Painting Pictures

Malrick has an overactive imagination. His mind involuntarily turns ordinary walks into treks through a mystical forest and boring classrooms into ancient chambers and caverns. He spends his time hiding from others. But then Malrick meets a girl named Rule who teaches him that what he sees isn't delusions, but a gift that he can learn to harness. But Rule isn't all she claims to be, and with his parents convinced Malrick is nuts, Malrick will need to unravel the truth of wether he has a wild imagination, a rare mental disorder or a magic gift. And doing so just might mean he will need to stop hiding and trust a girl he barely knows.


14. Rule

Chapter 14




“Oh, um...” Rule stares into the angry eyes of her teacher and the lies start gushing out of her.. “I’m sorry, Mr. Harringhawk. A friend of mine thought she’d left her phone in the gym so she asked me to go look because I’m not in class today. I couldn’t find it though. I feel really bad, I want to go do some more looking to see if I can find it for her.” 

“Well,” he pauses, enjoying every second of Rule’s obvious discomfort. She all but holds her breath as she waits to see if he bought her excuse or not. There’s only a twinge of guilt in her for lying. Mr. Harringhawk is known to be prone to sudden outbursts of irrational anger. “I guess I can’t report you considering you were in the gym for such a noble purpose. You don’t touch anything did you?” 

Rule vigorously shakes her head no. “Absolutely not, sir.” 

“Well then I’ve no reason to keep you here, I guess.” He sighs, as if he’d been looking forward to hauling her to the office to be punished. His eyes suddenly narrow in suspicion, thin lips twisting into a cruel smile as he runs a hand through his white-blonde hair. He’s oddly young to be such a grouch, his personality better fitting a much older man. “Why aren’t you in class?” 

She explains to him the reason and quickly flees the scene the moment Mr. Harringhawk tells her she can go. He’s thankfully not one of her teachers, teaching Average classes in the year above. She’d never have him, unless against all odds she flunked her Test and got demoted, which wasn’t likely to happen. 

The encounter has her left jittery and jumpy, looking over her shoulder to see if a teacher is going to come and yell at her for not being in class, even though she’s officially not supposed to be. She can’t leave either, and feels oddly stranded. Almost like being trapped with nowhere to run. 

Not wanting to be caught wandering the hallways and arouse even more attention from the teachers, she walks as fast as she can without downright sprinting to Malrick’s dorm room. Her feet have a dull ache which she ignores, instead walking faster. 

When she gets there, she sees the principle standing in the doorway, talking to someone inside. Panicking she turns tail and rushes off out of the tower. 

She lets her feet take her wherever they want to go. In a couple of minutes she finds herself in the courtyard, passing by the ornate fountain on her way to the gardens. The exotic flora beckon to her, and she quickens her pace until she reaches the entrance. The gardens are bordered by tall balsam fir trees, a rare pocket of nature in the city. The entrance is an ancient arch covered with climbing vines, blossomed into shimmering pale purple flowers. 

She steps over the threshold into the gardens, basking in the peacefulness. Rows of flowers and plants stretch out to either side of her, the only manmade parts of the gardens are the many branching, maze-like walkways and the stone archway at the entrance. 

Rule walks without direction, following the paths and choosing a random direction each time she comes to a fork. 

Blue hyacinths, lavender, scarlet roses and fragrant lemongrass border the stretch of walkway she’s currently following, the stones under her feet glittering green-black hornblende. The sky overhead is crisp and clear accept for a handful of puffy clouds, the air is fresh and clean. 

She wanders through the gardens for an immeasurable amount of time, until she realizes she’s gone deeper than she’s ever gone before. The gardens are an endless space, easy to get lost in. Panic starts to set in yet she doesn’t turn around, something compelling her to keep walking. She walks until her feet ache and jolts of pain shoot up her legs. 

Suddenly she rounds a corner, and all panic vanishes. She’s left with only awe. A massive lilac tree in full bloom stretches out overhead, defying the seasons. She’s left the protected greenhouse part of the gardens, the blooming lilac tree goes against every law of nature. Beneath it, a deep pool of water plummets into the earth, the colour of twilight. The pool is fed by a small stream, which spills over glittering dark stones like a cascade of diamonds, shimmering in the midday sun. Flowers of varying shades of blue and purple line the stream, while the pool and lilac tree are surrounded by emerald green grass. 

Rule stands, awestruck by the beauty. She stands there, time slipping away from her as the magic of the place renders her dumbstruck. It’s ethereal, something out of a fairytale or a dream. The air surrounding her carries with it a sense of serenity, all of her worries slipping away like water falling through outstretched fingers. 

The peace is interrupted when her phone chimes. 

The text is from Malrick, asking where she is and if she’s going to come and show him around the school. Letting out an impressive strand of curse words, Rule turns and attempts to find her way back through the gardens. She’d payed little attention to where she’d been going, having only the faintest recollection of which turns she took. 

She texts Malrick back saying she’ll be there in a a bit, feeling bad about losing track of time and getting lost. 

With a last yearning look towards the lilac tree and pool it overshadows, she plunged back into the maze.  

The walk takes about an hour. By the time she finally nears the archway, her stomach is growling angrily and she’s ravenously hungry. So hungry, she considers shoving a handful of flowers into her mouth, chewing and swallowing. 

It takes forever to get back through the school and to the east tower, with each minute that drags by Rule feels worse and worse until she’s finally descended into a yawning black abyss of self-loathing and guilt. 

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