I.D. Bag. Phone. Wallet. Jacket. What else? My mind wanders through the whole apartment as I try to remember everything I need to bring for tonight’s event, I seriously hope I don’t forget anything, I take another look around the room with my eyes narrowing down to every inch of this place like a robot on patrol.
I glance at my watch, six-thirty in the evening, shit! I’m already late! After finally deciding that I have everything I need for tonight I immediately drag my feet to the door and push my OCD far back in my mind and lock all thoughts of it until later.
My phone rings.
Andie, uh-oh! I pray a short and silent prayer before answering, hoping she won’t grill me for my punctuality.
“Andie” I say in the sweetest way I can, I’m already by the elevator waiting for its arrival, anticipating the ping to cue the doors open.
“Don’t Andie me, Aurora!” Fuck. She’s mad.
But luck is on my side at the moment as I hear the most wonderful sound in the world, ping, and the elevator doors open before me like the gates of heaven; I scurry inside and sigh with relief while pressing ‘G’ and the close button.
“This is probably bad,” I start, remembering my grumpy best friend is on the other line.
She hisses, not a good sign. “You think?” sarcasm, her choice of language.
“I’m really sorry, Andie! I was so busy getting myself ready,” my voice sounds desperate; furious Andie is someone I try to avoid after all these years of friendship. “I didn’t notice how time just flew away.”
“Everyone is already here and they’re asking for you! What do you want me to do? Dance the Macarena??” I hear restless chattering in the background and Andie’s off nervous breathing. “Aurora!”
I wince, at the same time the elevator opens and I dash hurriedly to the glassed entrance “I’m already out and on my way.”
“Please.” she pleads, whoa. “Hurry up!”
“Roger that.” I playfully giggle and hang up, not wanting to hear her violent reaction.
As I come across my Hyundai Elantra, parked just outside, I drag the keys out, jump in and start the engine. In heels, I push down the gas and as much as possible drive as fast, and legally, as I can.
Driving through N. Spaulding Ave., I wonder aimlessly to the event tonight and my very unlucky misfortune, out of all the nights, I had to be late Aurora, just like I was back in high school and a tiny bit in college. I mean, seriously, a normal person would usually be an hour or two early if their dreams would finally come true.
My phone rings, again, distracting me from my self-preaching. I take it out of my bag and see not a call, but a text.
-THE SHOW WILL START AT 7PM, HURRY UP!-
And Miss Andrea Chloe Ignacio is as bossy as ever, nothing out of the ordinary here.
I reach the gallery with ten minutes to spare and try to find Andie from the pool of people who came to witness my very proud moment, it fattens my heart but, sadly, I don’t know half of them. I walk, looking around with both eyes and ears alert for my, as of now, irate friend.
“Aurora!” I hear, but not from her, on the farther left of the room. My head shifts and spot a very familiar face, familiar enough to make me squeal and run towards to.
“Jake! I can’t believe you made it!” my ear-to-ear smile cannot be contained as I got closer to the man who just made my night extra special.
He opens his arms for me to enter to, I comply. “What? Did you think I’d miss this?” he raises one of his arms as he refers to the gallery.
I giggle and hug him tighter, how I missed this mischievous guy.
“Anyway…” he pulls me away from him, holding me out by my shoulders and does a quick scan from head to toe. “You look great! Not gorgeous great, but great!”
I grin, he hasn’t change a bit. “Oh, shut up,” I wiggle free from him and swat his shoulder. “You’re not so bad yourself.”
My eyes stare; it’s been so long since I’ve seen him that it seems so unreal that he’s here. Jake’s really changed after the two years in college and 6 months of work, he looks so grown up. His long black hair from college is now trimmed neatly into a perfect clean cut, dark grey eyes are full of happiness, his once flawless face has stubbles that look good with his broad facial features and he has a much bigger build than before. Wow.
“I know, moving to Sydney does things to a man.” he jokes whole-heartedly before giving another one of his famous bear hugs, it brings back old memories.
Jacob Williams, my childhood friend and brother figure, moved to Australia a few months back, a continent where lay the most promising actors and actresses. He’s dream back when we were kids was to become a director, just like his dad, and went on to pursue it in Sydney where he stayed for 6 months, training and learning how the movie industry works. I had no idea that he finished already, has it been half a year?
