The black limousine pulled out of the spacious driveway, turning on to Sunstone Avenue. Inside were four people: The driver, Mr. Blackwell, and his wife and daughter. From the outside, they were a rich and happy family. But in truth, there was no love between them. Mr. Blackwell might have been incredibly rich, but as the saying goes, “Money can’t buy happiness.” The family was currently headed to a big party for Olivea Madden’s graduation. The Maddens had been family friends of the Blackwells for years. They had money as well, because as Mr. Blackwell always said,
“We shall not associate ourselves with those who are lesser than us.” The Maddens and Blackwells were the type of snooty rich people you might see on TV, except for Mr. Blackwell’s daughter, Lilianne. Poor Lilly had lost her mother only two years ago. Almost right after her mother’s death, Mr. Blackwell had married Antonia Ardelean, the stepmother that Lilly hated. Everyone knew that Antonia only married Damon Blackwell for his money, but no one ever brought it up.
A few more fun facts about Mr. Blackwell: He could never get enough money. Even with all the riches he had, he’d probably never donated a single penny to charity. You’d expect someone like him to be the talk of the town. Instead, it was quite the opposite. People knew who he was, but only his close friends knew him well. Surprisingly, there wasn’t even much gossip about them. People just didn’t care at all. This was the one thing that bothered Damon Blackwell. He wanted recognition. He wanted people to stare when he crossed the street. And in his 55 years of existence, this was something he was never able to achieve.
The limousine pulled into the parking lot of Diamond Hall. Diamond Hall was the most beautiful ballroom anyone had ever seen. There were jewels in the walls and on the floor. It was a rich people hang out. Diamond Hall was where all the best parties were held. To get a reservation there was the most expensive thing in Norburn City.
The limo jerked to a halt and the driver scurried out to open the door for the Blackwells. Lilly stepped out into the fresh air and breathed in the autumn leaf scent. She closed her eyes and tried to forget that she was standing in front of Diamond Hall. Instead, she focused on trees and flowers, and all the beauty of the natural world. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much around here. Construction workers had cut down a lot of plants to build Diamond Hall.
“Come Charlotte. We must go now.” Antonia said with her heavy French accent. Antonia said the name Lilly wasn’t good enough and insisted on calling her Charlotte, even though it sounded nothing like her real name. If not Charlotte, Antonia would call Lilly by her full name, Lilianne, even though Lilly hated it, and had made it clear that she wished to just be called Lilly. That was one of the many reasons Lilly hated her stepmother.
Reluctantly, 15-year- old Lilly followed her parents into Diamond Hall. Upon entering the gold gates, most people would be shocked into silence. Lilly, however, had been here so many times, it was like a stroll in the park. Surprisingly, Lilly wasn’t a big fan of her father’s wealth. She would have rather lived a simple life, with a normal family, and more importantly, her mother. She didn’t even know why her mother wanted to marry her father in the first place.
When they entered, Olivea came running towards them.
“Hi Mr. and Mrs. Blackwell, Lilly,” she said cheerfully.
“Hello, mon chéri! Congratulations, we are so proud!” Antonia exclaimed.
Antonia was half French and half Romanian, and she had a very thick accent. “Mon chéri” meant “my darling” in French. Antonia never spoke to Lilly the way she spoke to Olivea. She always saw Olivea as her daughter but not Lilly.
The Blackwells had a seat at one of the well-decorated tables as Olivea’s parent’s came to greet them.
“Ah, Izabella and Andrei! Congratulations on Olivea’s graduation!” Mr. Blackwell said to them.
“Antonia! Damon! It seems like forever since we’ve seen you, everything has been so busy! We’ve really missed you guys.” Izabella said cheerfully. As the Maddens and Blackwells partied inside, the driver waited in the car as he usually did.
Lawrence Barnett’s family had been drivers for the Blackwells for years. Poor Lawrence had wanted to be an artist, but his family did not support him. Lawrence knew they needed the money, so he took the job as a driver, even though he didn’t want to.
