“Sorry to be the bearer of bad news,” she began, her arms crossed over her chest. “You didn’t get in.” When I raised my eyebrows at her in surprise, she added, “And there’s more.”
“Wait, wait. Slow down! What do you mean I didn’t get in?” I asked Hazel McDougal, my cousin and one of the most annoying girls in my class. She grinned smugly at my confusion. And she wasn’t sorry to “be the bearer of bad news.” In fact, she loved making people look ridiculous.
“I mean,” she said slowly, acting like I was stupid. “You didn’t get into the Art Club. Sorry, but I guess you’re just not cut out for that kind of thing.”
“Yeah, okay, I get it!” I said, getting frustrated. “What’s the other news?” Hazel smirked.
“Mr Hawthorne wants to see you in his office. And it doesn’t sound good!” she laughed. Then, with a flick of her dark brown hair, she sauntered off. I rolled my eyes, trying to act nonchalant. But in truth, I was disappointed. I had been waiting for weeks to hear if I had gotten into the elite Art Club that our school had initiated this year to teach students more about art as well as let them meet artists and make amazing artwork. It was very selective, and only a few people had been allowed to join, decided by an art competition. It would be a great opportunity to learn more about art before my graduation at the end of the year so that I could become an actual artist after high school. I had also been quite confident that I would get in, because I had won a few art competitions when I was younger and had taken a few art classes over the past few years. So why didn’t I get in? And why did Mr Hawthorne, the school principal, want to see me? I shook my head, confused, and walked down the hallway to the principal’s office.
“Um…Miss Jenkins? I was told to come to Mr Hawthorne’s office?” I nervously paced as Miss Jenkins, the elderly school secretary, called Mr Hawthorne to see if he was busy.
“He’s ready to see you, dearie,” Miss Jenkins said, adjusting her tiny glasses and putting down the phone. She gave me a grandmotherly look and pointed me behind her desk to Mr Hawthorne’s small office.
“Thanks,” I choked out. What could Mr Hawthorne want me for?
“Aah! Miss Delaney Crawford! I trust Hazel passed along the message that I wanted to see you?” Mr Hawthorne raised his bushy eyebrows up to his balding head and smiled. I nodded, still nervous. “Well, then, let’s begin!” Mr Hawthorne reached down and grabbed a file from his desk drawer. He opened it, and examined something slowly, then looked up at me.
“So, you entered our competition for the Art Club, yes?” Mr Hawthorne said.
“Yes…” I answered slowly, twirling a piece of blonde hair around my fingers. Was he going to tell me why I wasn’t accepted into the club? Mr Hawthorne reached into his file and grabbed out my artwork that I had entered: a painting of a girl sitting on a park bench with a dog, the sun setting behind her. Her hair was blowing in the wind, and the dog was sleeping on her lap.
“This artwork is beautiful!” Mr Hawthorne began. I frowned. Where was he going with this? Was he rubbing it in that I didn’t get in? “As one of the judges for the Art Club, I saw this artwork and knew immediately that it was more than art. It is a masterpiece!” Mr Hawthorne clasped his hands together and closed his eyes.
“Thank you…” I said carefully, thinking he was about to tell me why I didn’t win.
“We thought that an artist with such potential like yours should not just be contained in a simple Art Club! No, far from it! So, I thought of the perfect solution, and the School Board agrees with it. We only need your consent, of course…” Mr Hawthorne was getting really excited now, his eyebrows bouncing up and down, spit flying from his mouth. Did he mean that I was too good for the Art Club? My heart pounded and I felt a smile stretch over my face, as well as a hint of pride. Me, too skilled for our school’s greatest Art Club?! What was Mr Hawthorne offering?
“Delaney, would you be pleased to hear that you have received a scholarship to The Kennedy School of Arts?” Mr Hawthorne blinked at me, a cheesy grin filling his face. I jumped from my seat and squealed, and trust me, I’m not a squealing person.
“A scholarship? To a school of arts? YES!!!” I cried, jumping up and down with excitement.
“Now, we’ll have to talk to your parents, and all that, but next year, you’re going to Colorado!” Mr Hawthorne said, clasping his hands together with a grin.
