Chapter 1: The Exhibition
Hidden among the visitors, she gazed at the 6 feet tall canvas that had gathered a crowd of its own. It was imposing. A cacophony of colors, vibrant enough to make people tear their eyes away from other artworks to lose themselves in the depth of this one.
She couldn’t help but wonder what people thought of it as she listened.
‘Ugh, I can do so much better.’
‘Ooh, insta worthy. Let’s take a selfie with it, babe!’
She sighed, wishing she had covered her ears instead. Professional criticisms, as nerve-wracking as that was, were rare and expensive nowadays.
Guess she would have to make do with the visitors for now. Some called it abstract and contemporary. Others expressed their frustration in failing to understand what it represented. She viewed it as a way to prove herself, a way to make a name. Would they change their words if they knew the artist was standing right beside them?
“Well, well, well! If it isn’t the Serena Chase!” She turned around, her nervousness instantly fading away as she flung her arms around the tall man, “Jason! You made it!”
He dipped his head, kissing her fondly as he caressed her face, “God, look at you. You’re gorgeous! I wouldn’t miss your first exhibition for anything in the world, beautiful.”
She hushed him as he said that aloud, instantly feeling the surprised or horrified eyes turning to her. She grabbed his hand and pulled him away from that small world, trying not to let the embarrassment show. She pouted once they were a safe distance away. “You just had to blow my cover, huh?” He laughed it off awkwardly, “Hey, they should know who you are!”
He held her waist, smiling proudly as he took in all her chef d’oeuvres which were displayed on the wall in a minimalist yet striking style, “I absolutely need a tour from the artist herself. How’s it been going?”
She bit her lips, instinctively flattening his tie, “So far, so good. Wouldn’t have made it without you, y’know?”
He shook his head, lacing his fingers with hers as she led the way, “This is all your doing, babe. I just gave you a little boost, that’s it.” He looked so handsome in that tailored suit and she thought that every day, she was falling a bit harder for him. She held her breath, “$ 250, 000 is not a small sum!”
She still felt guilty for accepting his financial help. She had insisted that she didn’t need such a big exposure, that she’d work harder on her online page but he had brushed her words off, said that going big was the only thing that would get her recognized and indeed, she had attracted quite a crowd, sold more paintings than she thought. If only he knew how grateful she was to him. She promised herself she’d repay him once she had the means.
They walked across the marbled floor and she could only focus on him, watching as he spoke passionately about her paintings while he took the time to admire each one of them. If only… if only he made that step, that little step and everything would be perfect.
They have been dating for three years now and not once had he seriously spoken about their future. She didn’t think she could bear to wait any longer. She instinctively tightened her grip around his arm and he stopped speaking, slowly looking away from the purple jacarandas on the canvas to observe her instead. “You’re spacing out again.”
“I love you.”
He seemed taken aback by her words. Today it seemed she meant it more than ever. He chuckled softly, “Look at you getting so emotional. You know I love you even more, Serena. More than you can imagine. I’d do anything for you.” And he has proven it, supporting her decisions and stayed with her all the way. What more could she ask? Dumb question. Only her heart knew that.
The crowd seemed to fade away as she pulled herself into his arms, “Meeting you once a week for just a few hours is not enough. I want… you and me together.”
He seemed to hesitate for a second before he lowered his forehead against hers, “We are together, babe. It’s just that… my job. I’m so close to that promotion.”
She whispered, resting her hand on his broad chest, noticing a faint blue pen strike near his shoulder, “I’ve waited so long.”
He raised her chin, dropping his head to kiss her. She flinched. He always did that; coaxing her with one of those sweet kisses. He pulled back, his eyes burning with desire. He hoarsely said, loosening his tie, “Let’s go to your apartment. I’m staying tonight.”
She felt the joy course through her body and the words came out before she could even think of it, “And tomorrow. And the day after! I missed you!” She feared he would refuse her. She feared she was asking for too much but his next words relieved her.
“Anything for you. I’ll let my boss know.” He grabbed her hand, taking her out towards his car. She looked back at the gallery. It would be opened for a whole month for people to see. Her career as a modern artist was kicking off, thanks to the man by her side.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Kass! You in there? Jason just called. He said his meetings got extended by a few days.”
Wanting to analyze the results of one of her early patients since yesterday, Dr. Kassandra York rummaged through the heaps of file in her drawer for the sixth time while subconsciously checking the database on her laptop.
“Hey! Did you even hear me?”
“What?” She finally checked on her assistant, a bit perplexed to see the concern on her face.
Jillian sighed, “It’s the eighth day in a row, doc. Think it’s time you ask him what’s going on.”
She grumbled in response, tapping her fingers on the desk, “I’ll text him later. He probably got loads of work. Forget about him. Where’s that fucking file?”
“The Darwin one? I’ll look for it. Mrs. Sanchez’ waiting for you since a whole minute now. She’s looking pretty nervous.”
Kassandra stood, feeling stiff as she walked to the medical exam room where she was awaited. She had been working too many hours lately; her body was aching for a break.
She greeted the woman who was lying on her back on the exam table, dressed in a blue robe, her legs spread apart by the stirrups, seemingly trying to hide her discomfort with a weak smile, “Hi again, doctor.”
She washed her hands thoroughly and nurse Emma handed her the gloves and her mask. She wore them rapidly and approached her patient, reassuring her as she drew a stool and sat before the anxious woman, “You’ll be alright. I’ll start the pap smear test now and I need you to relax.”
She stretched out her arm to the side towards her nurse. When nothing was given to her, she spared her a glance, “Em? The speculum?” The latter gulped, feeling alert as she hastily rushed to the tray of tools, looking for the device and handed it to the doctor.
Kassandra frowned slightly, taking it, examining it and handing it back to her, "I need a 2.5 size." Her nurse apologized profusely before correcting her mistake by bringing her the right tool. Even her staff seemed exhausted today. A few more sessions and she would be done for the day.
As she did the routine check-up, she thought about what her nurse assistant, Jillian told her. So eight days, mmh? Funny how she didn’t even remember to check on him once in those times. She vaguely recalled seeing texts from him and dismissing him with quick ‘ok’s as she succumbed to exhaustion at night.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~