When Malcolm arrived home from work, he saw Alys and Melly sitting out on the wicker porch chairs and strolled over to join them. They had vacated the cottage after the roach incident — not because they had less fears of seeing a roach outside, but because after Melly’s burst of bravery, neither she nor Alys had felt like getting close enough to the thing to sweep it up. Alys had brought out some supplies and was showing Melly how to bend the delicate gold wire to just the right curve for earrings.
“Hello, ladies,” Malcolm said, brightening at the prospect of the two of them together. “You look industrious. Nice pliers, Melly.”
“There’s a manly observation for you,” Alys said to Melly. “Here we’ve gone and sweltered for hours in the heat for the sole purpose of hearing one word of concern pass his lips, but no, the first thing he notices are the tools. “
“People have sat on hot porches before now and lived to tell the tale,” said Malcolm unsympathetically. “How’s the work coming?”
He picked up an earring of twisted and coiled gold, and glanced from it to the twists and coils of Alys’s golden hair. “This is pretty. How much can you get for it, a hundred bucks?”
“That’s how much you know,” Alys scoffed. “It would behoove you to brush up on your jewelry buying skills one of these days. A finished pair of those will only set you back about $500.”
“$500! For what? A little bit of pliers work? I could do that. Melly could do that.”
“Melly did do that,” said Alys. “Aren’t you always telling me that people underestimate Melly? Physician, heal thyself.”
“It wasn’t that difficult,” Melly protested. “I just followed Alys’s design, and did what she showed me.”
“Anyway,” Alys said, waving at the earring, “this is only a basic entry point item. A piece with gemstones can command up to $1000, but obviously I’m not going to toss those around outside on the porch.”
Malcolm sat down. “Well, I’m impressed, with both of you. I think you two have more creativity in your little fingers than I’ve displayed in my entire life.” Again his eyes rested on the wisps of hair curling at Alys’s neck. “How do you come up with your designs?”
“I know what rich people like,” Alys laughed. “And I cater to them, because my goal is to stay rich.”
“You’re already rich. Surely you don’t work just for money.”
“Who works but for money? Everyone who works, works for money.”
“Malcolm doesn’t,” said Melly.
“I’m not poor by any means,” said Malcolm. “But it’s true that working on and for the school is never going to make me rich. I’m fortunate enough to do something I’m passionate about without having to worry much about how I’m going to support myself.”
“Good for you!” said Alys. “You’re passionate about about using your talents to make a small difference in the middle of nowhere for next to no money. Who will play you in the movie version?”
“But I’m not in it for fame and fortune. If I was, I wouldn’t be teaching.”
“Isn’t there a saying about hiding your light under a bushel basket?”
“I’m flattered that you have such a high opinion of my abilities, but how do you know I have any more talent than anyone else?” Malcolm asked her. “You’ve never seen me teach. What leads you to think that I’d be more successful teaching at a large wealthy school than a small poor one?”
“You may not be a better teacher that way, but you’d reach more people,” Alys argued. “Anyway, I’d bet good money that you’d be better than anyone who taught at the private school I went to. You’re smart, for one thing.”
“I’m glad you think so,” said Malcolm, turning the earring over in his fingers, then looking directly at Alys. “I’d be sorry if I thought I didn’t have any chance at all.”
Melly bent studiously over the wire she was shaping, but she couldn’t avoid noticing the sudden silence as Alys, her blue eyes caught by Malcolm’s gaze, for once failed to make as quick a rejoinder as usual.