Information about the serialization ("The Wattpad Experiment")
Links to: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12
With Sabrina and Rick out of town for the weekend, Viv decided to get over her shame from the night before by doing her laundry and cleaning the condo. The place was sparkling by noon, and she left to take the streetcar to the house her father was renovating. It had poured rain all morning, but there was a break in the weather when she reached her stop, and she jogged the block to the house. It was spitting rain when she let herself in with the spare set of keys. She was pleased to see that Tom had covered the living room floor with a drop cloth. Rolling up the sleeves of the old shirt she was wearing, Viv got to work. She was bouncing her head in time to the music on her iPhone when a hand fell on her shoulder.
“Aagh!” She jumped back, flailing her roller at her attacker. Tom held up his hands.
“Easy,” he shouted above the music in her ears. He gestured at the wall she was painting a lovely shade of Valley Mist.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded. Her heart was pounding in her chest. He mouthed something she couldn’t hear.
“Wait a minute.” Viv dropped the roller onto her paint tray and removed the ear buds.
“I said, horseback riding was a washout with all this rain, so I came to see how you were making out. What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m painting. What’s wrong? I taped the trim before I started, just like Daddy told me.”
“But you have to prime the walls first. You can’t just paint on top of drywall. And what are you doing with green paint?”
Viv turned to study the wall. The green was a little darker than it had looked on the colour card, but the lady at the paint counter had told her to expect that. It did look kind of blotchy, though.
She looked back at Tom. “How do you prime a wall? Daddy didn’t tell me to do that.”
“With primer. I left it here with the paint the store delivered. Didn’t you see it?”
She squatted down to study the labels on the tubs. She had just assumed that it was all paint. Spotting the primer, she sighed and straightened.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know you had to prime first. Have I ruined the wall? Should I put the primer on top of the paint?”
“No, too late for that.” Tom sighed and stepped up to the wall to study her work. “Just put another coat on top and hope it looks all right.” He turned to look at her with those piercing, pale blue eyes. “You ever painted before?”
Viv frowned. What was he implying, that she wasn’t doing it right?
He nodded. “Let me show you.” He picked up one of the two poles from the floor beside the tubs and handed it to her. “Screw that onto your roller. How were you going to reach the upper part of the wall?”
“I was going to use a ladder.”
“Put some paint on your roller,” he said, nodding at her paint tray.
She dipped her roller into the puddle of paint and spun it back and forth on the tray to distribute it.
“Show me how you paint.”
Feeling foolish, Viv approached the wall. The extra length of pole felt awkward as she painted up and down, and painted over the strip again just to make sure.
Tom unfolded his arms from his chest and reached for the pole. “Not enough paint, Viv. Watch.” He rolled the brush back and forth in the green liquid, rolled it on the tray once, and lifted it. Stepping forward, he painted a “v” on a part of the wall that she hadn’t covered.
“You don’t have to paint in straight lines. Branch out a bit, like this.” He swiftly covered a large patch, stopping his roller a couple of inches from the top of the wall. “I’ll finish that with a brush. Don’t want to get paint on the ceiling. You keep working on this wall while I prime the others.”
Viv dipped her roller as Tom had shown her and tried to duplicate his work. They painted in silence, Viv finishing the rest of the wall in half the time it had taken her before. Even so, Tom had already finished priming the second wall and was onto the third by the time she looked up.
He must have sensed her eyes on his back. “How’d you get Gabe to go for green?”
She shrugged. “He wasn’t keen on anything but white at first, so I showed him some of the brochures with rooms decorated in themes. You know, ‘Traditional,’ ‘Modern,’ ‘Country.’ Valley Mist came from the ‘Casual’ style. I liked a different shade that was even brighter, so we compromised on this.”
Tom nodded and continued priming the wall. “I haven’t been able to talk him into anything but white before.” He turned to look at her. “I like it.”
Viv smiled and painted the second wall. When Tom had finished priming and repainted the wall she hadn’t primed, he painted the area where the walls met and took out a ladder to do the brush work next to the ceiling. By the time Viv finished with her roller, he was painting the last strip.
He climbed down the ladder to stand beside her. “What’d you get for the dining room?”
