Libby sat by the window and wondered when
he would give her the money he owed her. Their small son was with a neighbour while she stayed home to work at another canvas.
She was getting tired of these tantrums her Agent had started to throw lately.
Behind her, the studio was neatly ordered,
with shelving and catalogues, and cupboards holding her precious drawings and collections. She had recently started with digital,
and her photographs were in high demand, and if the Agent paid her properly, she knew she would not have to wait for Norm's
miserable support, which was what she and Matt mostly survived on these days. After her marriage failed with Norm, she was
working in a discotheque when Tom found her waiting on tables. Stunned by her loneliness and despondency, Tom started taking
her out mostly to cheer her up. He also started to form a close attachment with her son Matt. It was inevitable that they
Tom and Libby were legally married, not
that it mattered.
Norm and Libby's life together was different.
There had never really been a proper marriage with Norm, just a justice of the peace and an arrangement, one of convenience,
designed to give their son a name, but that did not excuse him from paying his fair share.
she laughed out loud. If he was to pay his fair share they wouldn’t be living here in this dump. They would have a house,
with a yard for Matt to play in, maybe even a car, so they didn’t have to ride the filthy bus all of the time.
The checks came regularly, for the first
year, while she was pregnant and when Matt was first born, and then they began to come later and later. She didn’t complain.
She had her art to keep food on the table and the rent paid, on her miserable ghetto flat. Then one month there wasn’t
a check at all. The next month the check came again, and then two failed to come. Soon there were no checks coming at all,
but still somehow Libby managed, until Matt began to take up more and more of her time each day and her work began to suffer.
Now Norm’s checks seldom came at all. As a freelance commercial artist, there was no money if there was no work. It
was tough making ends meet this way.
The work began to dry up soon after she
began missing deadlines. Her work was as good as it had ever been, but her friend Merilee, couldn’t continue to send
work her way, if she constantly held up important projects. Soon the calls had all but stopped coming.
Libby didn’t blame Merilee. She knew
that her friend’s career depended on having the best and the brightest people on her team. Merilee had a network of
artists, writers and musicians that circled the globe. She proudly claimed that she had connections on every continent but
Antarctica, and she knew a couple of penguins there that should soon be coming on board. Libby had been a part of that network,
until her son became more important to her than her work.
She finally took to working at The Grosvenor
Hotel, a slightly seedy hotel with a dubious clientele. It was here that Tom had found her one evening.
No, Libby, had no regrets and she only
blamed one person. It wasn’t the beautiful, globe-trotting Merilee, or the famous Rock Star she had married so long
ago. It was Libby Carter-Thompson, she blamed. She was the one who, in a moment of passion, with stars in her eyes, had climbed
into bed with Norm. She was the one who was sure she wouldn’t get pregnant, so refused the protection he offered to
use, and she was the one who had insisted on keeping the child, when his manager had suggested adoption as the reasonable
course of action. She wondered how many of the children playing in the street down there had been conceived under circumstances,
not unlike hers.
Marrying Tom was the stupidest thing she
had ever done, but she had always had a thing for him too.
She left the window and moved to the bare
canvas, on the easel nearby. Tubes of paint, brushes, and rags covered the small table beside it. Reaching down, she took
up her palette, and squeezed some blue onto its paint stained surface, she added a dab of yellow, then mixed them together
until she had just the right shade of green. Taking up a brush she put a stroke on the canvas, then another and another. Hours
passed, with Libby lost in a world of color and hues, as the blank white canvas took on a life of its own. It was the first
time in months she had really felt alive.
She was drawn back into the here and now,
by the sound of the door opening and the tap, tap, tap of little feet running down the hallway. “Mommy, Mommy, we went
to the park and I sawed a pigeon.”
“You saw a pigeon,” Libby corrected
“I know, Mommy, an’ Grace buyed
me some nuts an’ I played in the sand, an’ I sawed, I mean saw, a doggie with a powder puff for a tail.”
“Ok Honey,” laughed Libby,
“Slow down, you can tell me all about it over dinner. Now go wash your hands.”
“Ok, Mommy,” Matt happily trotted
off down the hall, to the bathroom.
Libby turned to Grace, “It looks
like he had a little bit of sugar today too”
“He was being so good, I bought him
some cotton candy,” explained her neighbour. “Is that alright?”
“Yes, yes, it’s fine. He’ll
just be bouncing off the walls for a couple of hours. Thanks for watching Matt for me. You don’t know how much it means
to me. I really got something accomplished today.”
Grace smiled, “Any time Sweetie I
enjoy spending time with Matt. Did that check come today?”
“Not today, maybe tomorrow. If not
maybe I can sell a painting. We’ll manage somehow.”
“I know you will, Sweety. Well, say
goodbye to Matt for me. Would you like me to take him again tomorrow?”
“I couldn’t ask you to do that
“Sure you can. I’ll pick him
up around nine. I’m off to my sister’s tomorrow, for a family thing. Her grandkids will be there. Matt will love
it. You can finish that painting.”
