There's a new girl at the Home who makes monsters in her sleep.
Her name is Catherine, and she mostly keeps to herself. That's not unusual at the Home, especially for new kids, so Jayda did as Ms. Olivia said and gave the new girl time to settle in. Catherine's room is right next to Jayda's, and though she didn't ask why, Jayda suspected it was because she could make monsters, too.
Then, because Jayda was a lot of things; optimistic, cheerful, friendly, gregarious-- Ms. Olivia had told her that word. It was like friendly, but even more-- but she was not patient, Jayda knocked on Catherine's door a week after she'd moved in.
"Hi!" Jayda said as the door opened a crack.
"Hi," said a small, shy voice. Fittingly, the girl also seemed small and shy, with half her face hidden by her scraggly yellow hair.
"I'm Jayda!" said Jayda, hoping her loudness made up for the new girl's quiet. "I make monsters."
The girl shrank back. "Oh."
"It's okay," said Jayda. "Ms. Olivia said you make monsters too!"
Catherine said nothing. That was okay; lots of kids at the home started off shy.
"I'm in the room next to yours," said Jayda. She pointed at her door-- white, like the others in the hall, but covered in dollar-store stickers of flowers and puppies and anything else cute she could find. "Do you like drawing?"
The other girl said nothing, but she nodded meekly.
"Great!" said Jayda. "Look." She pulled a handful of markers from the pockets of her purple, puffy windbreaker. "Look! See these?"
"Markers?" said the other girl, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Professional markers! Super fancy! Ms. Olivia got me a bunch for my birthday. They blend! There's special ink so they act sort of like watercolors! You wanna try them? I have a bunch in my room."
For a moment, Catherine didn't move, and for the first time, Jayda was worried she'd come on too strong. Sometimes that happened; sometimes she was too loud, too friendly, and that made people uncomfortable. But she'd been hoping the markers would be fancy enough to get the new girl out--
"Okay," said Catherine with her whisper-soft voice. "Do you have paper?"
"Lots!" said Jayda, all worries cast aside. "Thick paper, thin, special watercolor paper-- I've got whole notebooks. You can have one."
Looking like a mouse leaving its hole, Catherine slid out of her room. She clung to the wall, as though she was too afraid to walk the foot or so into the center of the hallway.
Jayda opened her door and let them in. Catherine followed closely behind, but stopped and froze after setting foot inside.
"What's wrong?" said Jayda.
Catherine pointed to the fluffy, bat-winged monsters fluttering around the room.
"It's okay!" Jayda said. "Those are some of my monsters." She hurried to her desk, piled high with papers, and pulled up a crayon drawing. "See?" she said.
The picture on the paper was a marker-colored version of the creatures flying in the air.
"I make monsters," Jayda said again. "I draw them to life. There's a bunch around here, but they're normally scared of new people. Do you want to pet one? They don't bite! They're really nice!"
Catherine was frozen, like an animal in headlights. Then she nodded. Once.
Jayda went to the bed and lifted the pink quilt, revealing a cluster of snuggling monsters. The largest was the size of a small cat, the smallest the size of a large mouse, and they varied in shape, color, softness, spikiness, scaliness, number of eyes, arms, claws, fangs, wings, and any other trait Jayda had thought to draw them with.
"When you make monsters, do you draw them to life? That's how I do it usually. One time I sneezed one to life-- I just sneezed and poof! He was there, and he wasn't there before. But I haven't been able to do it again."
"I don't know," Catherine said softly. She kept her face down slightly and hugged herself absently. "I've never seen mine." She said nothing more, and Jayda realized that she wasn't the only one who sometimes made unfriendly monsters by accident.
"Well, it's okay," she said, trying to sound positive. "You can draw what you think they look like." Immediately, she saw that was the wrong thing to say, and hurriedly added, "or you can draw what you want them to look like. Or you can draw something else! I've got lots of drawing books."
She gestured, and two snakey dragon monsters slid from the bedcovers where they had been hiding and floated to the bookshelf by the window. Though they had sets of small bat wings, neither of them used them, instead apparently holding themselves aloft by will alone. Together, they pulled out one of the thicker How To Draw books and carried it to Jayda, each holding one of the books corners. Whatever power kept them in the air seemed to be susceptible to weight and gravity, because it took the two of them obvious effort to carry the book.
"Thank you," Jayda said, taking it. To Catherine, she said, "That's Rawly and that's Stacy. They're really nice! But look, see? This one is drawing horses. Do you like horses?" She held out the book. "This one's got realistic horses. If you want more cartoony ones, or My Little Pony ones, I've got books for that, too."
Catherine took the book and looked down at the cover, her hair hiding most of her face. Silence stretched between them, and Jayda was afraid the other girl would change her mind.
"I like ponies," Catherine said eventually, her quiet voice not so much breaking the silence as melting into it. She peered at Jayda from beneath her bangs an offered a small, shy smile.
Jayda smiled back and brought out some paper.