Authors: Naomi Kinsman
From Sadie’s Sketchbook
Waves of Light
For my parents, who taught me to believe
in Christmas miracles, big and small.
didn’t bother waiting for Vivian to answer my knock. Instead, I threw open her front door and ran down the hall, past the tank of red and orange tropical fish, through the sunny kitchen, and into the back room, which smelled of oil paint and charcoal dust. Glow-in-the-dark constellations decorated the ceiling and one indigo-blue wall. The other walls were all windows overlooking the back porch and the forest beyond. Outside, clumps of leftover snow melted here and there, and wildflowers popped up, dots of purple and yellow in the otherwise spring green grass. Vivian and Frankie sat on stools pulled up to the paint-smeared table, already drawing.
“You’re late, Sadie.” Vivian gave me a stern look, but we all knew there were only two rules in her art studio.
One: Mistakes are to be expected. Two: Never give up.
I was the only person worried about my lateness today. I didn’t want to miss a second of drawing time. I’d traded a few minutes of class for the final please, pretty please that had finally pushed Dad over the edge.
“He said I could go!” I gasped, still catching my breath.
Frankie vaulted off her chair and threw her arms around me. “Oh, Sadie! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
I hugged her back, laughing. “So, what are we working on today?”
“More perspective.” Frankie rolled her eyes. “I can’t get my landscapes to line up. Something always ends up giant or miniature.”
I peeked over Vivian’s shoulder as she fussed over her sketch, adding a line here, erasing a line there. Yet another plan for a three-dimensional piece to include in the New York exhibit.
“I’ve never seen you nervous before — about anything.” I dug through my backpack for my sketchbook.
“Usually I’m not. But then two schemers pitched my art — behind my back — to an art gallery.”
“Oh come on, Viv. You know you’re excited,” Frankie said.
“And scared out of my mind. What will New York City art collectors think of my sculptures?”
Frankie grabbed Vivian’s sketchbook and held it up like a hostess on the Home Shopping Network. “Ladies and gentlemen, check out these astounding works of art by the Amazing Vivian Harris. Buy them before they’re gone!”
“I think the cookies just dinged,” Vivian said, heading for the door.
“You could thank us,” Frankie teased.
Vivian called over her shoulder, “Thank you!”
I grinned at Frankie. “She loves it.”
“Setting up the art show was totally selfish,” Frankie said. “I couldn’t stand the thought of flying to New York by myself. Now that you’re coming, at least the drive will be fun. If only there wasn’t doom afterward.”
“I love road trips.” I climbed onto the stool next to her and grabbed a pencil. “Besides, your mom can’t be that bad.”
“Crystal glasses and high heels aren’t my thing.” Frankie jabbed her sketchbook with a pencil. “My mom hates my clothes — especially my favorite pair of boots. And she thinks not having a manicure is a disaster.”
Frankie forced a smile, but her happy energy was gone. Joking around, planning for Vivian’s art show, even driving to New York together — the facts still remained. Frankie’s dad had decided to move to Canada, and her mom wouldn’t let Frankie leave the country to go live with him. So, without having any say, Frankie had to move to New York.
“I’ve tried everything. Dad won’t change his mind,” Frankie said.
“Tell him my dad is leaving soon,” I said. “That should help.”
Frankie bit back a smile. “You don’t know that.”
“I’m pretty sure. Dad’s done mediating now. And the hunters won’t stand for any more bear regulations.” And
if the Department of Natural Resources needed any more community mediation, Dad wasn’t likely to be their guy. Most of Owl Creek’s hunters were convinced Dad had sided completely with Helen and her bear research. The DNR would have to hire someone else. For now, Dad was busy finishing up paperwork, and after that, he’d need a new job.
“There’s always something. Maybe Helen’s new research on how bear bluster isn’t aggressive?” Frankie suggested.
“It’s too late. The DNR already sent Patch to live at the zoo.” Now I was the one jabbing my sketchbook with my pencil.
