On the second day of the fan convention, I turned around in my vendor’s booth and found him thumbing through one of my graphic books. I didn’t recognize him at first because his back was to me, and he had a driver’s cap pulled low over his forehead, almost touching his eyeglasses. The scent of his cologne seemed familiar to me, and I realized the faint patchouli fragrance had permeated the elevator’s air the first time I’d seen him.
“Souvenir shopping?” I asked, stuffing my hands into the back pockets of my jeans.
Those shiny chestnut eyes peeked out from beneath his cap. Wearing jeans and a light blue denim button-down over a 1960’s band t-shirt, he blended in well with the other fashionably casual convention attendees—at least those who weren’t cosplaying. I didn’t know if that was the point or if it was just his normal style.
“I had a few minutes free and decided I was in the mood for a bit of art,” Evan explained.
“And you just happened to stumble upon my shop?”
He had to think about how to respond for a second but seemed to rationalize that honesty was the best policy. “Well, I had Steve do a bit of sleuthing, which, by the way, was a bit of a challenge because you never told me your surname.”
I presumed “Steve” was his P.A. “Clearly, he’s a resourceful man.”
“Yes, he’s quite competent,” Evan agreed, glancing around at the myriad images tacked to the makeshift walls of my rented space, clipped to metals racks, or tucked into multi-tier shelves on table tops. “Are these all original designs?”
“Well, the fanart tends to be the best selling, but, yeah, mostly originals,” I confirmed. “Maybe I’d make more money if I offered more fanart.”
“I was getting a bit engrossed in this book,” he switched the topic’s gears as he turned it over to examine the cover, saving his page with his finger. “This is an original isn’t—oh, Wendi Owens? Is that you?”
As he pointed to the name printed on the cover, I couldn’t help but notice how long his fingers were. Every part of him was long and slender and rather pretty. I almost physically shook my head to discourage the thoughts taking shape in my mind.
“You didn’t think I was just the salesgirl, did you?” I gulped down my increasing attraction to him along with a laugh.
His gaze was even brighter as he glanced at the art on display with a renewed interest. “So, are all of these yours?”
“Um, yes, pretty much. I mean, there are a few things from my associates, and some collaborations, but…yeah.” I shrugged. I could feel my cheeks starting to burn. I didn’t get excited about my work the way other artists did; I loved making it but not talking about it.
“Wendi, you didn’t tell me you were an artist. You just said you sold art,” he chastised me gently.
I shrugged again, struggling for words. “Well, it’s not like I’m…famous or anything. You know, like some people around here.”
“No, I’m not famous either,” he said with a grin because he knew it was a lie.
An alarm chimed on his smartwatch, diverting his attention. He sighed as he tapped its screen.
“Busy day?” I asked.
His smile was upside down and apologetic. “I’m afraid so. Sorry. But look, um, the real reason I had Steve find you is because you left your little surfboard in the pool last night. I thought you might want it back.”
“Oh,” was all I could say. I’d completely forgotten about my kickboard. “Yeah, I…might need it for my, um, leg workout.”
“Well, Wendi Owens, come up to my room later tonight. It will be ready and waiting for you.” Edging away as he spoke, Evan realized he was still holding the book and leaned over to place it back on the rack. “And I’d love to buy your book so I could finish the story, but, um, unfortunately Steve has my wallet. So, I don’t have any money.”
I was going to ask him if he needed Steve's permission to spend his money, too, but there wasn’t enough time, so I just laughed instead. His cheeks became a little rosy as he tugged at his ear.
“I’m in 1108,” he said from several more feet away. “Late as you like…Well, I do tend to start nodding off by 2.”
Through the crowd of Daleks, superheroes, and cartoon characters mingling with average humans who were all walking to and fro, I noticed his P.A. across the hall fidgeting impatiently. “I think you better hurry. Steve looks like he’s about to come undone.”
“Oh, shit.” Evan turned around and jogged over to Steve.
