Home > We Are Okay(17)

We Are Okay(17)
Author: Nina LaCour

She takes her phone to the back of the restaurant and slides into an empty booth, her back to me.

I abandon our table.

The snow is falling harder now. The pet store clerk hangs a CLOSED sign in its window, but I’m relieved to find the pottery studio’s door opens when I push it.

“Again!” she says.

I smile. I’m a little embarrassed to be back, but I can tell she’s pleased when I set the bell on the counter.

“I didn’t want my friend to see it,” I explain.

“I could wrap it in tissue and you could stick it in your coat?” she says.

“Perfect.”

She moves quickly, knowing I’m in a hurry, but then pauses.

“How many hours a week would you be looking for?” she asks. “For the job.”

“I’m open to pretty much anything.”

“After you left I was thinking . . . I really could use a hand. But I could only pay minimum wage, and only a couple shifts per week.”

“That would be great,” I say. “I have classes, so I need time to study. A couple shifts would be great.”

“Are you interested in making pottery? Maybe we could work something out where you get to use the kiln. To make up for the fact I can’t pay very much.”

A warmth passes through me.

“Really?”

She smiles.

“Yes,” she says. “I’m Claudia.”

“I’m Marin.”

“Marin. Are you from California?”

I nod.

“I spent a few months in Fairfax. I walked in the redwoods every day.”

I force a smile. She’s waiting for me to say more, but I don’t know what to tell her.

“You must be in the middle of your school break . . . but you’re still here.”

Worry darts behind her eyes. I wonder what she sees behind mine. Please don’t fuck this up, I tell myself.

“Fairfax is beautiful,” I tell her. “I’m actually from San Francisco, but my family doesn’t live there anymore. Can I give you my contact info? And then you can let me know if you do end up wanting help?”

“Yes,” Claudia says, handing me a notepad and a pen. When I give it back to her, she says, “You’ll hear from me in early January. Right after the New Year.”

“I can’t wait.”

“Bye, Marin.” She holds out the bell, wrapped in tissue. Before she lets go, she locks eyes with me and says, “Have a beautiful holiday.”

“You, too.” My eyes sting as I walk outside.

Back in the café, Mabel isn’t in the booth but she’s not at our table either, so I slip her bell inside the bag with the other gifts and wait. I imagine myself in the pottery studio. I’m taking money from a customer and counting change. I’m wrapping yellow bowls in tissue paper and saying, I have these, too. I’m saying, Welcome. I’m saying, Happy New Year. I’m dusting shelves and mopping the tiled floor. Learning to build a fire in the stove.

“Sorry,” Mabel says, sliding in across from me.

The waitress appears a moment later.

“You’re back! I thought you two left in a panic and forgot your credit card.”

“Where were you?” Mabel asks me.

I shrug. “I guess I disappeared for a minute.”

“Well,” she says. “You’ve gotten good at that.”

Chapter seven

JUNE

ANA WAS OUTSIDE when we opened the gate to Mabel’s front garden. She was dressed in her painting smock, her hair pinned messily in gold barrettes, staring at her latest collage with a paintbrush and a piece of yarn in her hand.

“Girls!” she said. “I need you.”

I’d caught glimpses of her works in progress for the three and a half years I’d been friends with Mabel. Each time I’d felt a rush, and now there was a new reverence to the moment. Ana’s collages had been shown by famous galleries in San Francisco and New York and Mexico City for years, but in the last few months she’d sold work to three different museums. Her photograph had begun appearing in magazines. Javier would open them to the articles on Ana and then leave them in prominent places throughout the house. Ana threw up her hands each time she saw one before snatching it up and stuffing it away. “I’ll get a big head,” she told us. “Hide that away from me.”

“It’s more simple than usual,” Mabel said now, and at first that seemed true.

It was a night sky, smooth layers of black on black, with stars shining so bright they almost glittered. I stepped closer. The stars did glitter.

“How did you do that?” I asked.

Ana pointed to a bowl of shining rocks.

“It’s fool’s gold,” she said. “I turned it into a powder.”

There was so much going on under the top layer. It was quiet, maybe, but it wasn’t simple.

“I can’t decide what to add. It needs something, but I don’t know what. I’ve tried these feathers. I’ve tried rope. I want something nautical. I think.”

I understood how she’d feel stuck. What she had was so beautiful. How could she add something to it without taking something away?

“Anyway,” she said, setting down her paintbrushes. “How are my girls this evening? Been shopping, I see.”

We’d spent an hour in Forever 21 trying on dresses for Ben’s party and now we had matching bags, each containing a dress identical but for the color. Mabel’s was red and mine was black.

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