She imagined the picture was supposed to be evocative of…something. The dreamy image showed a man, in a blue hoodie and jeans, walking down a wooden dock, surrounded by blue water, toward a bright light. Death? The unknown? His promising future? All that the artwork brought to her mind was the song “Dock of the Bay,” and she was fairly certain that’s not what the artist was aiming for.
“What do you think?” a low, rough voice asked
She glanced over at the man who’d stepped up beside her and had to look up. He was tall, had to be nearly six-four, with close cropped black hair, a beard, and enough tats and piercings to cause most people to back up. Emily wasn’t most people though. She prided herself on giving everyone a chance and, if they turned out to be an asshole, she’d just use her pepper spray.
“I don’t like it. I think it’s hokey. It reminds me of that one painter. You know, the one they called the painter of light. He did all those landscape paintings that never looked real.”
She also prided herself on honesty. If people didn’t want her opinion they shouldn’t ask.
He nodded. “Something your grandma might hang on her living room wall.”
“Exactly,” she said with a nod. “Right next to a horrible clown print.”
After a moment, she glanced over at him. “Please tell me you’re not the artist.”
He laughed. “No, hell no. Somebody I know invited me. I didn’t have anything else going so here I am. Would your opinion have changed if I was?”
“No, but I would have tried to be kinder in my choice of words.”
“So you would have still told me my pictures were shit, but prettied it up?”
“Yes.” She turned and held out her hand. “I’m Emily.”
“Tanner,” he said, gently taking her hand for a shake. “How did you end up here?”
“Same as you, a friend invited me. This is her gallery and she wanted me to see the work of this totally awesome artist. Her words, obviously.”
He had the prettiest eyes she’d ever seen. They were an unusual blue-green hue surrounded by thick black lashes. Lashes she only dreamed of having. Lashes the mascara companies promised you’d get, if you bought their products, but never delivered on. And how long had she been standing and staring up into his eyes?
“Do you want to go across the street for coffee?” he asked her.
“What about your date?”
“I don’t have a date. My sister didn’t want to come by herself.”
“I’d like that,” she said, smiling. No he wasn’t anything like the men she usually dated, but sticking with pattern wasn’t working for her. This man, with his beautiful eyes and gruff voice, made her stomach clench and that wasn’t a sensation she’d felt in a very long time.
He held out his hand. “Let’s get out of here.”
Emily put her hand in his as they moved through the crowd. No, she hadn’t liked the show at all, but had found something so much more to her liking.