“Mr. Jacobs, I would like a few moments of your time after class, if you don’t mind,” Mr. Richards said, as the class broke up and went to the sinks to clean up.
Jack looked around the easel, nodded, and then finished the last few strokes of green and yellow.
Beth caught his eye, cocking her head towards the art teacher and screwing her face up in a puzzled look. Jack grinned, then shrugged.
He rinsed out his brushes, and set them on the rack to try, hefting his bag and making his way up to the teacher’s desk. Beth lingered in the doorway, and then slipped outside at Mr. Richards’ gesture. She frowned at Jack before the door closed.
“You two are quite the pair,” the teacher said, glancing over at the door.
Jack shrugged. Waited.
“Was there something else, Mr. Richards? It takes a while to get back up to the main wing from here….”
“Mr. Jacobs, you did, in fact wait and read the instructions for this assignment, yes?”
Jack nodded, frowning. “Yeah. I actually wanted to open them earlier, but Beth wouldn’t let me.”
“And you read all of the instructions?”
“Yeah. Paint your dream, don’t discuss it with other classmates. There isn’t a whole lot to it.”
Mr. Richards leaned forward. “And you haven’t discussed it?”
Jack shook his head. “No.”
“Not with anybody in this class?”
“And not with anybody in your other classes?”
“Not even with your neighbor?”
Jack blinked. “I already said ‘no.’ She’s in this class and all my other ones, so she sort of falls under the first two categories.”
“If you haven’t discussed it with her, Mr. Jacobs, how do you explain the fact that the two of you are painting nearly the exact same scene?”
Jack’s voice crept away and hid. It took him several tries to coax it back.
“Sir, I didn’t even know what her assignment card said. We thought they were all different, which was why they were all sealed up.”
Mr. Richards smiled. “Yes, that was the general idea. But it still does not answer my question.”
Jack wondered how it would sound, telling his art teacher that he and Beth just happened to not only dream the same thing the same night, but actually shared the dream…
“Maybe you two think this is funny? A sort of in-joke between the two of you at my expense?”
“Funny? No, Mr. Richards, it—”
“How else do you explain this, Mr. Jacobs?”
“Mr. Richards…. I can’t explain it. You’ll have to ask Beth.”
“So this was her idea.”
“What? No, it wasn’t either of ours’ ‘idea.’ We’re both doing your assignment just like you said to.”
Mr. Richards wasn’t looking up at Jack, but was bent over a pad of yellow papers, checking off boxes on one, then another, and signing them both with a flourish.
He held them out to Jack.
“What are those?”
“One is an excuse for you, so you won’t be counted late to your next class. The other is a detention summons for your friend. I expect her to be here promptly after her last class.”
* * * * *
Jack slipped into the history class as quietly as he could. Mr. Richardson was showing a film on the rise of the Roman Empire, but his scowl at the interruption quickly vanished as he glanced over the yellow slip. He motioned Jack to his seat.
He slipped into his seat behind Beth, and passed the yellow slip to her. She glanced back at Jack and smiled, then frowned at the folded yellow paper.
She unfolded it, and held it up in the ambient glow from the projector.
Her back went very straight. She folded the paper, and slipped it into the front pocket of her jeans. She stood up abruptly, snatched her coat from the back of her chair and stormed from the room.
Jack told himself it was the wash of the projector’s light that caused her eyes to flash with pinpoints of gold.
* * * * *
“It’s a good thing you called when you did,” Hannah said over her shoulder, as she backed the car out of the staff lot. “Five more minutes, and Mom would have taken off with the car and you’d have had to wait for Dad.”
“Sorry about this,” Beth mumbled.
Hannah waved a hand. “No worries. So? Details? Is it that snooty art teacher again?”
Beth huddled deeper in her coat and scarf.
“Maybe I should go talk to him,” Hannah said.
“No,” Beth said. “This is my problem. I’ll deal with it.”
Jack shivered. There was no warmth whatsoever in Beth’s voice. There hadn’t been in the dozen words she’d said since leaving the art room.
Hannah reached over and turned the heater up a notch. “It’s cold up here. Are you two cold back there?”
Beth didn’t answer, just huddled back down in her coat, her eyes distant as she stared out the window, at the fields and woods rolling past on the way down Route 3.