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It's Morning in Rapid City

Dad gets mad when she paints. I remember the time when he strode into her room and took the brush right out of her hand. He started screaming about how we were low on money, and wasting it on canvases and little colored tubes was insane. And then he told her that if he saw one more painting, she'd be out of the house permanently.

I was right there, with my hands pressed to the wood of the door frame, watching. Obviously, she put her things away after that. They're still locked in the chest underneath her bed. I miss the summer nights when I'd bring a lamp out into the yard and watch her smear the star-dappled sky onto a piece of paper. I brought her flowers and river stones to admire, and she gave me tiny mirror images of them to keep forever.

Now, there's not much we do together. She's seventeen, and she spends all her time shut up in her room, looking at colleges and applications. She doesn't seem to want to have much to do with me, even though we're sisters, and somewhat close in age. So I'm left to my own, wandering around, trying to see things in the way that she used to. But I can't put them on paper like she can.

It's September fourth and she's eighteen tomorrow. Dad took the planks off of the window, and I smile, remembering when he'd hammered them on to try to keep her rambunctious spirit inside the house. The window looks so bare now.

I want to spend one last day with her, before she's out of this small town. When I enter her room, her things are packed, and her train tickets are tossed onto the bedspread beside her. One will take her from Rapid City to Pierre, the next, to Cincinnati, and the last, all the way to New York City.

She invites me to sit down. I look her up and down one last time. She's ours for one last night, seventeen for a few short hours, and then she's gone; she'll just be property of the whole world. There's no way that she'll want to spend those last moments of childhood with me. She has the rest of her life ahead of her, and she's already grown up to be an adult. Just another face in the crowd.


Sighing, I reach into her liquid hazel eyes and try to draw out a strand of the sister I used to have. She doesn't say a word, but her hands creep to the bottom of her maroon sweater. She clutches it and lifts it up without speaking.

And now I'm staring at her bare stomach and chest, which aren't pale, translucent skin to match her face and arms. It's a bird stretching on its toes into the midnight sky, splashing down into a pond of royal blue, shimmering like a thousand honeybees clattering into the pearl green that is her rendition of the autumn breeze. It's a painting, right there on her skin.

Maybe she hasn't washed herself in weeks, but that's irrelevant. I look up into her eyes and see a fierceness that makes me laugh back at her. She's been herself all along, just hidden under this illusion of a grown-up.

It's like she explained to me when she was putting the finishing touches of midnight blue in her image of the sky. You can't paint over some things. For example; the spirit of a wild teenage girl.



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