“Well you dodged a bullet,” a smiling Peter spoke during a spur of the moment Monday evening date.
Jennifer grinned at him from across the table, feeling twenty pounds lighter, some of it real and some imagined by her fear of discovery as the protest’s banner maker. April’s end of the month rain beat gently outside. Sales and repairs had slowed with the spring storms and Peter made an effort to seek Jennifer out. She’d be graduating next year. He wanted to hold on to her as long as possible. See if she wanted more of a commitment, maybe.
“Yeh, Stella got our dismissal papers yesterday. All charges will be dropped. I still wish I had a picture of those signs and all the ribbons. It was quite a sight. “
Their pizza arrived and all was quiet at their table for a while in the bustling College Square Restaurant. People occasionally stared at Jennifer. She’d become recognized as one of the sitters on top of the cooling tower, The Tower 16. The acquittal had made them famous within the anti-nuclear movement and college crowd. Stan, Stella, and Ralphie swore they would never say anything about who created the banners. But there was still Roxy and her gang of gossip queens and social muckrakers.
“Um, I have something for you,” Peter proffered, while grabbing a package out of his shoulder bag next to the table.
It was gift wrapped in red, white, and blue striped paper. Jennifer was surprised and curious as she ripped open the picture frame. It had been professionally done. The back was sealed in brown acid free paper and screwed in eyes secured a slack wire between two sides for hanging. She turned it over. Her breath caught as she gazed upon the glass, covering a matted front-page photo from the Buffalo Evening Newspaper of a nuclear plant’s cooling tower hung with two signs. NO NUKES and PLUTONIUM 239 – Half Life 24,110 Years, the caption below describing the National Guard evacuation of the protesters on cooling tower rim.
Warm tears rose to her eyes looking upon the signs, which could have put her in prison for most of her life, for trespassing on a nuclear power site, participating in a protest.
She took Peter’s hand, “Thank you. I…I…I…thank you.”
Bending down she kissed his hand.
After a minute of silence he asked, “So, what are your plans for next year? Do you think you’ll have the same summer job?”
“Jesus Peter, I haven’t even finished the term.” Eating another bite before she fully answered, “Well, I’ll graduate. I know that. I’m sick of school. I want to get out of here and start my own studio. I need to create a major show next year for the final critique in the art department, and I have to pass a crunching final lab and paper exam in engineering this year. I still need to find out if I have the summer workshop tech position in the studio. But it’s a possibility. I did apply.”
Will you stick around here, mused Peter, furrowing his brow. I love your sense of humor and passion. Your creativity enriches my life. You’re Scheherazade in bed. What will I have to do to keep you?
“Peter, where are you?” Jennifer asked, peering into his distant brown eyes.
“Oh, just spacing out.”
“Well I have to spend some time in the studio tonight.”
Peter pursed his lips, “I can wait until tomorrow.”
But Jennifer worked the next four days and nights on a new body of work. As well as putting her mind into the metals and oxides of the ceramic chemistry lab, it was a week before she saw Peter again.
The bell dinged as Jennifer walked through Peter’s shop door Saturday afternoon. When the bike mechanic came out of his repair area his brow was dark and unwelcoming.
Standing arms akimbo, Peter thundered, “Where the hell have you been? NO CALLS ANSWERED! Your roommates could only tell me you were at the studio. I almost came over to the department. Why the ice queen routine?”
“I was working! Why didn’t you come over to my workspace?”
“My work’s very important to me. I get absorbed, hyper focused. When I’m on to something I flow with it until done.”
“Well it seems to me that I have flexed plenty for your schedule and work. I would like some communication so we can plan a life together.”
Jennifer stopped in mid-rant. Her body tensed, voice cracking, “A life together?” Oh. God, she thought, I want a studio, a career. “I don’t know if I can do that.”
Peter looked deflated. His grease streaked, dirty hands limp at his sides.
“Why don’t I come back tonight when you’ve finished working? I know you have business to …”
“O.K., this is it in a nutshell …I missed you!”
Jennifer hung her head, “Me too! That’s why I found a place to stop so I could come over here.”
“Well I guess we have different limits of ‘missing each other time’,” grumbled Peter.
Looking at each other in silence, trying to ignore pain and anger’s residue, Jennifer took a step towards him. He took a step over to her, clasping his greasy paws on her clay spattered shirt. Drawing together, feeling the warmth, and familiar smells of each other’s bodies, they kissed passionately.
“I apologize for not coming to the studios. It’s … kind of intimidating to walk through those huge concrete halls, though the kiln room and labs. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there and I don’t know where you are.”
“Oh, Peter, may I draw you a map and give you a schedule if you need me?”
Jennifer looked at him so kindly. Peter knew she was sincere, not mocking him.
“Um, I feel… so foolish.”
“You’re not! Next time I get so absorbed in my projects, you’re going to have a map and schedule to find me! It’s who I am. I get into my work. That’s a fact. To love me, love my peccadillo’s.”
Peter looked mystified. Peccadillo’s, that’s another one I’ll have to look up.
“Are we good?” proffered Jennifer softly.
“Good.” He kissed her.