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Jacie experiences conflicting feelings ...
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Jacie experiences conflicting feelings about her Christian faith, pursuing her interest in art, and the "hot" new boy at school.
September 5—First Day of School—Ugh!
It's not that I don't like school. It's okay. It's where I get to see my friends every day. It's just that the first day is always miserable.
I'll be leaving for school in a few minutes. And I'm hoping this year will be my art breakthrough. I've been stuck for so long. Maybe my art teacher, Mrs. Waisanen, will be able to help.
My biggest frustration is this: I wish I knew how to capture the soul of a person on paper or canvas. I wish I knew how to make them come alive the way I see them, not just how the eye sees them. I've seen portraits and landscapes that are technically correct, but lack magic. I've seen others that capture my attention so well that I can't NOT look at them. I'm held, spell-bound by something deeper.
I want to draw like that. Paint like that.
But it seems so out of my grasp.
"Come in!" Jacie called absently in response to the giggles and laughter outside the shack she used as her art studio. Her mind was elsewhere—still absorbed in her journal-thoughts.
"We can't!" Becca called. "It's locked."
Jacie put her journal down and swiveled the overstuffed rocker around to face the shed door. She shook herself back into the real world. Standing, she unlatched the door and threw it open. "Hi, you guys!" Her bright sunshine smile lit up her face. She loved seeing her friends—anytime, anywhere. And here was always the best.
Solana was in the process of pulling a scrunchie from her long, dark brown hair. "What in theworld are you doing locking your door?" Solana asked. "Are you afraid some weirdo is going to come steal your paints?" She moved her head and her hair fell past her shoulders, almost to her waist.
"It was the wind," Jacie answered. She plopped her backside into the chair. She lifted her sketchbook and pencil, and prepared to focus on the page. Sometimes just having her friends around helped her draw. They seemed to distract her enough to let her hand move more quickly. She always liked to see what came out of her when her friends were around. She glanced at them for inspiration.
Becca and Solana looked at each other, then outside.
"What wind?" Becca asked Solana.
"Too many paint fumes are melting her brain," Solana said. She adjusted her leather skirt, twisting it around her hips until the seams lined up just right.
Becca shook her head, her thick brunette ponytail swishing back and forth. "We always knew the poor girl was more than a nugget short of a Happy Meal."
Jacie tried holding back a smile at their teasing. "Wind comes with thunderstorms. You know we've had a lot of them lately."
"Every day," Becca agreed.
"In the afternoon," reminded Solana. "This is morning."
Jacie felt stumped. Why had she locked the door? She wasn't stupid, but sometimes when she got involved in journaling or writing, her brain switched to another time zone—or another dimension. Maybe it was the land of dementia where her grandfather occasionally visited.
"Like my new shorts?" Becca interrupted to ask Jacie, pretending to model them. "I can't believe my mother actually picked a good style. And the right size, too."
Jacie took in the khaki hiker's shorts with pockets all over them. Becca was an athlete with an athletic build. She preferred wearing clothes she could be active in rather than girl-clothes like Jacie preferred. "They certainly suit you."
Becca looked at Solana. "That means she doesn't like them."
"Yes, I do," Jacie protested.
"But you wouldn't wear them," Becca retorted.
"Would you wear this dress?" Jacie shot back, jumping from the chair and twirling around to show off her new cotton dress, a white tank underneath.
"No," Becca answered.
"Okay, then." Jacie turned to Solana, scanning her up and down. "Feeling your Chola roots today?" she asked, pointing to Solana's lips. On some days Solana loved dressing with full Latina Chola makeup to be sure everyone knew her Hispanic roots—as if they couldn't tell without it.
"Now why would you ask that?" Solana said, with a smile that said she knew exactly what she was doing.
"Black lipstick. Heavy eye makeup. That's an awful lot of blue eye shadow, isn't it?"
Solana shrugged. "It's the first day. I've got to make an impression."
Jacie turned to Becca. "You notice she didn't say she wanted to make a good impression?"
Solana laughed. "Attention. It's all about attention."
Jacie wished she felt as comfortable with her body and heritage as her friends did. She was never quite sure how people would react if they knew her absent father was African-American. Although she looked as though she were biracial, since her mother was white, most people didn't ask questions. She loved her dad a lot. But who she was, she wasn't sure.
Jacie looked at her friends. "So what brought you guys here so early?"
"Reality check: Have you forgotten already?" Becca asked. She looked at Solana. "She really is losing it."
