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.


26. Rule

Chapter 26 




For the entire evening, Rule’s father refuses to speak to her, while her mother only murmurs in a pitying, soft voice without meeting her eyes. It’s infuriating, how her dad quietly stews with anger leaving only her mother, a quiet woman, to ease the tension and navigate the careful line between each side. 

They sit at the supper table. Her father glares down angrily at his plate, while Rule distractedly makes shapes with her rice. The meal is nothing special, heaping platefuls of chicken and brown rice. 

Rule’s mother finally sighs impatiently, staring down at her own untouched plate of food and stabbing her fork into the chicken breast. Rule sees her snap, becoming unnaturally angry. 

“I’ve had it with you two!” She shouts gesturing angrily towards Rule and her father. “Liam, you push her too hard! You put way too much pressure on her, it’s a wonder she hasn’t lashed out before now! And Rule, you father only wants to guaranty that you’re successful, he doesn’t want you to feel like he thinks you’re worthless!” 

“Mom, you don’t understand how it makes me feel to never be good enough for him!” Rule protests. 

“Yes, I do! I’m married to him for crying out loud! Do you think someone like him would ever be content with someone like me?” Rule’s mother grows bitter, as she eyes Rule’s father with scalding emerald eyes. 

“I loved you, Lira!” Her father rages. His eyes are tinged mad, their multicoloured flecks whirling like a tornado. He never had the loving gleam in his eyes most fathers have. He’s always had a cold, calculated glint. “I loved you! It’s not my fault I was a stupid teenager who wanted to run off and get married!” 

“Exactly! Nothing is ever your fault, is it?” 

Rule reaches a hand up to her cheek, wiping away the tears. Her mother and father wage a verbal war on each other. She can’t bear to listen. 

Overwhelmed, she takes off. Neither parent notices her absence, nor do they notice when the door slams shut. Outside, the fresh air helps soothe her. Somewhat. She doesn’t stop crying, and stand on her doorstep for several minutes until her choking sobs are under control. Then she gives in to the urge to get away, and takes off at a mad sprint. 

Her feet pound against the pavement, the sky overhead growing dimmer and dimmer as the sun drops away, the brilliance of the sunset obscured by thick ash-coloured clouds. 

She runs until she can’t run anymore, her chest aching and feet blaring with hot pain. 

Memories torment her. Her parents harsh, angry words repeat on a never-ending spiel, their angry tones blurring until their words are no longer distinguishable, only their rage and hatred for each other. It makes Rule sick to the stomach, drowning her in an ocean of helplessness. All her life she thought she would be able to swim, only to discover she’s powerless as the current sweeps her under. It feels physically like drowning as well. She’s gasping for breath, her lungs burning and eyes stinging from salty tears mimicking the ocean’s waves. It’s crushing her. Slowly draining her life away until she’s nothing but a husky of who she was, to be filled by sorrow and pain but never any love or joy. 

Glancing around, she realizes she’s lost. If she could think straight, she could probably find her way back, but she’s not thinking straight. She also doesn’t want to go back home. If she can even call it ‘home,’ anymore. Tears well in her eyes anew, and she cries some more. 

Sensical enough to realize being out in the street alone at night is a bad idea, She ducks inside one of the roadside shops. A small space, selling an array of items from fruit to pillows, medicine to coffee beans. 

Thankfully, the store is deserted except for a clerk too immersed in his phone to realize she’s even walked in. Attempting to wipe away her tears, she swallows and takes a deep breath. 

“E-excuse me, But is there a bathroom here?” 

The clerk points towards the back, not looking up from his phone. Rule follows his vague direction, able to guess where the bathroom is by opening every door she sees. One’s a closet, one is a break room. The last is a simple bathroom, basic but neat. A unisex bathroom, with a single toilet and a single sink. She closes the door, attempting to lock it. The latching mechanism is broken, so she leaves it. 

She leans on the edge of the sink, splashing water up on her face. She doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t want to go home, but has nowhere else to go. Her eyes are bleary and red-rimmed, if anyone saw her they’d likely mark her as weak. As prey. 

She stays in the bathroom in the small roadside store for close to a half hour, pacing the small floor as she tries to figure out where to go next. 

Woodpaige is far away, and she doesn’t know if she would even be able to find the school in the dark. The thought of Malrick beckons to her, though. He’s her only option. 

Reaching into her pocket, she fishes out a five dollar bill and a handful of change. Once again, she feels justified in rarely using a purse. 

She ventures back into the shop, moving through the shelves before grabbing the cheapest snack she can find, a chocolate bar. She tosses it on the counter along with two dollars. The cashier takes the money and offers her a quarter in change, which she shoves into her pocket before snatching up the bar. He doesn’t even offer to put it in a bag, hardly even looking up from his phone. 

Ripping open the wrapper, she shoves the sweet chocolate into her mouth before setting off a a determined pace. She is filled with the desire to be comforted, and the only option for a companion to offer her empathy is Malrick. 

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