Paint-by-Number

doberman hydrangea-Edit

“That looks like a paint-by-number my grandmother did,” said a man in a hat. He wore a grey raincoat and could be cast as a subway flasher, Envy thought, as he seemed the tiniest bit shifty.

“I can see how you might get that impression,” she said. She looked around for the server with the tray of white wine. Exhibit openings always attracted fresh new art aficionados, or at least those who could tolerate modern art and who liked free wine, which was ok with Envy as long as she got her fair share.

“This one is $670 though,” said the man, not taking his eyes off the small painting, which was a representation of two doberman pinschers in front of a blue hydrangea shrub.

“Framed,” said Envy.

“Does the frame cost $665?” asked the man.

Envy wondered where the featured artist, Francesco Brown, had wandered off to. He was a thoughtful and precise man, and could likely engage the man in the hat in a startling and enlightening conversation.

The pianist had started playing ragtime, which Envy detested at that particular moment as it clashed with her mood and, she felt, with the paintings on display. She signalled to Meghan, her assistant, who didn’t notice, as she was swiping at a blob of cream cheese which had dropped from a canapé onto her blouse.

“Francesco Brown,” said Envy to the man, who had turned his head to stare at her when she hadn’t responded, “paints in a somewhat primitive, two-dimensional style as a way of connecting with past sensibilities and in response to the current trend of what he calls multi-media ‘meddling’.”

“He does, does he?” said the man. He took his hands out of his pockets and Envy, in momentary panic, feared he would suddenly expose himself.

“He can explain his aesthetic better than I can. Why don’t I find him for you?” She looked around again for the tray of wine.

“Not necessary,” the man said quickly. “I’ll take it.”

“Take it?”

“I’ll buy it. This one. The dogs. It reminds me of my grandmother. She was the only one who never asked me why I collected sticks. Plus, it has a nice frame.”

Envy insisted the man in the hat meet the artist, who was charming and drew out from the man that his name was Edward, he lived in the neighbourhood, he had a dog named Cleo, he didn’t drink, and he preferred to pay by cash rather than a credit card, which made it awkward for Envy, who didn’t want to put the “sold” sticker on the picture until the money was safely in hand.

Edward didn’t seem to notice, or care, that there was no “sold” sticker on the painting of the Dobermans with Hydrangea. He said he would drop by the next morning with the cash and seemed confident the picture would be wrapped and ready to go.

But he did insist on a cup of coffee at the Starbucks next door after the event ended at nine pm. Envy agreed, and a coffee with a client was a good excuse to duck out and leave the closing up to Meghan, who hadn’t been much help at the exhibit otherwise.

They chatted briefly about the obvious topics: the exhibit (well-received), the artist (not as flaky as expected), the attendance (solid, including at least one arts writer from a small local paper), and the sales (satisfactory).

Then Edward said, sipping on his black coffee, “You are dying for a glass of wine.”

“Not drinking makes you an expert?” said Envy, a touch prickly.

“In a way, I guess so,” said Edward. “I always liked a drink after any kind of exhausting activity.”

“What kind of exhausting activity?”

“You know, like the end of a project, a speech, a big sale, lovemaking, anything emotional.”

“To be honest, I could murder one,” Envy admitted.

“I won’t keep you,” said Edward. “You just seemed interesting. Not like the women I usually meet.”

Envy stifled a yawn. That old line. She possibly got it more than most women, since she was, by any objective standard, not particularly attractive. She instinctively looked at her watch, then blushed at the inadvertent impoliteness.

“Sorry,” said Edward.

“No, I’m sorry,” said Envy. “I’m not bored, honest.” Not yet.

“Is that an engagement ring?” Edward asked, indicating the glittering tri-ruby ring on her left ring finger.

“It is,” said Envy with a sigh. “Though I don’t know if I am really engaged.”

“What’s the confusion?”

“I have the ring, but not sure if I want the marriage,” she said. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this.”

“Because I’m safe, anonymous? I have a kind, trusting face?” suggested Edward.

For a flasher, thought Envy. But she found herself continuing, “We love each other, we do, we should get married.”

“But?”

“He thinks I’m not over my first marriage.”

“Oh. Are you?”

“Definitely, but not over the man,” Envy said. Yes, that was it. The worst combination of feelings for an engaged person ever: cynical about the institution of marriage and still clinging to the connection with the ex. Shit.

“Selfishly, I can’t help but think that puts me in third place at the very least.”

