Updated: Mar 8, 2020
Someone messed up Nova’s wall where, yesterday, she’d painted a red target, tracing over each ring in blue lilies. It had taken 3 hours of her time. She curses, putting down the spray can. Her plan was to paint a globe, but now she had to track the culprit and destroy them.
Looking around, she wonders if the culprit’s hiding, but the alleyway is silent. Picking up a can, she approaches an empty wall, ready to pour her anger out when someone taps her shoulder. Nova whirls around, finger against the trigger, unaware she’s spraying the stranger with blue paint.
“What the-” the stranger sputters, blue dripping onto the pavement.
“I’m so sorry!” Nova yells, dropping the can with a clang. She scrambles to find something he can use to dry off, but after ransacking her pockets, the best she comes up with is a tissue.
The boy looks amused. “I don’t think a tissue will help.” He wipes blue off his face. “I forgot my question.”
Nova leans against the wall, eyeing him suspiciously. “Maybe you were going to ask why I was vandalizing an alleyway instead of going to school?”
The boy smiles wryly. “No, because then I’d have to explain why I’m here too.”
“Do you come often?” Nova asks.
“First time, I needed to be alone.”
She nods. He seems familiar like she’d heard that voice before. “We go to school together?”
“Yeah, Nova right?”
“And you are?” she asks, unable to identify him under the paint.
He hesitates. “Zach.”
Nova freezes, realization creeping over her like a cold wave.
“I’m so sorry,” she says, remembering it was Zach’s father who’d just been killed. “Are you ok?”
His expression softens as if nobody had asked him. “No, but I don’t want to talk about it.”
Nova tries to find words, but none exist. What can you say to someone who’s father is now gone forever? She could see grief hanging over him like a cloud. Something about the vulnerability in his expression compels her to comfort him.
“Do you want to help?”
“This painting, I need to fix it.”
Zach picks up the blue can off the floor. “Where do I start?”
Nova smiles at the awkward way he holds the can. She adjusts his grip, pointing it at the right angle. He squints, pressing down on the trigger, stepping back as a stream of blue settles against the wall in an imperfect circle.
“Sorry,” he says.
“It takes practice,” Nova says, showing Zach how to refine the shape. She can see how hard he’s trying and it’s endearing. For a moment, Zach doesn’t think about his dad’s sudden absence - he’s just thinking about making the perfect circle. Nova’s not sure why she decides to share her art, but something about the broken boy in blue convinced her to.
“Do you hear that?” he asks as a stream of sirens echo down the alleyway.
Not a minute later, an officer appears, boots clicking against the pavement. Nova’s tempted to run, she was vandalizing, but Zach grabs her wrist.
“You kids take your business elsewhere unless you want to become suspects,” the officer says, eyeing paint-covered Zach. This area’s officially a crime scene.”
“Suspects in what?” Nova asks.
“Aidan Salman’s murder”