Driving a little too fast Nina Black spotted the radar trap up ahead.
She slowed her pickup to within the speed limit. The cop got out of his car.
Oh shoot. Another nail in her hide from her mom?
The cop tipped his hat back as he reached her open window and said, “Hi Nina.’
“Hi Jerry,” she said in surprise. “How are Cindy and baby?”
“Fine. You were a responsible chick at high school Nina. Keep your speed down and consider this a warning. Off you go.”
Nina produced her million-dollar smile and said with feeling, “Thanks Jerry.”
Well a driving citation would have been enough to send her mom through the roof. Her mom was pick-pick-picking at her these days, rarely saying anything nice about her.
Nina knew what it was. She’d come home with a law degree but instead of moving into law she was teaching art at the Seniors at the Boswell Community Center and had turned her bedroom into a studio and was back to painting again. Her mom had wanted her married and doing well in law. Her father, an attorney, reckoned Nina should do what she wanted and he certainly didn’t want his daughter marrying just any jerk she fell into bed with.
“Our son married a bitch and look how unhappy he is?”
Of course that began a row that lasted two and a half days until Nina stepped in and said, “Listen you guys. Cut it out or divorce. You are both acting like spoilt kids.”
Her shocked parents took her out to Sunday lunch and were still apologizing when they returned home.
Raymond her father said he’d buy her two tickets to the ballet and she’d said only if he also brought two more tickets and took his wife who loved ballet.
“You take your mother.”
“No be romantic even if it’s a pain dad. Be kind and more attentive and you’ll get much better sex and it will get mom off my back.”
He’d grinned and said the office required an attorney who cut ice as a negotiator.
“Up yours dad.”
He went off whistling.
Her mother came into her bedroom and said, “Again I’m so sorry for behaving like a brat with your father and you having to listen to the shouting. Let me buy you a car to replace that clapped-out truck.”
“No it was granddad’s and he had it for almost thirty years and always told me he’d never quit it. There’s something about the red pickup and I think it engenders love.”
“You are difficult to understand. And why are you always rejecting me?”
“Mom you have had years and years of learning that you don’t buy love through money. Buy me a nice bunch of flowers.”
“Damn you. Why can’t you be like other daughters?”
“What do you really know about other daughters and their true relationships with their moms?”
Jessie walked out and slammed the door muttering, “Bitch and your room’s a mess.”
Nina grinned, knowing to expect a bunch of unnecessarily expensive flowers. She took a call. It was Cindy asking her over for a drink and to see the baby.
“You don’t drink.”
Cindy sighed and said not for three more months but Jerry would have a Bourdon with Nina. “He said he saw you today and said you were looking great. Stay for dinner.”
Nina worked from 10:00 to 2:00 at the center Tuesday thru Friday each week and received a small salary paid by the center trust. She also sold creative landscapes she churned out as a sideline to paintings to some of her senior students and her friends for very good money. Women who really wanted to learn to paint or draw or to sharpen up on what they already did and who were sixty years plus, often very plus, were rarely short of money.
Nina locked the door and from her wardrobe took out a painting, a portrait of her mother. She’d been working on it for eight months and it was almost finished and she was on schedule to enter it in the Cameron City’s annual art competition. The city was some three hours’ drive to the east and the event was highly regarded.
Jessie hadn’t a clue what her daughter was up to because she never went poking in Nina’s space. Nina often took photos of her mom and Jessie would say, “You’re wasting film”, not having a clue about digital photography. She’d also catch Nina looking at her in certain light and would say, “Why are your staring at me like that?”
Nina would say, “Because your face is a picture mom,” and her mom would sigh and say not that bullshit again. That exchange had almost become a ritual. Those ‘stares’ would embed little pieces of the jigsaw that Nina was building into something called portrait art of which her mom had little or no interest. When they were on vacation and doing things as a family Jessie would act as if she were ready to go to sleep as soon as she entered a gallery.
It was a pity her mother was wealthy but had wasted her education on a law degree. She only played at law sufficiently to keep registered to remain chairman of the law firm established by her father, Nina’s rich grandfather and a real bastard. Not like her father’s father who’d so adored Nina who had been a widower before she was born and had barely escort gaziantep bayan sitesi scratched a living off his small ranch. She’d always spent more of her school breaks staying with him than being anywhere else and continued that through her second-year of college when he died.
