A Different Blue Page 36

“Yes. Echohawk. This piece is called 'The Arc,' and it was carved by Blue Echohawk. Blue has agreed to answer some questions about her work. I thought you all might find it interesting.”

I stood and moved next to Wilson but kept my eyes trained on the sculpture so that I didn't have to make eye contact with anyone in the room. The class had fallen into stunned silence. Wilson started by asking some basic questions about tools and different kinds of wood. I answered easily, without embellishment and found myself relaxing with each question.

“Why do you carve?”

“My . . . father . . . taught me. I grew up watching him work with wood. He made beautiful things. Carving makes me feel close to him.” I paused, gathering my thoughts. “My father said carving requires looking beyond what is obvious to what is possible.”

Wilson nodded as if he understood, but Chrissy piped up from the front row.

“What do you mean?” she questioned, her face screwed up as she turned her head this way and that, as if trying to figure out what she was looking at.

“Well . . . take this sculpture for example,” I explained. “It was just a huge hunk of mesquite. When I started, it wasn't beautiful at all. In fact, it was ugly and heavy and a pain in the ass to get in my truck.”

Everyone laughed, and I winced and muttered an apology for my language.

“So tell us about this particular sculpture.” Wilson ignored the laughter and continued, refocusing the class. “You called it 'The Arc' – which I found fascinating.”

“I find that if something is really on my mind . . . it tends to come out through my hands. For whatever reason, I couldn't get the story about Joan of Arc out of my head. She appealed to me,” I confessed, slanting a look at Wilson, hoping he didn't think I was trying to butter him up. “She inspired me. Maybe it was how young she was. Or how brave. Maybe it was because she was tough in a time when woman weren't especially valued for their strength. But she wasn't just tough . . . she was . . . good,” I finished timidly. I was afraid everyone would laugh again, knowing that “good” was not something that had ever been applied to me.

The class had grown quiet. The boys who usually slapped my rear and made lewd suggestions were staring at me with confused expressions. Danny Apo, a hot Polynesian kid I'd made out with a time or two, was leaning forward in his chair, his black brows lowered over equally black eyes. He kept looking from me to the sculpture and then back again. The quiet was unnerving, and I looked at Wilson, hoping he would fill it with another question.

“You said carving is seeing what's possible. How did you know where to even start?” He fingered the graceful sway of the wood, running a long finger over Joan's bowed head.

“There was a section of trunk that had a slight curve. Some of the wood had rotted, and when I cut it all away I could see an interesting angle that mimicked that curve. I continued to cut away, creating the arch. To me it looked like a woman's spine . . . like a woman praying.” My eyes shot to Wilson's, wondering if my words brought to mind the night he had discovered me in the darkened hallway. His eyes met mine briefly and then refocused on the sculpture.

“One thing I noticed, when I saw all your work together, was that each piece was very unique – as if the inspiration behind each one was different.”

I nodded. “They all tell a different story.”

“Ahhh. Hear that class?” Wilson grinned widely. “And I didn't even tell Blue to say it. Everyone has a story. Every thing has a story. Told you so.”

The class snickered and rolled their eyes, but they were intent on the discussion, and their attention remained with me. A strange feeling came over me as I looked out over the faces of people I had known for many years. People I had known but never known. People I had often ignored and who had ignored me. And I was struck by the thought that they were seeing me for the first time.

“It's all about perspective,” I said hesitantly, giving voice to my sudden revelation. “I don't know what all of you see when you look at this,” I nodded toward my carving. “I can't control what you see or how you interpret what you see any more than I can control what you think of me.”

“That's the beauty of art,” Wilson suggested quietly. “Everyone has their own interpretation.”

I nodded, looking out over the sea of faces. “For me, this sculpture tells the story of Joan of Arc. And in telling her story . . . I guess I tell my own, to some degree.”

“Thank you, Blue,” Wilson murmured, and I crept to my seat, relieved it was over, the heat of so much attention heavy on my skin.

The room was hushed for a heartbeat more, and then my classmates started to clap. The clapping was modest and didn't shake the room in thunderous applause, but for me, it was a moment I won't forget as long as I live.

It turned out that Pemberley was the name of Mr. Darcy's house in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. That was the inside joke. Tiffa had named Wilson's house Pemberley to poke him about his name. It made me like her even more. And my regard for her had nothing to do with the fact that she seemed to love my carvings, though that certainly didn't hurt.

I called the number on the card Wilson gave me and enjoyed ten minutes of effusive praise in very proper English. Tiffa was convinced she could sell everything she had bought up at the cafe and at significantly higher prices. She made me promise to keep carving and promised to have a contract sent over for me to sign. The Sheffield would take a healthy cut of everything sold in their gallery, which would include Tiffa's percentage, but I would get the rest. And if the pieces sold at the prices Tiffa was sure they would sell for, my portion would still be substantially more than I made from them now. And the exposure would be priceless. I had to keep pinching myself through the conversation, but when it was over, I was convinced that, in the struggle to become a different Blue, my fortunes were changing too.

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