“Anyway, Andie called me up and invited me to surprise you,” he grins. “Looks like I succeeded.”
I laugh alongside with him “Yeah but–“
“Aurora Jillian Foy!” I turn, not really wanting to, and see a red cheeked Andie by the stage who looks like she could kill me any time soon. Shit.
“Oh,” I sheepishly chuckle and scoot behind Jake, who is unaware of my predicament. I’m tempted to either use him as my human shield or throw him at Andie just to save myself.
She stomps towards us with her very high heels and I’m seriously considering throwing Jake at her, with flaming hazel eyes Andie shows no sign of going easy on me, help!
“Great, you’re here.” all anger gone and she innocently smiles when she reaches us.
I look at her then at Jake. “Um..?”
“Jake, darling, I need to take Aurora away from you, ‘kay?” taking me by my arm I realize that she’s not mad, she’s raging, and her grip totally gives it away.
He nods, his expression dumbfounded as Andie drags me to god who knows where.
“Bestie…” I coo, trying to lighten up her mood as my heels stumble on the marble floor, I see our current situation right under our feet.
“Shut up,” she coldly replies as she drags me backstage. The last time I got her this mad was during our last semester in college when I accidentally spilled paint all over her graduation dress, how I swore to never resurrect the anger she had back then.
She pushes me on the chair and brings out her make up kit for a retouch.
“You are so lucky I stalled the MC,” the nagging begins, but that comes with the package for my friendship with her. “I had to keep him occupied! And let me tell you, that man is beyond disgusting!”
I smile as she tints some pink lipstick on my lips. “But I knew your flirtatious skills would come in handy” I say after she releases my jaw and judges her work.
She nods approvingly. “That is so not how I pictured using it.”
“But really…” I stand and give her a tight quick hug “Thank you.”
She sighs and gives me a reassuring smile, I am forgiven!
But I really can’t thank Andie enough, throughout college she’s been the one saving my ass at everything. I was hoping things would change after but I guess old habits die hard, crap.
“No, Aurora, thank you.” she grins, jeez, I think I have a hint as to why.
I roll my eyes at her and curtsy with my aquamarine strapless bubble dress. Andie was the one who picked it out last weekend forcing me to wear it for tonight’s event.
“This dress is you!” she squeals in delight as she flaunts it in front of me, uninterested in her all-time favorite hobby. “The color will make your skin pop white, not pale, and it’s the only blue-green I approve near your hair!”
I sigh and raise my hand in defeat, knowing I will not escape Miss Ignacio’s claws. “Okay, okay.”
Taking the dress from her I grumpily walk to the dressing room and, with all my might, breathe in and begin to undress to dress.
The dress fits perfectly, exaggerating my curves and cupping my breasts with comfort. I stare and evaluate myself. Andie was right; the dress makes my overly white skin pop, in a good way and my wavy chestnut hair mixes well with it. Alright, Andie.
I step out and hear squealing once again.
My mind fast forwards back to the now and see my very controlling friend by the red satin curtains, she’s clinically scanning the audience and I hear their murmurs slowly fading.
She looks back at me and gives me a thumbs-up “Good luck” she mouths before scurrying away from the curtains.
“And now…” I hear outside, completely unaware that Andie has already given the MC the go signal to introduce me to our guests, oh no.
As my name was called, Aurora Jillian Foy, the curtains slide to their side of the stage and let striking light stab my eyes with a bit of pain. I was seriously blinded. Seeing only darkness but hears the clapping of hands and whistles, probably from Jake, in front of me.
I let my eyes adjust and settle to see strangers cheering me on, half of them are probably rich moguls who came here to judge whether or not my works are worthy of their time and money. I frown at the thought but quickly discard it to greet everyone with a smile.
Stepping forward, carefully, I reach for the microphone and clear my throat. “Good evening and thank you, everyone,” I scan the room to acknowledge every person’s presence. “Thank you for coming to my art exhibition.”
My art exhibition. I smile.
I pause again and look around, looking for Jake and Andie, catching them in the middle of the crowd with infectious smirks on their faces.
