Sail Forth – Bronwyn Hughes

My stomach tightened at Dwight Sr.’s mention of the unveiling. I found Sylvia in the back room spreading a thick layer of red paint across her canvas with the blade of her Swiss Army knife, like she was frosting a cake. As I drew in a breath to ask again what was on that wall, the phone in her paint smock rang—Amber’s ringtone. 

Sylvia held up her paint-covered hands. “Put her on speaker.” 

I removed the phone from her smock and placed it on one of the jugs of pink hand soap for the bathroom dispenser.

“What’s up, Amber?” Sylvia said.

“Hey. Can I invite the team for a sleepover at your place tonight after Coach Kent leaves? They’ll bring sleeping bags—I promise we’ll keep the noise down.”

Sylvia looked at me with widening eyes. “You know, your mom has a huge house where you and your friends could spread out—maybe even have a cookout?”

“Nice try, Sylvia. Is she standing right there?”

I appreciated Sylvia’s attempts to help us reconcile, but I knew Amber wouldn’t come around until she was ready. Leaving them to negotiate a sleepover, I busied myself by watering the plants in the front windows.

Outside, a crowd was gathering in the intersection. The sheriff’s deputies were blocking off the road to traffic, and a fire engine was positioned with its ladder extended so Tracy, one of the volunteer firefighters, could remove the cloth at the designated time. 

A reporter from the Mobjack Mirror popped her head in to see if Sylvia would give her a comment before the unveiling. 

“She’s on the phone,” I said, flipping the “open” sign to “closed,” and locking the door behind her. 

When Sylvia finished her call, I sat her down on one of the stools at the coffee bar. Folding my arms, I said, “We’re not going anywhere until you tell me what’s on that wall.” 

She looked away from me and sighed. “My silent protest.”

“That’s what I was afraid of.” I stomped my leather sandal on the wide floorboard. “You shouldn’t have done that.” 

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