Character study-Millie

Another piece from a NaNoWriMo attempt

Millie was an artist. She made collages. She did her first at the age of five in craft time at church summer day camp. The adult in charge, Mr. McGraw, a frustrated artist himself, saw something special in Millie’s artwork. She had cut pictures of animals out of National Wildlife Magazine and pieces of text from US News and World Report. These elements, along with colorful construction paper, paper clips, twigs, and a sprinkling of dirt came together as an art piece that made Mr. McGraw think that Millie had a special view of the world. He was convinced that she could perceive things that most adults were too shallow to see.

Millie didn’t know that her creation could be seen as a powerful statement about the human condition. She just thought the pieces looked good together. Mr. McGraw felt a pang of regret that he would never be the artist he wanted to be, but as Millie grew up, he always encouraged her to keep doing art.

Millie did pursue art. She pursued it with a passion. When her parents started fighting, she wrapped herself in art, making elaborate drawings that depicted them as monsters locked in never-ending, sometimes bloody battles. When they divorced, her mother was granted custody, and life became more stable for Millie. As she got older, Millie learned some things about her father that she hadn’t known. He had been a raging alcoholic when her parents were married, but now he was in AA and recovering. Millie’s mother worried that Millie would inherit her father’s problem, so when Millie entered her early teens, she was always on the lookout for telltale signs of alcohol abuse. She found she couldn’t monitor her daughter all of the time, so she decided to trust Millie’s judgement and hope that her daughter didn’t fall in with the wrong crowd.

The “wrong crowd” materialized during Millie’s 9th-grade year. She was accepted to an art program designed for gifted kids whose skills were beyond the art class level found in public schools. The 3-month summer program pulled students from five counties in the area. They met twice a week in a community facility somewhat central to all of the counties. Most of the kids came from well-off families who could afford to make the 50 or 60-mile drive two times a week. Millie was lucky to live just a few miles from the community center, so even if her mother couldn’t drive her there, she could take the city bus.

The kids in the program weren’t bad, but they fancied themselves tortured artists. They wanted to emulate the bohemian lifestyles of their famous artist heroes. They smoked and drank, and some of them dabbled in marijuana and whatever tranquilizers they could find in their parents’ medicine cabinets. One of the kids who also lived close by was a boy named Travis. Travis preferred to be called T. He was tall and lean. His wavy brown hair framed a handsome, chiseled face. T was talented, and he was nice, but Millie could tell he wasn’t entirely happy. Millie wasn’t happy either.

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