Chapter 4 of Another’s Treasure

Claire de Winter sat in a chair that turned out to be more comfortable than it looked and lost herself in the nature beauty on the other side of the window. She felt so at home here. She loved the how the trees, so barren, looked so ethereal. The mountains donning their caps of freshly fallen snow looked so perfect she lamented that she’d forgotten her phone upstairs. This would make the perfect background for a postcard or holiday card…she made a mental note to take pictures later.

As an advertising associate, she was always looking for new ways to market a product. But it wasn’t her true passion. When she was younger she wanted to be an artist. Her parents had allowed, even encouraged it for a time but when she went to college they demanded that she double major. What was she going to do with a art degree? How would she get a job? What secure job could she possibly find? So she double majored and straight out of college picked up an internship at an advertising company.

Overtime she’s grown to love it. Plus she was great at her job. She supposed she was so good at it because it coupled her passion with her skill. “The best of both worlds” her father constantly told her she’d believed him then and even now, when the longing crept over her to want something different, to do something more. She’d remind herself that she had the perfect job for her skill set. Which is why she still didn’t understand why she was so unhappy.

Annoyed by the current course of her own thoughts she closed her eyes and did a couple deep breaths. The lodge boasted a yoga room and sauna, maybe she should take advantage of that. Perhaps she’d ask Jack to join her. The thought shocked her back to reality and upon opening her eyes, face to face with the subject of her fleeting fantasy.

“Jack!” She said a little breathier than she would’ve liked.

Her exclamation aside, Jack felt like he’d interrupted a train of thought he wished he could’ve been apart of. He’d been watching her for several minutes and watched several her face change at various intervals. The woman’s brain must be like an expressway. 

Smiling at her he asked, “May I join you?”

Blushing, she nodded her assent and a waiter suddenly materialized and handed them their menus.

“So, how’d you sleep last night?”

“Excellent, thank you. I don’t know who built the lodge or who was in charge of the recent renovations but they’ve done a fantastic job. That mattress is the best one I’ve been on outside of my own home and the feel of the place is modern and sleek but at the same time rustic and cozy. The balance between light, space, and furniture is truly superb. Whoever owns this place has a gem on their hands.” She said smiling contentedly.

Jack watched her for a moment saying nothing. She was starting to ask if she’d said something wrong when the waiter appeared  and asked if they were ready to order. To her surprise she was famished so she ordered the pancake special while Jack ordered the breakfast sampler.

After the waiter left she said while coyly stirring her water with her straw, “So you never did tell me what you did for a living…”

Jack smiled, “And you never told me your name so what about a trade? Your name for my occupation?”

She laughed and shook her head. “I asked you first so spill it. What do you do for a living and why?”

Jack smiled and shook his head. “Before I start my confessional, I would at least like to know the name of my priest. Surely, the confessor has that right?”

She laughed. A genuine, tilt your head back laugh, and his heart stirred. The woman had one heck of a look about her. The fleeting thought that his mother would’ve like her crossed his mind. He let it go. This morning was a time for happy thoughts and he wanted to keep it that way.

She’d seen something pass on his face while she was laughing. A slight sadness that passed in a split second but it was there. She wanted to ask about it but she let it go. She figured if he really wanted to mention it, he would.

“Alright, fair is fair. My name is Claire de Winter and I hail from the lovely Old Line state.”

“Ahh a Marylander.” Jack said with an appreciative smiling nod.

Claire smiled, “You know your state history.”

“Just the general stuff. Washington gave you guys the nickname because he thought Maryland had some of the most dependable soldiers.”

A little surprised at his knowledge she smiled and gave his a soft round of applause. “You’re correct. Are you a history buff?”

“A little. I like to dabble every now and then. I’m an avid reader in my spare time and I gotta confess” He gestured her to lean forward and put his hand to his mouth.  “I love historical fiction.”

A ruckus laugh erupted from her mouth which she quickly covered with her hand but not before earning several dirty looks for neighboring diners nearby.

Jack laughed, “What? I love historical fiction. Throw a little love story in their where the guy gets to play her, rescue the girl, and save the day? Its a wrap. Love the stuff more than I care to confess. My mom got me hooked on them as a kid.”

“Really? Did you guys used to read them together?”

He smiled, Claire noted that it wasn’t as bright as his previous smile but it was just as warm as if the memory pleased him.

“Yeah. I found out later she would leave certain parts out.” He grimaced and she laughed again. “But she would read them to me until I got old enough to tell her I didn’t want to read girly books.”

Claire made a face. “Shame on you. You probably hurt her feelings.”

Jack’s smile faltered a little. Had something happened to his mom? “I probably did. Out of my two other brothers, I was the closest to her.”

He looked lost in thought for a moment and then added with smirk, “One day though she caught me in her office reading one of them. She scooped me up out of the chair and tickled me till I almost peed my pants.”

His smile became melancholy again. “I’d forgotten that memory…thank you for jogging it.” He looked at her with such earnestness for a moment she stunned to silence.

Just then their food arrived and they both dived in.

“Now.” He said, after a short pause. “You asked me what I do for a living?”

Claire, still chewing nodded.

He smiled and stuff a bit of pancake in his mouth. “I’m an artist.”