Kara had made her way over from the front of the store, pretending to sift through some comics herself. I’m sure it made it look like she was helping. I’m sure she absolutely wasn’t.

“So, what kind of comic are you thinking about getting?” she asks. What a bitch.

“Nothing in particular. Just… uh…” I trail off. What am I still doing here? We could just leave.

“Are you avoiding the cute guy running the comic shop?

“Hey!” I say a little louder than I intend. “…you aren’t supposed to just say it.”

She turns to me, looking determined as ever.

“Right, well you can either get a comic so we can leave or got talk to the boy. I’m not hiding back here all day.”

“…couldn’t we hide for just a bit longer?”

“Jules!” she exclaims. Damn, I know that tone.

“Fine! I’ll grab my comic and we can go!” I pick up the recent ‘Fantastigirl’ book that I had thumbed over several times, knowing full well it was what I was getting.

As I walk to the counter to pay, I curse an effigy of Kara in my mind. Maybe she’ll get a nice big zit just asymmetrical enough she can’t ignore it. Haha! Take that, Mental Kara!

The guy at the counter beamed as I approached. Is he taunting me? Could he be psychotic? What if he’s just pleasant?

“Find everything all right?” he asks, the politeness feeling so natural from him.

I quickly swallow and try not to stumble over my words.

“Yes. Just fine. Thank you.” Good job, mouth!

He takes my comic and pauses when he sees what it is.

“Fantastigil, eh?” Don’t see a lot of guys buying this one.”

“Yeah!? What of it!?”

…that was significantly more confrontational than I meant to be.

“No, no! Sorry. I didn’t mean it that way,” he calmly apologizes. “It’s just, I love this series too. The writing is, pardon the pun, fantastic! The art isn’t bad, but I feel Pearson isn’t right for the story.”

“Yeah! It needs someone a little more lighthearted, like… Scott McGill!”

“Ah! McGill would kill on Fantastigirl!” The excitement lights up his eyes, like lightning. “Alternatively, they could get someone new.”

His eyes look off to the side, like he’s imagining it.

“Oh? Where did you hear that rumor?” I hadn’t heard they’d wanted to switch out the artist.

“Um, because of the contest?”

Contest? What contest? My eyes must have spoken for me, as he points to a poster where he was staring before. It was a brightly colored splash, asking ‘Are you the next Fantastik artist?’ with a silhouette of a person in the center.

Oh god! Fantastik Comics are having a contest to find a new artist! How did I not hear about this?

“It starts in a few weeks. If you feel like signing up, the website is on the bottom.” The guy behind the counter takes my comic and enters a few buttons on his computer. “That’ll be $17.73.”

I don’t really hear him, my focus still on the poster. I take my wallet out of my pocket and hand him my debit card. Could I really get the chance to illustrate for a comic company?

“You’re really stuck on that contest aren’t ya?” he smiles as he hands back my receipt and card.

“Yeah, I guess I’m so surprised I didn’t hear about it sooner.”

“Well, what’s your name?” he asks.

I turn back to him finally, seeing his perfect smile. I could melt into that smile.

“You do have a name, right? I wanna say I knew the great new comic artist before he got famous.”

I quickly stretch out my hand for a handshake.

“I’m Jules,” I manage to say.

He takes my hand and gives a good shake.

“Michael. Hope to see you around.” He gives a wink as he turns back to some business behind his counter.

***

“You can stop smiling now.”

I’m called back from my daydream out the window by Kara’s negativity.

“I’m not smiling. You’re smiling.” I look over at her, noticing her eyes fixated on the road. “You can’t even see my face!”

She giggles a knowing giggle.

“Jules, you’re absolutely lost in thoughts of him. I can prove it.”

“Like hell you can!”

“Who paid for the comic?”

“I did!” Wait a minute. “You promised you’d buy me a comic!”

“If I did that, you wouldn’t have had alone time to flirt.”

“You still owe me a comic. Besides, he wasn’t why I was distracted.”

She raises her eyebrow, eyes still on the road.

“Sweetie, he was pretty enough to break your language. I’d say you can cut the act.”

“No seriously! I was more interested in that art contest he mentioned.”

Kara’s brow furrows.

“But, Jules, you never really…” she trails off, unsure how to say it.

“Never really what?” I ask, more than a little annoyed.

“Jules, I love you, but you’ve never really put that much effort into your art. You have that website, but your work on there is sporadic to say the least.”

Kara’s words stung like a knife. Comics are my passion, she knows that.

She continues.

“I guess… Well, I guess I never really thought you saw that as a potential career.” Her words are steeped in humility. It’s an odd change for her.

“So what? Am I supposed to accept life at a call center for the next thirty years?” My tone has a little more bite than it should, but I expected support from her.

“No! Of course not. It’s just, I didn’t really expect you to care more about an art contest than a hot guy.”

“Not everything has to be about my love life!” I spit back. “Besides, like you can talk. Never imagined you’d want a guy with substance over looks.”

I feel the entire mood of the car shift. Neither of us says anything the rest of the way home.

Inside the house, Kara immediately makes a beeline for her room. Fine. She started it, but fine. Be that way.

I head to the kitchen and pour myself some tea. It was the only thing we had left in the kitchen. Guess we need to make a grocery run.

The hallway to my room has a clear shot of Kara’s closed door. I stand outside my room for a minute to take a careful sip.

As the steam rises up from the glass and hits my face, I remember the warmth in my face as I stood there talking to the comic guy.

“Michael…”

My face warms, but not from the steam anymore.

“Told you, you were hung up on him!” Kara yells from her now open room door.

I choke on my drink, and drop the cup, spilling my tea on the floor.

“I ain’t cleaning that up,” Kara says, before going back in and closing her room.