Callie held the slim, cream card in her hand. ‘I’m going to accept’ she thought, grabbing her red pen to scrawl a hurried response. ‘I wasn’t expecting to be invited, but having put so much effort into building a rapport with these people over the past five years it makes sense for me to attend. Who knows, I may even use one of Rob’s venues for my next exhibition, if I can trust Serena not to get involved.’
Callie and Rob had opened the first art gallery together, built it up to be the venue of choice for emerging artists looking to showcase their work. Rob had charisma, a head for business, an address book full of buyer contacts and a good eye for what would sell. Callie had the subject knowledge and artistic talent; along with her graceful looks and easy manner she could make staid businessmen feel that they were mixing with the inner core of the bohemian art world. It had proven to be a winning combination for all.
Rob lapped up their success. He had big plans for galleries in other cities and backers willing to invest. He became impatient with Callie when she would not accompany him to meetings, wear the designer dresses that he suggested would go down well with his financiers. She had told him that she was not an accessory to be polished up and displayed. Serena, his erstwhile secretary, had proven herself to be more than willing to fulfil this role.
The growth of the business had not suited Callie and she had no regrets about selling her share to Rob. It gave her a financial cushion that enabled her to devote more time to the work that she loved. She had moved out of their modern apartment, returning to the makeshift bed in her downtown studio where she could relax and be herself. The work she was now producing was amongst the best she had ever created. She was undecided about allowing Rob to manage her sales, but it probably made good business sense.
On the night of the function she dressed in the plain black sheath that she had worn on countless similar occasions. She felt no need to try to impress; her attendance was a stepping stone to the new life she was creating. She did not plan on staying long.
Serena dressed with care. Her make up and hair were as immaculate as ever yet still she felt dissatisfied. This evening mattered. Rob had not expected Callie to accept their invitation and Serena needed to know that he would not be fazed by her presence. It had surprised Serena that Callie had stepped out of Rob’s life so willingly. He was on his way up in the world and Serena intended to travel with him. She would show him tonight how well she could woo his buyers. They were men after all, just as his backers were.
The gallery was already teeming with people when Callie arrived, but she was recognised immediately and greeted with pleasure. As she sipped her champagne and chatted easily with the other guests she spotted Serena across the room, talking animatedly to whoever would listen to her loud and vivacious chatter. Looking incongruous in her low cut, scarlet gown, split revealingly to the thigh, it was clear that she did not understand that on evenings such as these the artwork took centre stage. Potential buyers would not welcome distractions.
Rob recognised the financial damage that his girlfriend could inflict on this carefully planned event. The art world may at times appear flamboyant and liberated, but it revolved around selling the art, and atmosphere mattered. Tonight, in this setting, the sexy Serena appeared vulgar and crass. The financiers he courted lapped up her flirtatious innuendo, but his buyers responded best to an evening of quiet and tasteful discussion of an artists work.
Rob glanced over at Callie. She had pricked his pride and annoyed him by showing so little admiration of his business acumen. Tonight though, with her understated elegance and quiet, relaxed demeanour she segued perfectly with the exhibition. He thought that he had outgrown her; moved above and beyond the society in which she could comfortably mix; replaced her with a better fit for his new life. Through the clarity of retrospect, the obvious conclusion surfaced: things don’t always turn out as planned.
Written for the weekly Speakeasy challenge at Yeah Write, then shared with Friday Fiction. Click on the buttons to check out these sites.