Park Avenue Prince(4)By: Louise Bay
It didn’t matter that Steve was a dick. I still had to make a splash with this exhibition. I’d already sold a Renoir my grandfather had left me to open this gallery. It had broken my heart; he’d often told me stories of the girl in the painting as if it were me, off having adventures of my own in Paris. Letting go of it had nearly killed me, but my grandfather had left me a letter in his will that said the Renoir should be used for my own adventures, whether they be in my imagination or in real life. So I’d sold it with his blessing but a heavy heart. Still, this gallery was my real-life adventure and something I’d been working toward since college. I wasn’t about to let me or my grandfather down.
“You can always ask your dad,” Scarlett said. “If it gets too much.”
Things were tight, but not that tight. I just needed tonight to be a success.
“She’s not asking her father,” Harper replied for me. “She’s doing this on her own.”
I’d been so determined to prove to my parents and to myself that I could do this without help, I’d taken out a loan rather than ask my father for money. He wasn’t an ATM—even though my mother thought differently—and I’d fail before I treated him like one.
“I just have to separate how I feel about Steve personally from my business goals. I’m not going to like every client I have.” I had to cling to that thought and focus on how Steve was going to make me money and attract other artists to the gallery.
I just had to push aside the memory of his pants around his ankles while he fucked an eighteen-year-old against the cabinet in my office.
I put on my white cotton gloves, drew a deep breath, and picked up the canvas in front of me. “This needs to go here.” I moved it so it would be one of the first pieces people saw as they came in. “It’s the most expensive.” I was going to turn on my charm, maybe even exaggerate the little bit of an English accent I had from being born across the ocean, and sell the shit out of these paintings. The sooner I wasn’t dependent on Steve, the better.
“And this,” I said, picking up the piece I was replacing, “should go over here.”
I just needed to get through the next few hours and everything would be fine.
“Are you shutting off the back?” Scarlett asked.
The back of the gallery had works by other artists that I’d acquired and a small section, hidden behind a false wall, of my particular favorites. People would have to come right to the end of the gallery to see it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want anyone to know they were there, but that little collection didn’t really belong with the rest of the work. They were more traditional drawings and paintings—portraits and nudes and a pair of photographs of Central Park by a completely unknown photographer. My favorite, the La Touche I’d bought at auction five years ago, had hung in my bedroom before I opened the gallery. It was of a woman sitting at her desk writing a letter. So simple, but I wanted to know who she was writing to, why she seemed to be hiding her paper. It was art like this and my Renoir that had made me want to have my own gallery in the first place. But none of it was “hot” and I needed to go where the money was, at least for now.
“I think I’ll keep the whole place open, just in case anyone’s interested in anything else.” I didn’t owe any loyalty to Steve, now did I?
I finished rearranging the paintings and set the handymen to work so I could come back and hang the pictures up when the fixtures were on the wall.
“Right.” I put my hands on my hips. “Can you help me move the tables so there’s more of a flow into the back?” Hell, not only was I not going to block off the back, I was going to encourage people to take a look at the rest of the gallery. Tonight had gone from showcasing Steve to showcasing Grace Astor Fine Art. I was done pushing men forward, wanting them to shine. It had gotten me precisely nowhere. I was going to put myself first from now on.
It was just good business.
“You look great,” Harper said as I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror at the back of the gallery. “Are you ready?”
I was as ready as I ever would be. My red dress fit like a glove and my five-inch nude heels felt like a power source—like I was wearing weapons on my feet.