Love, Life, and the List(8)

By: Kasie West


“Has anyone seen my angled brush?” I called down the hall. I was lucky. I knew that. My parents, fully supporting my art, had turned one of the spare bedrooms into a studio for me in our house. It had easels and canvases and a hutch full of paints and brushes and the best lighting in the house.

My mom came to the door holding my brush. “It was in your washing jar by the sink.”

“Thank you.” I hadn’t told anyone what Mr. Wallace had said to me Saturday night. I had expertly avoided the questions with answers like: he’s considering me. Leaving off the second part of that sentence: for next year. I was pretending he hadn’t said it. I was going to ignore it. I didn’t need his show. There were others I could apply to. I couldn’t think of any at the moment, but I’d research it.

“What are you painting? Something amazing . . .” She stared at the poster board that I’d set up on the easel. “Or something not so amazing.”

“I think it’s a pretty awesome poster.”

“Do you have to make Cooper a new poster for every single race? What’s wrong with recycling?”

“That’s the beauty of this, Mom. It is the old poster. I just add another layer every time.”

“It is a pretty cool poster,” she admitted. “But the paint is what I was talking about. So much paint.”

I had painted over the bottom half of the orange backdrop from before, and it was now various shades of blue, melding together to create the effect of movement. Then I had painted encouraging words over the top.

I snatched the angled brush out of her hand. “A painter has to paint, Mom.”

She went to the window and opened it. “I thought we talked about airflow when you’re painting. You need better ventilation in here. The fumes aren’t good for your lungs.”

“I don’t smell anything.”

“That’s because you’ve desensitized yourself to them.”

“Mom, painters have been painting for centuries without good ventilation.”

“And they probably all got lung cancer.”

It was useless to argue with her sometimes. “Okay, I’ll open windows. But then what if I get hypothermia?”

She smacked my back playfully, then looked at her watch. “I thought the race started at two.”

“It does. Wait. What time is it?”

“One forty-five.”

“What? Crap.” I added the final black words under what I’d already written and yanked the board off the easel. “I can take the car, right? You don’t have big plans for this afternoon?”

She gave me a little shove instead of responding to my sarcasm. “Text me right when you get there. And when you’re leaving.”

“How about I text you if there’s an emergency.”

She leveled a stare at me.

“Fine, I’ll text you.”

“Thank you.”

“I’ll clean up when I get home,” I called over my shoulder as I rushed for the door.

“Sunscreen!” she yelled after me.

I wheeled back around, made a pit stop in the kitchen at our drawer of sunscreen, grabbed one of the twenty bottles there, and left.

I carefully placed the poster flat in the trunk, hoping that the heat from the day would help it dry on the way over, then climbed into the car.

I was still wearing my painting shirt, a long-sleeved plaid button-down covered in old splatters of every color, over a tank top and shorts. I wiped my hands on the shirt and started the car. Hopefully Cooper’s race wasn’t the first one.

I cheered wildly from my spot toward the finish line. I had arrived just as he started, so I hadn’t had time to find his parents or sister, but I was sure they were there somewhere. I held my sign up nice and high. Cooper wore a bright-green helmet, and he took the dunes at breakneck speed. I always worried about him when he raced, but he always told me that he was born on the dunes so I had no need to worry. To which I would always reply, gross, and no you weren’t. But I knew what he meant—he’d been riding since he was little. And it showed. He won nearly every race, and this one was no different.

After he crossed the finish line in first place, he stood up and pumped his fist in the air. I wove my way through the watching crowd, mostly made up of tourists, to his trailer, where he’d load up the quad. Cooper and his family were already there when I arrived.

Cooper’s helmet was tucked under his arm, and when he saw me, his smile widened. “Abby! Over here!”

I nodded and finished the walk to him. “Hi!”

“Hello, Abby,” his mom said. His dad nodded at me. His sister, Amelia, hugged me. I’d never met a family that looked more similar to one another than Cooper’s. They were all tall and lean and blond.