“Wait…Colorado?” I asked, pausing in my celebrating.
“Yes. That’s where The Kennedy School of Arts is!” the principal said. “Now, go home and talk to your parents and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” I left the office in a daze. What did Hazel know? That wasn’t bad news at all! In fact, it was amazing! I received a scholarship to an art school because the Art Club was too good for me! Beat that, Hazel! I couldn’t wait to go home and tell my parents!
That afternoon though, as I walked home from school with my best friend Jaylinn Jones (or JJ, as she prefers to be called), I began to have second thoughts. Colorado was pretty far from Toronto, Canada, where we lived. And leaving behind all my friends, my family – I tried to shake away those thoughts and focus on the good news. Professionals thought my art was good! And I might have a chance to make it even better!
The next day, JJ came over after school.
“That’s so amazing that you got that offer! I’m so jealous! No one will offer me a scholarship for playing the sax well!” she groaned, laying back on the grass. My dog, Sage, crawled onto her lap and started licking her face. JJ swatted him away, giggling.
“Yeah…I guess,” I said slowly.
“What do you mean you guess?” she demanded, scratching a mosquito bite on her arm and tossing her dark cornrows over her shoulder. “You have to take this opportunity!”
“But what about you guys? I can’t just leave my family and my friends behind!” I bit my lip.
“Girl, we’ll still be here when you come back! This chance to become a real artist won’t always be around!” JJ exclaimed. I smiled, but I wasn’t convinced.
I talked to Mom about it after dinner, and she also thought I should take the opportunity.
“Sweetie, you’ve wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember! Seize your chance to fulfil your dream!” she exclaimed. I appreciated that everyone wanted me to go, to become a real artist, but what if I just wanted to stay here? I guess I shouldn’t stay; I’d be disappointing everyone. But now that I thought about it, I would just rather paint and draw at home, with my family, with my friends. Why did everything have to change so I could fulfil my dream?
“Now, Delaney, we’ve already discussed things with the staff of The Kennedy School of Arts, and you may start at the beginning of next year!” Mr Hawthorne said the next day. He was very excited again, wiggling his eyebrows and flapping his hands enthusiastically.
“Um…okay,” I said slowly.
“You don’t seem terribly eager,” Mr Hawthorne said. “This is a delightful and inspiring opportunity to become something truly wonderful, Delaney. How could you refuse such an offer?” I clenched my fists. How could I refuse such an offer? Because I don’t need professionals to tell me that my artwork is good! Because I love my family and friends, and my dog, and I’d rather be with them than have a million scholarships! That’s how I can refuse that offer!
I wasn’t sure why Mr Hawthorne was staring at me, his face red. Then I realised I had just said that all out loud.
“Ahem…very well, Delaney. I-I understand. I will…cough…contact the K-K-Ke-Kennedy School of Arts immediately to let them know you have declined the scholarship,” Mr Hawthorne sputtered, closing the file abruptly. I grinned, suddenly relieved.
“Thank you for the opportunity!” I exclaimed, then skipped out of the office, a weight off my shoulders.
“JJ! I declined the scholarship! I’m staying in Toronto!” I called, running towards my best friend. She hugged me tight.
“Are you sure, De? I mean, it was such a good offer and—” I cut her off.
“JJ, you’re my best friend. I wouldn’t leave you and my family and Sage if I got called as an apprentice to Leonardo da Vinci!” JJ’s eyes filled with tears, and she wrapped me in another tight hug.
“I never wanted you to go!” she whispered into my hair.
That night, as we lay on the grass in my yard, staring up at the stars, I felt happy. Even though I had missed an opportunity to fulfil my dreams as an artist (and to laugh in Hazel’s face), I had chosen to stay with my family and my friends. I looked over at Sage, her tongue lolling out of her mouth, her rusty coloured fur shining in the moonlight. I looked at my parents, sitting peacefully inside with the TV on mute, quietly laughing and talking. And I looked over at my best friend JJ, her bright smile lighting up against her dark skin, her cornrows spilling over her shoulders and her giggle bubbling out of her mouth. That was when I knew that I had made the right decision. Because when it comes down to it, the most beautiful masterpiece of all is in our hearts. Love.