"No more than usual," Solana told her. She looked at Jacie. "Registration, Paintasauraus," Solana said. "Mr. Girard must be wondering where you are."
Jacie looked at her little wind-up clock sitting on a garage-sale dresser. "I'm late!"
"Yeah!" Solana snorted. "Forgot to set your alarm again."
"But we knew that was probably the case," Becca said. "So! As always, your Brio friends have come to rescue you." She threw her arms out with such force, her triple-chain necklaces clinked the dog tags at the end of them.
"But without Tyler, the group rescue is not complete," Jacie said. "Where is he, anyway?"
"Getting us coffee and hot chocolate from Copperchino," Becca said. "A kind of first-day-of-school party."
"Well, let's go, then," Jacie said.
"Oh! I almost forgot," Solana said, reaching into her tiny shoulder purse and bringing out a crumpled brochure. She handed it to Jacie. "This sounded like something you should look at. I found it at the library." Solana rolled her eyes. "It's not like I can use it. I can't draw a stick figure worth looking at."
Jacie took it from her and opened it. She scanned the pages.
Art Mentoring Institute's
National Art Conference
Learn from the Masters
"I can't believe it!" Jacie shrieked. "Look at this! They match you with an artist and you get this intense art training with them for an entire week!" She read the names of the mentors out loud. "Can you believe this? This is absolutely incredible."
"Um," Becca said, "Maybe we should be impressed?"
"Yes, you should be impressed," Jacie said. "It's like Michael Jordan coaching your girls' basketball team."
Becca's eyebrows shot up. "That'd be pretty amazing."
Jacie tugged playfully on Solana's hair. "Or like some famous laboratory taking you in and giving you intense one-on-one for a week just to give you a better grasp of nuclear physics."
A faraway look crossed Solana's brown eyes. "That would be the most incredible experience of my life."
"These artists aren't nobodies. I know who they are. They're the best." Jacie tucked a stray curl behind her ear. "Some of my favorite African-American artists are here, too. Annie Lee, Kenneth Gatewood, Melinda Byers. I would love to study under them." She read further and gasped. "Look at the seminars that will be offered!"
"Oh, yeah, like I know what they are," Solana said.
Jacie started to dance around the room, still reading the brochure out loud. Her black curly hair jiggled about her face. Inside her head, all she could think about was the journal entry she had just written. Could this be my answer? Could I really learn to be a true artist?
Solana grabbed Jacie's sleeve, stopping her in mid-flight. "Come on, Loca, we gotta get outta here."
"Wait!" Jacie flipped the brochure over, unwilling to let go of it. Her eyes flashed to the dates. "This sounds like it's probably right around Spring Break," she said her voice picking up more excitement. "This would be INCREDIBLE! I'd be spending one-on-one time with someone who could really help me."
Mrs. Waisanen, her art teacher, had helped her as much as she could over the past couple of years. But she isn't a professional. She always complains that she can't keep up with me. And now there would be someone who wouldn't have to keep up. They'd be so far ahead. She tried pulling away from Solana to dance away more of her exhilaration.
Becca was flipping through Jacie's sketchbook, oblivious to her little dance. But Jacie didn't care. No one would understand how incredible this would be. No one but Dad and he's not even here.
Jacie finally shook Solana loose and read the next lines. Instantly, the dance stopped. It figures. There was nothing to dance about. I should have known something this good couldn't happen to me. She marched over to the trash basket and dropped it in. "Come on, let's go," Jacie said, grabbing her backpack. "Mr. Girard's going to kill me."
"It's okay," Becca said, glancing up from the sketchbook. "He'll only kill you after you help out with the registration. By the way, Jace, I really like this sketch of the horses."
"What did you just do?" Solana demanded.
"Uh, nothing," Becca said. "Don't you want to see this sketch of the horses?"
"Not you, goof. Her."
"What'd she do?"
"Threw away the brochure I gave her."
Becca jumped up from the chair. "What'd you do that for?"
"You guys aren't very nice," Jacie said. "You get me all excited when you know I can't go to something like that." She opened the shack door and motioned for them to follow her out.
"Why can't you go to the conference?" Solana asked.
"Like I have $1,500 for the tuition, plus coming up with airfare from Denver to Atlanta."
Solana passed Jacie going out the door. "I'm sorry. I didn't even think—"
"I wish you would have, Solana," Jacie retorted.
"I just saw ART and I thought of you, that's all," Solana said.
