Dana wishes she’d have just followed one rule...
The Mystery of Windesta Creek
One Month After, and One Week Until Summer’s End
“I have a surprise for you, try to guess what it is.” Parker dragged me along, past the new, epic tree house, filled with state of the art technology that he had done great things with, already.
I groaned. Surprises with Parker usually meant a lot of running, although I had admittedly improved that skill.
“Did you complete the hedge maze again?” He shook his head.
“Did you... find a new planet?”
“Still, no.”
Dating Parker was a wild ride. His picture was in the dictionary next to insane, but that was what made him fun to always be around. I had thought that I would never see him again after I went home from Windesta Creek. But I never did go back to my old, small town.
Mom had rushed here as soon as she could, the very night we went to the hospital. And she informed me, between tears and hugging and screaming and asking if I was okay, that I was changing schools.
And we were moving, here, to Windesta Creek, where my true friends were. She said that there was an argument, between the principal and her. And when she was offered a job as the sheriff here, that put her over the line. We were in charge of the late Greta’s estate, but mom refused to stay or rebuild her house, in ruins. Dad agreed wholeheartedly with her.
So, we had another house, looking out near the water. It was a nice size, with a balcony- and a zip line. It was no mansion, but it was the best home I’d ever seen. The perfect place for new adventures.
“So, is Gwen visiting Darrin for a concert?” I asked. Gwen now abhorred Darrin himself, and had taken down all his posters that lined her room. But she couldn’t resist his music.
“Come on, you can guess better then that.”
He pulled me into the Pizza Parlor, and I recalled the taste of doughy pizza, my stomach growling. Were we going to get pizza? Was this a date?
But no, he immediately pulled me out of the Parlor, away from the pizza. He was totally messing with my mind! And it was so cute.
Then, he took me through the brambles of the woods, and I tore a piece of my sleeve. This was where Kasey was found, alive, of course, and now she was in a criminal ward of a mental hospital.
Not for much longer though, when she got out she’d go straight to Juvy. I didn’t go against her in court, but to my shock, Suit did- vengeance against his hated partner, Scruffy. And Scruffy sent Suit to prison, linking him to multiple murders. Unfortunately, Scruffy had gotten off, but at least he was being watched constantly and we were all in the clear.
The law knew what had happened to Lil, but they were telling the public that she “went missing” so that she wouldn’t become a martyr in Elwes.
Finally, we went past the woods, through into a clearing- where one of my paintings stood on an easel, perfectly whole, an exact, creative replica of the Windesta Creek view.
It featured a flowing waterfall, cascading down into a sparkling bay. Green, full, leafy trees swayed, in motion besides it, and the sky was a cerulean with puffy clouds floating, tinged pink by the upcoming sun down. Then, it displayed Parker, Gwen and I sitting on the rocks, smiling ear to ear, just as I was now.
“Parker... but- all my paintings were destroyed in the fire! How is this one alright? It’s my best painting!” I squealed, wrapping him into a hug.
I had missed my paintings, my art so much. I had made new ones, but I had made this particular work with a completely fresh mind, something I couldn’t get back.
“Lil had thrown it in the dumpster behind the Pizza Parlor a few days before the fire, because she knew it was your best work. And she hated you. The police found it, cleaned up the bits where it was dirty. What do you think?” He spread his arms, gesturing to the best surprise I had ever seen.
“I love it!” I cried.
I carted the painting back into town, with Parker’s direction. It struck me as odd that I had to take it into town instead of back home, but he had done this all for me. The least I could do was follow a little instruction, for once.
To think, not even two months ago, I would follow any rule- even the ones that should have been broken.
I was still somewhat of a rule follower, but in a new sort of mind set. Now I understood- being good isn’t the same as following every last rule to the point where it became my own ruin.
“Should I call my Mom? She probably would want to know that I have this picture back. Wait a second- I never even told her that I like to paint! I should do it, today. She’s really going to love this!” I exclaimed, skipped past Parker with a smile.
He shook his head.
“First, we take it into town.” He told me, mysteriously. Why was he so vague?
