if it came from me or from Lori. It makes so much sense now. I shouldn’t be confined to one paper, I think as I continue the swirls all over the table. I smile at Lori’s genius. When I look up and into her eyes, the corners of her mouth rise in a little smile to match mine.
“The student has become the teacher!” She says, laughing. I laugh too. We twirl our pencils together, covering the entire table with swirls. I look up and my smile fades with awe. The ceiling that Lori had been painting so beautifully yesterday is covered with bright swirls. I then think back to my locker. Swirls. So many beautiful, colorful swirls.
The girl who calls herself Lorelei looks at me from across the table.
“What are you called, River Jade?” She says, and her laugh echoes through my head like tinkling bells on a breezy summer day.