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Scattered Brush Strokes

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Her walls were colorful despite never once being coated in paint.

They were tacked and taped full of drawings, paintings, pictures and ideas formed over many years; stories waiting to be told, visions waiting to be seen. Sakura doesn’t remember the first time she picked up a pencil, creating lines and shades and forms and shapes, only that when she did, she never put it down. Pencils soon turned into crayons, into markers, into pens; her free lines turned into full concepts and ideas and soon her walls couldn’t hold them anymore.

When she turns 13, she moves to the concrete beneath the wall of paper.

Sakura tucks away a portion of her creations into a draw, spare binders and folders and is presented with a canvas anew --bigger, bolder. With her parent’s blessing, and the promise to not go too dark, Sakura is free to create, brush in hand and buckets of paint at her feet. She brings the medium to the surface and with thoughtless motions paints. She has no idea what she will make because she’s only got one canvas, one surface; it needs a base though and sky blue was the makings of a masterpiece to her.

The motions are calming, to and fro, the noise beyond her four walls distant as paint covers the bare surface. In the background, she’s listening to a scene, one she knows well, of her favorite show in that time. As she paints she pictures what's on the screen, the way the structure is formed, how small the people look from the view and it strikes her. I know what to paint.

The blue on her wall works perfectly.

It takes her two weeks; painstaking balance on an uncomfortable ladder, repeat of the same scene over and over and over, extreme measures to make sure no one sees because it’s not ready yet, more paint on her than the wall sometimes but as she stands at the far edge of her room, admiring her work she decides it was worth it all. It’s not an exact image, but when is art ever? It’s close, closer than she thought she could replicate and she’s beaming with excitement and satisfaction.

Sakura runs to her living room, bouncing on her toes in front of her mother and drags her across the house. She stops at her door, rounds her body to close her eyes and ushers her in. “ Tada!” She shouts and waits for her reaction, hoping it mirrors her own.

Her mother inspects it, walks across the length of her room and back, admiring the detail, the colors, the overall picture. “Sakura,” she begins, turning her head to compare image to image, it paused on her screen. “It looks wonderful! It looks just like that but with your own twist!” Mebuki’s excited for her and it shows in the way her smile is warm and supportive, arms open wide to reward her in an embrace. “Did you show your father?” She asks, eyes still attentive to her detail. Sakura shakes her head.

No, I wanted you to see it first since you always kept peeking in.” It was a task keeping her mother at bay; she recalls fondly how she nearly fell from her perch atop the ladder, just to vault across her room and slam the door shut, apologies falling from her lips as she locks it after. “Well, let's show him together then.”  They do, and though he doesn’t mirror the same excitement as they do, she knows he’s still impressed.

 

~*~

 

There’s no more room.

Every inch is covered in some form of creation or another that she’s added to her collection over the last 5 years but she can’t stop. It's a passion, it's a hobby; over the years, it’s become an escape.

It’s nothing new to her, how their family walks on eggshells to avoid what nightfall will bring; the calm before the storm. It’s becoming a problem for her mother, managing her anger and frustration at the world with a bottle in one hand, a cigarette in another. Everyone needs a vice, Sakura reminds herself when her mother starts. It’ll pass, I’m sure. Only it doesn’t.

And gets much worse as it progresses.

There are more fights, more screaming, more violence. Everything Sakura does isn’t good enough, never will be, because she’s only out to get her mother; just like her father, just like the rest of the world. At least, that’s often how her fits of drunken anger and sadness progress. But then Sakura’s amazing, talented, an individual the world so desperately needs to see; she’s a daughter that Mebuki’s so proud of. What's the truth and what’s the lie, the thoughts of the sober or the thoughts of the drunk? Sakura doesn’t know and doesn’t want to know.

When the noise becomes too much, the screaming, the blaming, the anger, Sakura locks herself in her room, medium in hand and creates. Her style develops and twists and turns the more she loses herself in her work; she creates with no idea in mind anymore, just the fuel of the emotions she’s feeling. Some turn out as works of art, others a sad reminder of her inability to be enough -as she’s so often reminded.

