PIP Day 2 Submission: Masterpieces

Work inspired by "Triumph Over Mastery"

. . .

It starts with a splash of yellow on the dull gray wall across from the hardware store she has worked at since she was sixteen. The painter has his back to her, a gray cotton t-shirt stretched nicely across his back, flexing with every stroke of the brush.

Haymitch sees her staring out the window and turns to look, scoffing when he sees the young man going at it. "City wide improvement," he explains mockingly to Katniss. "Trying to make things prettier for the tourists. Commissioned a bunch of dumb art students to throw some paint around on some ugly walls." He narrows his eyes at the guy, rolling his eyes and heading back to his office.

She tries not to stare—really, she does. But the yellow is so bright (and the view when he bends over doesn't help, either). Long strokes make up an uneven circle, more shades of yellows and oranges are added, and she thinks it is radiant as the sun.

After an hour or so, the painter plops his brush on the tarp where his supplies are scattered. He stretches, the motion lifting the hem of his shirt so she can see a peek of pale skin; he lifts off his baseball cap and runs his dirty fingers through blond curls. Katniss swallows a little, thankful that the day shift is slow and no one is there to see her blatantly check this guy out, something so completely out of character for her no one would ever let her live it down.

He turns toward the store, and out of sheer panic at the thought of being caught ogling she drops to the floor, banging her elbow on the counter as she goes. Ow, shit. Realizes how idiotic she's acting and stands back up, turns toward the window as she dusts off her knees—

Shit. The painter is looking at her; she sees his shoulders shaking and thinks he might be laughing.


. . .

Katniss works the nightshift the next day after a hellish day of classes; she had taken literally the hardest fucking exam of her life in Advanced Biochem and she is ready to sit on a stool behind the counter and ignore the shit out of every single customer that comes in. She determinedly parked in the back and came in the rear entrance, trying her hardest not to look at the mural.

When she looks, though, she turns her head sharply in a double take — the sun from yesterday has transformed to a flower. And that asshole painter is still there, paintbrush moving frantically. The deep orange of his shirt is accentuated by the late afternoon sun, and the way it clings to his back makes her avert her eyes.

She will not be caught staring again. But her eyes dart over again a moment later, and she feels herself flush; the painter has stopped his work and is facing the store. When he sees her look over, he waves and grins. The wide street between them does nothing to hide how beautiful his smile is.

She decides right then that she hates him and gives him a scowl that she hopes he can see, turning away to reorganize the screwdrivers.

When she comes back, he is gone; she can't place the strange disappointment she feels.

The night passes slowly, the streetlights illuminating the dandelion he has created.

. . .

He comes back every day for the next week, somehow making a simple wall into a meadow not unlike the one she used to play on with when she was a kid, teaching Prim to make wishes on dandelions gone to seed like her father taught her.

During the lull on Saturday, when people aren't desperately buying caulk guns and stopping by for paint samples, she lets herself glance at the window for the first time in hours.

And oh god. He is walking towards the door. That asshole painter is jaywalking and he is getting closer and oh god, is he going to talk to her?

Marvel comes in from the back room and Katniss rushes over to him, frantic with an emotion that is completely unfamiliar. Glances over her shoulder, sees the painter waiting patiently in the center turning lane for traffic to pass.

"Can you cover for me for a sec?" she asks hastily, crossing her arms anxiously.

Marvel scowls. "Why? You know I don't—"

"My period," she blurts. It is the first time in her life she has ever used that excuse, but she has to do something. The painter is just — she doesn't think she can meet him. She still has a bruise on her elbow from the first time she saw him, so meeting him surely can't come to any good. She has never found herself so attracted to a stranger and the feeling is strangely terrifying.

Marvel looks horrified. "What the fuck, Kat, you can't just say shit like—"

"Thanks!" she exclaims, rushing off before he can answer, turning the corner to the employee bathroom and leaning against the wall. Her heart pounds against her rib cage when the bell jingles cheerfully. And when he asks Marvel where the paint remover is, she notes his voice is just as lovely as his painting.

"You that mural guy?" Marvel asks skeptically. Katniss rolls her eyes; Marvel is a football playing douche bag who couldn't appreciate dandelions if they grew out of his ass. The painter laughs, and she smiles involuntarily before she realizes how creepy she is, hovering by the bathroom and stalking this guy she doesn't know after running away from him in terror.

"That's me," he says brightly. She takes a chance and peeks around the corner and dammit—he is gorgeous. Shit.

Katniss can hear the scoff in Marvel's voice. "You've been working on that for like a week."

The painter shrugs sheepishly, and he turns to look around the store; she pulls back quickly, afraid that she's been caught.

"What can I say," he says after a pause. "Something just kept bringing me back." The painter hesitates and she wonders if he is looking for her. "But — I should be finished tomorrow. I won't be back after that."

Even when her shift ends and she sneaks out of the back entrance, she can't quite forget how blue his eyes were.

. . .

The next day is her day off, and she lies in bed for hours that morning staring at her ceiling fan and thinking about the painter.

She will never see him again. His perfect ass or his curly blond hair or the way the muscles in his shoulders tense as he paints quickly. And for someone who has spent the week desperately avoiding him, the thought isn't as exciting as it should be.

And before she knows what she is doing, she is in her car, driving the ten minutes it takes her to get to the hardware store.

But he isn't there. And the mural is — god, it's beautiful, a grassy paradise filled with stubborn dandelions that will always bloom. She parks her car in front of it and just stares for a long moment. And then she gets out, needing to be closer. She almost wishes she had met the man who could paint something this beautiful, that made her feel so much hope.

"Do you like it?" a voice behind her asks.

Katniss freezes, then turns around guiltily. And there he is, the canvas bag he carries slung over his shoulder, smiling crookedly at her like he knows her.

"It's beautiful," she admits softly. And when he beams at her, she smiles back.


. . .