Pennington Clark stood looking out the window of his office. It was cold and grey outside, which was not that unusual for Boston in November. But he had been spoiled by the warm sunny weather of the long Indian Summer. Now, with the more seasonal weather back, Penn was feeling down and found himself daydreaming, which was also not that unusual.

His childhood had been full of dreams. He grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, but knew very little about the area. He was a very shy and introverted child, and kept to himself most of the time, usually in his room engaged in something creative. He loved art, especially creating his own, and he had a great deal of natural talent.

By his teen years, he had not changed much, though his creativity had branched out into other areas. The hours alone in his room were spent reading, drawing, writing stories or composing and playing music on his guitar. He still had lots of dreams, possibly becoming a famous artist, a musician, a writer or even a movie director. The fact is, Penn was very unfocused. The hours that he spent alone in his room pursuing his creative interests had helped him to develop a number of useful skills, but he never really learned how to relate to people. He was an unrealistic dreamer with little experience in real life. He excelled in all the art courses he took in school, which continued to fuel one of his dreams - being an artist.

Then he got involved with Cheri, almost by accident. A friend had introduced them shortly after her boyfriend, Eric, had broken up with her. They had talked for a while, then she took Penn to meet Eric who was nearby with a group of his friends. Penn was gracious in the awkward situation, and while Cheri was obviously trying to make a show to Eric of having 'moved on,' Penn didn't realize that this was out of the ordinary. Having had very little experience with girls, he was taken with the attention and found his feelings growing very strong very quickly. Once again, the romantic dreamer took over. They married soon after high school.

He spent a few unhappy years in jobs he hated, living paycheck-to-paycheck. Penn and Cheri didn't fight - Penn usually gave in to her wishes, thinking that this would make for a happy marriage. Instead, he was miserable. When she left him, saying that she didn't want to spend her life with a loser, he grieved for a short while. In time, he finally realized that all the time he had spent alone while growing up had prevented his developing the ability to relate well with other people. Relationships he entered were usually shallow, didn't last long, and he was able to move on quickly when they ended. He didn't want to continue on like that. He decided that it was time to make some changes in his life.

He found some art courses in a local college that offered student aid for which he qualified. Of course he did very well, and was able to follow up with more advanced courses. Eventually, the college helped him get a job at a Boston design studio.

At first, living alone and knowing nobody in Boston was difficult for him and he found himself slipping back into his old lonely ways, keeping to himself in his dark, musty little apartment. But when Tim Sherman, a designer at the studio, invited him over for dinner, Penn realized how lonely he really was. He took up the invitation and soon became good friends with Tim and his wife Bobbie.

Time spent with them was usually quiet. Tim and Bobbie both had mellow personalities, and though they were both outgoing when the situation called for it, and could be quick with a joke, they mostly enjoyed spending time at home. They could spend hours at a time working on complex jigsaw puzzles. Tim had once gotten Bobbie a jigsaw puzzle he found that prominently featured a picture of Bobby Sherman. He knew she hated having the same name as that "talentless 70s singer" as she called him. She laughed at the joke and placed the puzzle on a shelf in the closet where it was never opened.

Sometimes Penn would watch videos with them, other times he would help them work on a puzzle. Their visits, he admitted, were not usually exciting by any means, but he found he looked forward to spending time with them. It was always a nice relaxing break from his work.

But Penn enjoyed his work, and he did it very well. His creativity had quickly manifested itself in every project he worked on. He had started out doing simple spot illustrations and page layout, but his superiors recognized his inate talent and soon had him working on bigger projects for their more important clients. Within a couple of years, he was among the most recognized and requested illustrator/designers on the east coast.

Within two more years, Penn was able to purchase a Back Bay brownstone and enjoyed the feeling that he had "made it," at least financially. He had fun decorating the place, for it was another creative outlet for him. He spent his free time over the next few months shopping for antiques to furnish his home as it might have been when it was first built. It was a nice distraction for him and the results were very satisfying. He had a nice, comfortable home that he enjoyed spending time in. He just wished he had someone to share it with.

For a while, he thought that Shelley might be the one. Shelley Sellers was an exuberant redhead with intense green eyes. She wasn't quite beautiful, but she had a very striking appearance, and Penn was attracted to her from the moment he first saw her. She was a freelance artist who occasionally did some work for the studio, and their similar creative interests gave them something to talk about for a few dates. But eventually, she got bored with him and they called it quits.

Penn began to understand that this was still related to his earlier problems, his difficulty relating to other people. He had no problem expressing himself through his work, for creative expression came easily to him. He had a few friends and acquaintances, but he realized that they really didn't talk that much. They would get together to do things, like see a movie, but there was not that much conversation. They would talk about work, but Penn was recognizing that none of them really knew each other that well. And when he came face-to-face with new people on a personal level, he often froze up. It was particularly difficult with women when the awkward silences were deafening. The more he tried to think of something to say, the harder it became to think of anything. That was what made it so nice with Shelley for a while, until they exhausted their mutual topics. Beyond work, Penn had a hard time conversing with her.

As usual, when his problems became too much for him to think about, he threw himself into his work. His superiors didn't mind, though. He was good for the studio. They had recently promoted him to Art Director, and while that meant more money and prestige, Penn was beginning to regret accepting the position. He was more involved in managing various projects but had less time to express his own creativity.

He had no answers, and when there were no answers, he didn't like thinking about the problems. What was the point? He pushed both hands through his dark hair and rubbed his scalp, trying to relax. Streetlights were starting to come on down below on Newbury Street and eased him out of his revery. He turned from the window, gathered up his coat and briefcase and went home.

© 2008 Kelly Cheek