I felt as if I had lived multiple lifetimes. Impossible, because I’m only twenty-six. And yet each day I wake up feeling as though this is not my life. I lay staring at the ceiling and decide it’s time to snap out of my funk. I’m procrastinating. I really need to start getting ready for work. I roll over and grab the clock on the night stand.
“5:00 a.m., uggh. I really don’t think it necessary to be up before the sun. Why does she need me there so early?” I ask myself begrudgingly, as I get out of bed.
Combing through the knots of my long chestnut hair with my fingers, I casually walk to the bathroom, taking note of the “shlup, shlup” sound that my slippers are making from my lazed walking. I stare at the newly formed lines that seem to have made a home at the corner of my eyes; tracing them with my fingers. Studying my face, I take stock of the regal shape of my nose. A thin bridge leading to two perfectly formed nostrils that shape the button at its end. While I never cared for my nose, I did like the cerulean color of my eyes, and the long lashes that encompass them.
“I wonder where I got my eyes from? And my nose, everyone says it’s regal, I guess it could be,” I say to my reflection, trying to find something more than what’s there. I’ve been asked if I’ve ever had plastic surgery on it. Surgery, seriously? But as I obsess in the mirror, I wonder–is it possible? Did I have surgery? I mean–come on, of course not! I would remember if I had surgery done on my own face. I dismiss the thought as quickly as it entered.
After a long hot shower, I gingerly grab the dress I laid out the night before. I love the feel of the material; a beautiful blend of merino wool and cashmere. The minute I saw it online I had to have it. Hugo Boss makes great clothes, and this was the perfect sweater dress for work. Besides, I could afford it now.
I pull it over my head and adjust the tie on the neckline. The V-shape stops just shy of my cleavage and the tie hangs a bit lower. The heather grey matches the panty hose and knee high black boots. I study myself in the mirror, running my hands across the material. It’s soft and warm and great for a winter day that is literally sub-zero in temperature. Plus, I don’t look like an overgrown marshmallow stumbling into work. I look professional and sheik, which is exactly what I’m going for.
Letting the car warm up for at least ten minutes, and dis-spelling of a moment of anxiety when the car wouldn’t start, I finish my third cup of coffee, lingering over the nutty flavor of hazelnut and dark beans.
“MMMM. I wish they had coffee this good at the gallery. It’s a sin to serve what is essentially sludge,” I tell myself as I zip up my parka and put on my gloves. The fur from the hood makes it impossible to see, as it dips low enough to hang over my eyes, but in -10 degree weather, it’s a necessity. The drive in takes me twenty minutes on a good day. Today, however, the idiots are out in full force. I drive past accident after accident, and due to the now forty-five minute drive, arrive to work fifteen minutes late. It was a year ago, almost to the day, that Marleen offered me a contract with Smith & Brown Gallery. As far as agents go, she is good–lethal even. She is tenacious and a serious work horse. She got me a three year deal with Smith & Brown; a deal I jumped at. I was a struggling artist–painter actually, when the offer came in.
“Three years, five new pieces a year–strictly for Smith & Brown, with two exhibits at the gallery, and they will pay you 1.1 million dollars plus commissions from any sales of your work,” Marleen had told me enthusiastically.
“I’m sorry, did you just say million–1.1 million? You can’t be serious? For these?” I had rebutted. I found it hard to believe anyone was that interested in my work. I still find it hard to believe.
“Yes deadly serious. Evian, this is your chance. This is what we’ve been working towards. Your parents would be proud.” I quickly darted her a do not go there look.
“Sorry. You know what I’m saying,” she had offered conciliatorily. Yes, I knew what she was saying, but I still didn’t need to hear it. It stung every time someone brought “parents” up in conversation. No matter how used to it I was, being alone my whole life, no parents to speak of, the p word drove me nuts.
Snapping back to present day; Smith & Brown have been living up to their end of the bargain and now I have to do the same. See, normally I work at home and bring paintings in once completed. Tonight, however, is my first gallery showing–per our contract, and I have to be here at this un-godly hour to do a “staging” with the gallery manager and Marleen.
I leave the comfort of my heated car and make my way over to the elevator, taking note of the level I’m parked on in the underground garage. I hit the button for the first floor lobby, and dart a quick glance in the mirrored elevator.
“Yep, professional. Ok Evian you can do this. Just be yourself,” yet my pep talk was not comforting. Not only was it not comforting, it was making my stomach lurch. Why could I not trust my own words?
“There you are my dear. We were beginning to worry. Where have you been,” Marleen asks as she pecks me on both cheeks.
“Yeah, sorry. The idiots on the road today….I mean really, it’s not as if the weather is bad.”
“Well you’re here now. And darling, there is much to do. Mr. Smith is upstairs and want’s to discuss a few of your paintings for tonight’s show.”
I sigh, loudly, offering no remorse for my annoyance. “Seriously? Which ones?”
