A week later, halfway through ceramic materials lab, Jennifer had a thought. She walked up to the lab assistant Terrance, “Do we have any mildly radioactive chemical elements in the lab?”

He smirked,” Why?”

“Well I know uranium makes a great deep yellow at mid-fire kiln temperatures, so I was wondering, do you know of any really radical colors I could make with other slightly radioactive chemicals?”

“You’ve got to be kidding. The master’s candidates are working on silicon lead containment vessels. We invent materials to protect folks from radiation here.”

As Jennifer walked back to her lab station she grumbled to herself, those high and mighty ceramic engineers think they’re solving something. But I don’t think people trust the waste problem. Do they even get half-lives? It’s so out of the realm of most people’s experience. Even low radiation chemical elements with five hundred and a thousand year half-lives are mind-boggling.

Back at her station, she measured and weighed dry chemicals for her tests, putting the formulas into small plastic bags. When thirty samples were finished to liquefy and apply the next day, it was almost time for English literature. Cleaning her counter, she mused about Adelaide Alsop Robineau, an American ceramic artist who won the grand art prize in Turin, Italy in 1901. Unusual for her time, she accomplished much while a young ceramic artist under the instructor Taxile Doat, started Keramic Magazine, was a china factory proprietor, and mother of three. Adelaide would definitely be another Art History paper for Dr. Freeman.

She put the glaze test baggies in her lab locker. Lucky thing Peter’s shop was on the way to her English Classroom.

“Howdy,” Jennifer smiled.

“Oh. Hey yourself.” Peter grinned back.

He wiped his hands on a rag and came towards her. Jennifer was wearing clean jeans for a change, a red tee shirt under a denim shirt. Her hair was a curly mess of chestnut and her green eyes sparkled at him.

“Want to go to the Mexican Cantina tonight? I’m buyin.’”

Peter’s gaze brightened. He went to his sink and washed his hands.

Walking over to her, he slipped an arm over her shoulder, pulled her close to him and kissed her with a passion she hadn’t expected.   Her eyes closed and she sunk into his body, but suddenly wrestled out of his grasp and gulped for air.

“Jeepers! I gotta go! See ya at six tonight.”

At home Jennifer showered and put on a pair of red cords, a white tuxedo blouse with mother of pearl cuff links and red, black, and white plaid wool vest with a brass zipper up the front. She applied a little bit of eyeliner and some mascara. Her skin and rosy coloring didn’t need anymore enhancement.

After some of the best black bean and smoked chili tamales Jennifer had ever eaten, they walked back to Peter’s apartment above his bicycle shop. The building had been a small grocery store, originally built in 1830. Peter had torn out the coolers and aisles to make two big rooms. The front displayed bikes, tool kits, and clothing for bicycling. The back room was his repair shop. A glassed in back porch held the flotsam and jetsam of bike racing and a stand on which one could mount a bike and ride for exercise with timer and mileage gage.

Peter was pretty good at designing an enticing display. He’d built a false floor in the large bay window in the front of the building, so he could place items at eye level for street passers-bye. It caught Jennifer’s attention at first. With its creative and innovative positioning of bikes, road tools, maps, and specialized clothing, she’d assumed an art student employee did them.

There were stairs in the back room leading up to a small two bedroom second floor with a bathroom and large kitchen-living area. Jennifer had been up in the apartment before, for beers after long rides. Peter led her over to the long navy couch and sat her down. He crossed over the open wood floor to the stove and started a kettle heating. After arranging cups and teabags, he returned to her. Kneeling, he started to take off Jennifer’s clogs. She opened her mouth to speak, but then thought better of it. He slowly peeled off her socks. The care with which he did it alerted her senses.

She could feel the cool air on her bare dangling feet because she was too short for Peters big couch, comfortable for a guy of six feet. He returned to the counter, pouring water into the teacups. Returning, he placed them on the coffee table to steep. His hands were warm. She almost melted when he gently grasped and started to massage her muscled and gnarled foot.

“Wow, you have strong feet. What are all the calluses from?” asked Peter.

Jennifer groaned inwardly at the thought of telling yet another person her shame.” It’s from my ill begotten quest to be a ballet dancer.“

He looked hard at her, trying to imagine the work necessary for a discipline he knew nothing about, “Really? …What happened?”

“Too short, too much T & A, try the chorus line.”

“Wow, that must have been a disappointment.” His large brown eyes held hers conveying sympathy.

Those few words of honest commiseration oiled the hinges of Jennifer’s heart. She sighed again remembering the crushing blow in the American Ballet Theater rehearsal hall. Warm hands grabbed her attention again as Peter rubbed the weariness from her arch and made her spine relax. Her breath caught. Her head fell back on the cushions.

He sensually manipulated her toes and the ball of her foot. Standing, Peter obtained her tea and placed it in her hands. Slipping on one sock, he started on the other foot. Thoughts flew from Jennifer’s mind and stress from her body with his connected touch. If this is what he could do for her feet, what else could he make happen?

Once her socks were on, she swung her feet up to sit in a cross-legged position. Peter retrieved his tea and sat next to her. Snuggled next to him, she gazed at his profile. It was as if nothing had happened. His face was content and relaxed, like it always was. Possibly, he was the most composed and calm man she’d ever met. Nothing seemed to faze him. But she was roiling inside. Feeling the shreds of her ballet failure, satisfaction from his compassion, and lust from his touch. She was confused about what she really felt for this tall ponytailed biker.

After chatting about nothing at all for half-an-hour, and kissing until she’d almost have to stay, Jennifer left. Her doubts reared their fearsome heads on the walk home. Could he stand her demanding schedule of dual major? She had no idea what his politics were. Lord knows what he’d think about her caper in two weeks. Only four people knew what they’d been planning over the last five months. At least she hoped that was all.

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