Granddad Ritchie had left the ranch to her and her mom had purchased the adjoining small ranch and given it to Nina and she now had a semi-retired guy managing the enlarged property. She went out there most Saturdays and worked with Ted on fencing, clearing drains, spraying weeds, drenching cattle or just sitting around jawing with Ted and his wife.
Tucked away in the wardrobe, already packed for taking to Cameron, was the painting of Granddad Ritchie painted in acrylics and using only two photos plus her great memories. It had been painted with so much love that Nina couldn’t believe just how good it was, at least in her opinion. That painting was for her father for Christmas and the painting ‘Jessica’ would be given to her mom at Christmas.
Jessica had never liked Granddad Ritchie because he used words like ‘shit’, ‘Jesus’ and expressions like ‘what a bastard’ and his favorite used when really surprised, ‘fuck me dead’ as everyday language.
And yet, rather strangely, in church when the eulogies were delivered about Richard James Black, the only time Nina bawled was when her mother stood and talked about the remarkable and enduring relationship between her father-in-law and her daughter that began the first time Richard saw Nina in her cradle. She remembered how her mom had finished, ‘The affection and respect between those two were a joy to behold’.
Her mother had said that? Yes in front of an almost filled church of mourners. Jessie had a habit of surprising Nina at times but that time she’d blown Nina away. However Nina remained unsure whether Jessie would allow Raymond to hang his father’s picture in the house or even at the law offices.
She went to her mother. “Cindy Mason has invited me over to see little Carla and stay for dinner.”
“That’s fine. I’ve yet to start thinking about dinner.”
“Take dad out for dinner. You know he likes doing that.”
“Well I suppose so.”
“Mom he also likes you when you’re lively and interested.”
“Well I’ll have to say you’re not wrong about that. Do you think your father and I still have sex?”
“Of course I do.”
“You girls today know everything. I grew up thinking my parents stopped having it when I was born.”
Nina had to grope with that. “Oh how sweet.”
“Oh yeah? I know dad was still having an affair a year before he died.”
“Oh mom, you have that behavior to look forward to; it will be in the genes.”
“Funny girl,” her mother smiled.
“Kiss me mom.”
“What are you going now?”
“No but you don’t have to have a reason to kiss.”
They hugged and kissed. Just like normal mothers and daughters, Nina thought.
She returned to her bedroom-studio and spent the next hour working on intricate detailing on the painting of her mother and was feeling good enough about Jessie to change her expression a little, especially by softening the eyes. Her mom was not a truly unhappy person; just soul-sad. Jessie was still plenty young enough to have a ripping good affair that would put sparkle into those gray eyes of hers. Nina then wondered when her own sex life would re-start. She was in a trough.
Three Friday’s later Nina drove to Cameron City, inviting her mom to accompany her.
“No but thanks for asking. I have the flower show all day tomorrow.”
“Oh yes of course. I hope it goes well for you.”
Jessica asked hopefully, “Are you going there to see a guy?”
“No guy worth capturing my attention exists.”
“In that case you’ll be flabbergasted when it happens.”
Nina laughed and said did people still use the word flabbergasted and her mom said she did.
Driving off with her two entries Nina though had her mom been flabbergasted when young attorney Raymond Black arrived to began work at the law firm, newly graduated. She bet that’s what had happened. So where had the fire between them gone? Raymond’s father had loved his wife beyond her death. Ah it would have been that other bastard of a grandfather William Oaks souring his daughter’s life and her respect of men, watching her mother feeling so much unloved. Men could be so indifferent, some of them so cruel.
The Cameron City Art Gallery was housed in the former City Hall, now completely modernized. Nina’s identity was confirmed and she was taken to the assistant gallery director with her two works on a rubber-wheeled trolley with high sides and the paintings firmly fastened. Nina had been given an appointment time after first registering her two entries three months ago.
Victoria Dawson greeted her, smiling.
“Welcome Miss Black. This is the first time you have entered our competition I believe?”
“Yes I completed my bachelor degree in visual arts and then went on to complete escort gaziantep bayan forum a law degree, so only returned to painting nine months ago.”
