“We’re out of cobalt carbonate over here,” a nasal voiced, summer lab student whined.

Jennifer rose from her desk, where she’d been checking in new shipments of oxides and minerals in Dr. Wally’s materials lab computer. Unlocking the supplies door, she fetched what was left of a twenty-pound bag of the carbonate and brought it to the student.

Before securing her dust mask, tipping the under counter bucket back, she admonished the students, “Step back or put on your dust masks.”

It figured. Most of these young pups, rarely wore protective gear. They obviously hadn’t taken ceramic hazards class. She watched five students walk to the far end of the lab.

A small cloud rose up from the bin as she poured the fine gray material. Rolling up the empty bag for the trash, she walked to the valve, turning on the filter fans, sucking dust out of the room. Giving the “all clear” to the five students still hunkered down by the door, Jennifer went back to her desk.

As a lab assistant for the summer ceramic science students, she ordered supplies, replaced chemicals and oxides in the lab, sometimes helping with sticky problems. Occasionally, conducting critiques of product results with Dr. Wally.

Dr. Wally Mc Gough, ceramic scientist, affectionally called, Dr. W. or Dr. Wally for his patience with dim-witted lab students, arrogant know-it-alls, and being passionately, almost romantically, in love with ceramic science. It was a joy to work with him. Jennifer was grateful for being hired again for this summer position, learning oodles via students about glazes and clay bodies as well as Dr. Wally’s ramblings about chemical properties.

Peter’s interest had cooled since their camping trip. It was the end of August. Four Tours de Hornell had been completed with the bicycle gang. Their bed and breakfast ride was the last time Jennifer and Peter had bedded down together.

She was busier than ever. With the lab assistant job, her own ceramic science courses and associated lab work, as well as a studio where she was fine-tuning techniques in architectural ceramic manufacturing. Learning to use a pug mill to extrude tile, figuring how to design dies for specialty edging, and shortening her time for throwing sinks on the pottery wheel.

After her lab duties with second year engineering students, Jennifer took refuge in her studio. Working on a design technique she sensed a presence. Stopping, turning, she saw Peter, standing, in a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and sandals.

“Hi, haven’t seen you in a while,”  his eyes were warm, smiling.

Standing with her hands on her hips, Jennifer replied, “Well I warned you. My work’s very important to me. I’ve had to sacrifice relationships in the past because of it.”

“But three weeks? You couldn’t just stop by the shop on your way home occasionally? So I’d know you were still breathing? So I’d realize you still loved me?”

Jennifer suppressed a smile. Despite his practicality, Peter could be a drama queen.

“O.K. I’ll make it a habit to visit you when I leave for home. Deal?“

Peter walked towards her, planted a long kiss on her mouth and left. Jennifer stood for a while next to her studio counter, resonating from Peter’s affection and words. Cleaning up her work area, she departed, walking deliberately home via Peter’s shop.

The bell dinged as Jennifer walked though the door, “Hey ho, you here?”

Silence. No wrenches tightening nuts, no screws turning. Jennifer walked to the back porch with its mounting bike stand for winter riding, extra store stock, and boxes of biking clothes.  She turned to the door leading up to Peter’s living area. Mounting the stairs she felt dread, achieving the large kitchen area she saw him on the sofa, completely naked.

Jennifer regaled his long, lovely athletic body. Peter intensely gazed, willing her to respond.

“This wasn’t a hello, conversation,” Jennifer pouted. “I’m not going to make love to you now.”

“Even with this stiff enticement?”

Damn it. I can’t do this!””

Jennifer fled down the stairs, slamming the door as she went. Running home, down the streets to her house, she pause on the porch, realizing her heart was beating like a jack hammer. Deep breaths flooding her lungs, she willed herself to calmness.

Walking through the door, she encountered her roommates, “Hi, Jen, we’ve got chicken in the oven. I’m making a salad, and Jillian baked scalloped potatoes.”

“Great,” she sighed,” I’m going to clean myself up.”

The  roommates dined, talking about their exploits during the week. After doing the dishes, Jennifer, made her excuses, telling them to not wait up for her, and walked to Roxanne and Simone’s octagonal grey house.

Roxanne, with a wine glass in hand, greeted her at the door, “Jen, hello, Simone’s pining about you.”

Slinking out of the dinning room, Simone glided over to Jennifer in a burgundy silk pajama set, right eyebrow arched, “Care for a cocktail?”

Jennifer grabbed Simone by the shoulders, kissing her passionately, “Yes.”

Drinking whiskey cocktails on the sofa, the two women gazed longingly into each other’s eyes. Imbibing the lust they both felt.

In the early morning, after poached eggs on toast, and sectioned grapefruit, Jennifer and Simone sat looking at one another, thinking about the future; one desiring New York City’s job offerings, the other wanting a clay studio – anywhere in the West.

Jennifer looked down at the Persian carpet below her feet, “Simone, you can have language jobs anywhere. I need to establish myself in a studio to make architectural ceramics. Please forgive me. I love your passion, but I ‘m moving to the West Coast after I graduate. We’re over, unless you want to follow me. 

Simone regarded Jennifer compassionately, “I hope I awakened a latent desire in you. I could see it when you first dined with us.”

“What? You thought I loved women?” 

The potter walked swiftly back to her house. Her roommates had left for their summer classes. The house was empty.

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