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The Face on the Page
His face covers my school papers. For the past month, I haven’t been able to stop drawing him. Tracing out the curve of his cheekbones on my math tests, sketching the outline of his wild brown hair. It’s like I’m addicted. It’s so bad my grades have been falling.
The scary part is, I don’t know who he is. It’s not my imagination, because there’s no way I could imagine such detail, such personality. He looks European, as far as I can tell. Not British, I think. I can draw his face down to the last mole and strand of hair with my eyes closed, and yet I don’t even know his name.
The drawings have been getting more detailed. They started out just rough outlines of a figure, but over the weeks they were filled in with detail, detail that each day gets more and more exquisite. I don’t know what’s happening. I think I might be going crazy.
My dad calls from downstairs. “Ally, its dinner time!” Whoops. I haven’t even started my homework. I did a drawing of his left eye, which is a shade darker than the right.
My mom moved out two years ago, so my dad now has to handle things like cooking. He’s not too good at it. So far, the only food he has cooked that has not burned is cereal, and even with that there were a couple of close calls. Pasta is a 50/50. Dinner will probably be spaghetti and apples.
I trudge slowly down the stairs, still thinking about what kind of pencil would be the best to get the shading under his chin right. I wander into the kitchen while my dad struggles to keep the pot of spaghetti from boiling over. “Did you start your homework?” he asks.
“Yeah, I guess,” I say, picking up a plate and silverware and bringing them to the dining room. “I still have some, though.”
“Don’t stay up to late finishing it. I heard you go to bed past midnight yesterday.” He brings a bowl of oranges into the dining room and plunks it down on the table.
“I won’t.” I peel an orange, and bite into it. At least we’re not having apples again. When my mom was still around, she always cooked the best foods. Samosas and fried chicken, mashed potatoes and caramelized onions, the works. I spit out a couple of seeds from my orange.
After dinner, I try to start my homework, but I’m just itching to do his portrait in pen, instead of pencil, to see what it looks like. It’s scarily realistic, and the intensity of his gaze sort of creeps me out. It’s as if his face is pulling through the paper and into real life. I toss it into the garbage, a little spooked.
I don’t go to bed until one that night, but I’m quieter about getting ready to sleep, so I don’t think my dad wakes up. Only half of my homework is finished, but I’ll have time in the morning before school. No one does French homework, anyways. I wake up slowly, struggling to get out of bed and turn off my alarm. I shower and fix my hair, but my heart isn’t really in it. My dad spills a box of cheerios into the live burner where I’m cooking myself eggs, and becomes the first man alive to fail making cereal.
At 7:45, my friend Shannon comes to drive me to school. We’re both sixteen, but she jumped at the first opportunity to get her license, while I decided to keep biking. Shannon is very bubbly. I think the only reason we’re still friends is because she lives next door and I help her with her homework. Or, I did, back when I didn’t compulsively draw a stranger’s face.
She’s already chattering as I step into shotgun. “So I heard from Ally that we have, like, this new Norwegian transfer student who’s, like super-hot, and she got assigned to take him around the school and he’s in like three of my classes…” I tune her out after a bit. The trick to conversing with Shannon is to keep your eyes open and your head bobbing in perpetual agreement. She’ll do the talking bit for you. The day is dreary as she pulls into the school parking lot. I feel the first drop of rain, and hurry into the old brick building, surrounded on all sides by a bustling mass of high schoolers. I feel Shannon tug on my sleeve urgently.
“Look where,” I say, confused, and stop walking, almost bumping into a gaggle of freshmen.
“There’s the new kid.” She’s almost jumping up and down with excitement.
“What new kid?”
She groans and rolls her eyes. “The one I was telling you about in the car, geeze. Look, down the hall and a little to the left, the kid with the brown hair.”
“Everybody has brown hair,” I say, but I look anyways. And then I freeze. There he is. The boy! The one I have been drawing for the past month nonstop. My drawings are perfect. His face looks like it was ripped from the sheet and blown up like a balloon. I don’t understand how this could be possible. How could I have known what his face looks like? It must be a coincidence. But, in my heart, I know it’s not.
“You see him, right?” says Shannon.
“Yeah…”I say slowly, my mind still churning.
“This is going to be so much-” Shannon starts, but I’m already walking, running really towards the boy. I’m not normally given to public displays of anything, let alone confronting a foreign student in a hall filled with curious onlookers, but this goes beyond normal. I hear Shannon call behind me, but I’m determined to get to the bottom of this mystery.
I walk right up to the boy, pushing aside the girl he was chatting with. “Hey,
the girl says, frowning. I don’t pay attention. “We need to talk,” I say to the boy.
He looks at me quizzically, studying my face, and then half smiles. “Yeah, we do,” He says. “C’mon.”
“Hey, where are you going?” the girl protests as the boy leads us into an empty classroom. I can hear the murmurs of bystanders outside, but they’re shut out as the boy closes the door.
“Okay,” I say, hesitantly. “This is going to sound really weird, but I’ve been... drawing you.”
The boy gives a cryptic grin. “That doesn’t sound weird at all. I’ve been drawing you, too.”
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The wastebasket is a writer's best friend. ~Isaac Bashevis Singer
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I pick my favourite quotations and store them in my mind as ready armour, offensive or defensive, amid the struggle of this turbulent existence.—Robert Burns