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Striped Sails

Natalia wondered at the charcoal sky from atop her perch on the table, her long legs dangling over the edge. Well-used watercolors and paintbrushes crusted with old inspiration cluttered the tabletop around her. The room rang with the sound of silence.
“Natalia! What are you doing in here?” Miss Marcie, Natalia’s art teacher, exclaimed as she walked into the small art room, breaking the silence. The art room was a sort of secret place, tucked away in a corner of the school. “Oh!” Natalia said as she jumped a foot off the desk. “Um—just—well, trying to paint.” Miss Marcie stepped closer to the table, eyeing the brushes and paint. “How’s it working?” Natalia sighed and twirled her gold-red, straight-as-an-arrow hair around her finger. “Not amazing. Every time I paint, I feel like something is missing.” Miss Marcie smiled. “You’re doing fine, Natalia.” She plopped down on the desk beside her and they sat there, thinking, until the bell rang to mark the end of the school day.

The next day, after history class, Natalia walked down the crowded hall beside her friend Julian. “How’s the painting going?” Julian asked Natalia. He fingered his shaggy brown hair, looking at her thoughtfully with his chocolate brown eyes. Natalia shrugged. “It could be better, I’ll just say that,” she said carefully. “It’ll come back,” Julian reassured her, as if there was no question that Natalia’s creative block would end. “Thanks, Julian,” Natalia said to him with a grateful smile.

Julian was right, though neither he nor Natalia knew it yet. Natalia did, however, wander back to the art room during ninth period that day. This time, she gazed out the old, wavy-paned window at the dark silver sky, painting its sparkles in her sketchbook. She still felt like something was missing.

“Hey, Natalia,” Miss Marcie said, this time unsurprised, as she walked into the art room. She leaned over the table that Natalia was working at. “I like your sky,” she added honestly as she studied the sparkling portrayal. “You do?” Natalia asked. She was surprised.

“Natalia, God has given you a gift. Your paintings, every one of them, show talent. I know you’re waiting for a specific painting, something that will satisfy your desire. It will come. In the meantime, keep painting, and just don’t worry about it.”
Natalia nodded. “Thanks, Miss Marcie.” Miss Marcie smiled, and she put a hand on Natalia’s shoulder. “No problem, girlie.”

The following day was Saturday, the day some people will choose to sleep until lunch. In contrast, Natalia, caring more for creativity than slothfulness, took out her old watercolors and her sketchpad that she carried every single place she went. She began to paint while she listened to music and read her favorite magazine, Home Companion. She pondered the sky, which that day was the color of white gold, like dewdrops on a spider web at dawn.

Julian texted her after a minute. What’s up?

Painting, she texted back. How about you?

I’m out sailing with my dad, Julian’s next message read. How’s the painting going today?

The painting’s going all right, Natalia texted back. She painted some of the lyrics of the song she was listening to in her sketchbook. Then she started adding patterns and wavy lines around the words.
Just then, another text message came in.

I’m sure your paintings are just as pretty as ever, the message from Julian read.

Aww, thanks, Julian, she replied.

You should come sailing with me one time, his next text message read. We can take my dad’s sailboat with the cherry red-striped sail and have a picnic…

Natalia smiled. She replied, I would like that very much, Julian. They continued texting, and Natalia continued painting, for the rest of the day.
When Natalia woke up, something was different. It was Sunday, and as Natalia pushed open the blinds blanketing her bedroom windows, she couldn’t help but smile. After church, when Natalia turned her phone on, there was a text message from Julian waiting for her.
Hey, Natalia, it read. Do you want to go sailing next Saturday?

Natalia smiled. Yes! She typed.

Later, Natalia sat thinking and doodling in her purple notebook. She soon found herself grabbing her paints and letting the colors flow onto her sketchpad. She painted water, breaking up and down with sharp but small waves. Then she painted a golden sun shining on a clear blue sky. Looking outside, she realized she could say the same about her own sky. Next, she added a sailboat, a certain sailboat with a cherry red-striped sail blowing valiantly in the wind. Last of all, two people appeared in the boat, one of them a boy with shaggy brown hair, the other a girl with gold-red, straight-as-an-arrow hair. Playing in Natalia’s mind as she looked at her new creation was the sort of music that appears at the triumphant point of a movie. She smiled. This was exactly the painting she had been waiting for.





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