The cheering from the art gallery fell distant as Alison walked away from it. Her whole life had been behind those doors. Now, all she felt was their rejection. She had thrown away her life to become a critic of this tier and one misjudgment had gotten her back to square one.
Tears started to roll down her face. Scared she was going to ruin her party makeup, she wiped them off.
Something grabbed her attention as she waited for her cab to show up. A girl, an artist, was packing up her sketches from her street stand. She went to take a closer look. She had never seen such intriguing sketches. They looked honest, fresh.
She gave her card to the artist. “Meet me at this address tomorrow at nine. I have a proposal for you. Don’t be late.”
Her cab honked and she rushed to get in, her heels clicking on the cemented pavement. The artist kept her eyes on the slick woman and then looked at the card. Someone had noticed her.
Back in her crappy apartment, Gayle searched for some decent clothing for her meeting with Alison. She didn’t want to be sloppy for this meeting. She put together her only formal outfit. Her portfolio was tearing away but she tried to keep all her sketches in as she ran out the door. She couldn’t be late.
When she reached the building, she couldn’t believe her eyes. She stood outside for a couple of minutes, took a deep breath and then stepped into the gallery. Her shoes made squeaking noises as she asked for Alison Mennon at the front desk.
She took a seat, waiting to be called. Her hands grazed the leather chair she was sitting in, taking in the richness of the finest art gallery in the city. She had only imagined stepping in, never getting to meet with the critic.
The receptionist whispered in Gayle’s ear that Alison was ready for her. She tried to walk differently, hoping to eliminate the squeaking sounds. She knocked twice. She sat in front of Alison and placed her portfolio on the table. Alison didn’t touch it and jumped straight to the point. “Do you paint, Gayle?”
“I do, Ma’am. In fact, I have some photographs.” Gayle showed her painting through her phone.
“These are great. My proposal for you is that I want to put these up in this gallery. I’ll offer you an advance. I hope it’s enough. I’ll see you next week for the Artist Weekend. You may go now.” Alison was already busying herself with other work.
“Sure. I’ll see you next week.” Gayle wasn’t sure if she had even heard it.
She couldn’t hold her excitement and she just wanted to scream. She waited till she had reached her apartment and finally screamed. She started to dance around. Her roommate came running to rescue her but saw her acting like a maniac and settled down.
“Are you okay? You’re acting really weird.” She was smiling.
“Do you know Alison, the art critic who works at Nelson Art Gallery? She invited me and she said that she’ll be putting up my paintings in the gallery!” She held her roommate’s hands. “My work is finally paying off, Megan.”
“Are you going to call your mother and tell her about this?” Megan was already cooking dinner. Gayle rearranged the dead flowers in the vase. She would be lying if she said that she hadn’t thought about it. She wanted to tell her mother that she had finally gotten her big break. She decided against it. “I’ll call her later.” They hadn’t spoken for two years.
She suddenly rose to fame after being recognised by all the critics in town. She started to rise quickly in the market, her name was on the tip of their tongue.
After she received her first check, she moved out from her old apartment without giving a notice to her roommate. She broke contact with most of the people she knew. She just wanted to leave that life behind. She wasn’t a lowlife anymore.
She was finally making it into the big picture. This was what she was here for. To make a place in this world. She couldn’t stop herself from gleaming with pride and she continued to work. She felt her hard work finally pay off.
She should have considered the red flags that would end her career but she ignored them. She was too naive to realise that everyone was for themselves and no one does anything for the sake of others. She let the fame get to her, now running through her bones.
She was instructed to keep good company to up her image in the media. Though she preferred to be alone, she was forced to make friends she didn’t even like. She kept replaying it in her head. You need them for publicity. They aren’t your real friends.
What she didn’t know was that she was already falling through the rabbit hole. She had changed herself for this.
After just a couple weeks of her rising fame, she was told to paint particular themes to keep up her identity in the market. She agreed to anything she was told. If Alison Mennon tells you to do something, you do it. No question asked.
She followed the protocol. She didn’t notice that she was changing herself and becoming someone she wasn’t for people she didn’t know.
Her paintings were starting to spiral downwards when she couldn’t meet their expectations. She wasn’t original anymore. She was generic. Alison had moved on quickly to another quirky artist. She didn’t feel the support on her back line before.
She eventually reached rock bottom when her reviews started to flood in. She tried to ignore them but eventually felt them crawling up her sleeves. She wanted to cry, lock herself in and never leave. She couldn’t face anyone.
She needed an escape. She needed to feel safe again. She packed her bags and ran away from the life she had always dreamed of having.
She felt like it was the first time she had stepped into this house, even though it was a childhood home. It had just been so long. It felt foreign. Her mother walked into the living room, wearing an apron with flour all over it. Gayle just ran into her mother’s arms, crying. Her mother hugged her back and they stayed like that.
Her mother made her favourite dinner. They ate in silence. She looked at her father’s empty chair. She had never missed him like this. Her mother noticed the empty stares. “I heard about the gallery reviews.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Her mother didn’t say a word after that.
Gayle slept in her childhood bed, scrolling through the news that mentioned her name. She then logged out of all her social media accounts and then deleted everything that connected her to the rest of the world. She slept peacefully.
The next morning, she woke up to her old art supplies, placed neatly on the desk. This kind of support meant the world to her.
She jumped out of bed and got ready. She had a busy day planned ahead of her.
This was the first time she had bonded with her mother in this way. She had always felt something missing in her life but she couldn’t understand what it really was. She never called this place home. All she ever wanted to do was leave this place. Coming back here, she couldn’t remember why she ever felt that.
She painted her heart out, not caring about others' opinions. Her mother would occasionally get her something to eat and just stay behind to look at the paintings. She was on a roll. In less than a week, she had produced eleven masterpieces. She felt content. This is what she really wanted to do. Pour her heart out. Not paint generic art that the majority crowd demanded. She didn’t need them. She was for herself now.
Couple of weeks passed by, and she stopped painting completely. Her mother was worried. Gayle slept in late and mostly stayed in her room. Her phone pinged one day and she looked at the message in a sleepy daze.
We love your work. Please send us the details of the paintings and we can arrange for a meeting to showcase your work in our gallery. We hope to see you soon.
She immediately checked her sent folder and found pictures of her new paintings emailed to another art gallery showcase.
She didn’t feel happy about it. She wasn’t ready to go spiraling down again. She blamed her mother for doing this behind her back.
She never replied to them. The meeting was cancelled and she felt her sinking deep. It was getting difficult for Gayle to get out of bed. Late afternoon, a phone call shook her out of the hole.
She had landed a deal. She felt like she didn’t have a choice so she arranged a meeting.
Even after her paintings were published under a different name, people recognised her style and eventually brought back her lost fame.
This time, she made sure not to indulge in earthly possessions and took care of the people she connected with.
She still stayed in her new apartment that she had bought with her first gig and asked her former roommate if she wanted to move in with her.
“Oh, my god! Of course! I can’t wait!” She had exclaimed on the phone.
She kept herself hidden from the desperate world in an attempt to live a normal life. She knew what she wanted from life. She finally felt home.