Jacie closed her shed door and turned the key in the lock. She sighed, the initial anger dissipating quickly like it always did. "I know."
Becca marched over to Jacie's car. "Shotgun!" she called.
Jacie looked around outside, confused. "How'd you guys get here? You certainly didn't walk—" She looked pointedly at Solana who never walked anywhere if she didn't have to.
"My mom dropped us off," Becca said. "She had to take Alvaro to the hospital in Denver."
Jacie cringed. "More burn treatments?"
"Poor little guy." Jacie ached for Becca's foster brother. Becca's family had taken in a young Guatemalan boy who had been severely burned in a fire that took the life of his mother. Without treatment in the States, he probably would have been severely scarred, or infection would have set in and he could have died.
"We knew you'd take us to school," Solana said.
"Am I your taxi?" Jacie asked, one dark brow raised.
"You are now that you're the only one with a car," Solana said.
"Great," Jacie teased as she opened the door to her metallic green Toyota Tercel. "Just what I wanted this morning after that little stunt—to spend more time with you two."
"Get in," Solana said to Becca.
"I already claimed shotgun!" Becca said.
"I'm not crawling into that back seat," Solana complained while Becca held the seat bent forward for her.
"Tough. I have longer legs than you."
"I have a bigger behind than you. If I bend over to get in, it will shock the world with its immensity."
"You don't have a big rear end," Becca laughed. "No one can see you anyway. Just get in."
"Come on, you guys, or I'm leaving you both here," Jacie said. Her heart felt heavy, but she knew she had to leave the idea of the art conference where it was—in the trash. Since there was no way to do anything about it, she might as well focus on the first day of school. Her junior year. How cool was that? She forced a smile that she didn't feel.
Solana stuck her tongue out at Becca. As she settled into the back seat, she said, "Move the seat up."
"Let me get in first." Becca threw her backpack on the floor as she settled into the pale green seat. She reached down and slid the seat forward. "Is that enough for Your Immenseness?"
Solana poked her head between the seats. "No. I need another three feet. I'm so huge, I simply won't last a moment wedged into this tiny place. Why don't we switch places?"
"You aren't big. Dream on, Chica."
Solana peered at Jacie. "It's so weird that the poorest one of all of us is the only one with a car," she said. "I guess it helps to have an absent father who's trying to score points."
"That's so mean," Becca said.
Jacie laughed as she started the car and threw it into reverse. "But it's so true," she said. The car hiccuped backward.
"Can't you drive this thing yet?" Becca squealed. "You've had it what—two weeks?"
"I'm going to throw up," Solana threatened.
"You are not," Jacie said, shoving the stick into first. The car lurched forward. "I'm getting the hang of it. I'm only stalling on hills now."
"What are we going to do this year?" Becca asked. "We've got to make plans."
Solana groaned. "Oh no, not Becca the Organizer."
"We've got to decide important things, Sol. Like where we are going to meet for lunch. What changes we're going to make for the year. You know, like New Year's resolutions—only for school. Are we finally going to start a Bible study for other Brio readers? When do we start? Who do we invite? And when are you all going to join me at the Outreach Community Center?"
Jacie smiled. Becca had been trying to get the group of friends to join her as she helped feed the poor and homeless at the Outreach Community Center for a long time. It wasn't that they didn't want to. It just hadn't worked out yet.
"We've got lots and lots of things to decide," Becca continued, moving constantly in her seat. She needed the seat belt to hold her in place all the time. "We've got to get moving on this stuff."
"Decide without me," Solana said. "You guys don't care what I think anyway." She plucked dark lipstick from her small purse hanging at her side. She leaned between the seats and yanked the rearview mirror down.
"Solana!" Jacie cried. "How do you expect me to drive?"
Solana applied the lipstick, then smushed her lips together. She checked her teeth for smudges, then sat back into her seat. "Okay, you can have it back now."
"We'd care more about how you feel, Solana," Becca said, "but since you always say the same thing, we're sick of hearing it and—"
"And you guys don't say the same things?" Solana asked. "You're always talking about God and the Bible and what's right and other stuff like that."
"It's not 'stuff,' " Becca said. "It's truth. And there's only one truth."
"According to you," Solana said. She stared out the window.
"Hey, guys, quit," Jacie said. "We're in this thing together."
"Since when?" Solana asked.