“He didn’t say, but seeing as he’s already been waiting close to thirty minutes, I wouldn’t keep him waiting much longer.” Marleen answers, turning at the same time to devote her attention to the gallery assistant who is patiently standing there, clip board in hand. I make my way up to the 15th floor, where the C suite offices of Smith & Brown are, and walk down the hallway in funeral procession fashion. I already know which ones he has a problem with. I can’t explain how I know, but my inner self is screaming at me for even entertaining showing a few of the pieces tonight. I should have trusted my original instinct to not bring them.
I rap on the door and hear the muted sounds of Dean Smith, partner of Smith & Brown.
“Evian come in.”
I poke my head through the door first, as if I’m walking into the principal’s office and half expect to see my parents sitting beside him. “Dean, sorry I’m so late,” I have a whole excuse ready to go, but he cuts me off.
“No bother. I heard the reports on the radio, mindless fools out there today.” Huh. Why yes there are, I tell my inner self. Ok so far so good.
“So what can I help you with? Marleen said you had concerns regarding a few of my paintings.”
“Concerns–no–questions–yes. These three here seem much darker than the others. For example you offer a back drop of fields of wheat, tall luminous trees and a soft figure in white. Yet as I look further, it looks as if there is another image superimposed into it. A crown perhaps?”
“Interesting,” Is all I offer.
“Or maybe a woman wearing a crown, crying through the blue sky?”
“Are you asking me or telling me?”
“Asking–asking and wanting to know if you did it on purpose?”
“Dean. If you take further meaning from a painting, then I’ve done my job well haven’t I? I mean that’s why you are paying me the big bucks,” I reply with suprising authority.
“My sentiments exactly. Tell Marleen these three will be for sale tonight and our crowning pieces for the show.”
I swallow hard, “for sale. I thought the fresco painting mimicking Michelangelo was for sale?”
“The recreation of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel is inspired, but these….,” He says drooling over my three unintentionally brought pieces, “these will draw attention.”
“Whatever you feel is best Dean,” I mewl.
“Well…..how did it go?” Marleen asks upon my return.
“He wants to sell I met a man and watched him paint, The lonely walk, and A heart unbroken.”
“Really? Well he knows best.”
“That’s what I said,” skulking.
“Good, well over here Jessica and I are thinking of displaying magical realism, and over here….,” but my mind trails off. No longer hearing Marleen’s dulcet tones, I fret over the sale of my three paintings.
The rest of the day was much the same. I nodded and offered display advice before Marleen finally sent me home to gussy up for the gala. It is only 1:30 p.m.
“Plenty of time to take a little cat nap before getting ready,” I whisper joyfully to myself as I walk back out to my car. Once home, I literally throw myself on the couch, pull the blanket over my head, and pass out.
“Your highness, it is time.”
“Thank you Edmond. Do I look alright?”
“Perfect. Absolutely radiant for a coronation.”
“Yes. I suppose I do.”
“Your highness? Is there a problem?”
“No no. Please fetch my ladies.”
Five young, vibrant, long-haired beauties seamlessly stroll through the door– “Oh Mary. You look…like a queen,” states Margarhite, born of the Bourbons of La’ Saille.
“Huh, I do not feel like a queen.”
“Mary, what is it?” Asks Caroline, a raven porcelain beauty, who’s suitors number well into the hundreds.
“I am eighteen, only eighteen. I should not be a queen, let alone wed.”
“You must not say such things. Frances loves you and Scotland needs this Mary,” offers Rose.
“Of course, you’re right.” Prim-rose, chestnut hair, and crystal blue eyes stared back through the beveled mirror. Caroline placed the crown on her head.
“Mary, Mary, Mary?”
“Huh? What the…” I suddenly felt the jerking of my shoulder, as my mind tried to play catch up.
“Evian, Evian. Wake up. It is nearly 4:00 p.m.”
“Marleen? How did you get in my apartment?” I ask, still shaking off the cobwebs from the unrestful nap that I now regretted taking.
“You gave me a key, remember? To watch your cat when you were last out of town.” She offered, with no remorse for having intruded into my space.
“Riggghhhtt. Wait, did you say 4! Oh my god. How did I sleep that long?”
“I don’t know, but I thought you took a sleeping pill. I have been here for five minutes trying to get you to wake.”
I stood to meet my agent face to face, and teetered, clutching the edge of the couch.
“Are you alright?”
“Yes, just a bit light headed,” I said quickly, dashing into the bathroom to get ready and avoid further inquisition. Splashing water on my face to wake up, I took stock of the clammy shaky hands currently holding the sink. I feel like I’m going to throw up! I gaze up at my reflection. For a fraction of a second, a crown appeared atop my head and red velvet robes dripped off my shoulders.
“Mary,” I gasp. It was the woman from my dream…..
(To be cont’d)