The Art of Love (Quick Read)
The Art of Love (Quick Read)
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- Workplace Romance
When these two meet, sparks fly as liberally as the paint strokes.
Collin has a flair for his artistic business. But he's convinced that he's all thumbs when it comes to juggling relationships too.Everleigh wants to know what love is. And at this point, she's doubtful she'll ever find out; because it sure wasn't much of it going on in her last--and longest-- romance.When a failed date leads to an unexpected connection, an equally unexpected opportunity follows.
Will they take the chance to be proven wrong & create a masterpiece that's all their own?
Intro Into Chapter 1
Intro Into Chapter 1
Collin sighed as he placed his phone, face down, on his desk. Indulging in a moment of self-pity he planted his face in the palms of his hands, massaging the muscles in his cheeks and temples before dropping his hands to his lap and allowing himself to fall backwards into the cushioned support of his office chair. He released one last gust of air before inhaling deeply through his nose.
Eyelids closed, he allowed the silence of his empty store to calm him for the duration of a few quieting breaths. Finally, he leaned forward and reclaimed his phone, looking up the number for his girlfriend.
“Hey Jules. How are you? I’m good. Well, actually, not so good. Just got word that my lead for the night is going to be out on leave for while. Came down with Covid while on vacation, so he’s isolating for a couple of weeks. Yeah, it’s unfortunate; the only good part is that at least no other staff or customers were put at risk. Still, he needs to take care of himself. But, no one else is available to take his place tonight—and that’s on top of the crew members who resigned as of a couple days ago to prepare to move back home for summer break. So, we’re going to be severely short-handed tonight.” He nodded as she responded.
“Yeah, I’m sorry to have to postpone our dinner plans, again. I don’t know what else to do, though; it’s part of owning a small business. I’ll make it up to you, somehow. Yeah, I know I always say that. But I always mean it.” He sighed, “Yeah, yeah okay. Could you call to cancel our reservations? Well, because I have to get prepared for the evening. I know this is my fault, I just need a little help—nevermind. I’ll call. And uh. Yeah. Alright, I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Collin didn’t know what he dreaded most; the stressful night ahead or the tension he’d encounter upon meeting up with Julie tomorrow.
A groan escaped him as he allowed his head to rest against the back of his chair, once more. Sucking in a deep breath, he held it for a moment before releasing it and the stress mounting upon his shoulders.
The store. The relationship. Both required his attention for them to work. And…maybe he just wasn’t capable of juggling both, right now.
Maybe he and Julie needed to talk.
The empty seat beside her continued to nag at Everleigh’s senses. It was almost like the more she attempted to ignore it the more room the vacant space occupied in her mind—the space that her online date should be occupying at that very moment.
She wondered at his absence; wondered what he’d decided was a better use of his evening.
Maybe he’d gotten into a car wreck, like in that classic romantic film featuring Cary Grant. And even now, her date was in a coma. Or maybe he’d lost his car keys. And his phone. And he was lamenting over the loss of never having met the woman with whom he’d connected online.
Everleigh’s lips tightened as she dismissed the romantic straws her mind was desperately grasping onto. With a roll of her eyes that lasted as long as a blink, she admitted the truth to herself.
As sure as the painting in front of her was ugly as sin, she’d been stood up. Plain and simple.
Welcome to singlehood.
Despite the fact that her last relationship had been rather lackluster, she’d mourned its loss. She’d found a man who’d sincerely shared her Christian values, including fighting to remain abstinent before marriage. Though, part of the problem was that it hadn’t been much of a fight for either of them.
But they’d been together so long.
And they'd been comfortable together.
Was ‘comfort’ really so bad?
Sure enough, just months after her ex had called it quits, his facebook page announced a wedding engagement to a woman he’d met just a few weeks prior.
A few. Weeks. Prior.
And Everleigh had stared and stared…and stared at engagement photos plastered all over his Facebook and Instagram profiles. She’d wondered at the man in the pictures, whom she barely recognized; a man she’d never had the honor of viewing throughout his and her romance.