Lawrence came from a big family. He had five siblings: Annabeth, Caroline, James, Arthur, and Hannah. Sadly, Lawrence’s mother had died shortly after his youngest sibling, Hannah’s birth. His father was devastated and had anxiety and depression for a few months. When he finally recovered, he was a different person. There was no love in his heart and he became more strict. Some days, he would even forget to feed his children. Due to this, Lawrence grew up shy and socially anxious. He hid in a broom closet and practiced art in an attempt to stay away from his family. By the time Lawrence was 29, he had become so good at art, he realized he didn’t want to do anything else. Fortunately for him, James took the job as a Blackwell driver and Lawrence was let off the hook. During this time, he traveled the world with just his paint and brushes. He painted on walls, streets, sidewalks, really anywhere he could find. But he always remained anonymous. Lawrence did not like people knowing about his talent, and he managed to keep it successfully hidden. Only one person every discovered this talent.
After a year of working for Mr. Blackwell, James fell ill and passed away. The doctors don’t know how it happened, but they suspected poisoning. There was no more searching done on the cause of James’s death, so people assumed he had perhaps eaten something weird. Lawrence, being the next oldest brother, was forced to leave his passion behind and work for Mr. Blackwell. He reluctantly agreed and moved to Ostwynne to start work.
When Lawrence arrived in Ostwynne, the original Mrs. Blackwell was pregnant with Lilly. For the first year, Lawrence barely talked at all. He did what he was told and didn’t question anything. One day, as he was cleaning up the broom closet he found a canvas. On it was a beautiful painting of a field of flowers. Lawrence admired the painting, wondering where the Blackwells had gotten it and why they would hide such a beautiful thing in a closet. As he admired the beauty of the painting, he didn’t even notice someone coming up behind him.
“What are you doing there Mr. Barnett?” Elena Blackwell asked him. She had given birth to Lilly just a few weeks ago and had bags under her eyes from waking up so many times in the night. When Lawrence heard her voice, he almost dropped the painting in fear. Elena chuckled.
“Don’t worry! In fact, I’m flattered that you were admiring it. I painted that a few months ago for Lilly’s room.” Mrs. Blackwell said cheerfully. And for the first time in months, Lawrence Barnett found the courage to speak.
“It’s brilliant. I-” he started, but then lost the courage. His next sentence would have been, I’m a bit of an artist myself, but he stopped himself, remembering why he’d stopped doing art. Instead, he said,
“I think little Lilianne will love it!” Elena nodded with a faraway look in her eyes.
“Well, I should go check on Lilly now. You should go back to whatever you were doing,” she said in a warm tone. She slowly walked back up the grand staircase and didn’t look back.
When Lawrence woke up the next day, he felt a burning passion for art again. The feeling was just like how he had felt years ago when he traveled the world doing art. That day, Lawrence Barnett finished all the work he could as quickly as he could and made his way to the broom closet. Luckily for him, there were extra canvases and paint in the back corner. Lawrence spent the rest of the afternoon painting. He got through 5 canvases that day. Surprisingly, even Elena Blackwell never found out about these paintings.
However, 7 years later, Lawrence was painting in the broom closet as usual when he heard the doorknob turning. At the door was not Elena or Damon Blackwell, but young Lilianne. She narrowed her eyes, as Lawrence tried to hide his work.
“What are you doing, Mr. Barnett?” she asked innocently. Lawrence cleared his throat.
“Er, um- well I’m, uh, doing a bit of painting here,” he responded shyly. It seemed as though Lilly could read his mind.
“Don’t worry now. I shan’t tell anyone,” she promised. Lawrence fought back a smile.
“Why thank you, Lilly. You can just call me Lawrence,” he said. Lilly nodded and waddled out of the closet, closing the door behind her. Lilianne Blackwell was the only person who ever discovered his talent. After that day, Lilianne never spoke of their conversation again.
