Crystal blue skies and a comfortable summer breeze brought out the crowds for the art-festival’s mid-summer stop. Inside her booth, Issa was anything but comfortable.
Roman had walked past twice already, each time coming a little closer, his arm slung around a beautiful brunette. Each time Issa’s hands shook a little more nervously.
“It’s his hair, isn’t it,” said Nathan, leaning from his tent-booth into hers while peering out at the guy. “Those luscious locks waving around makes the ladies shake with anticipation?”
Issa snorted. “You’ve the wrong end of your pencil, my friend. I know for a fact the sun is glinting off bottle-born highlights.”
“Ah, I see.” Nathan straightened to his full six-foot-two height. He crossed his well-toned arms looking more like a nightclub bouncer than the quiet cartoonist she had come to know over the summer.
“A ‘shake him off’ kind of situation, is it?”
Issa nodded and began moving her handmade notebooks around the table to keep from watching the crowd. The wandering couple would head her way soon enough. Her stomach yanked the knot it held a little tighter.
“The art festival is one of Roman’s favorite romance spots,” Issa said. “On day one, he brings a date to show off how cultured he is, then returns the next day to pickup whatever vendor he can sucker.”
“And you were last year’s choice?”
“Yup. Found out about the other woman after travelling across the state every other weekend for six months. Looks like both of us are gone, ‘cause that lady is new.”
“I can go stand in the sun and blind him with the glare off the top of my coiffure,” Nathan suggested, running a hand over his clean-shaved head, a goofy grin on his face.
“You don’t think so?” He grabbed a book bound in pink fun-fur from her table and placed it on his head, combing down the long fluffy edges to cover his wiggling eyebrows. “I could wear one of these and scare him away.”
A giggle bubbled out before Issa could stop it.
“No, wait, there’s more.” Nathan grabbed the big notebook he doodled in during quiet-times. In a few pencil strokes a remarkable caricature of Roman appeared, except his hair had its own personality. “His mane is truly diabolical. He sheds a single hair that wraps itself around a girl and she can’t get away!”
Issa’s giggles turned into a belly laugh at the sheer ridiculousness.
“Who needs a magic mirror when your hair lies to you instead?” Nathan grinned.
“Oh, your books are beautiful,” interrupted a lovely voice from the other side of the table. “And your laugh too. Aren’t they gorgeous?”
“I’ve never heard a laugh like that,” Roman commented, his eyes on Issa and not the brunette at his side.
“You wouldn’t have,” Issa murmured.
“I’m a writer,” the brunette continued. “I always need a new notebook.”
“You should try this one.” Issa handed the woman a purse-size journal. “I made it with ethically sourced leather and acid-free paper.”
The brunette examined the book as a strong breeze rippled over the grass blowing the canopies on the artisan’s tents. Roman turned his face to the wind and tossed his head. His hair blew back to exude a magazine-cover broodiness.
Issa grinned and glanced at Nathan who covered his smirk with one hand.
The woman paid for the book and moved on to the next tent.
“I thought maybe…” Roman began.
Issa cut him off. “You’ve already got a date for the weekend.”
Roman grunted, and his charm turned to a sneer.
“Your loss, baby.” He executed a too-cool-for-you shrug and sauntered away.
“Thanks for having my back,” Issa said quietly as she watched him go. “I was terrified the spark he made would somehow flare back to life.”
“You didn’t need my help.” Nathan’s voice grated with emotion.
Issa turned and tilted her head up to look into his green eyes. He stood closer than before. Close enough to give Roman the wrong impression. Issa was surprised she didn’t mind close.
“But I’m glad to be here for your triumph.” Nathan cleared his throat and moved away. “Why don’t I get us some ice cream to celebrate your freedom?”
He sped off, bumping the table in his sudden search for sweets. His sketchbook dropped to the ground, spilling loose sheets as it fell, unnoticed in his haste. Issa watched him go, confused.
She stooped and picked up the mess. The drawings inside the book were nothing like the cartoons that covered his booth. The pencil renderings had a photographic quality, catching the spirit of his subject. Her own face was illustrated in lifelike detail.
Issa set down the drawing book with herself face-up. She fixed her merchandise, reordering it properly, while glancing at the image. Worrying so much about this particular weekend, she hadn’t noticed Nathan slide quietly into the spot beside her.
The key to the festival circuit was a booth-neighbor you could trust: to your cash box, to sell your goods when you needed a break; someone to laugh with or sit quietly. A friend. According to her mother, also the elements of a good boyfriend.
A bowl of vanilla soft-serve with Oreo cookie chunks dropped onto the table.
“Mmmm, my favorite.” She turned to face him. “Your notebook fell. I couldn’t get all the loose bits back where they belong.”
“Oh thanks, I’ll fix…” Nathan’s voice drifted off as his face flushed deep red.
Issa slid over to stand next to him and looked down at the drawing.
“I’m not sure you got the wave in my hair right.”
He frowned, wrinkling his brow.
“This looks like the hair of someone completely oblivious. A bit too windswept. You might want to tone it down next time,” she teased gently.
His fingers touched the tips of her hair and a slow smile took over his face. “Next time is a good start.”
When she’s not writing, Jeannette can be found curled up on the couch with her kids reading aloud and doing all the voices or going on long walks to find the perfect frame to photograph. A camera and a pen are Jeannette’s weapons of choice, as she believes stories, visual and written, change the world – finding the best way to tell the right tale is all the fun.
Jeannette can be found on Instagram.