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.


24. Rule

Chapter 24




As luck would have it, Rule collides with a stranger and drops her books with a disgruntled strand of swearing. She’d been in a rush to visit Malrick before returning home for the evening, the perfect time for fate to set her on a collision course with another student so that her belongings go scattering across the hallways. 

“Er, sorry.” Rule mutters, bending to gather up her stuff. The other girl bends to help her, and Rule finds her somewhat familiar. She has a tomboyish style, her copper hair cropped short and eyes that remind her of Mr. Hilleye’s in patterning. 

“Nah, it was my fault. I should’ve been watching where I was going.” She grins, a lopsided, wolffish grin. She hands Rule some of her dropped books. “I’m Kay, by the way. You probably don’t know who I am, but I’m a huge admirer of yours.” 

“Admirer?” Rule asks, dumbfounded. She offers Kay a wry grin, a tension blossoming within her. 

“Uh, yeah. I’m kind of new here, and all I ever hear anyone talking about is Rule Arrowheart, most powerful Illusionist in written history. And clearly. One of the most beautiful.” Kay’s grin grows even wider, and Rule cringes inwardly. She’d managed to get out of training by insisting she had a headache, so the secret of her greatly weakened powers remains a secret. 

“Oh,” is all Rule can manage. “Listen, Kay, you seem sweet and all, but I’m not into... well I’m not into anyone, especially not... especially not, uh, girls.”

“What, no! I did not mean it like that!” She laughs, her cheeks flush scarlet from embarrassment. She lowers her gaze and shakes her head. “Trust me—I’m not either. I’m so sorry I came across like that.”

“Okay,” Rule sighs in relief, and the two girls lapse into a tense silence. “Well, I better get going.” 

“Okay. I’d love to maybe talk again later, though.” She laughs phoning. “I’m sorry this is how we had to meet. I’ve been looking forward to this moment for longer than you can imagine.” 

“Well, I’ll see you at lunch I guess.” Rule shrugs, clutching tighter to her books. Something about the encounter leaves her jumpy and shaky, as she shoves her books into her locker and heads off to the East Tower. She sets a fast pace, almost a jog. Kay has unnerved her, and not just her unique eyes. They’d been so similar to Mr. Hilleye’s. 

Snippets of her conversation with Jackal surface. He’d mentioned a Kyrielle Hilleye. Kay. Kyrielle. The two name’s were similar, though not enough so you’d easily mistake them as the same person. Clever. 

She quickens her pace yet again once she reaches the tower, taking the spiralling stairs two at a time and banging on Malrick’s door as hard as she can. 

Deer answers, his expression morphing into a knowing grin when he sees her, as if laughing at his own private joke. Rule doesn’t bother with chitchat or politely asking if she can enter, she briskly pushes past him and to the living area, where Malrick launches on the couch. 

“How was your first day?” She asks curtly, still frazzled from the literal collision with Kay. Malrick appears mildly perplexed, but doesn’t call her out on her harsh tone. She takes a shaky breath, pretending to be calm as she awaits his response. Her fight with her father rises to surface, filling her with dread at the realization that after here she must go ho,e. 

“It went fine.” He answers vaguely yet firmly, as of refusing to divulge farther details. “I’ve come closer to controlling the Visions already.”

“That’s good to hear,” she flashes him a fake smile he’s bound to see through. She hates being phoney, but doesn’t want him to catch on about everything going on. Her father, the loss of her gift, and now Kay. Why couldn’t she get her out of her head? There’s was something about her, about her unusual eyes and fiery hair which left Rule deeply unnerved. 

Her mind flicks back to her conversation with Jackal earlier. If what he’d said was true, whatever secret power Kay has it had caused harm to an experienced, skilled teacher with her own talents. 

Yet Kay was allowed to remain at Woodpaige. Her father must be one good bargainer, or maybe it was an accident. Or maybe the administration was too afraid of her to send her packing like they should’ve. Whatever happened, Rule makes a pact with herself to unearth the truth. 

“Would you care to join us, Rule?” Deer asks, jerking Rule from her thoughts by using a misleadingly formal tone of voice. He even adds a bad British accent to the show. “We’re going to watch some T.V. and indulge in some most exquisite  potato chips.”

“Are you trying to use a British accent?” Malrick splutters with laughter, cracked up by Deer’s out of place attempt at humour. Rule sees through the gesture, he didn’t want to listen to them yell at each other as an argument would of most likely erupted if the tension had been allowed to mount any higher. She knows his joking hadn’t been for their sake, he just didn’t want to have to put up with the awkwardness and the fuss. “Hate to break it to you, but Rule ain’t gonna fall for no one—British or not.” 

“You’re right, I won’t.” Rule forces herself to smile and laugh as well. “But I really can’t stay. Thank you for the offer, I’ve got to get back home. I just dropped by to see how Malrick’s doing.” 

“Well, I’m fine. Hurt my back a bit in gym class, but nothing too serious.” Malrick exchanges a glance with Deer. 

She bids the two boys farewell, before easing the door open and slipping out. She can hear their voices even after she shuts the door, discussing her. Malrick’s feelings for her. Despite herself, she presses an ear to the slab of wood on hinges in an attempt to pick out their exchange more clearly 

“I’m telling you, she’s got to be one of the hottest girls at the school. I mean, have you seen her—”

“I don’t need an anatomy lecture, Deer. I don’t even know if I still want her anymore or not.” Malrick declares with a sigh. “I mean, I still really want to be her friend, but I don’t know if I still want to be more than friends.” 

“Who’s the other girl?” Deer asks, voice muffled and Rule immediately assumes he must be speaking around a mouthful of food. 

“Definitely good. Maybe even better.” To any other girl, hearing someone who previously declared their desire for them say they’d found someone better would shatter them. Rule is far from any other girl. She’s overwhelmingly relieved Malrick has found someone else he can date. Someone he can’t touch and kiss, even though such things disgust Rule. She smiles to herself, a genuinely happy, unfaltering smile. Those five words, two sentences, have lifted an unimaginable weight off her shoulders and she lets out a breath of relief. 

“So who’s the other girl?” Deer asks, his voice still muffled. There’s a gulp, then when he speaks again his voice is clearer. “Is she hot?”

“I guess, she wasn’t exactly wearing flattering clothes.” Rule can hear the forced evenness in Malrick’s tone. He’s clearly at ease with Deer, or else discussing such a topic would have him stuttering unintelligibly. 

“Come on, man! Tell me who she is!” 

“Her name’s Kay.” Malrick answers, sounding almost dreamy. Rule can imagine him, sitting on the couch and staring off into space with twinkling eyes. “Kyrielle Hilleye.” 

“Kay? Okay, I think I’ve heard of her.” Deer pauses, then promptly changes the subject. “Seriously, you hurt your back in gym? Nothing too serious?” 

With the second, simple five words, two sentences, Rule feels all her relief come crashing down around her. Her chest tightens, and she stumbles away from the door in shock and disbelief. Rooted in place, she stands in the hallway by the door for a good five minutes before regaining her composure and deciding its best to flee and get as far away as she possibly can. 

Once outdoors, the fresh air helps soothe her slightly. Her heart continues to hammer in her chest, racing like the thumping hooves of a sprinting stallion. There was something beyond different, beyond unsettling about Kay Hilleye. She knows with dreadful certainty that Kay has a secret, beyond what Jackal had told her about earlier. A secret which would be revealed, and send shrapnel flying.

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