“I don’t know. I never got that far. I draw pencil sketches mostly.” She hesitated. “They’re kind of…dark. Some people love them, some people find them disturbing.” She watched him closely.
He was nodding, thoughtful. “I don’t suppose you would show me some of your drawings?”
“Sure, right after you let me read your novel,” said Liza.
Bruce bunched his lips up in annoyance, but his eyes were smiling. He shook his head and took a sip of coffee. “Ok, so tell me this: why didn’t you pursue it? Why don’t you pursue it? You said draw, present tense.”
“I was planning on pursuing it at different times. Two of my five majors were art and another was graphic design.”
“What happened?” he asked. Liza considered her answer. He seemed genuinely curious. He wasn’t looking at her like she was stupid or flaky.
She shrugged. “Life? I should’ve majored in art the first time around. I should’ve just gone for it. I was eighteen with no responsibilities, nothing to lose but time and money. I’ve lost those anyway, and have nothing to show for it.” Ok, enough of the philosophical sidebar. “Anyway. My advisor thought it wasn’t practical and my family acted like I’d said I wanted to major in sword swallowing. So I majored in law, hated it, and dropped out. I went back a year later, majored in art, lost my job and my tuition reimbursement, and dropped out…and on and on.” She paused, debating. “I finally decided to give it one last try a couple of years ago. I was half way through. Then…I had some personal problems. Everything got to be too much. I ended up dropping out again. This is actually my first term back. I’m majoring in business administration this time. It’s not exciting, but I can tolerate it. I’ve been doing office work of some sort for almost a decade.”
“Why not major in art this time if that’s what you like?” asked Bruce.
“I don’t have that luxury anymore. I have bills to pay and…” She thought about Casey and Laura, but didn’t want to go there. “and, I don’t know, I’m not getting any younger.”
He didn’t say anything for a while, just looked at her, poking his tongue into his cheek, thinking. “How about a turkey sandwich?”
“Huh?” Nice, very eloquent.
He stood up. “That cookie didn’t do it for me. I’m still hungry. Do you want to split a turkey sandwich?” he asked, pointing up at the counter.
“Sure,” she said. Liza watched him march up to the counter and wondered if she had made him uncomfortable. She was mad at herself for revealing her indecisiveness and hinting at her family drama. He didn’t want to hear about that. She promised herself that she would keep it light from now on. Liza watched him, thinking again how attractive he was. She would never admit it out loud, but she was really starting to like him.
He came back and deposited the sandwich and a can of energy drink on the table.
She laughed, forgetting her thoughts. “Wow, coffee and an energy drink! Are we going for a jog after this?”
He smiled. “I couldn’t resist. It reminded me of that first night outside of Norton, on the bench.” Bruce spread out a napkin in front of each of them. He pulled out the turkey sandwich and gave her half. He took a big bite of his half and set to work on the parchment wrapper. He removed the plastic liner, carefully pulled off the tape, and flattened it out on the table. Next, he folded it in half, pressing the fold hard. Then he tore the paper down the middle along the fold.
“What are you doing?” Liza asked.
“Homework,” he said. “Since you won’t show me any of your drawings, and I won’t let you read my novel, let’s make a deal.” He handed her half of the parchment paper, and set the other half on the table next to him. “Draw something for me. Anything. Something that you won’t mind showing me. I’ll write something for you. I’m not sure what yet. We’ll exchange them after class next week.”
“Well, we’re both nervous about letting the other seeing our work. This way, neither of us will have to watch the other’s reaction.”
Liza smiled. She liked it. A million pictures raced through her mind. She almost wished that she could start now. Her smile faded. “Are you going to be able to get past your writer’s block?”
“It might not be good, but I’ll force myself,” he said, glancing down at his paper as if it might jump up and slap him.
“Ok, deal,” Liza said, holding out her hand before he could change his mind. Once again, his giant hand enveloped hers. She didn’t feel as nervous this time, mainly just happy. He tugged her hand toward himself and rose slightly out of his chair, leaning forward. Liza half-rose from her own chair and met his lips over the table.