“Too late for Patch … but that wasn’t just bluster. She was a dangerous bear,” Frankie said.
I didn’t answer. This subject was one area that could turn into a knock-down, drag-out fight between Frankie and me, and I’d learned the hard way to keep my mouth shut. We’d never agree about the bears.
Vivian came back with a plate of peanut butter cookies. “Has it turned into World War Three in here?
“Not if there are cookies.” I handed one to Frankie and took one for myself.
The gooey center melted on my tongue.
Vivian looked at Frankie’s half-finished drawing and then at my scribble-scrabble page. “Looking a little dismal, girls.”
I’d been in such a hurry to draw, but now I wasn’t in the mood. I closed my sketchbook. “Can we help you get ready for New York, Vivian?”
Vivian sat back down with her plans. “I need to measure all of the sculptures so I can pencil out the display when I’m in the art gallery.”
“I don’t see why you can’t just take everything with you when you go,” I said.
“No way.” Frankie took a second cookie. “If I have to move to New York, then I’m getting as many visits from Vivian as I can. And maybe you’ll come back with her too, Sadie.”
“We’ll see. I think Dad’s only letting me go because it’s during spring break.” Also it gave him time to deliver Mom to the health spa in California. And, of course, he wanted to distract me from hoping too much that this time Mom would finally get better.
“So just the statues outside?” Frankie asked. “Are there any others hiding inside?”
“No.” Vivian handed Frankie a tape measure. “I put the pieces outside because the ceramic shards need sunlight to reflect properly. Inside light just doesn’t cut it. At the gallery, I’ll have to use theatre lighting.”
“What do you want us to measure?” I asked.
“Height and circumference.” Vivian frowned at a page in her sketchbook. “You’re sure you don’t want to draw? I hate to use up your drawing time.”
“I’m all twitchy,” I said. “I can’t sit still.”
“And if I have to draw this tree one more time, my head will explode.” Frankie set her pencils down.
Vivian laughed. “Okay. Take the cookies. The fresh air will do you both good.”
Statues peeked around tree trunks and stood guard between bushes along Vivian’s gravel driveway. They weren’t people, really, or creatures, but they had a magical, almost human quality to their curved arms and legs. None had distinct faces. Features, hair, fingers, clothing — these were all implied. So if you looked out along the path in the dark, you wouldn’t know if you were looking at a line of living sentries or statues.
Frankie headed for the nearest one. “I thought they were creepy at first.”
I opened Vivian’s notebook to jot down the measurements. “What should we call this one?”
Frankie pointed to the winglike piece on its back. “Angel.”
As we worked, I listened to the forest sounds — a bird call here, wind whispering through branches there. Suddenly, the bushes across the driveway rustled. Two pairs of fuzzy ears poked up above the green leaves, too big to be cubs, but too small to be full-grown bears. Trying not to move too suddenly, I pointed at the yearlings. Frankie watched warily, worried I knew, that a mother bear would be close behind. But no mother appeared, and soon the bears chased one another back the way they’d come.
Frankie let out her breath. “Well, that’s one thing I won’t miss. Bears sneaking up on me.”
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah. One-year-old bears. Super scary.”
“Ha-ha!” She grabbed a handful of snowy grass and shoved it down the back of my shirt.
“Hey!” I reached for some grass of my own just as Vivian came out onto the front porch.
“You girls just about done?” she called.
I showed Frankie the list, which covered only about half the statues in the yard.
“Umm …” Frankie answered. “We promise we’ll be done measuring before we leave on Saturday.”
“You girls,” Vivian said. But I heard a smile in her voice.
The minute she closed the door, I ripped out another handful of grass and chased after Frankie, who ran shrieking and laughing. Measuring could wait until after I’d paid Frankie back.
ncoming!” Dad shouted as I opened the door, just seconds before Higgins made impact.
Higgins had grown into his full, chocolate-lab-sized self, and was big enough now to jump up and slam his paws into my chest. So of course, “Knock Down Sadie” had become his new favorite game. For some reason, he never did this to Mom, which was good, or to Dad, which was plain unfair.