With that Grace turned on her heel, and
moving like a woman half her age trotted out the door. Libby looked down the hall to where she could hear water splashing,
as Matt washed his hands. She looked at the unfinished painting taking shape on the easel. “We’ll make it Matty,”
she whispered. “We’ll be fine.”
No matter what happened, no matter how
hard it was to make ends meet, the little boy down that hall was all Libby needed. He was her life, her everything and she
would raise him the best way she knew how. He should be so lucky. He didn’t know what he was missing. Even with a stack
of unpaid bills on the fridge, even though she didn’t know where the money would come from, she wouldn’t trade
her son for all the money in the world. Norm and Tom could both go to hell.
She hugged herself and the old worry came
niggling back into her mind. What if Matt was not really Norm’s?
She remembered how much she wanted him,
and seeing him at Marilee's door was more than she could bear. Marilee was away at the time, and instead of giving him the
message she had been sent to give, she dressed herself in her most alluring outfit, and sidled out of the white Porsche, knowing
he was watching her.
He could never refuse a woman. It was common
knowledge on all the tabloids, and also the joke amongst her friends. Some were even counting the times they had stayed with
him. Lilibelle had a chain designed like a cowboy’s belt but in gold, and added another diamond each time she claimed
she had spent the night with Tom. Everybody knew Lilibelle liked diamonds more than men, but it was no big issue. Others had
told her the same too.
She knew exactly what he wanted and how.
She saw the black Porsche pull up, and drove up alongside it and bent forward to open the door.
"It is dinner Honey Pie,' she cooed, ‘Marilee has asked me to provide for your every need, and baby, I have
planned exactly that."
Tom did not even remember he had a meeting
with Marilee, seeing the promise Libby was offering, and never said a word, as he clutch spun the Porsche around fast and
headed for the shack. That was the only night she had had with him, but she had also been with Norm who was her husband then,
and Matt was born and Norm had claimed her, as now Tom had disappeared. She wondered whether she had really been fair to Norm
when she married him for the sake of their child. Should she have waited and had him alone like so many other women have done?
"Mummy, Are you alright?' and Matt was
standing there tugging at her hand.
With a sigh, she bent down and put her
arms around him breathing in his freshly washed softness and feeling the warmth as he put his arms around her too. They stayed
like that for a short while, rocking gently, each finding consolation in the warmth of the others love.
He was the first to break away, and he
looked at her, his tiny little boy eyes, so warm and loving, that she shivered with a sense of precognition that whatever
was happening, she was also part of the stream and so was he, and they could only ride along as they were doing, having each
other was only temporary. She knew that, as she rocked herself closer to him for a final touch, and stood up. She wondered
what he would do to her next and how she would manage.
She knew one thing....Norm would never
get Matt. Never!!!!! She also wondered what he wanted with the boy he had so
little time for.
Promptly at nine, the next morning there
was knock on the door. It was, of course, Grace. She was right on time. You could set your watch, by that woman, thought Libby,
as she paddled to the door in a pair of fluffy pink slippers.
“Did I get you up?” Grace was
smiling, but Libby knew she was joking anyway.
“Not really,” she giggled,
“Matty got me up at six-thirty. Apparently he heard us talking yesterday. He’s been ready to go since seven.”
“Oh, dear me!.” Grace walked
over to the kitchen sink and turned the water on. “Not much gets by that little fella does it?”
“No it doesn’t. What are you
“I’ll just wash up these few
dishes for you while I wait for Matty, dear.”
“Matty’s ready, I’m surprised
he’s not pulling you out the door already, he’s so excited, and you don’t have to do that, Grace.”
Grace was tucking a dish towel into the
top of her white slacks to act as a makeshift apron. “I don’t mind,” she chuckled. “We don’t
have to catch the bus for another forty-five minutes.”
It was always the same with Grace. She
could never get enough of helping people out. She was always doing dishes or sweeping the floor, or scrubbing up the kitchen,
for Libby and Matt. Her family was grown and gone. Her husband of forty years had passed away suddenly a few years ago and
last year, she had been required to take a mandatory retirement from the plant where she had worked for more than thirty years.
All those things combined, left Grace with lot of time on her hands. Time she used to do good deeds for everyone in the building,
but Libby was right across the hall, so she reaped the most benefit.
Grace was like a grandmother to Matt. Her
own grandchildren all lived half a continent away, so she seldom saw them. Matt and Libby were right there, and she had adopted
them as family. When her oldest son had last come to visit, she had introduced Libby as the daughter she never had.
When Grace’s Son thanked Libby privately
for taking care of his mother, she said, “Nobody needs to take care of your mother. She takes care of everyone in the
Grace was finishing up the last of the
dishes, when Libby stepped up behind her and gave her a big bear hug. “My check didn’t come in the mail this morning,”
Grace knew what was coming next, but she
didn’t mind. “How much do you need dear?”
