My stomach turned as I grabbed a piece of paper from the tall stack on my desk. This is one of my last chances, I thought. Please, please, please don’t mess this up. And I understand if you’ll get mad at me if I can’t do this, I added, looking up at the sky.
I glanced at the digital clock by my nightstand- it was 9:53. Just two hours and seven minutes to make things right.
Or at least, make things a little right.
I grabbed my pencil and drew two pupils. They look around the same distance from each other, I thought, relaxing a bit. That’s one of the parts where I mess up the most.
I took out my box of colored pencils - the 100-pencil one - and selected a warm shade of brown to fill in the irises I had just sketched around the black dots I had started with. I drew the outline of the eye next.
Good. I still haven’t screwed up.
“Rory!” Mom called, knocking on my door. “Rory, it’s time for the East Coast new year! Come down to the TV!”
I looked at my clock again- 9:58. She was right. Soon the ball drop in Times Square would happen, and we all had to celebrate it even though it wasn’t even on Mountain Time because April was too young to stay up until midnight.
“Can I pass this year? I might be down in time for our own countdown- maybe even Central time.” I crossed my fingers, hoping Mom would let me keep drawing.
And, of course, she replied with a quick “no.”
I knew there was no point arguing with Mom, so I just stomped past her and down the stairs. The countdown had just started- 53 seconds left until we could see a bunch of strangers in New York start partying. Woo hoo, I thought, slamming my face against the back of our white couch. Please be done soon so I can get back to my drawing.
I’d been working on this for 364 days, and I only had two hours left to finally get it. I didn’t want anything to interfere with my precious window of time- especially anything this lame. Celebrating my own time zone was one thing, but this? Also, if we were going to do something April could stay up for, why couldn’t we do, like, the Indian time zone when it was 10 in the morning?
“Happy New Year!”
I quickly spun around and sure enough, the ball on TV had hit the ground.
“Can I go now?” I immediately asked, and when Mom nodded I raced upstairs. I finished the nose, the lips and the outline of the oval-shaped head, and then I colored in the olive-toned skin. The black hair was next, and as soon as I finished the precise waves…
Come on! I thought, putting the paper aside. I didn’t get the part in the right place.
It was still 10:23- I probably had enough time. I snatched a new sheet to draw on, and I made sure to take it slow while still going reasonably fast. You can’t speed up when you’re drawing- or at least not when it’s something as important as this. Soon I had the eyes done, and then the nose, and-
Ugh. The color of the cheeks was not realistic.
I was tempted to erase them, but that wouldn’t be respectful. In the last conversation I had with her, Angelica told me to never do that. Everything mattered- nothing had to be erased from a simple flaw. Nothing had to be thrown away, or crinkled up. You should be able to see your mistakes, to remember them. That way they would be harder to repeat.
Then everything went wrong that afternoon, and part of me wishes I could erase that, too, even though she wouldn’t be back. But, once again, I needed to see my mistakes. I had only been drawing for a few months back then, but Angelica said I was a natural. She said that if I tried, I could draw her so realistically she’d want to keep the drawing forever. I took that as a challenge and spent a few hours working on it, but it was too hard. Angelica’s expectations were too high. I thought I could draw someone so beautiful, but it turned out I couldn’t.
It was 10:45 now- just an hour and 15 minutes to make it up to her. I needed to work fast. Grabbing a piece of paper, I sketched her face. Her hair. Her neck, and the jewelry wrapped around it. Her shoulders. Her arms.
It was 11:30- I might have taken it too slow. And the next thing to do was her hands, the part I struggled with most. The farthest I’ve ever gotten into drawing her.
I wanted to rush this, so that I would have more time for the torso and the legs. But I knew I would mess up. So I took it sloooooowly, and even though it took me a full minute just to do her left thumb, it came out all right. Same with her pointer finger. And her middle finger.
It took me seven minutes just to do a hand. This would be close. I switched to the other hand, and I did the pinky. The ring finger. The middle finger. The pointer finger. The…
“Come ON!” I yelled. The thumb was all wrong, and the clock read 11:50. No way was I going to do this in time.
I’m so sorry, I thought. Sorry I couldn’t do this for you.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I headed for the door. Then another thing Angelica had told me surfaced in my mind.
Never give up.
I grabbed a sheet of paper and drew her head shape. It was oval-like, but it wasn’t that exact. I put in two eyes with irises that were way too huge too close to the top of her forehead, and her nose was really far down. Her lips weren’t big enough. Her hair was too thick and too black. Her shoulders were too wide. Her jewelry was missing. Her arms were too short. Her legs were too long. Her hands only had four fingers each.
But even with all of those changes, I could still tell it was Angelica. It didn't need to be perfect. I didn't have to include everything. I'm sure Angelica still would've kept it forever.
Going across the highway to get ice cream was the worst idea of my life, and I would probably never make a worse one. We weren’t allowed to cross roads that busy back then, and Angelica didn’t think it was the best thing to do.
And it was her who got hit by a car.
I’ve been trying to make it up to her ever since. And this was the best I could do. I raced downstairs and bolted outside, releasing my drawing and letting the wind blow it away. I had met my goal.
That’s when I heard it. Fireworks. The new year had just started.
And it looked like this would be the best one yet.