She looked down into the swiftly flowing water of the tiny stream, imagining her troubles flowing away with the water. If they bumped into a couple of rocks and cracked along the way, so much the better.
“Excuse me –”
She shrieked in surprise, turning so fast her feet slipped on the gritty limestone. Her arms pinwheeled desperately in an attempt to catch her balance. She felt her hand hit something, then everything stopped for just a moment.
“It’s okay,” he said quietly. “You’re not going to fall.” Though a Germanic accent colored his speech, his English was perfect.
She was leaning sideways over the stream, her right arm stretched toward the rippling water. An arm was around her waist, and she slowly turned to see who held her. She gulped as her glance turned into a stare. He was a tall man with the clearest blue eyes she’d ever seen. His hair was very light blonde, almost white, and it hung past his shoulders. He looked about her age.
“Are you all right?” he asked, eyebrows furrowing in concern.
She nodded, unsure if she could even talk just now. Where had he come from? How had he sneaked up on her so easily? Was she really that distracted? Though she probably should have been a little worried about his proximity, she somehow felt he meant her no harm.
“Here, why don’t you sit down.” He slowly backed up a step, pulling her more upright with him. Once she was no longer in danger of falling, he withdrew his arm and gestured to the nearby park bench.
“Uh, I can’t.” She winced at how stupid she sounded. “I’m… um…. allergic to most metals. I can’t sit there.” But the idea was sound, so she carefully lowered herself to the ground.
He smiled, just showing a hint of his top teeth. “I can relate.” He sat across from her, his long legs folding up more tightly than she expected. He obviously did yoga. “I get the worst rash if I touch it.”
“Really?” she blurted, as surprised by her question as his statement.
He nodded. “I can’t even ride the bus,” he admitted. “It makes me sick.”
“Me too.” She leaned forward, eagerly.
“It’s a bit ironic,” he said with a shrug. “I live in a city, and can’t touch metal, can’t even get too close to it.”
“I’ve never met anyone else with the same allergy as me.”
“Really?” His eyebrows went up slightly. He clearly had an expressive face. “I know quite a lot of people with it. Of course, none of them are here in St. Paul at the moment.” When he looked into her eyes, he felt familiar. “I’m so sorry I startled you.”
“Oh… that’s okay.” Normally it was something she said without thinking, but this time, she meant it.
“My name is Earl.” He placed a large hand in the center of his chest, his long fingers splayed. “I’m an artist.” He pulled a leather strap off his shoulder and over his head, to reveal a worn brown satchel.
“What kind?” When he looked puzzled, she elaborated. “What kind of artist?”
He smiled and opened the flap on his satchel, drawing out a large sketchbook. He hesitated a moment, then handed it to her. “These are… just my ideas.”
She carefully turned over the cover, to be met with a pencil sketch of a fox. The next few pages had a variety of drawings of children in a fountain. She thought the fountain might be downtown, but she wasn’t a hundred percent sure.
“I make paintings from them,” he added.
“They’re amazing.” They looked like photos that had been converted with fancy software. She gazed in awe as buildings, trees, boats, and people came alive on his pages.
“I… I was wondering if you would let me draw you,” he said, uncertainty creeping in to the end of his sentence. “I swear I’m not some freaky stalker or anything,” he added quickly. “But…” pink blossomed on his high cheekbones. “You’re really beautiful, you know? Just looking at you gives me ideas for paintings, and I was hoping you’d let me do that.”
Prompt: “Hey, can I draw you?”