Autumn and a boy, part III

after Autumn and a Boy and part II

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He was actually interested in her art, which she probably should have expected, and knew things to ask about technique and had interest in both her process and her decisions, which was a pleasant surprise.   It took her a while to pry them both away from talking about her art, and when she did, she found herself almost quoting that old saw “Well, enough about me, what do you think of me?”

“So, why do you like it?  My art?” she asked, feeling a little shy.  “I mean, I don’t think it was my pretty face that got you hiking till your feet bled, was it?”

“Anyone else, I’d accuse them of fishing.”  He looked down at his feet ruefully. “No, I really do like your art.  It seems a lot more alive than most people’s work, if that makes sense.  But it’s more than that. You’re … you’re alive.  You have a spark.  And something about you, when I looked at you, I just wanted to find out why you have this broad smile and these eyes that are looking like you’re waiting for a bomb to go off.”

“I’m not the sort you can wrap in blankets and protect until it gets better,” she warned him, maybe a little more quickly than she meant to.  “I’m not in the market for someone to heal me.”

He looked so taken aback, she wondered if she’d read him wrong.  And then he glanced away, and she changed her assessment.

“I admit, that was on my mind.  Not all I was thinking! But yeah, I was wondering if you needed someone to cuddle you until the haunted look went away, or if that was just… part of you?  PArt of your art?”

She gave him points for thinkings of that, and points for being honest about something that might turn her away from him.  “It’s … It’s part of my art, but it’s not a necessary part,”
she tried.  

He seemed to be thinking that over.  “So right now it’s informing your imagery, but it didn’t always, and you can make lovely works without hurting?  Good.” Now he seemed relieved. He was, she considered, kind of a strange man. “I, ah… good.”

“Why don’t you tell me a little more about yourself,” she offered.  “Why tech support?”

“Because I’m good at it, and because I very rarely want to throttle people for asking me silly questions.  And being at a college means I can take classes, and be, uh. I guess it means I can feel like I don’t ever really have to grow up.”

She grinned at him.  “You’re talking to a wandering artist with no roots who paints where the money is.  I think I might understand that, not wanting to grow up.”

He chuckled, then looked at her a little more seriously, then laughed out loud.  “You know, you might be the first person I’ve admitted that to who didn’t scoff and say I had a Peter Pan complex.”

“And if you do?  you pay your bills and take care of the basic responsibilities, right? ….Oh, no, I’m channeling my mother.”

“Your mother sounds like a very sensible woman.”  His eyes were twinkling even he tried to look solemn.  “I approve. And to answer her question – Yes. I pay the bills.  I take care of my basic responsibilities. I volunteer ten to twenty hours a week for a couple local charities, and if you hire me, Miz Roundtree, I promise I will be a benefit to your company.”

She snorted and then let herself laugh. “Ah, but what is your greatest weakness?”

“Well,” he flushed but managed to keep smiling and make a little half-bow from a seated position.  “From where I’m sitting, it looks like my greatest weakness is redheaded itinerant artists with a great deal of body ink I have not yet seen.”

“Well, what if you’ve seen it all?” she countered.

“I suppose we’re going to have to take our time on that, just in case.  But I imagine that if I’ve seen it all, you might just make more.” He winked at her.  “So do I get the job?”

“I’m going to say… trial period.  Through the end of Clarenceville, or one week, whichever comes first.  After one last interview test.”

“Oh?”  Suddenly he looked nervous.  She managed not to giggle at him with effort.  “What’s that?”

“The kiss test, of course.”  She winked back at him, and was rewarded by a very dark flush from his forehead down to his chest.  “If you’re willing. I wouldn’t want you to accuse me of harassment, after all…”

“I’m willing.  But the question, Madam Chairwoman of the Board, is are you kissing me – or am I kissing you?”

“Well,” she pretended to think about it for a moment.  “For the best sample, we should do both. So first, I’ll kiss you.  Then you’ll kiss me.” She scooted closer to him. “Ready for your exam?”

“Ready and willing, Madam Chairwoman.”

Several very tender minutes later, Autumn leaned back, grinning from ear to ear.  “You’ve got the job.”

  
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