Sakura often holds onto the days when she could bring a new piece of work to her mother, show her with a smile on her face and be praised because it might not be good, but its finished and that's an accomplishment in and of itself. She can, sometimes still does but sometimes it’s forgotten like everything is when Mebuki drinks too much; she doesn’t remember, and Sakura doesn’t want to remind her anymore.

Despite it all, the hardship and lack of space, Sakura still creates. She has binders full to the brim of work, folders, walls —even her closet is lined with art. Her room has become something of a gallery, the essence of herself on display for the world. Her mother often wanders in and stares, says nothing and leaves, over and over.

Why don’t you go to school for art?” Mebuki suggests one day, over a comfortable session of watching their favorite show. Sakura looks over at her, brows furrowed and questioning eyes. “You’re graduating high school soon, haven’t you put thought into what you want to do?” She has. “I thought about doing a career in Criminology,” Sakura explains, twiddling her thumbs as her mother stares at her. “Oh, do you not enjoy the art you make? It’s quite lovely and you’ve gotten better all these years.”

Sakura doesn’t stop the smile that spreads across her face. “No, I do,” she starts, shaking her head lightly, “I just know how hard it is to get into that field once you leave school, and honestly I’m not all that good.” She expects her mother to intervene, to tell her that she is and that she’s the best like any mother would. Instead, Mebuki stays quiet and listens, fishing for an explanation with her eyes. “So I figured, why not get a degree in a field that I know I can get a job in, and then work my way towards something in art during, you know? A backup plan.” Sakura waits for a reaction because her mother is too quiet.

That’s actually well thought out.” She lets go of a breath she didn’t know she was holding, and Mebuki chuckles. “What, you thought I’d be mad?” The sheepish smile on her face tells her mother yes, that’s exactly what she thought. “I don’t agree that you aren’t that good because you are and I think you could easily get any job you want, but I’m your mother; of course I’ll think that.”

“I do understand your reasoning though and I admire you thinking that far into your future. Have you picked out a school yet?” Sakura places a finger to her chin, deep in thought. “I thought about going to the one dad went to, the one online? That way I can stay home and help out to the point where I absolutely can’t.” Her mother nods with a smile on her face and seems to be satisfied with her answer.

Even if it was only half true.

Because there was no way she’d tell her the real reason.

Don’t give up on your art though; I want to hold onto these drawings and paintings for when you become a famous creator, so I can brag to everyone and show them the originals.” Her mother boasts an air of smug pride at the thought and Sakura laughs from a good healthy place because it was so very like her mother, and even though she would change once she got her hands on a bottle, it was a moment in time today Sakura could remember through the screams later that night.

 

~*~

 

It was a good idea, is still a good idea, but God did it drain the passion straight from her body.

The amount of work was to be expected in the field she chose, the output equal to or more than what she had to take in (which was a whole hell of a lot) but that’s not what drove her to reconsider what her mother said before. It was the way that it felt forced, like she was doing it because she had to in order to make something of herself, in return giving her the flexibility to flourish -or fail- in art.

When was the last time I painted? She can’t remember, because when she tries to all she sees is text and assignments, a career that seems interesting and what she wants but really doesn’t, no matter how hard she tries to force herself to think so. Sakura looks over at her walls, as bright and blue as she left it with the same design from five (now six) years passed.

She’s out of hers and the front door in an instant, returning two hours later with two more buckets of paint.

Sakura digs the old ladder out from the garage, planting it firmly on the tarped carpet, resting it against her wall. She steps back and looks at the design one more time; she loves it, will miss it, but it’s time for a change . So navy covers sky blue, a day and night difference.

It only takes her a few days to finish these designs, opting for less coverage and more detail within, giving her wall more space to rehang some of her old arts. So she does and even though her room is darker than before, it’s still just as colorful, if not more. Sakura barrels out of her room in search of her mother, finding her in minutes and dragging her into her bedroom. Just like old times, she muses as her mother voices her very thought through unbridled laughter.