Reluctantly, I opted to try it out. I needed to show at least some trust. We strolled for around twenty minutes and we reached town just as noon came around, my stomach causing a mutiny against me, itching to eat something. Anything.
He took me into the positively massive Town Hall, and I studied how grand it was for such a tiny island like Windesta Creek. Chandeliers swung precariously from the ceiling, dotting with delicate crystals. The rug was embroidered with maroon fabric and golden thread. Why in the world were we here, of all places?
I was thrusted through a door, and stumbled into a large room... filled, wall to wall, with magnificent paintings. I gaped as the two and a woman in the room, dressed in suits, cravats and gowns, stared at me.
“Is that... her? The thirteen year old girl?” The woman wondered in a pompous accent. I suddenly became aware of my torn, wood-stained and casual clothing. I had no clue what was going on, but I did know I was severely under dressed.
“Um... I just turned fourteen.” Was all I could say.
Parker butted in, creating space between the “Fancy Nancy Group” and I.
“Yes, this is her, Dana Purple. And here’s her painting.” He beamed handing them the canvas before I could protest.
The man took it into his white gloves, turning it all around, squinting and making strange noises. I knew that could only mean one thing, and one thing only. He was judging my painting? Why?
At last, he breathed in deeply, his long black beard trembling.
“Listen Dana, we’ve come here to examine your piece, to see if it’s fit for a gallery. We were told by your Aunt Greta that you’re a talented young artist, and we were intrigued by prospects of such a fresh talent.” He proclaimed.
I gasped. An art gallery! I wished that I had made a better first impression. And that I had worn heels instead of worn sneakers caked in mud, dirt and leaves.
But I also frowned. Because my real Aunt Greta was dead. My fake Aunt was just as dead. So who was posing as her, this time?
“And, we’re pleased to say, that we were not disappointed. You have an amazing gift, Dana, and if you would allow us, we would love to show your painting in our gallery for a month exhibition about talented minor’s works. It would be a great honor, Miss. Purple.”
I nearly screamed, but I held my tongue. They liked my art! They liked my art!
“I need to call my parents first.” I rasped, breathlessly. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to tell them Greta was long gone, she couldn’t have possibly called them. She had never even seen my artwork.
I dialed my mom’s number, and she told me to wait, and that she would be right over. I didn’t however, tell her that she was coming to see my art work. When she arrived, my mom would know. She just had to like it.
It had always been my fear that she wouldn’t.
When she finally arrived, in her Sheriff’s uniform, she took a look at me, then the fancy art people, and then my painting with a look of joy.
“You made that, Dana?” She questioned. I nodded in response.
I had never shown her any of my paintings... but now she finally had taken a good look at one of them. Her opinion mattered a whole lot more to me then the art people’s ideas. If she didn’t like my work... what would I do? I would probably have to move to Canada and stay there forever.
“It’s amazing! I didn’t even know you could do that, Dana!”
A tear leaked out of my eye, and I nodded my answer, yes, to the art people, who grinned.
As I walked out of Town Hall, Parker and I high fived.
“We need to go and celebrate, Dana. I’m so glad everything turned out okay here.” Mom enveloped me in a bone crushing hug, quite awkwardly.
“Totally! We need to go to Kate’s. Her chef, Jim, makes the absolute best food.” I suggested.
“Well, we have to get Gwen first, of course.” Parker reminded me.
Gwen had been healing well, her arm was still in a sling, but she had been fixed up well, staying home and reading Harry Potter, to her great happiness.
But she was my best friend. Obviously I was going to bring her to celebrate. This was her victory, too. Gwen had been the first to tell me that I should share my art.
We swung by Gwen’s house, and she was already at the door, waiting for us, eerily.
“I saw you coming through the window, while I was listening to my favorite song, by my new favorite band, Ye Olde Taco.” She admitted.
I giggled. Gwen was the best, but her band choices were kind of ridiculous. At least, now they didn’t really involve Darrin.
“Well, speaking of that, I just got into an art gallery! We’re going to Kate’s and we’re taking you with us!” I cried.
“Well, duh!” She replied.
We helped her into Mom’s truck, driving down to the pier.
Then, we got out, of the truck, and got onto the Police Boat, now owned by Mom. I hardly even got sick on the ride to Beige Town, no matter how choppy the waters were.
