SUGAR AND SPITE
II. a turquoise dot
She moved her weight from one foot to another, once again, frowning at the canvas in front of her. She held her gaze up, then down, she moved to the right and to the left, in what could only be described as an agonizing cycle and, without even realising it, while staring at that turquoise dot in the middle of a pink-ish mess, she was sitting on the floor with her legs crossed. She let out a deep sigh, and moved barefoot through the open-space living room, all the way to the kitchen. She grabbed a wide glass and took it out of the wooden cabinet, to then fill it with tap water. She took a long sip, and her head naturally wandered towards the noise coming for the small television in the living room. Some guy was going on about the latest scandal in the local elections, but Therese wasn’t paying much attention.
She really liked her apartment, it was the very first place she ever picked for herself and which truly felt like her own, well-earned nest. It wasn’t much to be fair, it was rather small and neutrally coloured, but she loved the feeling of it. It genuinely felt like home in there.
Of course, she’d get kind of lonely at times, but her past experiences definitely taught her she’d pick loneliness over the sacrifice of having to compromise with other human beings any day and, truthfully, she always developed a nostalgic longing for it, whenever she was missing for more than a couple of days. She loved her independence, and cherished her loneliness. Maybe that’s what she was trying to express in her painting, she thought. Loneliness. That daunting, satisfying, at times overwhelming feeling of knowing you’re on your own, and that you can’t truly rely on anyone.
Of course, she had her parents, and her friends, and Genevieve. But, somehow, Therese felt like that was not quite it. Like it wasn’t supposed to feel that way, true intimacy. Loneliness had always had a way of creeping back in, of making her realise its presence, of letting her know it never really left.
Therese glanced at the canvas sitting in the middle of the living room again. She looked at that small, almost imperceptible blue dot, and all of the pink threads surrounding it, stealing the scene, being the main attraction of the painting and, somehow, it all made sense. She smiled slightly. Yes, that’s the emotion she was going to go for.
“I’m sorry, I think I’ve suddenly gone deaf? What did you say, girl? You wanna show your sad, little, poor-orphan-girl painting to Aird ? Are you insane?” Genevieve burst out, quite literally laughing to tears, while holding a glass of rosé in her hand. She was shaking so hard Therese got worried she might spill some of it on her carpet. She always felt a bit weird whenever Genevieve, a pale, blonde, skinny and frail white girl put up that fake-badass tone. She sounded like she’d just gone out of an episode of Orange is the New Black , and it kind of made Therese cringe.
“So? She’s our lecturer! I’m allowed to ask for a little advice!” She replied, somewhat offended.
Genevieve looked at her straight in the eyes. “Therese, she doesn’t even fucking know us. Trust me, she will not give a fuck about the way you felt when you painted a stupid dot in a different shade”
“Well, I didn’t say I’d show her right now, did I?” She said, as she gave Genevieve a miffed look. “Also, might I add I think I should kick your ass out of my house? You’re the worst friend, AND you’re also insulting my work”, Therese added with a smug face. Genevieve giggled in response. “You’d never do it”
“Yeah? And why not?”
“Because you’re a softie, you’re mummy’s little girl”, she pouted mockingly, softening her eyes to make an impression of Therese. “And you want Prof. Aird to be your new mummy, don’t you?”. At that point, she’d also taken up a girly, childish voice, and Therese was about to snap back, when Genevieve kept on talking again. “And also ‘cause I brought you these” she said, taking a box of limited edition lime Pringles out of her purse. “Now, if you want me out… these are coming with me. And so is your Netflix date for tonight”. Therese smiled. Maybe her friend was right after all, maybe she should have waited some more before showing Carol Aird her work. Maybe she could have worked on something that would have come out way better. And then Prof. Aird would have been truly impressed with her skills, she would have complimented her, and she would have said, with a wide smile and a sincerely surprised look in her turquoise eyes, how she’d never seen such a raw talent among her students.
“You stupid motherfucker” she snapped back, grinning through her teeth and hugging Genevieve tightly, only to steal the pringles from her hands afterwards.
“Oh, for Chrissake, look at you” Carol muttered, an appalled expression framing her eyes. She closed the door behind her, entering her house, and she dryly threw the keys on the small table upon the entrance. She closed her eyes and petted her hair briefly, as a way of trying to contain her anger and disgust. When she looked up again, Harge was staring at her through the darkness, spread on the couch, the only lighting coming from the television sitting in the middle of the living room. And, in all frankness, he did not look very joyful to see her.
“Where the fuck have you been, Carol? It’s fucking midnight” he gritted his teeth, visibly trying to remain calm, although his tone betrayed his true emotions.
“Well, I am a grown woman, aren’t I, Harge?” She snapped back. She’d have replied anything, minus answering his question.
“You are my wife” he said, his tone somehow softening.
“That, I wouldn’t be so sure about”
Harge vehemently got up from the couch, in a snap movement. Her instinct gave her bluffing away, as she naturally stepped back in what was a very tough reaction to describe. Was it fear? Perhaps, repulsion? She did not know. Maybe it was both of them, two different, though very clear emotions which, once mixed together, had been the fatal combination to her marriage. She felt the wooden texture of the door touching her back.
