While Baxter was in Japan perfecting his raku technique, I continued my studies.
The quiet, earnest student in my sculpture class smiled at me often and always said “hello.” His name was Max Saltwater.
Baxter and I wrote letters back and forth but his came further and further apart. All he ever talked about was Baxter and different raku techniques that he would use once he had his very own studio. It was a foreshadowing of what life would be like with him. Still I trembled at the thought of his blonde hair fanned across his face – and, of course, there were his sapphire-blue eyes.
I hadn’t heard his voice in a long time and decided to call him.
He answered the phone sighing deeply. “Can’t talk now. I’m in a crucial stage of crafting a pot – have to get back to it immediately. If I don’t the clay will dry and crack!” He hung up.
I was second to a drying, cracking pot? Is this what life will be like as Mrs. Baxter Waynerite IV?I was second to a drying, cracking pot? Is this what life will be like as Mrs. Baxter Waynerite IV?
One day as Max and I sat side by side in sculpture class, he asked me about Baxter.
“He’s in Japan right now,” I said. “I think we’re engaged.”
Max raised an eyebrow. “You think you’re engaged?”
“He told me we were engaged but he never asked me.”
“Did he give you a ring?”
“Not exactly. I told him he didn’t have to give me a ring and he told me, he wasn’t planning to.”
“Doesn’t sound like an engagement to me. More like you’ve been put on hold.”
“Good point. I’m a little confused myself. I thought I would love him forever the first time I saw him.”
Max touched my hand. “Let’s talk some more over tea.”
I looked at him and chuckled. “As long as it’s not chamomile.”
After class, we had tea at the school coffee shop. Max talked about how much he loved sculpting but felt he wasn’t yet expressing himself in the right medium. I talked about my watercolor landscapes.
We started going out and realized we liked being together and when I talked, Max listened.
One night as we were having dinner in an intimate Italian café, Max said, “I love eating with you.”
I looked into his serious dark eyes and then I looked down at my spaghetti. I tried to remember Baxter’s face but it was a fuzzy blur. Were Baxter’s eyes blue or green?
Max and I walked away from the restaurant and he took my hand. At that moment, I knew I had come home. We continued dating and became closer and closer.
One evening after a lovely champagne dinner, Max surprised me with an antique gold ring, engraved with a touching inscription. He asked me to marry him. How different Max was from Baxter! Max was the real thing. I said ‘yes’ immediately.
“I’ll have to write to Baxter about this,” I said. “It seems fair.”
“Why don’t you just call him?’
“And risk being second to a dry, cracking pot again. No thanks!”
I wrote a four-page letter to Baxter explaining everything as sensitively as I could.
A few weeks later, I got a note from Baxter. It said:
“Syl – I read your letter about your engagement to this guy Max. I’m a little disappointed – but hey! Life goes on. You’ve got Max. I’ve got my pots!”
What???? Where were the tearful pleas, the promise to give up pottery, the threat to jump off a cliff if he had to live without me? I was going to wash Baxter out of my hair but then I thought of something better. I tore his note into little bitty pieces. I was going to flush him down the toilet!
Max and I got married after graduation. A couple of months later, we received a small wooden crate from Japan. In it was a wedding gift from Baxter.
“Surprise, surprise” I said, undoing the bubble wrap, “a raku pot!”
‘Nice glaze,” Max said.
“Come on, Sylvia. It’s a nice gesture.”
“You’re right, Max. It’s wonderful! And I know just where to put it – the top of the toilet tank. —— Sayonara, Baxter!”
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