“After graduating from Cranbrook Academy of Arts two years ago, I wondered if I could really pursue my life goal; catch perfection in a canvas. There were other aspiring young artists who have the same determination as me, the same will power as me and the same dreams as me. Who was I to be recognized?” I don’t look away from my friends who actually made me comfortable on stage, something I was born not to get used to. “But, I was given this chance, today, to showcase my talent and uniqueness to everyone who has an eye for more than reality. I can’t express how happy I am that I, Aurora Foy, will be able to present my gift and creativity tonight.”
As cued the lights behind the stage open, revealing endless paintings and sculptures by yours truly. I blush, a bit embarrassed with my speech but grateful enough for everyone’s applause. They slowly move further in to the gallery and I am reunited with my friends.
“Some speech,” Jake whistled between his teeth, both hands in his pockets, he’s already started staring at what I’m presenting. “Never thought you could make one”
Andie swats him on the chest and hisses at him. “Don’t be such a prude, Aurora’s more than capable to do so.”
My face gleams with joy as I watch my most precious friends argue about something so little, I’ve been thrown back to yester-year and could feel all the happiness pouring out. After Jake left for Sydney Andie and I were busy with our own work, I had this exhibit to worry while she had her deadline to meet; the three of us didn’t have time for each other, not like when we were still in the academy.
“Whoa! Aurora!” Jake, who was always up for laughs, looks at me like I’m the bloody ghost of Christmas past ready to take him away.
Andie calmly takes out a pink silk like hanky; all decorated with flowers, and offers it to me. She was always ready for these unexpected bursts by moi.
I thankfully take it and wipe the treacherous tears trailing down my cheeks, once a cry baby, always a cry baby.
“I’m so sorry,” shaking and laughing, not the best combination, I try to get myself together and sniffle to ease myself with my mercurial behavior. “Just… Happy, really happy”
Andie shyly giggles and embraces me. “And we’re really happy for you, sweetie.”
“Yeah,” Jake nods, grinning like a school boy “We’ll always have your back, Aurie.”
My head pops out of Andie’s arms and I glare at Jake, goddamn it Jacob Williams! Using that childish old nickname once again, he knows I’m vulnerable for a tease.
We join my guests further in the gallery, smiling and laughing when appropriate, having some small talk, entertaining their questions and just enjoying the sight of actual mogul’s appreciating what I’ve done.
After what seems to be an eternity Jake, Andie and I notice the once lively and ocean crowded gallery has turned in to something close to a ghost town. It’s already quarter to eleven and I’m not surprised at the emptiness of the gallery, it’s kind of peaceful.
“You’ve sold quite a lot, Madam.” one of the critics, I assume from his little tickler with scribbles tucked in his breast pocket, compliments as he sees me and my friends standing in front of one of my most favorite paintings, Le Famille.
I nod to greet then gaze down at the lower right hand of the portrait where my initials, AJF, and signature are engraved; Mr. Critic joins me as I spy the price tag and get the shock of the life time. $50,000?! I had no idea the specialist the gallery gave me had come to this conclusion; I had instructed them to do as they please since they are the experts. But now, after seeing this, I feel a pang of guilt. Asking this much, from a rookie, holy cow!
“That’s the most expensive one,” the balding, grey haired, stuffy old man laughs heftily at, probably, my reaction. “The others are under $20,000 to $35,000.” Was that supposed to make me feel better? My eyebrows crease as I stare at the other painting hanging with no price tags, my blood drains from my face with a question in mind.
“How many paintings are left for sale?” I feel uncomfortable asking this, not wanting to know the answer at all. But I really don’t understand myself, I should be bouncing on the highest mountain on earth for the success of my hard work, but I feel awful. Damn. Why?
Mr. Critic tightens his grip on his wooden cane and coughs “I think this,” he points out at Le Famille, don’t say it! “Is the only one left.”
My pulse suddenly starts to rise; I hadn’t notice the beating sound until Mr. Critic reveals the answer to my horrid question. Be happy, Aurora! Am I not?
“Well…” my cheeks, still flushed, are lifted as I give Mr. Critic a smile that would show how pleased I am as to how things turned out. “Never thought this would be the outcome”
He laughs another weighty one that leaves my ears tingling to the core. “You are a very talented lady, Madam; I can see a bright future for you in this career.”
My mouth opens to attempt speech but withdraws as my brain defies me once again; I just nod and flush at Mr. Critic.
Well, what’d ya know? Dreams really do come true.
We continue our conversation which steered to my college adventures, Jacob and Andrea’s careers, Mr. Critic’s job offer. My, my. I’m not even sure how this is actually happening.