“Amazing, isn’t it, how someone who looks like me could have an interesting love life?” Envy said, much more harshly than she intended.

Edward gently set his coffee cup down and stood to his feet. “It’s been fun, Envy, but Cleo can’t walk herself, so I should run.”

Envy rigorously decided against being embarrassed or regretful, and held out her hand. “Thanks for the coffee, and see you tomorrow.”

“Right,” said Edward.

Whether he would show up at the gallery to pay for Dobermans with Hydrangea or hop the subway in his raincoat was anyone’s guess.

 

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Rash Decisions

Prompt: Home

Colorbock-Wide-Brim-Summer-Hat-Boardwalk-Style

“But I just started moving in here!” cried Envy. She removed her hat in a dramatic gesture and flung it across the room. It was straw and had a floppy brim and soared like a frisbee, landing gracefully on a stack of unopened cardboard packing boxes.

They’d spent the day at Spanish Beach, lounging and cuddling and eating the picnic Bob had prepared and transported in an old-fashioned basket, where the plates, wine glasses, cutlery and other accoutrements all had their special storage places. He’d made, of course, fried chicken and potato salad. Envy’s contribution was a cold bottle of rosé.

Envy’s skin burned easily. She found hats uncomfortable, but she needed to wear one in sunny weather even as they sat in the shade. Now, that hat had found another use.

Drama.

Bob purported to hate drama. But, Envy found, all drama-creators hated the drama they created.

“And it’s a pretty nice apartment,” said Bob, strangely calm in the face of Envy’s outburst. “I like the big windows and the balcony. Nice crown moulding. What’d you pay for this place again?”

Envy gritted her teeth. Ok, they were engaged now, but she hadn’t ever told Bob what she paid for the condo. He continued to open his mouth and spit out whatever was closest, no matter how intrusive or bad mannered it was. Well, she could be radically honest too.

“I never told you what I paid. And I don’t intend to.”

Bob shrugged. He always said he wouldn’t be radically honest to others if he couldn’t take it himself. Envy didn’t know if that was true or whether that shrug was a carefully crafted and honed reaction that hid outrage or hurt.

She sighed heavily. “I don’t want to move into your house. I don’t like the location. It’s suburban, miles from everything.”

“There’s that giant park next door, the outlet mall is only a five minute drive, and there’s a satellite college campus—“

“Whatever ,” said Envy unpleasantly, wondering absently when had been the last time she’d been so rude.

“It’s not like you to be so abrupt,” said Bob.

“We’ve had this conversation. I don’t want to move, I haven’t even moved in here.”

“You’ve been living out of cardboard boxes for six months. I took that as a sign of your reluctance to settle in here.”

“I don’t need your amateur psychology, Bob.”

“I’m glad we’re having this conversation,” said Bob.

Envy stifled a scream.

Why hadn’t she unpacked properly though? This was the apartment of her dreams, light, bright, with high ceilings and polished wood floors, plenty of wall space for her art— yet none of it unpacked.

And what was the real reason she didn’t want to move in with Bob at his suburban but otherwise charming Victorian reno home right beside the park with the rose garden, which she adored and remembered visiting as a child? Bob even wanted to get married there.

Envy said, “I’m not ready to move.”

Bob nodded. “Not ready to move on, you mean. From Marcus. From all that.”

She thought of the last time she saw Marcus. In prison, when her leg was still in a cast, and he didn’t even have a lawyer. She got him one, and he pleaded guilty to the arson but not to the attempted murder.

That was love. That was passion. That was simpatico, trust, joy, heart-stopping sex, loyalty, even fealty. It was impossible to pinpoint the day when their connection began to erode. If there ever truly was a connection. If.

She was twisting the ruby engagement ring round and round her finger. She and Bob noticed this gesture at the same moment.

“No rash decisions,” he said.

“No rash decisions,” said Envy.

Cellmates Dot Com [Repost]

Prompt: Disrupt

anne-of-green-gables-anne-and-marilla

Bonnie said, “Thank you for everything Miss Fisher, and I hate to tell you this, but you are no longer my best friend.”

“Oh dear,” said Miss Fisher, who was reading Anne of Green Gables again, and was reluctantly interrupted. She was right at the exciting part where Anne was going to save Minnie May’s life.