When we reached Beige Town, I showed Mom Kate’s Sip N’ Chew, and she stared at it dubiously. It was tiny and dilapidated, but I knew what was really inside. Confections of quality, and people with even better quality (although it was unlikely that I would eat them).
Kate greeted us, sat us down, and we were all squished together at one table, almost cheek to cheek.
But I noticed that a certain friendly face was no where to be found.
“We have a new cook, kids. Jim wenta some sorta school fo’ food, just like he wanted ta do. Isn’t that ‘mazing thing you’ve heard a? But the burgas are still most ‘licious in the ‘tire town, ya hear?” She beamed with pride.
He had gone to Culinary School? He deserved it more then anyone, and I found myself clapping for Jim.
“That’s awesome, Kate! Send him some ice cream for me, we’re going to miss him. And send me in the package, too, so I can pop out and scare everyone! Trust me, that would be fun. And you can be sent in the mail, too, Kate, don’t worry.” Gwen laughed.
“I’ll stick witha visitin him, if that’s alright with ya.”
A few minutes later, Kate brought us our food, pretty soon, and we gobbled it up, even Mom.
“This is great. I really wasn’t expecting it to be this delicious.” She confessed.
“The size is part of it’s charms.” I explained.
Then, Kate brought out a towering brownie sundae, which we dug into. It was somehow, even more perfect then the one I had eaten on my first day here. The ice cream was creamy and I could taste the vanilla inside, and the brownies were rich and hot, making the cold treat trickle a little, melting right into the brownie.
It was the perfect end to the best day I had ever experienced.
Walking out, I felt completely and utterly content. But Gwen had a wild, insane look in her eye.
“Race you to the pier! Last on there is a Darrin!” She screamed, taking off, her feet propelling dust into the air. I didn’t know she could run with a cast, but then again, it was only on her arm.
“Hey, you have a head start, no fair!”
I sprinted after her, while Parker lagged behind. This was a race that I was going to win. My legs pumped, the rhythm of my quickening heart beat that pounded and surged with adrenaline.
“Eat my dust!” Gwen exclaimed.
But I was gaining on her, little by little, with the pier in sight. Parker was so far behind by now, that he was utterly disqualified. It was just two more of us, left in the chase.
I tripped over my shoelace, but as soon as I did, I got back up. But Gwen was still ahead of me, not far, but enough.
Breathing in deeply, concentrating on the goal ahead, I pedaled my feet forward as fast as I possibly could, ignoring the burning sensation in my legs.
At last, I had caught up to Gwen, we were neck and neck, her red Gryffindor shirt flashing with the light. Speeding up, I was in front of her, but she upped her pace as well, to match mine.
But I raced to the front, and dove to the pier just before she could.
“Okay, you win, fair and square. Parker’s Darrin, now.” She grinned, and I fist bumped her as we watched Parker arrive, thirty seconds after we did.
He was huffing, but still grinning, and we turned to stare at the open water, together.
“I can’t believe I lost to you two, but I’m happy I did.” Parker told me.
“Because, you’re the two people I need the most. The ones that actually make things better. There’s no one I’d rather lose to then you.”
“And there’s no one I’d rather win against then you. It was very satisfying, if you must know. Because you’re always right behind me.” I told him, blushing.
“Alright, love birds, quit to mushy stuff. Look at that!” Gwen pointed out towards the water.
A tail flicked out of the harbor, then another, and another, and another, then delving back into the depths from whence it came. The glow of summer light shone on the tails, reflecting, and light scattered all around us.
Then, they splashed us, dousing me with salty water, gone from sight, maybe forever.
“What’s that?” Parker wondered.
I shook my head. I could say that it was a whale, or a dolphin, and that would be beautiful. But as I looked out at the harbor, I knew that anything was possible. Lil being defeated. Paintings being returned, after all these years, to their rightful owners. Best friends. For all I knew, that tail could very well belong to a mermaid, and I wasn’t going to say it didn’t.
There was so much out here, in the world to discover, so much for us all, and it was a shining beacon.
Just another Mystery of Windesta Creek, I told myself.
The End
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