They had put quite some effort into claiming their sunny spots in one of the few gazebos overlooking the little lake in the middle of Quinnsbury Park. For an hour they had been lurking around it, waiting for an elderly couple to leave together with their slightly obese dachshund, to run inside and sprinkle as much of their belongings around the place as possible to avoid the invasion of exhausted park runners, pensioners and school classes on trips with their overly eager biology teachers. They did so giggling and breathless like two primary schoolers who just snuck out of class a heroic half an hour early. A group of middle aged nordic walkers graced them with long, disgruntled looks before moving on to find an empty gazebo, or at least a bench without someone already feeding pigeons on it.
His contribution to the artifical chaos was an old, brown leather bag, two enormous bottles of soda and a stack of library paperbacks that was rather impressive considering the fact that he'd carried them outside his bag, balancing a tower of old, stained paper beings around crowded park walkways. She had brought several large sheets of thick cardboard, acrylic paints, water, a set of brushes and a museum guide of a Monet exhibition that was almost a decade old. She leaned on the rail figuring out a good spot in the park landscape to turn into a painting, while he picked up one of the book, only to place it in his lap and let the fading autumn sunlight wash over his features with his eyes closed. She was enthusiastically skimming the guide.
"I really can't wait to get started, even though I have a premonition that I will fail spectacularly," she said, propping up a cardboard sheet against a pillar and laying out her colours and whatnots. His mouth twitched into something akin to a half-smile. "You're like a preschooler right now, all buzzing and eager, and in an hour you'll cry noisily about how it turned out completely different from what you expected." She ignored his teasing, knowing he'd probably turn out to be right - again - and started painting. "I gotta start some day, I mean I wanted to try impressionism for ages now, and I think that's one type of painting I could actually master. It's more mellow than, say, expressionism and it's oddly satisfying to keep dotting the paper. My goal is to forge van Gogh's sunflowers one day."
He chuckled. "Keep that criminal energy coming, it suits you." She threw him a dismissive, albeit still good-humoured look and started painting, but he didn't see it - his eyes were still closed, and he was so completely still in the sun that if the breeze didn't move his hair a little he'd resemble a wax figure. The book in his lap remained untouched for at least an hour, and she only looked up from her cardboard and the landscape every now and then as if checking whether he was still there. She wondered whether his back didn't hurt as he seemed to arch against a pillar of their shared gazebo in a rather unnatural fashion, and whether he was actually asleep, even though she didn't think he was. This was of enormous interest as she kept allowing herself to indulge in the contrast of jet black hair and porcelain skin he happened to display on himself, and she wanted to avoid him catching her staring at all costs.
The painting was turning out weird. She placed careful brushstrokes side by side trying to create texture, but if at all, the trees and the lake looked like an awkward, sloppy kind of pointillism, rather than the swirling dynamic of an early impressionist she was trying so desperately to go for. Her annoyance started to show on the cardboard, resulting in even more misplaced strokes, until she angrily put the brush aside and let out an exasperated little noise. "Well, I definitely see something happen there. The artist started their work conscientiously, carefully, until their temper got the better of them," she heard him say. "Not quite what the goal was, but true art nevertheless." The irony wasn't appreciated. "Oh, you're impossible! Seriously, sometimes I wish someone would punch you for your self-righteousness, and I hope to God it won't have to be me, with my tiny bicepses," she almost hissed. But he only smirked at that, because just as he took the freedom to be cruelly insensitive, he didn't mind people being insensitive to him. "I sense outright aggression! Don't restrain yourself, the cardboard is your playground!" he exclaimed theatrically, moving out of the way of leg aimed at kicking him in the shin. "You suck," she grumbled, turning away from him.
He watched her back with a grin. "I'll buy you ice cream," he suggested amiably. There was no response. He took on more comfortable position to sit and watch her trying to save what could be saved. "You know," he said after half an hour of silence, "that's what people are," nodding at the painting. "What, passive aggressive failures?" she asked, still slightly peeved. "Nah," he replied, looking at the little dots and smears of colour, "impressionist paintings. You don't ever get what you see, if you start looking closer. It's just dots, and dots, and between the dots, there's nothing." They sat in grave silence for a minute, the only noise being the swoosh of the brush. "Aren't you the optimist," she said finally. He sighed. "Come on," said, running his hand through his hair and standing up. "Pack up your stuff. Let's have De Daumier-Smith have his blue period and give it a rest for today. I'll buy you ice cream." She crinkled her nose. "Who's De Daumier-Smith?" she asked. He didn't reply.