“It’s just till the check,
from Norm, comes. I need to pay the power bill. They’re threatening to shut us off.”
“Give it to me. I’ll take care
of it for you. Pay me back when you can. Oh, and bring me my purse there on the table. I need you to do me a favour.”
Libby fetched the purse. Grace poked around
in it for a minute, before pulling out an instant lottery ticket. It was already scratched off. She handed it to Libby. “If
you’ll take this down to the market and check it for me, I’ll split anything I’ve won with you. I can never
figure these tickets out.”
Libby looked at the ticket. It was a hundred
dollar winner, but she kept quiet. She knew it was Grace’s way of giving her some badly needed cash, without making
it seem like charity. She stuffed the ticket into her own purse just as Matt came bursting out of his bedroom.
“Auntie Grace, Auntie Grace, I’m
ready to go. I got clean underwear on and I am ready.” He grabbed Grace's hand and began dragging her toward the door.
Laughing so hard she could hardly speak,
Grace tried to appear stern, “You have to say goodbye to Mommy first.”
“Oh sure, Bye Mommy.” Re replied.
His face breaking into smiles.
“Libby was laughing too. “Be
good for Auntie Grace, or she won’t take you again.”
“I will, Mommy. Can we go now, Auntie
Grace grabbed he purse, “Yes we can
go now. Libby Dear, we’ll see you around eight this evening, I expect.”
As she watched them walk out the door,
Libby smiled to herself. No I know you Grace. I’ll see you promptly at eight, she thought.
The painting was waiting exactly as she
had left it the previous afternoon. She spent most of the day painting, not stopping for lunch. By three the painting was
nearly finished and by five it was a work of art. This is the best one I’ve ever done, she thought, gazing at the picture
of Matt, standing hand in hand with Grace in field of trees and flowers. “I wish I didn’t have to sell this,”
she mused out loud.
“You don’t,” rumbled
a masculine voice from behind her. “You could give it to me.”
Before she spun to face him she recognized
Norm's voice. Even when he spoke it had a melodic ring to it. “Norm? What, what are you doing here?”
“I have to leave the country for
a while,” he said. “I was hoping you’d let me see Matty, before I go.”
“He’s not here,” snapped
Libby, fixing him with an acrimonious stare.
“Oh . . . Can I wait?”
“No. He won’t be home for hours.”
Libby was surprised at the anger in her voice.
“Look,” said Norm timidly,
“That wasn’t my only reason for coming. I think . . . No; I know I owe you a big apology.”
“You think so?” her eyes were
flashing with indignant rage.
“I guess I can’t expect you
to make this easy for me,” he continued, “but please just listen.”
“I’m listening!” Libby
couldn’t believe how angry she was feeling.
“I made a big mistake, Lib. I left
it up to my people to see that you and Matt were looked after. I thought I could trust them, but I found out the other day
that I was wrong.
They treated you, like just another bill
that had to be paid. I didn’t know the checks weren’t coming regularly, and I didn’t know you were living
in a dump like this, so here.” He reached into his pocket, withdrew a check and laid it on the table, face down.
“It’s a check, Lib.”
She left it right where it was lying. “So
then, let me get this straight. You think you can forget about your son for nearly four years, then march right back into
his life and buy our forgiveness with the money that you rightly owed us anyway. I don’t think so, Pal.”
“I never forgot either of you. They
told me you wouldn’t let me see him.”
“Who’s they. What the hell
are you talking about? I never once told anybody that you couldn’t see Matty.” She was so angry now that she was
spitting when she talked.
“My agent, my handlers, my accountant,
all of them, said the same thing. It was a conspiracy to keep the world from
finding out that I had a wife and son. They thought I’d lose my sex symbol status, if the word got out, so they lied
to me. They lied to me Lib.”
“They did?” she was beginning
to calm down a little bit.
“Yes, they did. I’ve laid awake
nights thinking about you two, wondering what Matty’s like, hoping you’d let me see him someday. I only found
out the truth yesterday and I fired them all right there, on the spot.”
Now it was Libby’s turn to say, “Oh!”
Libby had retreated, putting the kitchen
table between them when she saw Norm.
Now he pushed the check across to her side
of the table. “Look Lib, I have to catch a plane for Australia at seven-thirty tonight, but I’ll call you when
I get back. Would that be alright?”
”No strings attached” he said,
“I promise. Just think about it, and I’ll call. Now I have got to go, or I’ll miss my flight. Please believe
me when I say, ‘I’m sorry.’”
He was out the door before she could speak.
Grabbing the painting, she ran after him, down four flights of stairs, catching him just before he made it to the waiting
“Here,” she said, thrusting
the still wet painting at him. “You can have it. I have the boy and you can have his image. I give it to you."
Norm looked at her carefully. 'What's up
Old Girl?" He asked with a touch of the old affection.
It was then that she chose to collapse