Hali just made the last train that could get her to class on time from this part of Toronto. Her lucky streak won out yet again! She knew at this point in her life that following her gut feeling would always make life easier. Taking a spot at her easel, Hali got her stuff out of her art bag. Her classmate to the left leaned over and greeted her, “Good morning.”
“Hey, girl.” Hali acknowledged. Her neighbour’s name was Lyris; a petite blonde with blue eyes. She was such a cute, tiny, girl that reminded Hali of a Chihuahua with her adorable size, yet loud personality-- among other things.
“Finish your portrait?” the classmate on her right asked. She turned to him and met his smiling gaze.
“No, not yet, Patrick,” she sighed, “It’s giving me a lot of trouble.”
Patrick walked over to her work station and leaned over, placing his arm around her while looking at the canvas. The assignment was a classic self portrait, but Hali couldn’t get the painting right. There were a lot of blacks and blues, and the face looked like Hali, but the painting didn’t seem right. Patrick studied the painting for a moment.
“It looks like you, I just don’t feel you.”
“That’s it!” Hali gasped. “It doesn’t feel like me.”
Lyris leaned over as well to examine the painting; her blue eyes tracing over the canvas. She leaned forward and placed a hand on the dry canvas then nodded in agreement when she understood what Patrick was saying.
“Perhaps you need to get your mind off of it for a bit,” Lyris suggested.
Hali groaned, “It's driving me up the wall!”
“Wellllll, why don’t you come out for a girl’s night tonight. Get your mind off of it,” Lyris suggested. “Karaoke~!”
“Can’t,” Hali sighed, “I gotta work tonight at the cafe, and then I gotta finish those pencil sketches due Friday.”
Lyris looked so disappointed. “Next time?”
Hali nodded, the guilt hit her and she made a mental note to not say no next time. Despite how much she couldn’t afford to miss a shift to pay her rent, she really thought she deserved a girl’s night with Lyris soon. “Next time, I promise.”
Lyris smiled, but then turned to her phone to text someone. She was always texting somebody when she had a chance.
The day went on like any other, they were focusing on classical portrait painting for the next few weeks, and so they followed along with the professor as they were shown theory and techniques. Hali practiced on sheets of canvas paper, painting a model who came to class during their practice session. It was a clothed model dressed in a dancers outfit, and the professor directed light onto them so they could practice lighting as well as portraits. The way the lighting and shadows hit the dancing outfit reminded her of the old noble royal paintings she had seen in books; though not nearly as refined. Hali was using oil today, her professor's preferred medium. She preferred acrylic and watercolour herself, but was determined to better understand oil paint, which worked like a mystery to her.
In the afternoon after lunch, they were given free time to practice any of the techniques for projects they had to work on for class. Hali decided to use this time to get more done on her self portrait. For this task, Hali placed a little locker sized mirror on her easel and glanced at herself as she worked. Using a thin brush, she used her acrylic paint to brush in a detailed outline of her body. She had been going for an abstract style, but after today’s lesson, Hali decided she wanted to go for a more simple, classic, painting; much more fitting to her personality. It required a lot more work on her part, but she was happy to get it done.
The afternoon flew by and before she knew it, Patrick was tapping her on her shoulder, drawing her attention back to reality. He smiled at her, “Sorry to take you out of the zone, but it's time to go.”
“Oh God, thank you,” Hali said, “I would have stayed here all night if you didn’t snap me out of it.”
Gathering her supplies was tricky as some of the paint was still wet, but she made the judgment call to keep the painting at school at the very least. She used her painter’s cloth to wipe down the paint smeared tubes and then cleaned her palette and brushes, putting them in their cases, and then safely tucked away inside her large canvas bag. Hali hurried outside to catch her train. Once she got off the train, she made her way above ground and walked down the street towards her apartment.
It was her usual route home, and she was quickly approaching the alley that she always cut down. It was about eight-hundred yards in length and very conveniently came out right in front of her building, just across the street. It was a well lit alley, and minus a few garbage bins, was always empty. Hali adjusted the grip on her bag as it slipped down her shoulder; when she looked back up, her eyes met with the entrance of the path and she experienced a pain in her stomach that was so intense, it was as if someone had punched her in the gut. She grunted and doubled over, gripping her stomach to try and ease the pain.
‘What the hell?!’ she gasped. She tried to stand upright, but whenever her eyes darted back to the alley the pain worsened. Hali closed her eyes and took a deep breath before she opened them again, guiding her eyes to the sidewalk just ahead of her, and the pain dwindled back to nothing.
Hali straightened her position and moved out of the way for the puzzled onlookers walking around her. Taking more deep breaths, she tried to relax her body and removed her hands from her gut, she was rewarded with the pain easing off. Hali looked around and continued on, trying to pretend that the strange event hadn’t happened at all. She passed the alley, and continued on her way, not even glancing down it, in case the painful sensation returned. And so, Hali, for the first time since moving to the neighbourhood, did not take her usual short-cut and instead, went the long way around.
Never had she experienced such painful warning from her lucky sense before, and she attempted to understand why it had given her such a sharp warning. ‘Maybe there was a mugger down there?’ she thought.
Wondering what could have been didn’t leave her. A real danger of some kind had been down there. Yes, the more she thought about it, the clearer it was to her. Stopping and turning around to peek back, she looked in the distance where she could see the alley. Though she didn’t intend to go back that way, the ache came back a little. Hali held onto her stomach and turned back. ‘I’m not going back,’ she told herself. ‘I can take a hint.’