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My uncle’s chicken-scratch scrawl, a marring blot on the thick cream parchment. Strong, firm strokes, no faint quiver of the pen to remind me of the illness that had claimed his life.
“He told me to give it to you.” My aunt’s voice breaks, trails off as the crumpled wrapping paper in one hand drifts towards the wooden floor.
I nod once, out of acknowledgement. I don’t trust myself to speak.
“It’s for your drawings.” I ice up for a moment, and then slam the book shut. He told her.
It had been over a year since he found them.
“What are you doing?” I asked. My tone was dangerous, fingers curling into fists as I stood stock still in the doorway.
He ignored me, only turning a page. Then a meaty finger stabbed the piece of parchment.
“Now this,” he drawled. “Talent like this has gotta be encouraged.”
I took a step towards him. “They’re just drawings.” I think I came across as defensive. He glanced towards me, stepping up from his perch on the edge of my bed.
“Good ones all the same.” I shrugged.
“Dad doesn’t approve of drawing.” He snorted.
“But you don’t like ballet.” I huffed impatiently, wanting to tell him, ‘that’s different’. But it wasn’t, and we both knew it. My hand moved up to flick my braid over my shoulder. “You can’t tell him.”
He arched one bushy eyebrow. “What makes you think I’d do that?”
He nearly slipped up at dinner that night. “Pass the salt, doodlebug.”
Dad’s fork stopped abruptly on its way to his mouth, and he frowned at the remark. “Doodlebug?”
“Someone quirky.” Uncle explained smoothly, popping a bite into his mouth, turning to my mother. “This is great okra, Janice.”
Dad’s eyes flickered to me. I stared back, stone cold, sure that beads of sweat were gathering at my hairline. Then he relaxed, and the tension was broken.
“Dad doesn’t approve of drawing.” It’s just a whisper. She smiles, pulling the book from my hands and pressing it to my chest, right above my heart.
“What do you think of it?”
My hands catch it as she lets go, the movement flicking the cover open. -To my doodlebug- I look up at her, lips curling into a faint smile. She smiles back, pulling a chair out from the mahogany dining room table. I sit down, fingers closing around the fountain pen waiting there.
I open the notebook, turn to a blank page, and begin to draw.