Chapter 2

 

     Paige tossed her colored pencil onto the table and glanced around for her purse. She’d gotten distracted by her drawing. If she didn’t leave in the next ten minutes, she’d spend an extra hour in traffic and end up late to work.

     Trained as a graphic designer, she’d taken a job coding because it paid the bills, but her heart wasn’t in it.

     After work, she’d put the final touches on her drawing, scan it, and add it to her website. She didn’t expect to generate freelance work right away, but she needed to try. Every successful business started somewhere.

     She made it out the door in twelve minutes, and it added an extra thirty minutes to her commute. Traffic on the loop poked along, brake lights halting traffic for no apparent reason. By the time Paige arrived at the office, she wanted to go home.

     Some days at work were long and tedious. Others were worse. That day, broken code kept her at her desk much later than she’d wanted.

     As she walked to her car in the dark, the need for food and the desire to draw waged war inside her. Few of her favorite places that had a drive-thru option were open at that late hour. Walking inside to order required too much effort. She stopped by a Mexican food restaurant just off the highway.

     Tacos were always a good choice.

     By the time she got home, it was close to midnight. She glanced at her drawing. “I won’t be able to sleep until I finish you anyway. You’d just scream at me all night.” She picked up the wayward pencil that had rolled off the table and hit the floor that morning. “But I need to eat first. You can wait that long, can’t you?” She changed into jammies and ate her crispy beef tacos, far away from her artwork. After devouring dinner, she washed her hands then returned to her art, disappearing into it for far too long.

     More than an hour later, Paige yawned. “The rest will have to wait.” She grabbed a string cheese, guzzled down a glass of water, and crawled into bed, regretting that she’d stayed awake until after two.

     The next morning, despite a serious lack of sleep, she left her house extra early, determined to get home at a reasonable hour. And for once, the events of the day didn’t battle her plan.

     Her art tugged at her before she even unlocked the front door. Dinner would have to wait. She dropped her purse by the door and darted to the table. The design represented more than hours of work. It was a hope she could make money doing what she loved. Pencil in hand, she added shading and color, the final touches that brought the logo to life. When the logo matched the image in her head, she scanned it, converted it to a vector file, and tweaked it. Once it was exactly what she wanted, she uploaded it to her website.

     She clenched her fists to steady her shaky hands.

     Why was she so nervous? It wasn’t like she was quitting her job or anything crazy.

     She looked over the website again, making sure there was no mention of Paige. Her parents had named her Agnes, and though almost no one called her that, that was the name she put on the site—or rather the nickname her grandmother gave her—Aggie.

     The people at work wouldn’t be any the wiser that Paige had a side gig.

     She sucked in a deep breath and hit publish. Aggie’s Art was open for business.

     In a daring move, she also shared the page on social media. She needed to get the word out somehow.

     Staring at the computer screen garnered her nothing, so Paige pushed away from the table and wandered into the kitchen. She managed to stay away from the laptop long enough to reheat leftovers. But between bites, she scrolled and refreshed, hoping for some reaction.

     Someone shared it, a girl from high school, one of the really popular girls. How were they even Facebook friends? Paige liked the share and sent off a quick message: Thanks for sharing!

     No problem. Is it yours? If I remember right, you were really artistic.

     It is, but I’m not broadcasting that.

     Gotcha! Best of luck.

     Every half hour for the rest of the evening, Paige checked her new email account, hoping someone wanted to hire her. But she received nothing new, not even spam.

     Not even the bots had found her site.

***

     The next day, deadlines and code kept her busy at work and distracted her from the email-checking vigil. But when she snuck out for lunch, she checked again.

     Nothing.

     She hadn’t expected to be bombarded, but was just one inquiry too much to ask? Deep breaths did little to push aside the discouragement. Going back to work felt like being handed a sentence without the hope of parole.


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