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The Portrait This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   She was starting to cry already. I couldn't see Laura's face, but something that was caught in her voice made her words shake slightly. I took a deep breath and leaned backwards in the swivel chair. The monitor in front of me hummed softly and I could see her reflection in the screen. Her back was turned as she studied the painting hanging on the wall. It was of a woman, her hair in a tight bun on the top of her head, sitting very proper with her hands in her lap, staring straight ahead. She wasn't pretty, with thin lips pressed together and eyes cold and hard. She was wearing a yellow dress so large and shapeless that it seemed to melt into the background like a huge golden sun. My father loved this painting. He had bought it when he went to South America, but why I couldn't imagine. Laura was talking.

"She never gives me any credit anymore." She moved slightly, blocking my view of the painting. "I wish I could move out now, but then you know my mother would never pay for college, I would be on my own ..." Laura's voice died away suddenly and she stared at the painting. "She looks sad," she said after a moment. "The way she's sitting with her hands. It looks as if someone just took something away from her." I turned around in my chair and gazed at Laura's shoulders. They were shaking.

"Hey," I whispered and she turned around. I was wrong. She wasn't crying, at least not outright. Her eyes were bright as she looked at me. Then she suddenly burst out laughing and wrapped her arms

around me. It felt so good and I pulled her into my lap and hugged her back. Laura's hair hung in our faces and we sat there and laughed hysterically. I could feel her warm breath on my shoulder and squeezed her even harder. Slowly our laughter faded and the room suddenly became hot and uncomfortable. I dropped my hands from Laura's shoulder and stared into the computer screen again. The steady hum from the monitor sounded like breathing. Laura turned her head slightly.

"When is your flight tomorrow morning?" The question jolted me back. The feeling was like a kick in the chest. I shook my head slowly, "7: 30."

But suddenly I didn't want to go to college. It was the last thing I wanted to do. How could I leave? Damn it, I could still cancel my flight, it was only 10: 25 and I could ...

10: 25.

Laura had to have her father's car back by 10: 30 sharp. My stomach turned over and I wondered where the time had gone. Five months was a long time but I doubted it would move as quickly as when I was with her. Laura turned around and I realized she must have known what time it was because tears were forming in the corners of her eyes, for real this time. She avoided looking straight at me, instead looking up at the ceiling as she spoke. The painting behind her made a halo of yellow around her head.

"I have to go." It came out in a whisper. Without a word I leaned over and shut off the computer. Laura silently put on her shoes and I walked her out to the car.

"I'll call you every chance I get." But she only nodded, still avoiding my eyes. Her car keys were suddenly fascinating to her. "I love you." Then Laura looked up. The overhead light on our back porch made her hair light up like fire in the night. She opened her mouth as if she wanted to say a million things to me, plead, laugh, scream and cry all at once. But in the end she just pursed her lips together before smiling thinly. Time had run out. "I love you too." Then she was gone. I stood alone in the driveway for a long time, watching the headlights roll away down the street and the leaves drifting into our backyard, before going inside to finish packing. 1


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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Kiki_McGee said...
Jan. 31, 2012 at 12:47 am
Good work! I love how you tied the painting in with Laura at the end.
 
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