“It’s beautiful,” I said, and it was. When the halo got going fast, the glass all blurred, the colors mingling. Like the ocean, I thought, and looked at that angel’s face. Her eyes were washers, her mouth a tiny key, the kind I’d once had for my diary. I hadn’t noticed that before.
“You want it?”
“I couldn’t,” I said.
“Sure you can. I’m offering.” He reached over and picked it up, brushing his fingers over the angel’s tinny toes. “Here.”
“Wes. I can’t.”
“You can. You’ll pay me back somehow.”
He thought for a second. “Someday, you’ll agree to run that mile with me. And then we’ll know for sure whether you can kick my ass.”
“I’d rather pay you for it,” I said, as I reached into my back pocket for my wallet. “How much?”
“Macy, I was kidding. I know you could kick my ass.” He looked at me, smiling. Sa-woon, I thought. “Look. Just take it.”
I was about to protest again, but then I stopped myself. Maybe for once I should just let something happen, I thought. I looked down at the angel in his hand, at those sparkling bits of glass. I did want it. I didn’t know why, couldn’t explain it if I had to. But I did.
“Okay,” I said. “But I am paying you back somehow, sometime. ”
“Sure.” He handed it to me. “Whatever you want.”
Caroline was coming back over to us now, picking her way through the smaller sculptures and stopping to examine each one. She had her purse open, her phone to her ear. “. . . no, it’s more like a yard art thing, but I just think it would look great on the back porch of the mountain house, right by that rock garden I’ve been working on. Oh, you should just see these. They’re so much better than those iron herons they sell at Attache Gardens for hundreds of dollars. Well, I know you liked those, honey, but these are better. They are.”
“Iron herons?” Wes said to me.
“She lives in Atlanta,” I told him, as if this explained everything.
“Okay, honey, I’m going. I’ll talk to you later. Love you, bye!” She snapped the phone shut, then dropped it into her purse before slinging it back over her shoulder. “All right,” she said to Wes, “let’s talk prices.”
I hung back, holding my angel, as they walked through the various pieces, Caroline stopping the negotiations every so often to explain the meaning of this or that piece as Wes stood by politely, listening. By the time it was all over she’d bought three angels, including the Coke bottle cap one, and had gotten Wes’s number to set up an appointment for her to come see the bigger pieces he had out at his workshop.
“A steal,” she said, ripping her sizeable check out of her checkbook and handing it to him. “Really. You should be charging more.”
“Maybe if I show someplace else,” he told her, folding the check and sticking it in his front pocket, “but it’s hard to get pricey when you have baked goods on either side of you.”
“You will show someplace else,” she told him, picking up two of her angels. “It’s only a matter of time.” She looked at her watch. “Oh, Macy, we have to run. I told Mom we’d be home for lunch so we could look at the rest of those color swatches.”
Something told me my mother, who that morning had picked out windows and a skylight with about as much enjoyment as someone getting a root canal, would not be broken up to miss that conversation. But I figured it wasn’t worth pointing that out to Caroline, who was already distracted checking out another angel with a thumbtack halo, which she’d somehow missed earlier. “Well,” I said to Wes, “thank you again.”
“No problem,” he said, glancing over at my sister. “Thanks for the business.”
“That’s not me,” I told him. “It’s all her.”
“Still,” he said. “Thanks anyway.”
“Excuse me,” a woman by the big sculpture called out, her voice shrill, “do you have others like this?”
Wes looked over. “I should go, I guess.”
“Go,” I said. “I’ll see you later.”
“Yeah. See you around.”
I stood there watching as he walked over to the woman, nodding as she asked her questions, then looked down at the angel in my arms, running a finger over the smooth sea glass dotting her halo.
“Ready?” Caroline said from behind me.
“Yeah,” I said. “I’m ready.”
“Now this,” Delia said to me, her voice low, “really makes me nervous.”
Looking out from the kitchen, I could only nod in agreement. But while Delia was referring to the fact that we were in a house where delicate antiques crowded just about every level surface and Monica had just been sent out with a trayful of full wineglasses, for me it was something else entirely. Namely the fact that a mere two feet from the door in which we were standing, in prime grabber location, were Jason’s parents.
Since we’d arrived I’d been in the kitchen with Wes, shelling shrimp as fast as humanly possible because Delia, distracted by another crisis involving the ovens not lighting, had forgotten to get it done earlier. Suddenly, I’d heard a trilling laugh I recognized. As Kristy pushed through from the living room, her tray picked clean of the biscuits she’d walked out with only minutes earlier, I saw Mrs. Talbot. And as the door swept shut, I was almost certain she saw me.
“Unbelievable,” Wes said.
“What?” For a second I thought he meant Mrs. Talbot.
“Look at that.” I followed his gaze, realizing he meant the shrimp in my hands, as well as the pile in front of me, which was twice the size of his. “How are you doing those so fast?”
“I’m not,” I said, sliding the shrimp out of the shell and dropping it on my pile.
He just looked at me, then down at the one he was holding. “I’ve been watching you,” he said, “and while I’ve been working on this one, you’ve done five. At least.”
I picked up another one, ripped the legs off, then slid off the shell in one piece, dropping the shrimp onto my pile.
“Six,” he said. “This is getting embarrassing. How’d you learn to do that?”
Starting another one, I said, “My dad. In the summers, we used to buy a couple of pounds of shrimp to steam and eat for dinner. He loved shrimp, and he was super fast. So if you wanted to eat, you had to keep up.” I dropped the shrimp onto my pile. “It was a Darwinian thing.”