“Ugh! What did he eat?” I rolled to the side, shielding my face from the dog’s tongue.
When I’d finally freed myself, I wiped fishy slobber off my face. “Seriously. Someone needs to brush his teeth.”
Dad poked his head out of the kitchen and tossed me a towel. “Did someone just volunteer for the job?”
Higgins trotted behind me into the kitchen, where spaghetti sauce and noodles bubbled on the stove, and garlic bread baked in the oven.
“Do you want to grate the cheese?” Dad asked. “Mom should be down any second.”
“How’s she feeling?” I asked.
“Worried. Not sure her suitcase is going to zip up.” Dad winked and I grinned back.
Just like old times, back when Mom was truly herself. It had often taken Dad, me, and sometimes my best friend Pippa to sit on Mom’s suitcase in order to zip it shut. The only thing Mom was more passionate about than organizing was packing.
“You never know what might happen when you travel,” she’d say. “This way, we’ll be ready — come what may.”
I used to believe her suitcase was magical as I watched her shove every last shoe that she, Dad, and I owned — along with three umbrellas, enough snacks to feed an army, a flashlight, and binoculars, just in case — inside her luggage.
By the time I’d grated the cheese into a bowl and set the table for dinner, Mom had come downstairs. With her cheeks full of color, she looked better than she had in weeks. I fought against the way my insides inflated, hope growing like a balloon, filling me painfully full. Dad’s face glowed too. And why shouldn’t we hope? The spa doctors had promised to run a full round of tests, to look at Mom’s diet and exercise habits and vitamin levels, and to help her build a real-life plan to feel better. No more miracle cures or drugs with horrible side effects. Chronic fatigue syndrome, the doctors explained, went deeper than any one medication or treatment plan.
Mom had been having so many ups and downs because she’d been treating only part of the problem. Making a body healthy required treating the whole body — physically, mentally, and spiritually. Two weeks at their spa, the doctors said, and Mom would be a brand-new person. Even now, with only the promise of feeling better, she had a spark I hadn’t seen for months.
, I whispered,
let this one finally work
Throughout dinner, we teased Mom about all the things she’d forgotten to pack. Then Dad brought out a tray of three chocolate cupcakes with sprinkles, each lit by a candle, for dessert.
“I picked them up at the bakery,” he said. “Consider it your early Easter basket.”
“Are you sure you’ll be okay, Sadie?” Mom asked for the millionth time that week. “I mean, not being with us on Easter?”
“Look at her, Cindy. She can hardly sit still in her chair,” Dad said, laughing. “We should be more worried about whether she’ll come home from New York.”
Higgins jumped up to sniff the remaining cheese on my plate.
“Down, Higgy.” I pushed his paws away and bit into my cupcake. “Did you ask Helen and Andrew to watch Hig?”
“No. Since you’ll see Andrew at youth group tomorrow, I figured we could ask him in person. Or Higgins could stay at the kennel.”
Higgins flopped on the floor and sighed pathetically.
wasn’t his favorite word. I scratched his ears and then
took a load of dishes out to the kitchen to wash and dry — my chore for the week. But I didn’t mind this time because as I worked, Dad made a pot of coffee and took mugs out to the table. Then he and Mom sat, drinking and talking the way they used to.
Their voices rose and fell — a comfortable, happy sound. I slipped upstairs knowing they couldn’t miss the noise, with Higgins panting and bounding as we climbed; but I didn’t say anything to them. Talking would have broken the spell.
I caught Higgins by the collar before he leapt into my room. Cardstock, envelopes, glue sticks, cut-up magazines, and colored pencils littered my floor. An orderly mess, which I’d left mid-project before leaving for school that morning. Carefully, I guided Higgins on the only clear path through the piles. He jumped onto the bed, pawed the comforter into a perfect nest, and curled up.
