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Wednesday, July 1st, day 31
To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are in Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The only thing stopping me from fainting like my mother had was the icky hospital ice water I had accidentally spilled down my shirt.
Steven had just gotten down on one knee and asked Monica to marry him.
“Steven,” Monica gasped, a hand at her throat. The life had returned to his eyes, and his face was for once radiant. “Steven, I don’t know what to say. Yes. Yes, of course I’ll marry you.” She threw her arms around him and my father whooped with joy. My mother woke up and, fanning her face with her hands, rushed forward to embrace her eldest child.
I was the only one not celebrating. This was yet another big change that I really didn’t need. Monica was too weak to get married. What was wrong with everyone? I glared at Steven, fighting tears.
How dare he take my sister away from me?
“What’s wrong, Mary?” Monica paused in flaunting her new ring to look at me.
“Nothing. Congratulations.” My tone was flat. I yanked my hair out of its ponytail and redid it so tight it hurt. Lee came in, saying it was time for her to go through a few tests if she wanted to go home today.
“Wait—what’s going on?” he looked at each of us, eyebrows raised.
“Steven just proposed!” Monica squealed. She and Lee had become good friends during her hospital time.
“Good job, man.” He patted him on the back. “But come on, Monica, the clock’s ticking.”
“Yeah, we should probably get going too,” said Mom, giving Monica and Steven a hug. “Hanna and I have some business to attend.”
I perked up. At least one of each of the celebrities the kids asked for were able to make it sometime during the week, and some even all three. Now I just had to pick a date, plan some activities, and basically get on with my duties being a hostess.
At home, I reviewed my notes. The dates that worked mutually were Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Saturday obviously wouldn’t work, and Friday was Bethany Felton Memorial Day, so I decided on Sunday at one o’clock. .that would give plenty of time for church to get over with, and for the kids to ready themselves up after. This was mostly for the teenage girls. I didn’t think the boys would care too much.
Mom and I called everyone, and they said it was great and they’d be there, and then I left my mom to make airplane arrangements for those who lived in different countries. Dan Cae is a very isolated little country, closer to Tonga than Peru, and a lot of people never would have heard of it had it not been for the Christian celebrities that lived here.
Dusting on a bit of makeup, I climbed into the back of the limo for my interview with Henrietta St George, the reporter from CKR News that I met on my first date with Julius. That seemed such a long time ago. The drive to Tiffany’s, our pre-decided meeting spot, was a long one to make with a mind as heavy as mine. But then again, when hadn’t something been on my mind lately? I wasn’t used to thinking this much, and I didn’t like all the self-reflection I had been doing. A saying that Adam made up was “You can’t see your own face without a mirror, and you can’t see your own soul without something to reflect upon.” He had made that up when he was nine and I was eight, and we were playing by the river trying to catch minnows. I liked how funny my reflection was whenever the water rippled, which was all the time. Adam was in a deep mood, as he normally was, and I laughed at him when he told me that conundrum. In my little white cotton dress that I thought made me look like the farmer’s daughter from those old movies, I jumped in and said, “Now I really don’t have anything to reflect upon!”
I squealed when Adam dove in after me. “Don’t be ridiculous, Hammy. You know what I mean.” He caught my waist and spun me around himself while he was still, a move we were practicing.
“Adam! Put me down!” I giggled. “You’re going to drop me.”
He let me fall into the water with a big splash. “As you wish, fair sister.”
Screaming with laughter, I tripped him and watched with glee as he fell in beside me. we wrestled in the water until we were completely soaked from head to toe, and shivering with the wind that had just picked up. From the house, Mom called us in for lunch. Normally she let the housemaid do it, except when she was in an especially good mood. I jumped on his shoulders and piggy-backed up the hill to our mansion, pretending we were a horse and jockey in a race. I was afraid of our real horses, but playing pretend was just fine by me.
With one sniff Adam was able to tell that “Mom made brownies!” He dumped me in a heap and then grabbed my hand to pull me up the stairs. Mom was livid when we dripped all over her floor, and we were sent to bathe and change, but we could hardly stop giggling all the way. Monica was out with her snobby boyfriend at the time, so we got to eat as many as we wanted, before lunch, which were crepes with Quebecois syrup that our friend’s uncle had sent her. halfway through my third brownie, I thought that maybe Christopher would want one too, so we called him and sent Esther, one of the chauffeurs, to get him. dad came up from the library, wondering what all the noise was about. Adam told him we were having a brownie party, and my mom smiled and said there was still some left for him. Christopher and I had a fight over the last one, and my mother the lawyer said we were to split it or give it to Adam. Since sharing was a foreign concept to us, we gave it away. Mom insisted we drink three glasses of milk each to stave off the effects of the brownies, and then made us run twice around the house to get rid of our excess energy.