“White.” She grinned. “And white for the hallway and the bathroom. Although I did talk Daddy into using green again in the mudroom.”
“Let’s get at ’er.”
By six thirty, Viv was paint-spattered, sweaty, and stiff, but the first floor walls were painted. Tom showed her how to clean her roller in the sink, and they tidied up together before calling it a night. She noticed that he looked a lot cleaner than she did and didn’t seem half as tired. He must be in great shape, to do the hard labour that he did.
Tom waited for her at the front door. When they stepped out onto the porch, Viv saw that it had stopped raining and the sun was peeking through the yellow-grey clouds. She stretched and rotated her shoulders to ease their stiffness as Tom locked up.
“Come on, I’ll drive you home,” he said. His truck was parked out front on the street.
“Thanks. I’d hate to be seen on the streetcar like this.”
She followed him to the truck and waited for him to toss old receipts, a sawed-off piece of wood, the saw, and some crumpled food containers into the back seat.
“The truck gets a little messy during a project. Hop in.” He headed around the truck and climbed behind the steering wheel. “Where do you live?”
She gave him directions, and they pulled away with the windows rolled all the way down to let the wind blow through. Viv took her damp hair from its holder and shook it out to let the breeze dry it.
“You hungry?” Tom asked. “There’s a burger place in the next block with a drive-through. You don’t even have to get out of the truck.”
“I’m starving, and I don’t want to cook when I get home. Thanks.”
Ten minutes later, they were parked behind the restaurant with cheeseburgers, fries, and icy-cold colas. Viv tore open two pouches of ketchup for dipping her fries. Tom opened a couple of mustard pouches, poured his fries into his hamburger container, and dribbled mustard over them.
“That’s unusual.” She pointed at his food. “I’ve never seen anyone put mustard on fries before.”
“You ever try it?” She liked his slow drawl.
He held out the container, and she sampled a fry. It was tangy with the mustard.
“Not bad,” she admitted. Tom nodded and shoved three fries into his mouth at once.
“But I still prefer ketchup.” She dipped a single potato daintily into her mound of sauce.
Tom finished eating much sooner than Viv. He leaned his head back on the head rest and closed his eyes. Viv studied his profile. It was a strong face with a straight nose and a square jaw. There was a little grey mixed among the black next to his sideburns, but none in the rest of his long hair.
“This was your day off, wasn’t it?” she asked.
“Yup.” His eyes were still closed.
“That’s pretty devoted of you.”
“I saw to some things around the farm first. I wanted to see how you were doing.”
“Checking up on me, you mean?”
One side of his mouth tilted up, and he looked at her without lifting his head. “You don’t seem like the kind of woman who’s had a lot of experience with house renos.”
She met his eyes for a second before taking a bite of her burger. “You’re right.” After chewing and swallowing, she added, “I’m curious. What kind of woman do I seem to you?”
His answer was immediate. “The kind who likes to help out her daddy so he won’t worry as much.”
She nodded, pleased. “And I did a good job with the painting, once you showed me how?”
“Not bad. You stuck with it longer than I thought you would.”
She tossed her napkin into the food container and squeezed it shut. “I’m not a quitter, Tom.”
“Plus, I’d like Daddy to see that he can renovate houses without doing as much of the work himself. So, any way that I can help out during this job, I’d like to. I can come over after school most days, and on the weekends. Just not Tuesday night. I’m having dinner with my mother then.”
Tom sat up and turned the key in the ignition before glancing at her. “You can help with some things, Viv, but on others, you’d only slow me down. The most important thing with a reno is to stay on schedule. If you can keep your dad on track with the decisions, I’ll take care of the rest, even if it means hiring extra help. Still, if you want to come over now and then, I guess there’s stuff I can find for you to do.”
Viv frowned. “You make me sound like one of my six-year-olds. Come on, I’m a quick learner, and, like I said, I’m no quitter. Give me a chance, Tom.”
He looked at her out of the corner of his eye. “If you think you’re up to it, Viv, I can teach you a few things.” He held out his right hand, and she smiled and shook it.
Check back for Chapter 14 on Wednesday, May 6.
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