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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

LIII: Present

The warblers and finches sang praises to the rising sun on Brendon’s drive to his studio. Branched shadows shivered in a welcome breeze that promised to linger through the heat of midday. Brendon did a quick circle around downtown, checking the parking for any sign of a BMW or a crisp suit.

Seeing no sign of Orion, Brendon parked, sprinted up two flights of stairs to his studio and did a runaround, gathering up supplies. His collapsible easel, a couple of small canvases, some flat, some fat and a couple stretches of calfskin. A tub of paint tubes that had once been blue and now looked like an LGBT flag all out of sorts. A handful of mid-quality brushes and one normal number two pencil.

And he was done.

Back down the steps with his arms laden, out the thick metal door and popping his trunk to store his gear. He’d have to stop by the local gas station, nab a couple of waters, then drive around deciding on which park might hide his car best so he could spend the day in peace and q—

“Good morning, Brendon.”

He sagged against the open trunk door. “Not today, Orion. I’m busy.”

“I’ll come with you then.”

Brendon groaned openly, shut the trunk and turned, meaning to find the assertion he’d need to countermand Orion’s assumptions. But there he froze.

Nice dress shoes had been swapped for a pair of brown sandals. Tailored suit for dark khakis and plain navy shirt. His hair had been swept sideways rather than impeccably gelled and he held a refillable metal water bottle in one hand and a pair of aviator sunglasses in the other.

“Did you grab a second canvas?”

“I brought six.”

“I’ll only need one.” Then Orion walked around the back of the car and climbed into Brendon’s passenger seat.

Up in the crepe myrtles, the finches sang, little claws setting pink petals floating away while the sun inched past the rooftops. Brendon considered leaving Orion in his car and walking away, maybe see if somewhere that served beer might be open at this hour. But he didn’t consider it seriously, more intrigued that Orion owned something other than a suit.

In the driver seat, Brendon buckled and kept his voice as monotone as possible. “You’re being incredibly forward. And canvas isn’t free.”

“I’ll pay.”

“Of course you will,” muttered Brendon.

“And I’ll be as quiet as a mouse.” Orion put a finger over his lips. “Will only ask you painting questions and whisper admirations about your work.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Have I given you the feeling, the sense, that I’m a liar?”

Brendon had to admit, at least privately, that Orion had not given that impression. But he didn’t have to say so, so he didn’t. Merely started the car and slowly pulled out of downtown and headed toward a local wharf, the same one where Robbie had first spoken to him.

The place, Wathen’s End Wharf, no longer had crisp edges, the wood on the sagging piers gone brown and the pilings green with algae. The couple of boat slips had been torn down and the nearby restaurant boarded up when ownership passed into the hands of surviving children who couldn’t be bothered to keep up with the business and hadn’t yet fought off the one child who didn’t wish to sell.

There Brendon pulled into a gray gravel parking spot and shut off the car. It’d be grueling on the wharf, summer sun, cloudless sky, heavy wind off the water and not a branch to speak of for shade. But he had a hankering to paint in blues. Like Orion’s eyes.

“How’d you know I’d be up early?” he asked.

Orion shrugged. “When we parted last night you made it obvious you had no intention of spending the day with me. But I propose we merely spend the day doing what you want. I’ll keep my comments about your supernatural paintings to myself. For the day. All I ask, is that your painting be of the safe sort, the kind that won’t drown me or anyone else.” And he gave the water a meaningful glance.

“I’ll do my best,” murmured Brendon dryly. Then fetched his things silently, wondering whether Orion could truly stand the quiet.


Next Chapter: LIV