It was that quiet —though never really quiet— time between dinner and lights out. A number of girls, as inmates were called, had left recently, either released or transferred to other institutions, so there was a general atmosphere of luxurious space combined with a niggling fear of what was to come. The “girls”, except for the disruptors who were entertaining distractions, liked their routine and served their time in peace, then got the fuck out.

Miss Fisher wasn’t the only one serving serious time. There were other murderers, Bonnie included, though no other serial killers. Most had hope of release and living with family again. Miss Fisher had no such hope, despite the recent efforts of her lawyer.

“I found someone else,” said Bonnie.

“That’s just wonderful, dear,” said Miss Fisher. “As your ex-best friend, I am extremely happy for you.”

“He is not perfect,” said Bonnie.

“Who is?” said Miss Fisher. She sighed inwardly, and set her book aside. She sat up straight and engaged Bonnie with her eyes. Perhaps this wouldn’t take too long.

“I didn’t tell you about him,” said Bonnie, “because I know you don’t like men.”

“Yes, I can see where you might think that,” said Miss Fisher.

“You didn’t notice my engagement ring,” said Bonnie. “I’ve been wearing it for a week.”

“I’m sorry, Bonnie, I’ve been distracted,” said Miss Fisher. She thought longingly of Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert.

Bonnie held out her left hand. “It’s white gold, with a diamond chip.”

“Lovely,” said Miss Fisher, whose aging eyes could not really make out the tiny stone in the ring. “But who is he? Why would he become engaged to someone in prison?”

“I suppose we just fell in love,” said Bonnie. “After corresponding via Cellmates-dot-com, you know, where people write to inmates.”

“Uh huh,” said Miss Fisher, though she had never heard of it.

“We spoke on the phone, and he’s visited twice.”

“And he knows you poisoned your boyfriend?” asked Miss Fisher.

“No secrets,” said Bonnie. “You taught me that.” Bonnie gazed at her white gold and diamond chip ring. She rubbed it against the sleeve of her tunic, as if to polish it. “He is not exactly handsome, but very clean. He says I make him feel important. He tells his friends about me. They think he is crazy. Will we have conjugal rights, Miss Fisher, do you know? Gregory has asked.”

“Oh, I should think so,” said Miss Fisher. “Now Bonnie, you won’t go giving your heart away again, and be disappointed, and want to slowly murder Gregory as you did with Norman?”

“Oh no, Miss Fisher. I know killing is not the best solution,” said Bonnie.

Not the best solution, thought Miss Fisher. But often a good one.


  • Original Prompt: Tiny, October 24, 2016

anne-shirle-main

Good Enough

Prompt: Hidden

chex mix 1

“An engagement ring is hidden somewhere in the apartment,” said Bob. “See if you can find it before everyone arrives.”

Envy put her purse on the counter. “What?” she said.

Bob was hanging their jackets in the closet near the front door. He turned and smiled at her. “Surprised?”

“We never talked about this, not even remotely,” said Envy.

“No, and it’s time we did. Don’t you want to marry me?”

“I never thought about it for a moment,” said Envy.

“So now you are thinking about it.”

“You can do better, you said so on our first date.”

Bob joined her at the black granite topped kitchen island. “I did say that. It was awhile ago and I’m sorry I upset you, I already apologized.”

“But you don’t deny it!”

“You are unlike anyone I’ve ever met. I love you. Please marry me and be my wife.”

At least he’d learned, since they started dating, to not always offer his Radical Honesty unsolicited. That was something, surely. He was, except for his inflexible, uncomfortable bluntness, an impressive package. Handsome, fit, smart, well-read, funny, strange— Envy liked interesting people. But how did this happen?

“What makes you think I want to marry you?” she asked.

“We have fun, the sex is unique, you’ve indicated you care deeply and I’ve just told you how I feel,” said Bob. “You like marriage. You love loving and being loved.” He got two bowls from a cupboard, and bags of chips and nuts from the kitchen pantry. “I think I have some smoked salmon, somewhere…”

“My ex—“

“–lied and cheated and tried to kill you, blah blah, I know,” said Bob.

“Blah blah?”

“You had good times, sometimes.”

Envy considered getting her coat and simply leaving, never mind the impromptu after-dinner party she and Bob had initiated. She watched him overfill the snack bowls. Chex Mix littered the counter and spilled onto the floor.

“Envy, you don’t think you are pretty enough, smart enough, strong enough, or brave enough to be happy and loved. I think you are.”

