Jasper stared at the man who was currently validating and encouraging his sister more than he realized she’d needed. Guilt prodded him. He’d been working so many hours lately, and when he wasn’t at work, he was in class or face-first in a textbook.
Christ. Maybe he really wasn’t cut out for this parenting thing. Or maybe he was just a melodramatic fuck because she needed something he couldn’t give her. Well, he could encourage and praise her—and he did—often. But he knew it wasn’t the same coming from someone without an artistic bone in his body.
He tried to tamp down his jealousy as he watched her glow under Ellis’ praise.
“I think I’d like to deepen the grooves but I’d also like the edges to be less sharp—more rounded.”
Ellis nodded, his dark blue eyes never leaving Junie’s face. “Okay, my suggestion is—wait—do you even want suggestions? Or would you rather find your own way with this.”
He grinned, and it was honestly one of the most beautiful things Jasper had ever seen.
“I’m still new to this whole teaching gig,” he added with a shrug.
Junie nodded. “Well, I’d at least like to know what you’d do.”
Ellis turned his attention back to the pot and gently touched the inside and the outside. “It feels a little wetter than I’d like in terms of doing the finishing work. I think I’d wrap it in a couple layers of plastic and let it sit until class tomorrow. Then, take the ribbon tool to smooth out the grooves and a damp sponge to round the edges.”
She nodded again. “So, basically, let it get to the leather-hard stage before trying anything else.”
“That’s what I’d do.”
She beamed at him. “That’s good enough for me.”
Jasper watched, fascinated, as she took a piece of wire stretched between two wooden handles and sliced through the clay stuck to the metal plate, releasing her bowl from the wheel.
She turned to him with the wire tool dangling from her fingertips. “Do you want to try it on yours? Or would you rather I do it?”
“Are you implying I’m not capable?”
She placed her free hand on her chest, spreading clay dust all over her pale blue t-shirt. “I am shocked—just shocked—that you’d even think that of me.”
Ellis snorted at the same time he did, and for a moment, he was caught in the other man’s gaze. But he managed to break free and grabbed the tool from June and tried to hold it like he’d seen her do a hundred times before, with the oblong pieces of wood against the insides of his fingers and the wire between his middle and ring fingers. Holding it taut, he dragged the wire against the metal plate, trying to keep the tension and speed even as he met the resistance of the bottom of his so called pot. Once he freed the clay from the wheel, he turned to June and stuck out his tongue.
She giggled. “You did it!”
“Oh ye of little faith…”
From the corner of his eye, he caught a wistful expression cross the other man’s face. It wasn’t the first time he’d noticed it tonight. He wanted to know more, but it wasn’t like they were friends. Sure, he’d slept in Ellis’ shirt last night, desperately wanting the comfort of his grass and forest scent, but he barely knew the man.
Despite wanting to, it wasn’t going to happen. Maybe in another life—one where he wasn’t both sole parent and provider for June. One where he was free to explore the attraction that had gripped him—where he could put his needs first or they could at least be on equal ground with hers.
It wasn’t that he regretted his choice. He didn’t. But saying yes to this life meant saying no to others. Ones where he might be free to ask Ellis out for a drink and maybe find out what it was that made him smell like someplace Jasper wanted to lose himself.
That’s it for me this week. Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ stories by clicking on their names.