"This is so nice. I didn't expect it to be outside."

Clara's eyes passed over a table of handmade glass jewelry. Each piece contained a collection of colored beads with a single chunk of obsidian hidden somewhere amongst them. Noticing the hidden pattern made her feel like she'd discovered the artist's secret signature.

"Yeah, but it wouldn't have been so nice if it rained," said Nicholas. He was one table ahead of Clara, thumbing through a box of matted watercolor illustrations. Clara snuck a sideways look at him. He was crouching right next to the box, really taking in each piece of art. When Nicholas had finished, he stood up, looked at the artist, and said, "Nice work" before turning and waiting for Clara to join him.

They walked around a circular path that enclosed the large pond at the front of the property. Mount Pritchett Arts Center was much more expansive and beautiful than Clara had envisioned when Nicholas told her about the show. Each vendor along the path had their own distinct style. Aunt Maureen had said she never made it to this place – she didn't get off the island much. Clara thought she'd have to take her back for the next big art show. She'd thought about asking Aunt Maureen to come along today, but decided that she didn't want anything to get in the way of her time with Nicholas. "Sometimes it's okay to be selfish," she thought.

"So where's your work?" Clara asked.

"Hmm... good question," Nicholas said. He pulled a brochure from his back pocket and looked it over. "I think the juried pieces are in... some kind of pavilion in the back of the main building."

"Well," said Clara, "let's go find that pavilion."

The back portion of the arts center put the front to shame. Walking there, Clara and Nicholas passed a topiary, a collection of whimsical water fountains, and a foot path that wound around a series of rolling hills. Once they were fully in the back, they saw rows of pavilions sitting on the freshly cut lawn that stretched to a tree-lined area half a mile off. A string quartet played chamber music nearby. Butterflies were everywhere. Clara thought about how easily she could live in this place.

"I think it's over this way," Nicholas said, pointing to a long tent with a sign reading "Juried Show" on an easel near its entrance. Clara followed him inside.

The pavilion contained a series of temporary walls, each featuring a few works by a different painter. Clara looked around at the people inside. She could tell that most of them were the artists themselves from the way they hovered around their own work, eyeing up anyone who stopped for a moment to have a look. Most of them held drinks and didn't speak much above a whisper.

"It's serious in here," she said to Nicholas.

"Yeah, these guys don't fool around. The first place prize is five hundred dollars cash plus another five hundred dollars' worth of painting supplies. Everyone here is hungry for that."

"Oh," said Clara. "Now I get the seriousness."

"Yep," said Nicholas, his voice growing a little louder. "Hey – here I am."

He pointed to a wall with three colorful framed paintings. Each was a few feet wide, and each showed some aspect of small town life – an old woman gardening, a mailman sorting through deliveries, and a teenager working at a roadside soda stand. A small printed card next to the pieces read: "ARTIST: NICHOLAS GILMARTIN".

Clara got closer. She looked over the details in the paintings. She could see the brushstrokes, and noticed that the way Nicholas had blended his subjects into their backgrounds was liquid and graceful. He elevated them. She'd prepared herself to pretend that she liked Nicholas' work even if she didn't. Now she realized that wouldn't be necessary.

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