Painting Worlds (Part 3)

Here is the conclusion of “Painting Worlds.” More stories will follow!

Painting Worlds (Conclusion)

            Tumbles of raven curls framed Viola’s smooth heart-shaped face. Estelle tied a section of Viola’s hair to the side with a violet ribbon that matched the dress she wore.

            “All right, children, I’ll be here when you get back.” Estelle pulled Victor and Viola to her and kissed them both before sending them out the door to school.

            Viola carried her notebook in one arm and a lunch pail in the other as she and Victor walked to school. She had partially completed her arithmetic but was sure she got most of them wrong.

            “Miss Standish, please remain here. The rest of you are dismissed,” Mrs. Browning said at the end of the day.

            Viola walked to the front of the classroom where her teacher sat looking at her with narrowed eyes over her silver rimmed spectacles. The sun caused the spectacles to sparkle with every move she made. Viola imagined they were lined with diamonds. Perhaps underneath the flat white hair, creased skin, and faded dress was once an heiress. Perhaps she was beautiful and wealthy until the Depression robbed her of all her fortune. The only thing left was the pair of diamond spectacles, which she wore despite the fact that she could see clearly without them.

            “Viola Standish, you continue to show your shortcomings in arithmetic. If you continue to do poorly I’m afraid I won’t be able to pass you to the sixth grade. This assignment,” she raised the sheet of paper on which Viola had scribbled her answers. “This assignment is barely finished. You know by now what that means.”

            “Please, Mrs. Browning. I will do better. I promise. Don’t make me copy the answers ten times! I will be here all night!”

            “It was your choice. You could have done them last night.”

            Viola thought of the tune her father had played for her the day before—the slow, melancholy one. She squeezed her eyes shut to cultivate her tears. When she opened her eyes, her tears looked like raindrops slipping from a lilac petal.

            “Please, Mrs. Browning.” She bent her head down, lip quivering. She hoped a tear would slide all the way down her cheek. She looked back up at Mrs. Browning who couldn’t stop looking at the pitiful, beautiful child in front of her.

            “Now, now, dear girl. Don’t cry. I’m sure you can do better. If you promise to turn in every assignment completed and correct for the remainder of the term, I will let you go home now.”

            “Yes, yes, Mrs. Browning. I promise!” Viola wiped her cheeks with her thin hands.

            Victor had gone home without her, so Viola had time to think by herself as she walked home. She smiled, satisfied with the success of her acting. It was easy to perform to avoid punishment. Her smile faded when she remembered what she had promised. She had to complete every assignment and do them all correctly. Viola began to understand what her Mother meant. Beauty doesn’t get you everywhere. She held her head erect and nodded decidedly. She would work hard.

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