In the end, Grace couldn’t think of a way to show Perseus her sketchbook without looking like a maniac on the security cameras.
When Perseus made his suggestion, though, Grace guessed he’d put a lot of thought into the solution. Because she hadn’t brought her sketchbook with the expectation of adding anything to it, she hadn’t thought of it herself.
Sketch the statue across the aisle from me. After you’ve worked for a while, hold up the book like you’re comparing the two. I’ll see it over your shoulder.
Grace pulled a pencil out of her purse, which she set down on the floor beside her. The lack of benches meant she would have to draw standing up, which presented a challenge, working in a book and not on an easel. But she tried, because his plan was solid.
The statue was of a young woman bearing a water jug. Grace hadn’t drawn anything in months, so her hand felt stiff and awkward as she tried to capture the flowing lines of the woman’s dress, the curve of her hip, the fall of her hair.
With her back turned, Perseus couldn’t see her blushing, which Grace was thankful for. This new sketch was going to be terrible, but it wasn’t what she intended to show him. Over and over for the last two days, she had flipped through the sketchbook, trying to decide what he should see.
The page she kept coming back to was the one she was most proud of, but also the most personal.
Perseus remained silent as she worked. Grace kept her thoughts to herself as well, because she was thinking things he didn’t need to know. She wondered if the long years alone had taught him this patience, when in his place, Grace thought she would be climbing the walls in her own mind waiting for her friend to return. Perseus had greeted her warmly and hadn’t said a word about her being a day late. Which made her feel more guilty, not less.
When her feeble sketch was half complete, she flipped back to an earlier page in the book and held it up, looking back and forth between her subject and the page. Her dumb show was for the benefit of the cameras. If someone was watching, which they probably weren’t. But nothing could seem out of the ordinary.
Perseus still said nothing, and Grace’s heart shriveled. She took a step backwards, like she was trying to get a wider view. She stood right before Perseus, then, close enough that she imagined she could feel the weight of the stone form behind her.
Grace, is that you?
It’s beautiful. And sad. What happened?
The piece was a self-portrait assignment from her last art class, years ago. And the image of her was even younger, because the assignment was to work from a photograph. Grace had copied her younger self’s rigid pose and defiant expression, but instead of matching the color palette to her remembered anger, she chose cool colors, deep blues and murky greens. Even her skin was cold, done in pale gray, with the sweep of her collarbone accented in ice blue to match her pursed lips.
It was the only way she’d been able to depict the weight of the grief dragging at her after her sister died.
I lost someone, she said. And no one seemed to know how to help me through it.
I’m sorry. Perseus’ voice dropped to a whisper, but it still carried so much sympathy.
It was a long time ago, she replied, lowering the sketchbook. She turned back to the right page and started to draw again.
Another long silence. Grace almost wished she could hear what Perseus was thinking. Maybe she’d shared too much, and he didn’t know what to say. Maybe this tenuous connection between them, this tension, was one-sided, and he felt none of it.
Or maybe he was falling in love with her, too. But he wouldn’t feel the craving to say so, as she did, because he knew anything between them beyond this friendship was desperate and foolish and doomed. She should, too. But she wanted more.
The strangest thing happened to me this afternoon, she began. Even inside her head, her voice sounded weak and hesitant. One of my colleagues asked me out on a date.
There was only a two-heartbeat pause for Grace’s anxiety to build before Perseus answered. Why is that strange?
A tremor ran through Grace’s body, shaking her hand and spoiling the line she was drawing. He sounded confused, but sincere. Trying to explain how lonely she’d been most of her adult life would be insensitive, though, considering what he was suffering. Unexpected, then, I guess. I hardly know him.
But he wants to get to know you, Perseus replied. I can’t blame him for that.
The urge Grace felt to snap her sketchbook shut and whirl to face him was almost, but not quite, overpowering. Her grip on the pencil tightened, the motion digging a deep groove into the page. I said yes, but I’m already having second thoughts about it.
You should give him a chance. If you have third thoughts after the date, then turn him down when he asks you again.
The advice was solid and reasonable, but Grace thought she detected a hint of sadness behind the words. How do you know he will?
Grace’s heart burst open and flooded her body with heat. She was right, it wasn’t just her. But pushing it any farther was stupid and hurtful and she shouldn’t have even baited him this far. She swallowed hard and cast her next line in a playful tone. You don’t have to ask, Perseus. You know I’ll come back as long as you’re here.
Speaking of that, he said, trying to match her lightheartedness and not quite managing to, did you bring Harry Potter with you?
Yeah, I have it. Let me get comfortable out in the courtyard. I think we’ve got time for a few chapters before the museum closes.
As she settled on one of the benches, Grace decided she would keep her date with Cameron. She would go out for drinks, and get to know a few things about him, and do her best to have a good time.
But once she got home tonight, she promised herself an hour of research time before she went to bed. How does one go about finding the way to break an ancient Gorgon curse, anyway?