The one dependably good trait about my therapist was that her own selfishness would eventually result in her leaving me alone while she went to meet her own desires. After she barked and snarled about the insufferable pizza boy and made several phone calls to make sure the protectors were all on the lookout for him, she departed to get ready for her date, and left me to my own devices.

I locked the front door, turned on a few lights, put some music on, and walked out the back door. For an hour I walked the streets looking for Marcus. I checked every pizza place in town. He was nowhere to be found, and eventually I had to give up. There was still something I had to do, no matter what the cost might be.

So I returned to the school. The janitor was still there, and the front door was unlocked. I told him I’d only be a minute and not to worry about me. The banquet hall where my painting awaited the unveiling had already been thoroughly cleaned and prepared. Quietly I locked all the doors from the inside, pulled the shades and then removed the black velvet shroud over my canvas. There was much to do.

I heard the janitor lock up and leave. I heard the evening traffic wax and wane. But for the most part I was completely focused on the painting. I worked through the night, changing faces and postures, moving details, and painting new details. Eventually I came to the face of Janey in the driver’s seat of the old Nissan. I painted my therapist out and painted Janey in. Her honest, enquiring eyes looked out at the audience with the question, “what is really happening here?” She had become the viewer in my reality play and, in that context, I felt for sure that Janey must be a real person.

At last I was finished with the painting. In the bottom corner I painted my name, the date, and “to my Mother: the truth at last.”

Then I turned on every fan in the room, for the paint must be dry enough for me to put the velvet shroud back on before the guests arrived.

When I pulled the shades to look outside, I was startled to find it was bright daylight already. I had been painting through the night.

More than once someone knocked on the door that day, wanting to deliver various items of food or decorations. I told them to leave it at the door and that I was working on last minute details.

At 4 PM the painting was dry enough to cover again. The heavy velvet was difficult to place alone, but eventually I had it up and thoroughly secured. Then I opened the doors and allowed the banquet preparations to begin.

As for myself, I sat in the shadows near the drapes and dozed. I could not leave the painting before the unveiling at 8 PM.

At 6PM Karen Bristle arrived, furious and more nervous than I’d ever seen her.

“I called and knocked and eventually broke into your house! What the hell are you thinking? Why did you leave without me?” She barked and snarled, causing all the caterers to scurry and disappear into other rooms.

“I forgot to paint the dedication and sign my name in the bottom corner,” I explained. “So I came early. You look nice.”

Karen breathed deeply and tried to calm herself. “Who did you dedicate it too?” she asked with careful disinterest.

“Someone who encouraged me to paint the truth,” I answered with a smile. The vain wolf fluttered and laughed with delight.

“Oh, Kara, you’re such a sweetie. Let me see it.”

“No, not till the unveiling. I want you to have a little bit of a surprise at least. You know everything else.”

“Yes, I suppose I do. . .” she admitted with satisfaction. “But darling, you’re such a mess. You should run home and change. I’ll take you myself.”

“I’ll go right after the unveiling,” I promised. “I want to look like an artist for that part.”

“Suit yourself.”

Karen Bristle left me alone then and kept herself entertained with tormenting the caterers and hired help. Guests began to arrive, and then the press. My therapist and art teacher had managed to invite every major paper, magazine and news channel to this event.

In the shadows, I sat unnoticed. My wolf handlers were more than happy to do all the talking for me.

At last the lights were turned down in the room and soft, art-loving lights were directed toward the dark velvet shroud.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Karen Bristle spoke over the microphone, “I have had the joy and pleasure of mentoring and encouraging a budding young artist to paint the truth for all to see. She has recently endured dreadful trauma due to human incompetence and ostrich violence. If you are here tonight, it is because the truth is your business and your duty. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Kara Tamotsu!”

Thunderous applause rang out across the richly decorated room. Famous and powerful people and wolves looked up at me with eager curiosity as dozens of photos were taken.

“You don’t have to say anything at all,” Karen hissed through her teeth as she left the stage smiling and nodding at the crowd.

I stood alone under the spot lights in silence and took a deep breath. There was no going back now. I reached for the corner of the velvet cloth over my painting.

“My mother once told me, “the most powerful weapon in the world is a locked and loaded ink pen.”

The crowd laughed politely.

“I chose a loaded paint brush. . . She told me something else too. She said, “Paint the truth Kara, there are enough killers out there already. I didn’t paint the truth soon enough for my mother to see. But it’s not too late for you.”

Then I pulled the velvet shroud. With a slippery whoosh it slid down and fell in a dark pile beneath the painting. The

lights of numerous phones and cameras filled the room for about thirty seconds, then I heard a wolf whimper here and there. Within seconds whimpers and growls filled the room. There were gasps and faint cries of horror from the human beings. And to one side a hoarse, throaty, “No!” from Karen Bristle. Then the room exploded with questions.

“Miss Tamotsu, does this painting represent your nightmares?”

“Miss Tamotsu, are you painting about your mental illness?”

“Does this painting mean peace is difficult to achieve?”

“Miss Tamotsu, what did you mean by depicting the Ostriches as your rescuers and the wolves as predators?”

“Miss Tamotsu—“

“It’s the truth!” I shouted over them all. “I painted reality as it happened that day - every single detail is true. Now it’s up to you to open your eyes and see.”

To my right, Karen Bristle was sobbing as she was surrounded by protectors, politicians, teachers, preachers, doctors, lawyers and various rich and famous wolves attacking her with angry, snarling questions. To my left a service door was open through which caterers were delivering hors d’oeuvres. I had about as much chance of making it out of the city as the fancy sushi on toothpicks did. But then the lights went out.

And I bolted for the door.