John Bradburne is the patron warrior of the Materials Science Hall at Saint Malchus Academy, where Jennifer and Eric attend along with our regular cast of Blue Two™ saga characters.

“Whose weld is this?” Eric asks

“Mine,” Jennifer replies, piqued, “Why?”

“Gather ‘round everyone, you need to heed.” He states in his ‘classroom voice’ to Jennifer’s surprise.

“The bead is perfect!” he exclaims. “Look at the fillets in the corner. The only way I know to get that smooth transition is to lay down the corner beads first, then finish with the straight across the top, just as she’s done.

“And the only way one comes across that handiwork is to encounter someone who thinks ahead. Well done, Miss —?”

“Marchman. Jennifer Marchman.”

“Who taught you Miss Marchman?”

“You did Evan! Don’t you remember me pestering you every other day for extra rods so I could practice in my Dad’s shop back home?

“We’re together in honors chem this year, only you’re three rows away. I teach your little sister in intro to sewing and I take your older sister’s course in Mandarin.”

“This is the same Jennifer that was the freckle-faced pug nose that had the crazy braids?”

“Yep, that’s me. My Mom says my ugly duckling days are over. She actually used the phrase I’m entering my swan phase. Can you believe it? But I still love braids, so don’t be surprised if you see them again.”

“Well, bully for you then. Well done on the bead. I’ll expect this level of performance from now on.”

Lunchtime in the Cafeteria

Sally asks, “So what’s with Evan’s English aristocrat accent?”

“He’s not English, he’s Boer, South African.” Jennifer replies.

“Ok, so the accent is real. What’s with the attitude?”

“Maybe it’s part of his teacher persona. He doesn’t act like that in chem lab.”

“So you’ve been watching him in chem?”

“Watching him? Sally, how many times have I babbled on about my secret crush?”

“The guy you’ll never tell me who he is? Make that how many times a day and maybe it’s a zillion.”

Sally gasps.

“Evan Vervloet is your crush??! Get out of town!”

“We’ve been in the same school, in the same classes since fifth grade and he doesn’t even recognize me until I do a perfect weld? Geez, I’ve heard of focus, but this guy takes the cake.”

“So dump him. There’s more fish in the sea.”

“Sal, my gal pal, you cain’t quit whatya ain’t started.”

In Archery class, Evan watches Jennifer.

On the obstacle course, Jennifer is part of the instructor cadre. She pulls up Evan, who isn’t looking. Once he climbs over the ridge, he sees her & smiles, which causes her to blush. She quickly recovers and is all business.

In forensics debate, Evan & Jennifer spar. No warmth on his part, not angry or friendly, just oblivious.

In Hebrew lessons, she is kind yet firm to three people, Evan is one. He asks insightful, relevant questions, which she answers.

At lunch again, without any inuendo, nor recognizing any social cues, he asks to sit down at her girlfriends’ lunch table. Her girlfriends giggle and he sits. Evan asks Jennifer highly specific Hebrew questions, which she answers.

The welding team works overtime to meet schedule for making components to be assembled into a competition robotic vehicle.

Back in the Materials Science Hall, Evan gripes at a fellow teammate, “Crimeny James! Do you really think that is going to hold up at 35000 rpm?”

Jennifer stands up for James.

“Lay off Evan. Did you give him the Chrom-Moly heat-treating tutorial?”

“I didn’t, I’m sure someone did.”

“That might very well be a faulty assumption, with all the extra hours work that’s been going on.”

“Sorry to break into your defense Jennifer, but I’ve got to leave to go help my Dad. I’ll redo the part after I get the tutorial first thing tomorrow morning.”

“Relax, I’ll knock this out before I go home. Drive safe and say hi to your Dad & Mom for me.”

“Hey, thanks! Thanks a lot!”

Jennifer studies the blueprints, fires up her torch, and gets to work.

As she is quenching the part, sans hood and vest, just the gauntlet gloves still on, the evening sun pouring in the shop windows passes through a beveled edge; the rainbow spectrum highlights her in bold relief with multi-colored highlights in her hair and on the part as she pulls it out of the quenching bath.

Evan studies her like a Medieval painting, “Jennifer freeze for a moment.”

“Ok. What’s the issue?” she says without looking up, clearly half listening at best.

“You.”

“What?” she asks testily, focused on part inspection, not looking at him.

“It must be the rainbow. I feel like Fiona’s suitor, Tommy, in Brigadoon. Seeing you there, with the rainbow making your hair glisten, it’s very alluring.”

“Whatever.” she snorts.

As she clearly did not understand his veiled compliment, she burnishes the flashing off the part and digitally scans it; applies the tamper-evident audit-traceable infrared signature QR code, then locks the case.

Coming out of the women’s locker room, dressed but still drying her hair with a towel, she asks, as Evan completes daily progress reports, “What just happened when you were talking to me at the quenching table?”

“I said the rainbow made you look alluring.”

“Alluring.” She stops drying, putting the towel around her shoulders. “So you gave me a straight-up compliment with no stinger?”

“I guess so.”

“And you didn’t walk it back?”

“Nope,” He says smiling.

“So the boy I’ve had a secret crush on since fifth grade just said I looked alluring in a rainbow?”

“Sounds that way. You got a problem with that?”

“Yes… I’m mean no! Thank you for the kind words.”

“Fifth grade, huh?

“Umm. Yeah. Did I say that out loud?”

“‘fraid so. Your goose is cooked.”

Jennifer shrieks, puts the towel over her head and starts mumbling.

Evan stands up, walks over to her and pulls the towel off her head, smiling, “Listen, now that your goose is cooked, it’ll probably taste delicious. I’m not making this next part up, I swear. Would you do me the honor of coming over to my parent’s fowl fest tonight? They’re going to have roasted marinated goose, dove, pheasant, barbequed squib; pretty much every winged creature that’s not illegal to hunt.”

“Like this?”

“Of course like that. I said you looked alluring while you were intensely focused on quenching a part that put us back on schedule, so who are you to argue?”

“Ok, point taken. I’ll be ready in a flash, then I’ll follow you there, so you don’t have to bring me back.”

“Makes sense.”

Evan and Jennifer greet his parents in a large backyard party with instrumental music foreground. They sit across from each other at a picnic table and enjoy their feast as the scene closes.

Matthew Weilert
Matthew E. Weilert is Managing Director of Systems Thinking Institute, an innovation management and operation advisory group based in Lost Pines, Texas. Matt works with public and private organizations on business model innovation, innovation strategy, innovation project execution and organizational change. He leads international workshops on Business Model Innovation. His latest book, co-authored with BRM Watau, is available on Amazon, Scaling Time: 20 seconds to 20 years.