He stepped closer, until he was standing one centimeter from her face. Harge stopped and stared at her for what felt like a solid minute. “You better watch it, Carol.” He turned his back on her and started walking towards the centre of the living room, shutting the television down. “I don’t care what you do. But, help me God, if you’re this indecent again I swear to you I won’t be as nice”.
“Back in the old days, art was purchased predominantly for direct consumption.” Carol was saying, while pointing at one of the slides which showed the Water Lilies Series by Claude Monet. “You bought a painting because you liked it, you hung it on the living room wall and derived satisfaction by admiring it”. She stepped closer to the centre of the lecture room. “Today, the art industry is valued at roughly 50 billion dollars globally”. She stared intensely at every single student in the room, from side to side. Slowly. “Can anybody name the three attributes that are crucial to the investment asset in the art industry?”
Pause. Silence. Some guy was looking in a different direction, as if he wanted to hide, or be somewhere else, suddenly disappear. Bingo. Those were her favourites. “Warren, perhaps?” The young man scoffed, almost imperceptibly; however, Carol noticed it. She noticed every single detail, for that matter. Always.
“Opaque pricing?” He tried.
Once again, Warren looked away, and Carol was already tired of him.
“Anybody else?” she asked.
“It would be non-standardisation, opaque pricing, and…” She turned her eyes and pointed them at the brunette, petite girl who was talking. She couldn’t really remember her name, it had to be quite exotic. Bennett, maybe?
“... and the industry itself needs to be unregulated”.
She was good, though. Maybe she should have remembered her name.
“Yes. The lack of these attributes make the art industry susceptible to manipulation. How come?”
“In antiquity, its importance was in the fact that the painting had signalling values, implying that you could always showcase it. But,”
“Raise your voice. We can’t hear you. Be confident”
Therese looked at her, utterly surprised, and she could literally feel her cheeks flushing. She knew they’d have to be crimson red. She spoke again, not knowing the source of that courage, with a hint of a trembling voice.
“... But it wasn’t yet an asset for investment. Because the meaning of art has changed from antiquity, the predominant factor that drives sales of artwork nowadays is its investment value and its forecasted value in the future.”
“Very well, Miss…”
“Miss Belivet is absolutely right. These are just a few of the issues plaguing the art industry on a global level...”
Therese turned her head around, only to find Genevieve staring at her with her mouth agape. “That wasn’t even in the frigging reading, Therese!” she whispered, visibly distressed. The brunette shrugged in response, with an almost imperceptible smile on her face which highlighted her ridiculously cute cheek dimples. “You’re really trying to impress her”, she added, giving her a smug look.
“I guess I am”, Therese replied, before returning her attention to Professor Aird.
She decided she was going to do it. Once the lecture was over, she would have gotten up and gotten her ass down the ramp of stairs, she would have gone straight to her lecturer and she would have shown her the painting she’d been working on. In her imagination, Carol would have greeted her warmly and would have been thrilled for Therese to share her art with her. She hoped she would get some useful advice and, why not, maybe a tiny bit of praise. “ It never harmed anyone ”, she thought to herself. Of course, a part of her was very nervous for Prof. Aird to actually appreciate her work. But, quite frankly, she hadn’t been able to think about anything else for the entire duration of the lecture, so at that point she had developed a sense of ‘wanting to get it over with’ that made her overcome any anxiety or fear of rejection she might have been feeling.
However, when she did get her moment at last and was finally facing the fascinating, mysterious, gorgeous Carol Aird in that same, now empty room, she suddenly got an urge to run away, and the very real presentiment that the whole thing was going to be a disaster. As a matter of fact, she realised her lecturer wasn’t looking very keen to engage in any kind of conversation. She had a stern look on her face, and was gathering her personal effects without raising her head at all. Actually, more than gathering she was scattering her stuff all over the place.
“Professor Aird? I am so… sorry to bother you” she attempted to say, trying a soft approach. Carol finally raised her head to look at her. However, she did not smile as Therese had imagined in her fantasy. Actually, she was staring at her with such a neutral expression Therese could have swore she might have turned invisible.
“I was just wondering whether… erm… whether you’d be so kind to take a look at something I’ve been working on… if that’s not a problem for you. You see, I” she stopped talking abruptly as she was interrupted by Carol.
“Look… Belivet, right?” Therese nodded forcefully.
“I’m very sorry if I gave you the wrong impression, I really don’t appreciate suck-ups and I honestly don’t think I’m the person you’re looking for in this case. Perhaps I can direct you towards some of my brilliant colleagues, who I’m sure would be very happy to help you”.
Therese looked at her for what felt like an eternity, without being able to utter a single sound. Her imagination had played her. What she had been picturing, too. “Oh.” She managed to say in the end, her brain bursting as Genevieve’s word kept buzzing and humming in her ears. “No problem, nevermind” she managed to add. She turned her back to her lecturer, walking as fast as physically possible, while leaving her dignity behind, with her. “Sorry I have wasted your time”, she said lastly, while storming out of the room, her voice cracking.