The window creaked as I opened it , the moon gleaming and the warm air blowing the stray hair from the ponytail I had made in a hurry. I was more than a little eager to sneak out of the house, just like every other night. Having practically no social life, nature and art were the only two things I found solace in. And not that anyone didn’t let me go anywhere that I had to sneak, but it just gave me a sense of freedom. Most of the nights I went near on the shore and sat alone, stargazing or painting. Sometimes when I had come back then I’d sit on my desk and sketch or paint till the morning hours, it was something that made me feel at peace with myself. You could say it was a way of making myself feel okay about not being good at anything else. I hadn’t shown my art to anyone else, mostly because I was afraid it wouldn’t turn out to be good enough. I was afraid of criticism not caring about the appreciation, which I knew was a bad thing, but the truth was that my art was something that was completely mine and it was solely my choice whether to share it with somebody or keep it locked up in a safe.
As I tiptoed past the backyard, I tried to make as less sound as possible, but the dried leaves provided little help. No one had raked the leaves since a week which made it all the more difficult for me to be unnoticeable. I made sure that the backyard gate was properly locked before I went on my way, into the night. I walked onto the street gazing straight head, looking how the streetlights lit up the neighbourhood. Most things looked back and white which had struck me as a strange thing once, but now I was used to it being that way: the black sky, the white moon and the glimmering stars, the white light of the street lights shining on the seemingly black road.
As I turned left at the end of the street, I caught sight of the familiar gate which was the entrance of a park. Many times I had come to the park, played on the swings, reliving my childhood. Sometimes I’d just sit on a bench and sketch or paint, or I’d simply sit and think. Tonight, I didn’t feel like going there. I wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t been, somewhere new. I pulled my hood up as I kept my pace to reach the place I had in my mind, in time. The silence yet the noise of the night, made me feel at peace. The owl hooting now and then, the crickets, the white noise, all of it was so deafening yet so quiet. As I kept walking, the concrete started giving away to the sand. I took of my shoes, putting them in my bag. The sand felt cool under my hot feet, soothing me. The smell of the sea shore made me nostalgic, it made me miss the sand castles I had made over the years which got washed away with one wave. But sometimes it was washed away slowly, with the waves washing it over softly a few times before it disappeared. That was just how childhood was too, incidents slowly diminishing the innocence and the childhood till nothing but the harsh reality of life remains. I stopped to face the ocean, covering my eyes with my palms and taking a deep breath.
I walked a little more before it came in sight. The small cave, hidden away from plain sight by the rocky cliff overlooking the shore. As I reached it, I peeked in, trying to make sure there wasn’t anyone else in there. It was empty, except for a wafers’ packet and an empty can lying nearby an extinguished campfire. I looked around once again, afraid there’s someone there. There was still no sign of another person. Feeling relieved, I sat down cross legged on the sand. I was practically on the entrance of the cave, just in case I had to run suddenly. I rubbed my eyes, pushing the menacing stray hair back as I took my sketchbook out of my bag. I took out my charcoal pencil and on a fresh page, began sketching the night sky I saw. The moon was full, depicting a God like halo around itself, and the clouds floated weightlessly in the sky.
I kept sketching until my hand ached from my effort to keep my hand off the page to avoid any smudges. I sighed, stretching out my arms as the pencil rolled onto the floor.
“This is yours?”
I felt like all the wind was knocked out of me as a hand stretched towards me holding what I recognized to be my charcoal pencil. I must’ve looked like I’d seen a ghost, which could’ve been a possibility, in my defence, the figure crouched down beside me. To my relief, it was a girl, offering a hesitant but friendly smile.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” She offered an apology “I’m Jen, by the way”
I shook her hand, still in a state of shock. My heartbeat was way faster than normal and I was having trouble breathing. She had really scared me. So much for first impressions.
“Hey” she said worriedly, offering me a bottle of water “Drink some water, you look shaken”
I took the bottle, taking small, hesitant sips. “I’m Krystal”
She smiled widely “Nice to meet you Krystal!”
I smiled weakly “You too”
We fell into an uncomfortable silence, gazing at the sea. Wracking my mind to find something to say, when I looked at her, she was looking at my sketch of the sky.
“It’s beautiful” she said, looking awestruck “Have you learnt art? Is it your subject?”
“No, it’s just a hobby.” I said
“Well, it should be much more than just a hobby, for someone as talented as you.”
I shook my head finding words to reject the compliments, but before anything made its way out of my mouth she spoke up “Can I please have a look at other sketches? Only if you don’t mind, of course.”
I wanted to say no, to just run away from there, without a word and forgot that anybody had seen what I drew, but instead I found myself handing her the sketchbook. Maybe I liked recognition more than I’d like to admit. Her blonde hair covered the sides of her face, curtailing my view of her reactions. She gazed at each painting for a while before turning to the next one.
“These are amazing” she said, handing my sketchbook back “You are so talented.”
I smiled a little, looking down. “Why are almost all of them night scenes or things seen at night time?” she asked, curiosity marking her features.
“I like night more.” I said looking out to the sea “It feels like it belongs to me.”
“So” she said smiling “You’re like me. I come out to this place almost every night, set up a campfire , eat something while reading.”
I craned my neck to see the empty packet and can were not there anymore. “Oh so you were in there all long?” I said pointing to the place where the moonlight didn’t shed its visibility.
“Oh yes” she said her green eyes twinkling.
She glanced at her watch “Oh shoot. I’m getting late. I’ll meet you here tomorrow night?”
I nodded, a genuine smile making its way onto my face. “Tomorrow night”
“Great!” she said grinning before she turned towards the shore to start on her way home.
When I slipped inside my covers that night, I felt something I hadn’t felt since preschool : The happiness of making a new friend.