He seemed to realize he hadn’t said goodbye because he twisted his head toward me and waved as he was led away by the vexed assistant with an apologetic grimace. My arms were crossed over my chest, but I lifted a hand and waggled my fingers at him, watching him hurry off to his next scheduled appearance.
Rapping at his door fairly late that evening, I swung my arms around, smacked my hands together, and blew raspberries as I waited for him to answer. I almost hoped he wasn’t in or wouldn’t hear me. I could buy another kickboard. I could swim laps if I had to. Maybe I just wouldn’t go swimming again.
The problem was that I was afraid I might get attached to him. Worse, I was afraid that I might be amenable to doing things I wouldn't normally do. If he asked me to. And the only things worse than that was getting attached, doing things I wouldn't normally do, and then being disappointed when he disappeared from my life as men in hotels often do.
A rush of air pulled at the strands of my hair hanging down over my chest, and Evan greeted me with a big grin. I waved awkwardly, and he waved back, mimicking me, which made me realize how ridiculous I probably looked. I felt my cheeks burn again.
“Come in, come in,” he said, stepping inward with a wave of his arm.
The sliding glass door to his balcony was ajar, and the salty coastal breeze gently rattled the long vertical blinds. His television was on, but the sound was muted, and he had not-quite-unpacked suitcases open on the floor. Then I noticed there was a bottle of wine in ice and two glasses, one of which was half filled, on the patio table.
“I’m not interrupting anything, am I?” I glanced around the balcony and room, worried that someone else was with him.
Evan ran a hand through his hair, though it only ruffled the unkempt strands more. “No, course not. I’m, um, just relaxing.”
“OK, well, I’ve brought you the book you were looking at earlier. We can exchange,” I said, noticing that the kickboard was perched on a small table next to the room’s entryway, propped against the wall. I waved the book and motioned toward my kickboard.
He fetched the paperback from my hands and opened it. “I was thinking about this all day.”
With his gaze on the inside contents, he moved further into his room, plopped down on a tufted leather bench at the end of his bed, and proceeded to flip through the pages. I followed behind him, though I didn’t feel at ease enough to sit next to him uninvited. There was another table with two chairs, but they were holding boxes of letters and cards as well as bags of varying sizes with colorful tissue paper sticking out of the tops. I guessed they were gifts from the fans who’d waited in long lines for a few quick words and his autograph. For a moment, I felt like one of them, bringing him an offering.
“Sorry, I’m getting wrapped up in the story again.” He lifted his head and caught me observing the pile of presents. “I hope you’ll excuse the mess. I haven’t had time to sort through it all.”
I shook my head with a smile. “You should see my room. I tell myself every time I check in that I’ll be organized for once, but I never am.”
“Do you travel to many of these, or do you live here?” he inquired, placing the book on the bed next to him. “I know sometimes people stay in the hotels just for the convenience.”
“I wish I lived here,” I said, shifting my feet. “I’d love to be close to the ocean. But, yes, I travel to as many conventions as I can, though normally I go to the smaller comic cons or sci-fi conventions rather than these larger expos. It’s hard to compete with the better-known artists who come to these, but it’s also good exposure.” I shrugged, indicating my resignation to the trials of business. “Are you going back home, or work, or another convention after this?”
His brows went up as he blinked slowly with a nod. I could see the day’s weariness stacking shadows below his eyes. “I’m off to another in the extremely exciting state of Wisconsin after this. Then I’ll go home for a bit.”
“Well, at least you won’t be buried in snow or turning into a popsicle at this time of year,” I said optimistically.
“That’s true, although I have to admit I wouldn’t mind getting snowed in and not having to do anything.” He laughed at the admission of desiring a day to be idle but jumped up as if to counter any suggestion of laziness. Touching my elbow, he added, “It’s certainly nice weather here, though, isn’t it? I was just enjoying it with an excellent bottle of wine.”
Moving out to the balcony, he turned toward me as he lifted the bottle and the empty glass in emphasis. “Care to join me?”