A man in love.
What was worse is that Everleigh had been happy for him; even while she’d been thrown into months of depression.
What was wrong with her? Was she just unloveable? Was she incapable of, truly, loving another outside of her family?
It’d taken months to rebuild, but over time Everleigh had finally felt ready to tackle the ominous specter that loomed over any potential relationships.
And yet…the stream of disappointing online dates she’d experienced was telling her otherwise.
This latest dud was a guy with whom she’d been exchanging messages and facetime sessions. He’d suggested this Brush Strokes & Beverages event for their first in-person meeting.
Initially, Everleigh had been thrilled and impressed with his creativity. But, now, she suspected this was the guy’s go-to suggestion for dates, just for that reason.
The fact that he’d asked her to make the reservations probably should have been a small red flag about his commitment to said outing.
Shaking her head at herself, Everleigh turned her attention away from her thoughts. Looking to her left, she spotted the evening’s instructor guiding participants, such as herself, through step-by-step instructions on how to recreate that evening’s selected portrait.
As the instructor spoke, Everleigh’s attention wandered over to the most notable aspects of the event: the full bar bearing both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
What Everleigh wouldn’t do for something strong and warm, right then. But her being a lightweight and driving herself home tonight, probably meant that wasn’t a good idea.
Her eyes skipped around until they found what she was looking for. She recalled from the website that, on some occasions, the facility would offer delicious dishes that could be ordered and delivered right to your table so that you could paint, sip and dine all in one fun night. On other nights, such as this evening, a well-stocked, self-serve snack bar was available.
Maybe she should grab one of those chocolate chunk cookies that were tempting her with a ‘come hither and partake of my calories’ look. She needed to do something with her hands other than continue work on the disaster she was calling a portrait. Besides, she needed to treat herself. Obviously, she’d be the only one doing that for a while.
“How are things going here?” came the perky voice just to her right, as one of the event’s attendants lightly placed a hand on the empty seat that sat there, mocking her. Leaning towards Everleigh’s canvas, the assistant nodded, wisps of her blonde hair falling from her high bun. “Looks like you’re running a little low on clean water to rinse your brush off with, let me change out that water for you.”
Everleigh smiled her gratitude to the young woman who returned the grin before dashing away to exchange the cup. With the small crew that was on the floor being pulled in multiple directions, Everleigh had to congratulate them on their ability to remain congenial and attentive to the crowd of, at least, twenty or so patrons. And she would have done just that, had she not been so embarrassed at the predicament that she was now facing; being abandoned and left alone to deal with a painting of her own making that was already portending its own doom.
She tried to skirt around the niggling thought that the painting was a sign. That the whole night was a premonition. But it was no use. The comparison to the future of her romantic life took root.
No, she determined. Only the Lord truly knows what the future holds for us all, Everleigh reminded herself. Trust in Him to define it, not your insecurities. Not your past. Not someone else’s tainted opinions; not even your own. Let Him be God, Everleigh. Don’t assume that job for yourself.
With her dipping water being removed, Everleigh had an excuse to sit and actually take note of her surroundings. She’d been so wracked with nerves about the night that she’d only barely absorbed the room’s arrangement. Pushing her glasses up the ridge of her nose, she took in the scene. Warm lights glowed along the wall, softening the lights above, which helped the room of novice artists clearly view their progress. The dark, wood benches on which they sat matched the tables, whose surfaces gleamed under the thick, translucent plastic covering that protected them from stray paint. Everleigh imagined that the room must be quite beautiful when the tables had an opportunity to shine without being folded in giant seran wrap.
Looking at her dilapidated painting, she inhaled deeply and let the breath flow out of her, along with her negativity.
She would make the best of this evening. Of this painting. And by God, she would freakin’ love her singlehood, if it killed her. Because, she was done with this online dating nonsense.