Arizona Skies
Author: Isabella Darcy

Chapter 17
The Gallery

The room is painted bright yellow, and with the sun flooding through the clear cut windows on each side, it reminds me of a sunflower, sundrenched with color. Plaster partitions seperate the room, canvases tacked to them with little metal nameplates.

"Welcome to the gallery." Ted says, sweeping an arm around. "Please, enjoy yourselves."

Mona sticks out her tongue at Aubrey playfully and waves at me before disappearing back out of the door. I step forward, and Aubrey comes with me as we look at the row of paintings closest to us.

Most of them are desert landscapes, but as we wander around the room I see they're seperated by category. There are some portraits, modern sculpture, photographs. They're all by locals; as we pass by I read the little silver nameplates.

A bright pastel of the morning light over a bleached ram horn.

"Sunrise" by Laura Finn, age 48.

A dabbled painting, flakes of paint sticking up, laughing boys eating melting ice cream, sitting in a row.

"A Hot Summer Day" by Elliot Caraway, age 36.

 There are even some amateur paintings by Wilson students. I gasp when I reach one, a dark oil painting of the stars shrouded in black night, silver moths buzzing around cacti- only it's not amateur, it's the best one in the whole gallery, in my opinion. Then I see the nameplate.

"Darklight" by Aubrey Hunter, age 17.

 "Aubrey!" I say, turning to him with a wide grin, suddenly noticing that we're alone in the gallery, Ted having vanished unobtrusively. "You did this?"

He blushes, pinching my cheek. "Why so surprised, huh Leonardo?"

"I never knew you could paint!" I squeal, tracing a finger over the etched name.

"You like it?" He prompts, squeezing my hand, grinning.

"Do I like it? It's the best one!"

"Aw, thanks," He laughs, surveying it doubtfully. "I can do much better now, though."

I turn to him. "You never said anything!"

He shrugs. "I didn't want to burst your bubble." He says, teasing me. "I knew you'd be so disinheartened when you saw any of my work that you'd probably give up altogether."
 I smack him playfully. "Sure." I turn back to the canvas, serious. "It's really beautiful."

"You are." Aubrey says, his chin on my shoulder, arm around me. I look at him with a smile.

Aubrey leans in for a kiss, and I close my eyes, heart fluttering as usual...

"Gross!"

We break apart to see Mona, staring up at us, her eyes wide, a disgusted expression on her face. "Dad!" She calls, "Aubrey's kissing Aurora!"

Aubrey chuckles, I blush. "What, you never seen a kiss before, Mona, you goose?" He teases her, his arm still twined around me. Mona nods seriously, wagging her brightly painted finger at him.

"But you have cooties, silly. Aurora's gonna die if you kiss her."

Aubrey makes an exaggerated horrified face. "What! I better let go of her then," He says, winking at her. "But first..."

He kisses my cheek, and Mona shrieks, laughing all the same.

Aubrey pokes her stomach playfully. "See, you little goose, Aurora's okay." He makes a swan dive for her cheek, but she presses her manicured hands against his face, giggling.

"I don't want the cooties! I don't want the cooties!"

She runs laughing from the room, yelling, "Dad! Dad! Aubrey's trying to give me the cooties!"

He turns to me with a grin. "She's cute, isn't she?"

I nod. "She certainly is. You're really good with kids, Aubrey." I say.

"I should be," he says, as we start to walk back out, "I grew up raising my two little siblings."

I goggle at him. "What? You never said you had siblings!" I gasp.

"You never asked." He says, winking. "I'm full of hidden secrets."

We're stopped at the door by Mona, who's all of a sudden shy, twisting her foot on the wooden floor. "Do you want to stay for dinner?" She asks me with a nervous smile.

I look at Aubrey, who grins. "Sure." I say, as we follow her down the hall and into the kitchen. "We'd love to." 

 

 

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