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I blew another bright pink bubble and gave my chair a little twist, trying to ignore the glare in Principle Truman's eyes. I tapped my paint spattered converses on the gray floors impatiently, waiting for him to speak. The sound of the ceiling fan and the clock above his desk was becoming painfully relevant when he pushed his glasses up his nose and said,
“You're a misfit, Cecilia.”
My eyes narrowed at the statement.
Principle Truman sighed.
“Misfits don't get along.”
“I get along fine,” I assured him, tucking a piece of aqua hair behind my ear.
“Not according to your teachers,” the principle replied. “And not from what I've seen.” My gum was now worn painfully thin and flavorless from the labor I was now putting into chewing it. Forcing myself to stay calm, I said,
“What should I do?” The principle thought for a moment, then he scribbled something on a piece of paper and slid it over to me. It was an address. “What's this?”
“A place,” Principle Truman replied. “For talented misfits.”
The address read 56 Melville Street, Boston Mass, Boston Art Institute.
“Art classes?” I said skeptically. I raised an eyebrow. “My mom is hardly willing to pay—”
“It's free, and it's not a class, it's just a place you can go to paint, sculpt, sew, anything you want. And you can make friends there.” I pocketed the address.
“Thanks,” I said decidedly. “I'll check it out.”
The day I decided to take Principle Truman's advice was my birthday.
Because nobody showed up.
I sat in front of a blue birthday cake, sixteen wishes unanswered, the remaining smoke curling away like a funeral dirge. A salty tear ran down my cheek. “I'm sorry, sweetie,” my mom said, kissing my head.
“It isn't your fault, Mom,” I said. “I guess I . . . I dunno.” They all said they would come, but I guess my whole class had been in on the joke. We were supposed to go out, but now I just wanted to sit in front my cake and watch the smoke dissipate slowly. The paper in my pocket suddenly seemed too heavy for paper.
“It's a good idea, you know,” my mom said, reading my mind. I nodded. She was right, this wasn't working.
My mom dropped me off in front of the building after school.
It was in some crevice in the back allies of Boston, squeezed between two other buildings. It was just a standard red brick building, except that the front was covered in graffiti. In fact, in bright neon yellow paint, a closely squeezed font with an 'M' that curled into a lightening bolt, and a series of other explosive shapes and colors, was the word Misfit.
Something about it just seemed perfect, from the way the odd shapes blended so well together, to the peculiar font. It seemed like a sign from above that this place was some sort of magic.
You're a misfit.
You belong here.
I pushed open the door and walked inside. On the inside, it was open, lots of windows but only one floor. I went through another door, and that's where the magic was.
The floor was covered, every cubic inch, in newspapers. Art supplies was everywhere—easels and paints, sketchbooks and pencils, clay of every color, and tiny sharp tools to detail it. A woman in a flower print skirt and a pixie cut, whom I assumed was the authority, said, “Oh, everyone, we have a newcomer.” All heads turned on me. I waved awkwardly. “What's your name, dear?” she asked.
“Cecelia,” I said, shuffling.
“Wonderful,” the woman said. “I'm Miss Claire, come on in.” She gave me a small tour of the room. “Just take up anything you want, do you have a forte?”
“Painting,” I said shyly.
“Go ahead and paint, then, or try something new, if you'd like.” I nodded and thanked her. There was only one other kid over there, a boy with brown hair and a Boston (like the band) T-shirt, painting what appeared to be a portrait of a girl.
“That's lovely,” I said. The boy smiled gratefully.
“Thank you.” I started preparing my own pallet. I used bright oranges and reds, the decided I would paint a gold fish. The boy leaned over to look at my painting.
“Nice fish, for a newbie,” he said.
“In my past life,” another voice said. “I had a fish.” The voice had come from another boy, who was making clay figures. The boy was younger, maybe twelve, and he had overgrown blonde hair and a pair of thick set black glasses. His face seemed to droop a bit when he spoke.
“For the last time,” a girl said. “You are living in this life now, Walker.” The girl was my age. She was tall, with close cropped, short pink hair, the color of my bubble gum. Walker didn't reply, but went back silently to his sculpture.
“Ah, leave him alone, Rhea,” the boy painting next to me said. Rhea looked at him with a scowl.
“Who you painting, Tim?” she said, inspecting it. “She's pretty, must be your cousin.” Tim blushed.
“In my past life,” Walker said. “I had a cousin.” I tried not to laugh, adding thin white veins through the fin of my goldfish.
“I wouldn't giggle,” Rhea said, turning on me. “What the hell are you painting, anyway?” She looked critically at my fish.
“A fish,” I said calmly.
“All right, Rhea, that's enough,” another boy said. He was sketching something in another corner of the room. Rhea flushed and backed off, and Tim smiled triumphantly.
“She likes Dustin,” he told me. “Whenever she picks on us, one word from him and she's gone.” I shrugged. Rhea hadn't really bothered me, but it was nice to know she had a weakness.
At six 'o clock, my mom drove up to the front of the building. I had been laughing at something Dustin said.
“I have to go guys,” I said, the laughter still in my voice. They all said goodbye, except Rhea, and I was on my way.
After that, things looked up a little. Even during the tough days, I knew I would have somewhere to go, just to be myself and not worry. One thing I realized, every time I saw the graffiti on the front of that building, was that I was a misfit, trying to find myself in an ocean of flaws and people. And maybe I wasn't Pink Floyd and bubble gums, band Ts and converses, canvases and paintbrushes, but I was someone, and I was going to figure it out.