1) Study in Black by June Anderson

A Study in Black
(An Observation)
    She glided into the art room seconds after the last bell rang and paused before the attendance roster posted on the wall. A pale, slender hand poked out from beneath the floppy sleeve of the over-sized black coat she wore, picking up the pen that dangled next to the clipboard on its string leash. Grasping it firmly between her long, black, nail-polshed fingers she signed her name, "Angela."
    Angela patted her waist length dark hair into place while her eyes, rimmed in black eyeliner, gazed impassively from her chalk-white face searching for a place to sit. Although she smiled slightly, her lipstick-blackened mouth formed no words of greeting to her classmates. She walked to the back of the room, her black shabby, high-top shoes clicking softly against the tiled floor while the tattered hem of her long black skirt moved in opposition to the pewter pendants which swayed, unhampered, over her small, black-bloused bosom. She laid claim to an unoccupied table by placing her dog-eared paperback copy of Conversations with a Vampire on the surface.
    After staking out her space, Angela returned to the front of the room and slipped out the door to the hallway that separated the art room from the drivers' ed classroom. Shelves that housed the art students' works-in-progress lined the hallway walls. Angela removed her draped creation from its assigned place on the shelf. Holding it carefully with both hands, she returned to her seat.
    Conversations among the other fifteen and sixteen year-olds in the art room were lively and loud as they massaged their clay into many forms--clowns and cars, pigs and horses. Angela worked silently, intent on her project, stopping only to fill a dish with water that she used to keep the clay from drying too fast.
    A boy in a "Co-ed Naked" shirt, who had spent the better part of the class period engaged in some very animated discussions with his classmates, stopped at her table and quietly admired her project. Angela answered his questions in a soft voice, smiled shyly, and returned to her work.
    The shower bell from the locker room across the hall sounded, signaling clean-up time for the art students as well as for the gym classes. Angela rose quietly from her chair to get a sponge for wiping up her area while the rest of the class bustled about, noisily putting the room back in order and their projects on the shelf. The passing bell rang and they thundered out of the room.
    Still seated at the table in the back of the room, Angela applied the final loving touches to her creation. Then, lifting the diminutive sculpture high into the air, as if offering it to some unseen entity, she circled the room, her floppy coat and tattered skirt swirling around her slender form. Returning to her table she solemnly draped the clay creature with its plastic covering, returned it to the shelf, and went to lunch.
Black is the Color of My Mourning Cloak
(Angela's Story)
    Damn that Knox. This is the third time this week I've heard my name blared out over the high school PA system. "Angela Johnson, report to the office." As if I've done something wrong, like the rest of those losers lined up to see the vice-principal. Only I get to visit with the school shrink, Mr. Knox. Yesterday he wanted to know why I was wearing all black.
    "Because I'm in mourning," I told him.
    He told me I had to get on with my life. Today he asked me how long I intended to dress this way.
    "Forever," I said.
    Then he wanted to know if I'm on drugs or something.
    Pastor Whipple's just as bad. He wants to come over and pray with me all the time. Well, I'm through praying with him or anyone else. My mother was always praying, and look what it got her.
    I'm late to class, but Sved, the art teacher, just glances my way and smiles as I sign in. I know she likes me, even if I do wear black lipstick. But then, she likes all the weirdos. She's a bit weird herself. Wears her hair in a long blond pigtail down to her butt and sculpts busts of wolves. She even keeps a real one for a pet and sends out Christmas cards with his picture on them.
    The kids in art class pretty much leave me alone and that's fine with me 'cause I don't know what to talk about with them anymore. I used to like one of the boys, Barry, but my parents disapproved of him because he didn't go to our church. In fact, he doesn't go to any church, but he's happy. He even tries to cheer me up from time to time.
    We've been working with clay for the past week. I've reworked my sculpture several times and it's finally coming out just right. Sved says it's fantastic. I like the clay because it gives me something to punch when the pain inside me starts to take over. I think a lot while I'm working it. Mostly about the funeral.
    "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away," the pastor had said.
    How could He have done such a thing to my mother? Wasn't she always singing His praises? She didn't deserve this!
    "She's gone to her heavenly home," Pastor Whipple said.
    Her heavenly home! She had a wonderful home right here on earth. And a husband and daughter who loved her and needed her very much. Poor Dad. It's been two months. I don't think he'll ever get over it.
    "The Lord in His infinite mercy and wisdom..."
    Mercy and wisdom? My god, she was killed by a drunk driver as she left a prayer meeting. If that's the best God can do for His faithful servants, give me the Dark Side. The demons from Hell can't do any worse.
    The bell has rung andf my sculpture's finished. Can you see it, Mother? It's a memorial to your death. When I get home I'll remove the guardian angel on the shelf above my bed that you gave me so long ago and replace it with this gargoyle that I made just for you.