“Well welcome. Please lift you first entry on to this table and unpack it for me and then join me to examine the work for any blemishes received in transportation. It will be accepted and photographed should I consider it to be of the minimum standard required for entry.”
“That’s fine, The entry conditions make that process quite clear and that my works are to remain in possession of the gallery for four months from entry closing day which is next Friday.”
“Correct. You will find this a very competitive contest because standards have become so high and we attract the work of artists from many states. The experience will be very good for you and may assist you to see where your development is at when compared with the work of contemporaries.”
“Yes indeed. I look forward to that.”
“Ah ‘Jessica’. It’s beautifully composed and painted. I have no hesitation in accepting this. Is Jessica someone you know?”
“Yes, my mother. She doesn’t know I have done this but when the entry exhibition is open to the public I shall bring her here and surprise her.”
“She ought to be greatly impressed.”
Nina unwrapped her late grandfather’s portrait.
Victoria looked at the work closely and said nothing until, “Could you please excuse me for a moment.”
“Yes of course.”
Victoria returned with a lean guy, rather good-looking, who wasn’t much older than Nina was. She was twenty-eight.
“Victoria this is Rhys Wallace, our gallery director. I’ve invited him to inspect your amazing acrylic.”
Nina said a little shyly, “I think it’s good Victoria but use of the word amazing sounds a little over the top.”
Rhys asked, “Are you a fulltime professional artist Miss Black?”
“I wish I were. Please call me Nina. I tutor senior citizens four days a week from 10:00 to 2:00 and then spend much of my free time painting. Some of my senior students buy my paintings.”
“Then Nina you qualify to be in the amateur section.”
“I would prefer to contest the open class, portraits.”
“You would have a great chance of winning the amateur class, portraits with this acrylic and do very well with you oil painting.”
“Open class please. Competing in the open section is being as competitive as I can possibly be. I have this feeling that this painting of my late paternal grandfather will take me through to final judging in the open section.”
“You are very confident.”
“Rhys I’m trying to prove to my mother that my career should be that of an artist.”
Victoria asked was her mother against Nina teaching art and painting in her free time.
“My mother aspires for me to practice law in the firm founded by her grandfather. I’ve decided I prefer painting and get a great kick out of lifting the skills of elderly people who dab although some are really quite good.”
As Nina was leaving Rhys followed her out and waved before turning in the opposite direction but a few seconds later he called, “Oh Nina!”
She turn and he walked to her. “Look I’m off to have a late lunch, a sandwich and a glass of wine. Would you join me?”
“Yes, I’d like that. I am hungry. My vehicle is on a metered parking space, I must put more money in the meter.”
“Look I’ll come with you. You can drive to the restaurant. It has some free parking behind it.”
Rhys blinked when Nina said, “This is it,” pointed to the Ford pickup painted Candy Apple Red.
“It’s a 1980s two-door F100.”
“Yes, 1980 actually, a 3-speed manual with a rebuilt 4-litre V8. I also upgraded the radio, had air conditioning and electric window winders installed and it has power steering and upgraded power brakes. I inherited it from my grandfather whose portrait you have viewed. He was a small rancher all his life. I’ll tell you about him over lunch.”
Rhys enjoyed her story and said her granddad had sounded a very nice man.
“Providing no big name painter enters you could win the open portrait section with that painting. It projects real vitality and character and I know why now… it was painted to preserve a memory.”
Nina looked into his green eyes and almost whimpered, “I spent three if not four times as long on the portrait of my mother.”
“I accept that and it’s not fair is it? Sometimes it happens with an artist with a painting and this is just one of those times. I guess it’s not for sale.”
“Correct. I’ll give it to my father and it may come back to me one day.”
“A dealer could get you several thousand bucks for it.”
“I guess I know that but I didn’t paint it to sell. I painted it for my father as a token for him putting my through college and not trying to stop me when I took my art degree before doing law.”
“For an artist it is important to have a backstop.”
Nina who knew her mom would be her backstop if her mom accepted Nina had real talent as an artist. She smiled and escort bayan gaziantep said she only completed law to please her parents.
“You have good values.”
“And you are a very nice man. Pity we live so far apart. I must be going.”
Nina drove Rhys back to the gallery. Before he got out he said almost apprehensively, “Am I permitted to kiss you?”
“I don’t see why not.”
