“It’s not permanent,” I assured the residence hall director, Quin, who stood bracing himself against the door frame.
“What did you do?” The guy’s mouth gaped at the masterpiece I’d created.
“It’s a work in progress, I know. I’ll fill in the gaps over time.” I stood back and sighed.
“You’re… not allowed… to paint the walls in your dorm.” Quin was either going to have a coronary, pass out, or puke. He would probably get in trouble for not catching me sooner. If I hadn’t left the door open to air out the room, he wouldn’t have smelled the paint.
“It washes right off.” I held up the box of kids paint to show him. “There wasn’t a huge selection of colors, but I didn’t want to get in trouble.”
“You might still get in trouble,” Quin said, straightening to his full height. All five foot eight of him. Even though I was only six one, I towered over the kid. “A rule’s a rule, washable or not.”
“Report me, then,” I said, twirling a brand-new paint brush in my hand like a drumstick. “What are they going to do? Kick me out? They dragged me in here because of my talent. Might as well demonstrate why I’m worth a full ride.”
Quin took a tentative step in the door and moved closer to the wall to get a better look.
“Don’t touch the paint,” I warned him. “It’s not dry yet.”
“You’re supposed to do your art in the studio, not your dorm.” He tucked his hands in his pockets and leaned in to view the detail.
“Too small,” I said. “I need space.” I lifted my hands as if I were measuring a really big fish and spread my arms out wide.
“Why is this spot still white?” Quin asked, pointing to a long area I hadn’t painted yet. Once I moved my bed back into place, that area would be level with the top of the mattress.
“My model hasn’t arrived yet.” My voice lowered as I thought about what I was about to do with that space. “The only way I’m going to get that woman into my bed is if I paint her there.”
“Those are your rules, not mine,” Maggie said from behind us. I turned to see her standing in the doorway with her hands on her hips and a smirk.
“Hey, baby, how ya doing?” I swooped her up in a hug and planted a firm but brief kiss on her mouth. “What do you think?”
“This is incredible Chad.” She pulled away and started walking down the length of the wall admiring my art.
One wall of the room showcased the sandy beach, rolling waves of the ocean, complete with surfers, drawn to scale even though they were barely recognizable as surfers from this far away. The setting sun created a breathtaking canvas where the Santa Monica pier jutted out into the ocean. The likeness was close enough to perfect that it could have been a photograph.
Another wall displayed my grandparent’s farm and homestead, the house where I grew up and the Briggstone Specialty Herbs and Teas. I could almost smell the incense from here. Near the corner of that wall tucked into the back of the farm was a headstone resting under a shady Sycamore tree just like the one that shades my mom’s grave in the cemetery.
Where the Sycamore tree wraps around the corner onto the next wall, a boy, about seventeen, rests his one shoulder against the tree and in his other arm holds a surfboard. In the portrait the boy’s torso is facing the ocean but his head is turned back as if glancing at the headstone, not sure where his heart should be.
“Is that…” Maggie whispered with hesitation. “You? Or… your dad?”
I shrugged nonchalantly and mumbled, “Does it matter?”
Maggie placed one hand on my cheek, and I could tell she was fighting emotions that I was trying to stifle in my own heart. “No… I guess it doesn’t.”
On the smallest wall in the room I had recreated some of the same things that I’d painted on the side of my van, cartoons, people, maps, musical staffs with notes and lyrics, the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, Bible verses and quotes from other classics.
The final wall would become my favorite because it was painted to look like Maggie’s bed complete with dozens of throw pillows in browns and pinks, stripes and polka dots. I planned to draw a life-sized rendition of Maggie lying amidst all those pillows so that when I pushed my bed up against that wall, I would be lying next to her.
Creepy? Maybe. But I didn’t care. Her lying beside me was the first thing I wanted to see when I woke up each morning and the last thing I wanted to see when I closed my eyes each night. I shook myself out of that fantasy and reminded myself that there was one other person still in the room and realized I should probably introduce him.
“Maggie, this is Quin, my residence hall director,” I said, turning her around. “Quin, this is my girlfriend, Maggie.”
“Nice to meet you.” Maggie reached out and shook Quin’s hand.
“Are you a UCLA student too?” Quin asked.
“No, I work at a salon downtown,” Maggie said. “Now that I have my beautician’s license I don’t really need to go to college.”
“She’s a really good surfer too,” I bragged. “Won a couple of junior championships.”
“That was a long time ago.” She pushed my shoulder playfully.
“We still surf together almost every day,” I said.
“How long have you guys been going out?” Quin asked.
“A little over a year,” Maggie said and looked to me for confirmation. “Since we were seventeen.”
Maggie and I shared a secret smile, knowing seventeen was a special age for us. An age that represented a lot of pivotal moments in my life.
I remembered a sentence my dad had mumbled the night he counseled me about making good choices with Maggie. The same sentence he repeated the night he confessed that he was my dad.
“Seventeen,” I whispered. “The year everything changed.”
A stand alone novella in the All's Fair in Love and Sports Series by Julie L. Spencer.