Lawrence Barnett thought about all of this as he waited in the car. His journey to Ostwynne. Lilly’s interaction with him, his paintings, which still collected dust in the same broom closet.
Meanwhile, Lilly sat inside Diamond Hall, trying to avoid contact with everyone. She didn’t want to meet the MARLFA of course. The MARLFA stood for middle-aged rich ladies, friends of Antonia. The MARLFA loved to gossip about other families, especially Lilly. They would sit down with her pretending like they were great friends and ask her about every detail of her personal life. Thankfully, The MARLFA did not approach Lilly that day, but someone else did. Olivea Madden. Olivea and Lilly got along alright. They had an age difference of 2 years, which really wasn’t so bad. Lilly liked Olivea because they kind of understood each other. Olivea wasn’t as snooty and gossipy as her family, and she knew about the MARLFA. Mrs. Madden’s friends were like MARLFA too. That was something Lilly and Olivea could both relate to.
After haveing a polite conversation with Olivea, Lilly decided to go out and get some air. There she saw Lawrence sitting in the car, waiting as usual. At that moment, Lilly felt a burning rage. He didn’t deserve this. It just wasn’t fair. She had seen his work. Someone with his talent shouldn’t be working as a driver for a horrible man like her father. Lilianne Blackwell stormed over to the car and rapped on the window. Lawrence immediately got out of the car to see why she was behaving like this.
“Ahem. Miss Blackwell, may I help you?” he spoke cordially.
“Oh shut up! Just stop it with all of these formalities and be a human for once!” Lilly screamed. Lawrence was taken aback. Lilianne was usually a very calm person.
“Excuse me, but I do not understand.” Lawrence replied.
“Okay, listen. I’ve seen your work. You don’t deserve to be here. Go live your life! Can I tell you something? You know your brother James? The one that died? That was no accident. My horrible father saw talent in you! He got rid of James because he knew you were next in line. He wanted to ruin your happiness!” Lilly cried. Lawrence Barnett nearly fell. He leaned against the car to steady himself.
“What exactly are you asking me to do?” he asked quietly.
“I’m asking you to quit your job. You know what my mother used to say to me? She said you had talent. She told me to look after you and make sure you follow your dreams. She really cared about you. Those were her last words.” Lilly whispered. Lawrence felt tears in his eyes. He had not wept for years. Mr. Blackwell had really turned him into an emotionless slave. It was something that Lilly brought out in him. She looked just like her mother.
“I’m sorry Lilly. I have to provide for my family.” Lawrence apologized. They stared at eachother for a while until they heard Antonia’s voice behind them.
“Charlotte, darling, why are you talking to the help? Talk to me, I’m your mother!” Antonia said, coming up behind them. Lilly saw Lawrence’s face harden. There was a fire burning in his eyes. He ran up to her.
“SHUT UP! You will never be anything like her, so stop pretending like you’re Lilly’s mother.You are nothing to both her and me. Get out of here you gold digger! Go to your husband! He is the only person who even likes you a little bit.” He yelled. Antonia’s eye twitched with rage. Just then, Damon Blackwell came to find his wife.
“What’s going on? You better not talk to my wife like that! You are nothing to her! Just a driver, and that’s all you’ll ever be!” He screamed.
“Is that so? Well I’m not even your driver anymore. I QUIT!!!” Lawrence cired. Mr. Blackwell was at a loss for words.
“Huh. Well Lawrence, I do hope you understand what you’re doing here. You’d be breaking a long family tradition. Your father will disown you, right before he becomes homeless and starves to death!” Damon chuckled.
“I’m willing to take that chance.”Lawrence said quietly and walked away.
The Blackwells never saw Lawrence again, at least not in person. A few years after he quit his job, he became a world famous artist. He was on interviews and billboards. To think that Mr. Blackwell’s lowly driver became more famous than even him. Lawrence Barnett got his happy ending.