They leaned to the middle of the seat and kissed, gently.
“Kiss me again when we next meet,” she smiled.
“I’ll think about that, a lot. Love your vehicle; it has character.”
She waved as she drove off to her hotel. She would stay the night and have a good look round the city.
* * *
Jessica heard the pickup arriving on Sunday evening and went out to greet her daughter.
“How did it go?”
“I’ve met a man, but nothings happened.”
Jessica became quite excited. “Is he married?”
“How would I know?”
Jessica’s face deflated a little. “Well what do you know about him?”
“Very little. He bought me lunch and I guess he’s thirty or perhaps a year or two older.”
“What does he do?”
“He’s the director of Cameron City Art Gallery.”
Jessica looked impressed and said that was very young to be the director and added, “Then that must interest you?”
“It does. Am I too late for dinner?”
“No dear. We waited for you. I made a big effort and your father and I got on very well while you were away. I think we were both surprised.”
“Oooh, some quality bed time eh mother?”
“Oh I’m to pretend you don’t do it? Okay.”
“No I don’t mean that. Just don’t talk so loud on such a personal thing. Your father might hear us.”
“Oh god mother. How on earth do you summons the horsepower to govern a large law firm?”
“I suppose it’s because I’m comfortable about law.”
“Ah and therein lies the answer, given me by my sex-shy mother.”
Jessica sighed and said her daughter was sometimes so embarrassing.
“Oh how did the flower show go?”
Jessica said, “We are on a roll. We had record entries and a record attendance and raised $1180 in donations at the door and another $202 with the three raffles. That support was so gratifying.”
Nina sighed thinking her mom so easily lost touch with reality. Those two amounts would be about what her mom would earn in 3½ billable hours as a small city attorney.
“You may be interested to know that at the executive’s debriefing meeting immediately after we finished clearing away after the show I was elected to fill the upcoming vacancy of chief judge,” Jessica said proudly.
“Oh mom,” Nina said hugging her. “You have worked so hard for that honor.”
“Thank you dear but oh no, I have worked hard for the society, not for glory.”
Nina thought where were her mother’s values? The two-bit society held its shows in a clapped-out hall because the hire fees were so low and a few wealthier flower-mad members like her mother were always bailing the society out of debt because half the members were overdue with their membership fees or more likely had no intention of ever paying them. However Nina had to admit rough justice was achieved because most of those freeloader members were delegated to do the society’s voluntary work of maintaining flowers in the city’s three main hospitals 24/7.
Two nights later Nina was on her bed readying a steamy romance novel that had her jerking her hand away from touching herself. Well the bedroom door was wide open.
Her phone rang and she jumped. She answered, “Nina Black.”
A guy asked, “Are you painting?”
Nina sat up in excitement. God it was him. Oh no, what was his name? It wasn’t Ross. Then her mind clicked into gear.
“Oh hi Rhys. No I’m not painting, just sitting quietly reading a magazine, ah, a women’s magazine.”
“With photos of cute women in sexy underwear?”
Nina’s heart raced. “Yes, quite a few. Do you think those models shave down low?”
She thought she heard Rhys swallow. “Um I would think so.”
Now what? She had no intention of pushing that topic.
Nina hit the bedding with her free hand in triumph. She blushed and felt hot.
“Do I what?”
“Shave down below?”
Oh good boy, the response she wanted. “Rhys before I answer that, are you married or dating seriously?”
“No and no to both questions.”
“I shave about 80% of that real estate and clip the remainder.”
“What shape is the clipped area?”
Yeah! “Rhys if you are that interested you’ll have to find out for yourself.”
Rhys laughed. “That is the most unusual come-on I’ve ever received.”
“No doubt you’ll experience other ones before you put yourself out to graze.”
“That’s one of those comments that doesn’t require elaboration. Would you like to come for dinner Saturday night? I don’t do it on first dates so you have nothing to gain in that direction. Arrive here at 6:00, leave at 10:00 and you’d be home about an hour after midnight. Am I worth it?”
“Before answering that question, would you do it on the second date?”
“With you, yes.”
“Then please give me directions for Saturday night and I’ll remember not to divulge actual details of your entries. I find you a very attractive person and it would appear you have been sent to me… my girlfriend and I split only five days before I met you.”