Day 42—Mole Day
Before school, Nikolas was hanging out with his friends, a small canvas tucked safely underneath his legs on the stairs. Leonard walked up with Marianne hanging onto his arm. She didn’t notice, but his expression was one of extreme pain.
“I want to see your painting!” Rachel whined sitting and leaning into Nikolas. Nikolas leaned away from her, making a face.
“No. It’s awful.”
“Aww, please, Nikki? Nothing you paint is ever bad!” Sadie begged.
“What’s up?” Leonard asked, subtly trying to extricate his arm from Marianne’s grasp. “Marianne, will you please let go? You’re cutting off all the circulation to my hand.”
Marianne let go with a gasp. “I’m sorry!” she exclaimed, eyes wide. She gently rubbed Leonard’s arm in an effort to improve his deadened circulation.
“Nikki painted something for Mole Day, but he won’t show us,” Adelaide said. She had a toy in her lap, which she was absentmindedly stroking.
“What is that?” Monty asked, walking up and pointing at the toy in Adelaide’s lap.
“It’s a mole I made for Mole Day. I’m getting extra credit,” Adelaide explained, holding the mole up for his inspection. It was round and stubby and wore an old-fashioned suit jacket and a wig. “It’s Wolfgang A-mole-daeus Mole-tzart. Get it?”
“Ohh!” Rachel and Leonard exclaimed at the same time. “Clever.”
Monty nodded in agreement and sat down next to Nikolas. He distracted Nikolas with a kiss and tried to steal the canvas away from underneath his legs.
“Hey!” Nikolas protested, breaking away from the kiss to keep Monty from peeking at his painting.
“What?” Monty asked with a twinkle in his eye. “You won’t even let your own boyfriend see?”
“No. It’s awful,” Nikolas pouted. Monty shrugged and turned away, only to whip around and jab Nikolas sharply underneath the ribs.
“Aiyee!” Nikolas yelped, dropping his guard just long enough for Adelaide to snatch away his painting and prance away from his swiping hands. “Adelaide!” he complained.
“What? It’s adorable, are you kidding me?” she gushed, staring with wide eyes at the painting of a chemist mole.
“Awww!” Rachel cooed, having been peeking at the painting over Adelaide’s shoulder. Nikolas hid his face in his boyfriend’s shoulder with a dismayed groan.
“Stop lying guys, it’s awful! I shouldn’t have gone that way—but now it’s too late to change—I can’t believe I made such a stupid mistake!”
Marianne, who had been watching the entire scene with something of detached amusement, finally spoke up. “It is.” A hush fell over the little group, which was quickly filled with the sounds of the rest of the student body.
“Um, Marianne…” Leonard trailed off.
“I mean,” she continued, “it’s not even fuzzy looking.”
“On the contrary,” Sadie interjected, looking at the picture, “I think it looks absolutely fuzz-ful.”
“Yeah, but even my seven-year-old brother could paint something like that!” Marianne argued.
“Has it maybe not occurred to you that maybe there’s a purpose behind the style?” Rachel asked, flabbergasted by Marianne’s shallow observation. Nikolas looked with wide eyes at his furious friends.
“Guys—It’s no big deal—it’s just a painting for extra credit,“ he tried.
“Yeah, but if you want extra credit—“
“Marianne,” Leonard said firmly. Marianne looked at him in surprise. “That’s enough.”
“Look, Marianne,” Leonard said. “There are limits. Yes, we all agree that Nikolas’ painting looks childish and immature, but then again, we all know that Nikolas is capable of a lot more.”
“You know that mural on the outside wall of the weight room?” Monty asked without preamble, slinging an arm around Nikolas’ shoulders. Nikolas looked distinctly uncomfortable.
“Please don’t do this,” he requested quietly.
“No, who did it?” Marianne asked with curiosity.
“Nikolas. Junior end-of-the-year project, remember?” Nikolas nodded slightly, almost curtly.
“Oh.” Marianne wrinkled her nose delicately. “Well, then.”
“Besides, there’s a purpose for everything that an artist does, even if you don’t see it,” Rachel added. “I don’t just grab my camera and snap random pictures and then blur out everything on Photoshop because I felt like it. I do it for a reason—something that you, as a completely insensitive and relatively unintelligent person will never understand.”
“Guys…” Nikolas tried feebly. “This isn’t helping. Can I just have my painting back?”
“Marianne, can you just…leave? Please? This really isn’t helping,” Leonard agreed.
Marianne looked beseechingly at Leonard, who looked levelly back at her.
“…Fine.” She eventually complied, and with a flip of her long blonde hair, she left the little group by the stairs, only to be replaced by a tired Garrick, who was just what they needed to dissipate the tense atmosphere.
“What’d I miss?” he asked, bewildered as to why Rachel and Sadie seemed to be puffed up in anger.
“Nothing much,” Nikolas brushed aside.
“Oh. Okay. Cool painting, by the way,” he answered cheerfully.