Half the cards waited inside their envelopes, ready to be glued into the scrapbook. I would have finished the project last week, if it hadn’t been for my crazy plan to use magazine letters of all shapes and sizes to describe the various scavenger hunt tasks. I’d finally found all of the letters, and now they lay across the final cards, ready to be pasted down.
I started on the next card:
Find a reflective surface and draw your own face.
Hopefully, Frankie would enjoy this scavenger hunt. At least we’d have a connection — I’d do the tasks, too, and send my drawings to Frankie so she could add them to the scrapbook.
When I’d first moved to Owl Creek, Pippa gave me a top-ten book that she’d made for me: reasons we’d always be best friends. Knowing it was there, waiting for me on my desk, had pulled me through those first frustrating weeks. Frustrating because of Frankie, actually. Funny how everything changed once we’d started taking art lessons with Vivian. The things we used to argue about didn’t seem to matter much now.
Anyway, Frankie was right. She shouldn’t have to move to New York against her will. But since I couldn’t change her situation, I could at least try to distract her.
After a few hours of work, Dad knocked on my door.
“ ‘Night, Sades. Don’t stay up too late.”
I called back, “Okay, Dad. Love you.”
My eyes were starting to droop, so I finished the last two words on the card. Slowly, the house became still. Somehow, it didn’t feel right to take out my journal until everything was totally quiet. I stacked the letters and cards and art materials on one side of the room so Higgins wouldn’t romp all over them in the night.
I hadn’t emailed Pips for days because I’d been so busy with the scavenger hunt project. I powered on my email and prepared myself for the tirade. Pippa’s emails didn’t fail me. In fact,
didn’t even begin to describe them. I sighed and started typing my response.
From: Sadie Douglas
To: Pippa Reynolds
Date: Wednesday, April 4, 9:39 PM
Subject: Sorry, sorry, sorry. Truly sorry!
Pips, I know. I’m sorry you were worried. Frankie’s scavenger hunt has totally taken over my life. But good news! Dad said I could go to New York … what should I wear? I’ll be there for only a day and a half because Vivian has to hurry home to work on finishing the exhibit. It opens May 4, a month from today. While I’m in New York, we’re going to paint a mural on Frankie’s wall. We’ve been planning it for weeks, but now I get to help her with it.
It’s weird. After not liking Frankie for so long — I’m really going to miss her.
You should have been here tonight. Remember when we used to play spy, and we’d sneak around while Mom and Dad drank coffee at the table? Remember how they got so into their conversation that we could sneak all the way to the table and they didn’t even notice? Tonight was like that.
I’m scared because I’m starting to hope this is it — that Mom will get better. Do you think hoping too much might ruin her chances?
I closed my laptop. Inside my bedside table drawer, my journal and a rainbow of pastels and colored pencils waited. Since I’d started my nighttime ritual a few months ago, I hadn’t missed a night. My thoughts settled as lines and shapes filled the journal pages. No one would have minded my need to draw, to send out questions and listen for whispered answers.
But I kept my ritual private anyway. Keeping the secret made it more special.
Tonight, I closed my eyes and pictured Mom’s face, her eyes dancing with laughter at the dinner table. Once I could see every contour, I began drawing. I used to think prayers had to be elaborate with lots of important words or just the right requests; but as I continued to draw, night after night, something happened. Instead of talking
God, I started to feel like I was talking
him. Not through words, but through images.
Sometimes when I had questions, pictures I hadn’t thought of on my own would appear on the page — as though my hand rested in God’s, and his hand guided mine while I drew. Not like fortune-telling because I still didn’t have any direct answers. Instead, I had new ideas, new questions, new possibilities to explore. The pictures seemed like questions — like God was asking:
Have you thought of it this way? Why not look here?
Mom’s face took shape, her eyes dark but hopeful, ready to believe she’d finally get better. As I drew, I found myself twining vines around her legs and arms. At first I thought they were binding her, but then I added flowers all over them. And as the flowery vines started growing beyond her fingers and sprouting from the tips of her hair, I realized she was actually
. Mom … blooming. The drawing felt like a promise.