Like before she rounds her body to close her eyes and ushers her in. “Tada!” Mebuki chuckles, her eyes adjusting to the change and admires the new addition to her daughter's artistic endeavors. “You know your father will refuse to step in here, right?” Her mother chimes, admiring the intricate detail in each mask, each face. Sakura palms her face with a distinct smack, realizing she can’t show her father this time and the reason why.

He’s scared of clowns.

They were clown masks, on each side of two walls backed by the navy, but to him, it wouldn’t matter because they are still clowns. He would love to see it if it were anything else, but I know he’ll love it from a distance.”  She reassures Sakura as she broods. “It’s lovely as always.” It’s all she needs to hear to affirm her decision. “Mom,” Sakura starts, a small hum the only response, “I want to go to school for art.” She can feel the smile she knows her mother has without seeing it. “It’s about time, kiddo.”

 

~*~

 

The angular structure is lined in shrubbery, splashes of color poking through shades of green. There are so many smells; flowers and fresh air, paint and charcoal and it feels like a home away from home. Sakura stands in front of the building in utter disbelief, her feet only moving with the aid of her mother. This is the place, her mind screams and her heart believes it.

When they walk in, she’s at a loss for words. Staircases line the side, rising up into a second story, an atrium in front of her filled from floor to ceiling with so much green. Students are bustling by and she’s able to catch peeks of their work; it’s absolutely astounding; so much color, so much detail, such defined and amorphous lines. Sakura hears the sound of small talk and footsteps and her mother asking for directions to their interview; her heart sinks and soars as they make their way to the corner office.

I’m good enough, but am I good enough?

Sakura sits perfectly still, quiet. She can feel her mother’s eyes on her; there’s a question swimming in them, are you okay? She is, but that doesn’t ease the nerves that crawl through her body, the fate of her future decided by the quality of her work and the judgment of one person who, according to the clock on the wall, is late.

Mebuki places a reassuring hand on her shoulder, just as the door flies open; Sakura jumps in her seat. “I’m sorry for the wait, we’re a bit backed up today.” The woman shuffles into the seat behind the desk, flipping through the file sitting on her keyboard. “Sakura Haruno, right?” Sakura nods, afraid that if she opens her mouth, the sound coming from it would scare the woman off, possibly herself included. It doesn’t go unnoticed, concerned eyes leaving the page in favor of studying her. “Are you nervous?” Again, she nods.

It’s understandable, but you really have nothing to worry about, my dear; this is sort of an informal interview.” Her smile is warm and genuine, easing Sakura’s nerves almost immediately. “I’ve seen your portfolio Miss Haruno, and quite frankly I’m impressed. You’d make a wonderful addition to the school, I’m sure.”

Wait.

What?

Are you that surprised?” she asks and it's only then that Sakura realizes she voiced her thoughts, pink dusting her cheeks and her mother’s laughter sounding next to her. Would it be so wrong to say that she is? “I told you that you were good, kiddo.” She doesn’t answer because she can’t, still staring at the woman like she’s gone mad and only remembering to breathe because its subconscious.

If you’re interested, we’d love to have you; I just need you to sign these forms and we can get you registered.” Sakura nods her head, a little too hard because the words aren’t there but the feeling is. The laughter from them both doesn’t bother her, or the fact that she doesn’t move so her mother fills out the forms in her stead because it’s happening no matter who pens it in. It takes no more than twenty minutes tops before she’s handed her schedule and they’re on their way, in the car heading home. Sakura can breathe and does, the first sound coming from her a scream followed by laughter and unabashed happiness. She studies her schedule, her start date and her list of materials, side glancing her mother who’s already pulling into the store.

Pencils. Pens. Paint. Markers. Canvas. Aisle after aisle after aisle; it’s everywhere, it’s overwhelming and it’s real. This is real. This is happening. Sakura runs through, grabbing her materials with her mind set on stripping her walls bare when she gets home. She wouldn’t miss her old work; it would be tucked safely away as it always was. But there was a new mission, a new passion, a new dream.

The work covering her walls would instead cover the world.