They headed for the Art room, where they found Mr. Edwards stacking bottles of paint in a cabinet. "Hey there, Mary. And good afternoon, Carter."
"Good afternoon, sir. How are you?" Carter greeted.
"I'm well, thanks. Just tidying up a bit."
"Would you like any help?" he asked.
Mary noted the curious look on the Art teacher's face. "I only have this last box of paint to put up. That's all. But thanks for asking."
Mr. Edwards still looked puzzled.
Mary explained, "Carter wanted to see my Saturn painting. Is that all right, sir?"
"Of course," he said. But the wrinkles in his brow didn't go away.
She went to the drawer with her name on it and took out the canvas.
“Well? What do you think?"
Carter said nothing at first.
"It's all right if you don't like it," she said.
"No, that's not it," he said. "Not at all. It's…magnificent."
Mary had never heard that word used to describe her work before.
"Maybe that isn't the right word. I can't think of a better one, though." He looked at her. "You are gifted."
"That's what I say," Mr. Edwards added. "Let's see if you can convince her to enter it into the contest. Or any of her other paintings, for that matter. I've been trying for the past three years."
Mary smiled. "No thanks."
"Why not?" Carter asked.
She replaced the canvas in the drawer. "I don't like competition."
"With that painting, I don't think there will be any. You should do it."
She shook her head.
He turned to Mr. Edwards. "I tried."
"It's all we can do," the teacher chuckled.
When Mary had stored her painting again, they said goodbye to Mr. Edwards and left the school.
"Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow," she said.
"Where are you going to now?"
"Oh, just to the retirement home. To visit my grandmother.”
"May I come with you?"
"You can say no," he said. "I am sorry. I'm...still learning my boundaries of what's appropriate."
"Boundaries?" she asked. "Is that why you were ignoring me all this time?"
"Not ignoring. Avoiding. I made you uncomfortable your first day back. I didn't want to do that again."
"Oh," she said. "So, that wasn't because you were getting over Laci?"
"'Getting…over Laci?'" He thought for a moment. "Was I under her before?"
His face lit up. "I said something that amused you?"
Mary took a deep breath and composed herself. "No. I mean, yeah. Never mind."
"I still don't understand your question."
"It's all right. You answered it." She cleared her throat. "Anyway. About my grandmother. She suffers from dementia. She takes medication for it, so usually she has good days. But once in a while, she has episodes. She should be okay, but I just wanted to warn you."
That might put him off, she thought.
But he answered, "Thank you. I'll be sensitive to the situation."
"Um, okay. Anyway, the bus is coming. We'd better get on it.”