But just before I could swallow all these blessings, wonderful blessing, I try to maneuver the conversation to an end. I need to think before any decision should be made. I squirm and try to look distracted; my head sways as Mr. Critic continues to talk, as I look for the clock, I spy, in the corner of my dark green eye, a man dressed in a devil red shirt, dark black coat with matching slacks and shoes, coming closer to us. His dark mahogany curls flops down his face making it hard to see what he looks like, but I’m already half sure that he’s good looking.
He stops right in front of Andie, completely awe by his presence, and tilts his head upward a little giving me and Mr. Critic a much better look of his face.
I was right!
His eyes, shades of the gloomy blue sky, moves from Andie, to me, to Jake, then to Mr. Critic, acknowledging everyone in the small circle.
“Good evening, John.” he speaks! His voice sounds so dark but, at the same confusing time, light like an innocent little boy.
“And to you, Mr. Waters,” John, Mr. Critic, nods and smiles at the very gorgeous man in front of us.
“I must say,” he runs his finger along his jaw, oh, and smirks, shit! Sexy! “You never disappoint when it comes to these kinds of events, I just wanted to thank you for inviting me but I see that you’re busy.”
One of my eyebrows is raised and I feel a bit flustered, my event pleases this man, my event. I glance to my side and catch Andie staring, Andrea Chloe Ignacio is staring! And spot Jake a bit uncomfortable, probably because of his presence.
I fidget, realizing that I, too, am uncomfortable with him here. John notices and tries to contain his smile, probably his laughter too.
He grabs me by my shoulder, catching both Andie and I off guard, and lands Mr. Waters into a questionable look. “Let me introduce you to the artist of this fine gallery.”
I squeak, surprised, and cover my mouth in attempt to hide my embarrassing voice. But I fail as I see Mr. Waters’ expression turn into amusement, his once horizontal mouth has now turned into a curve of a smile, something better suited on him. I blush.
“The artist is as lovely as her work,” he grabs my hand gently, setting my face burning with flames, and kisses it as a formal greeting. “I’m Vincent Waters.”
I stagger a bit but salvage myself immediately, yes! “Pleased to meet you,” very, very pleased “I’m Aurora, Aurora Foy.”
I stare at his blue eyes; they seem softer up close, and try not to make him notice how nervy I am. A distraction, I need one before my legs betray me!
“Um…” I grab Jake and Andie’s arms and pull them, instantly, next to me. “These are my friends and companions for tonight, Jake Williams.” I withdraw my arm around Jake and he takes a step forward.
“Jake.” Mr. Waters nods; the usual way men greet themselves, and Jake mirrors his action.
I roll my eyes and push Andie towards him. “And Andrea Ignacio”
Andie looks at him not muttering a word before I notice her cheeks flash scarlet, I know how you feel, bestie! “Mr. Waters.” she greets, finally.
“Miss Ignacio.” he returns the same response and looks back at me.
I check my friends again and it seems like an invincible pressure has been lifted from their shoulders, Jake has his confident composure back and Andie doesn’t look like a hopeless romantic high schooler who daydreams about a hotshot jock. Thank heavens.
“Thank you for coming to see my work, Mr. Waters.” I find myself once again and, do I dare, look up to meet his gaze once more.
“Vincent, please.” he corrects and has a sweet boy-next-door smile plastered on his beautiful face, how could I say no?
“Vincent,” I repeat and fiddle with my fingers to distract myself, just looking at him makes me tense.
He takes a step closer towards me, I try not to faint or lose it. “This painting,” he points towards it. “Did someone already purchase it?”
I shake my head, trapped in his trance.
He nods approvingly which confuses me.
“It’s quite expensive if you ask me and I understand why people won’t buy it, a novice like me shouldn’t be selling paintings with prices like that–“
Vincent cuts in. “I think it’s very fitting.”
“Yes,” he winks. “And since I’ve met the artist,” he looks up at Le Famille and smiles, a brooding smile that makes me wonder what is hidden behind it. “I’ll be acquiring her last, breathtaking, piece”
“Wha…” I try to form the words, I really try, but, goddamn it, I’m so lost right now. Not only is this gorgeously smokin’ hot man going to buy my most expensive piece, he’s also a fucking smooth talker. Shit.