She had always, always harboured a suspicion that Bob didn’t really, all the time, tell the honest truth, that he was sometimes the opportunist, that he was not averse to a sweet lie that might forward his agenda, though his agenda was never revealed. She felt her distrust wash over over her in a wave.

“Pumpernickel or melba toast to go with the salmon?” Bob asked.

“My parents don’t like you,” said Envy.

“I’m not all that thrilled with them.”

Envy was shaken; she went to the fridge and pulled out the ubiquitous chilled white wine; then to the cupboard above the dishwasher where he kept his stemmed glasses. In one of the glasses, something caught the light.

“I knew it wouldn’t take you long to find it,” said Bob.

It was a wide band of gold with three inlaid rubies.

“I’m against diamond mining,” he said.

“I know,” said Envy. It slipped comfortably onto her ring finger. “If someone else had found it, would you have been engaged to them?”

“I guess so,” said Bob. “Unless it was that lame-brained brother of yours.”

The phone buzzed, and Bob picked up and listened. “Speak of the devil,” he said to Envy as he pressed the button under the receiver. “They’re here, and so are Stuart and Greg.”

“I don’t know if you truly love me,” said Envy.

“Forget about me,” said Bob. “How do you feel?”

Envy rinsed the glass that held the ring, then filled it with wine. She ate a salted Cheerio and took a long sip. Someone pounded on the apartment door; Cash, probably. He really could be lame-brained sometimes. Bob ignored the noise and waited.

“I don’t know,” said Envy. “But I’m keeping the ring.”

Bob laughed, and opened the door.

Cellmates Dot Com

Prompt: Tiny

anne-shirle-main

Bonnie said, “Thank you Miss Fisher, and I hate to tell you this, but you are no longer my best friend.”

“Oh dear,” said Miss Fisher, who was reading Anne of Green Gables again, and was reluctantly interrupted. She was right at the exciting part where Anne was going to save Minnie May’s life.

It was that quiet —though never really quiet— time between dinner and lights out. A number of girls, as inmates were called, had left recently, either released or transferred to other institutions, so there was a general atmosphere of luxurious space combined with a niggling fear of what was to come. The “girls”, except for the disruptors, who were entertaining distractions, liked their routine, serving their time in peace, and getting the fuck out.

Miss Fisher wasn’t the only one serving serious time. There were other murderers, Bonnie included, though no other serial killers. Most had hope of release and living with family again. Miss Fisher had no such hope, despite the recent efforts of her lawyer.

“I found someone else,” said Bonnie.

“That’s just wonderful, dear,” said Miss Fisher. “As your ex-best friend, I am extremely happy for you.”

“He is not perfect,” said Bonnie.

“Who is?” said Miss Fisher. She sighed inwardly, and set her book aside. She sat up straight and engaged Bonnie with her eyes. Perhaps this wouldn’t take too long.

“I didn’t tell you about him,” said Bonnie, “because I know you don’t like men.”

“Yes, I can see where you might think that,” said Miss Fisher.

“You didn’t notice my engagement ring,” said Bonnie. “I’ve been wearing it for a week.”

“I’m sorry, Bonnie, I’ve been distracted,” said Miss Fisher. She thought longingly of Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert.

Bonnie held out her left hand. “It’s white gold, with a diamond chip.”

“Lovely,” said Miss Fisher, whose aging eyes could not really make out the tiny stone in the ring. “But who is he? Why would he become engaged to someone in prison?”

“I suppose we just fell in love,” said Bonnie. “After corresponding via Cellmates-dot-com, you know, where people write to inmates.”

“Uh huh,” said Miss Fisher, though she had never heard of it.

“We spoke on the phone, and he’s visited twice.”

“And he knows you poisoned your boyfriend?” asked Miss Fisher.

“No secrets,” said Bonnie. “You taught me that.” Bonnie gazed at her white gold and diamond chip ring. She rubbed it against the sleeve of her tunic, as if to polish it. “He is not exactly handsome, but very clean. He says I make him feel important. He tells his friends about me. They think he is crazy. Will we have conjugal rights, Miss Fisher, do you know? Gregory has asked.”

“Oh, I should think so,” said Miss Fisher. “Now Bonnie, you won’t go giving your heart away again, and be disappointed, and want to slowly murder Gregory as you did with Norman?”

“Oh no, Miss Fisher. I know killing is not the best solution,” said Bonnie.

Not the best solution, thought Miss Fisher. But often a good one.