"Since fourth grade," Jacie said, not doing a great job at leaving the stop sign smoothly. She slammed the clutch back in and tried again. It wasn't much smoother, but it didn't get close to stalling.
"Can you please learn to drive this thing soon?" Solana muttered, clutching Becca's seat.
Jacie wished she didn't have to play referee for yet another fight between her friends. She wanted to be alone to make her own plans about how she could get past this plateau she had with her art. There was something missing, but she couldn't figure out what it was. It was like her true artist self was locked up inside her, screaming to get out, but she couldn't find the key. She looked for it in the work of other artists she admired. She looked for it in the art masters. She looked for it in what every artist seemed to tell her—paint or draw every day. But no matter what she did, nothing seemed to get her past the point where she was right now—where she'd been for the past six months. Is there such a thing as artist's block? she wondered. She intended to ask Mrs. Waisanen today after school. Maybe her art teacher would be able to help her. Jacie needed a plan and a program, and she was determined to get one that worked.
Jacie looked at her friends. Becca stared out her window. Solana slumped in the back seat, arms crossed. She knew their argument wouldn't last long. Over the past seven years, they'd been in more fights than Jacie could count, but they were still best friends. Jacie smiled at the thought. We are so different! If we were to have just met today, I bet we wouldn't even be friends. It's the past—Alyeria—that connects us.
Through the years, as Jacie and Becca grew in their faith, they still loved Solana and kept her close—hoping their lives and words would be a witness to her. They couldn't dump her just because she wasn't a Christian. They prayed together enough about Solana to know God wanted them to keep her as their friend. It certainly wasn't like Solana was a project. They loved her a lot, even if they couldn't understand why she didn't join them in their faith.
As Jacie shifted into third gear she took on her traditional role as the peacemaker. "Okay, you guys. Listen. Just think of it—we're juniors. JUNIORS. We're almost at the top! I don't know about you guys, but I'm not going to start off my junior year depressed. Let's count our blessings." Being cheesy always distracts them from a dumb argument. Jacie grinned.
"I still think we should decide what we're going to do and when we're going to do it," Becca insisted.
"Okay," Solana said, popping forward between the seats. "I'm going to add a minimum of three guys to my kissing list, and I hope to do this before Thanksgiving."
"Do horses count?" Becca asked.
All three girls broke into laughter. They all knew Solana was mostly talk. She did, however, fall for every guy that came along—especially the cute ones. If she ever had a boyfriend for longer than three weeks, they'd all pass out from shock.
"For you and Jacie, any male counts," Solana said. "Since neither of you have really grasped the concept of how wonderful kissing can be."
"We don't want to grasp that concept just yet," Becca said.
"I know, I know," Solana teased. "You're both saving your lips for marriage."
"Not quite that drastic," Becca replied. "But we did have a pact."
"What pact?" Solana asked. "Why wasn't I told about this?"
Becca turned around in her seat and peered around the headrest at Solana. "We made a promise that we would focus on our relationship with God for the summer."
"Oh, and you can't pay any attention to God if you have a guy in your life?" Solana asked. "Don't be stupid."
"Guys are distracting, okay?" Becca said. She turned back around and stared out the front window.
Jacie bit the inside of her lip. I think I'd like to be distracted sometimes.
"Guys are fun," Solana insisted. "They put spice into your life. Without guys where would we be?"
"We've got Tyler," Becca said. "We have guy input. Guy hugs. We don't need the added distraction of wondering if he'll kiss us, or ask us out or call us. Tyler is all the male input we need right now. Tyler and God."
I know I should agree with her, Jacie thought, trying to focus on the road ahead. But sometimes I just wish I had a guy to talk to. To hold hands with. Someone who makes me feel special. Is it really wrong to want that? Or is it only wrong to do it the way Solana does—as if guys are disposable?
Solana frowned. She crossed her arms and flopped back into her seat. "You guys are no fun. I don't even know why I hang out with you."
Jacie felt bad. Here she was internally siding with Solana, who snubbed God at every turn—instead of Becca, who was her spiritual sister. Shouldn't she always side with a Christian over a non-Christian?
Solana's voice brightened. "What about Tyler's buddy, Nate Visser? Haven't you had your eye on him?"
Jacie glanced at Becca whose cheeks looked like they were turning a bit red. Bingo! Solana hit a nerve.
"Watch out!" Becca yelled.
Stuck in the Sky (BRIO GIRLS series) by Lissa Halls Johnson
Copyright © 2001, Lissa Halls Johnson
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.