I smiled tearfully at the memory, but the tears held off. Looking through Adam’s case folder the other day had made me realize something: tears were not going to bring my brother back, but memories didn’t have to be a bad thing. The thing I had opened to was a picture of his mutilated body, and with a gasp I slammed the file shut. But then I opened it again and stared at it, thinking That is not my brother, that is not my brother over and over until I could breathe normally again. the thing that everyone loved about him was that he was not his body, he was his soul, and nothing could change that. death only made it more evident.
Pulling into Tiffany’s, I stepped out with my head held high when Carl opened the door for me. they matched me step-for-step as I strode in, gave my name, and sat at our reserved table. Henrietta still had ten minutes before she was supposed to show, so I took the time to compose myself. This was just another of the millions of interviews I had gone through. I knew the basic questions by heart. “What inspired you to be a model? Do you consider yourself a supermodel-on-the-rise like everyone says you are? How do you stay so grounded amongst all this fame? What was your first job?” and now the new “Even with everything that’s going on, are you still going to model for Iris International?” I would make sure they knew about the celebrity party at the hospital. Maybe somebody would even cover it. the kids would be so happy to see their own faces on TV. I remembered how excited I was when I saw my picture on the wall at Wal-Mart.
I was able to run through my answers three times before Henrietta and her crew showed up. We greeted each other, and then ordered our food, and while we were eating we talked about how I was dealing with my life so far, and she expressed her deepest sympathies, and she asked me if I was still with Julius Lorenzo, and then after the waitress cleared our plates and took our dessert order, we got down to business.
“We’re here live at Tiffany’s Cuisine with supermodel-on-the-rise Hanuara Fei-Ling, about to ask her the questions that define her and make her who she is. I’m Henrietta St George, CKR News.”
It was so predictable I was bored. I would take Henrietta over Lila any day, but a little originality would have been nice too. I found myself flipping my hair and batting my eyes at the camera more and more, in an effort to keep things interesting. I had never even heard of CKR, and I wondered just how many people were watching.
Finally we got to the question I had been waiting for: “What with all the fame you have acquired during your reign as the princess of modeling, it must be hard to keep all your priorities straight. Tell us, how exactly do you do it?”
I smiled graciously. “Well, one thing I can always turn to is running. I’m sure most of you have noticed me jogging by at some point in the day. I also like to read, mostly books of my father’s. But with my sister in the hospital, I began to get a new feel for what it’s actually like there. Especially for the kids that have to be there all the time. so, I decided to throw a little party there, just to give them something to remember. I’ve invited all my friends, and the kids invited the people that they’d really like to meet, and its going to be a blast. There is something just so magical about making a terminally sick child smile, and making dreams come true helps you to make your own dreams a bit more realistic.”
Henrietta smiled at me. “And that closes our interview with this amazing young woman, Hanuara Fei-Ling. Once again, I’m Henrietta St George, and this is CKR News.”
“Say, Henrietta, I was thinking. Would you like to cover my hospital party? I think the kids would really like that.” I smiled as persuasively as I could.
“Really, I’d love to, Hanuara, but I have to do a protest in Australia. But, I can ask around and see if one of my friends wants to. I’ll let you know by Saturday.” Our dessert came, and that was it for talking between us. I savoured my cherry cheesecake with closed-eyed satisfaction, eating it one bite at a time.
Lee took me to theInternational Art Show in a suburb of the town of Riley. I didn’t even try to guess at what he was planning on teaching me here. we took my limo, in an effort to appear more glamorous. It was almost as good as the red carpet when everyone parted to let us pass, whispering among themselves. Lee looked just a little bit embarrassed, but he still took it like a pro. We passed exhibitions of statues, paintings, fancy urns, and just about any thing else you could imagine on our way to the main auditorium where the auction was being held. “Let me guess,” I said as we took our seats at the front, “Art is money, art can make you rich.”
He scowled. “No. that’s an awful thing to think. What do you think I am, a communist?”
“Are you planning on buying something?” I asked.
“Maybe. Depends what they’re selling. How about you?”
“No. I don’t have any money, remember?” my cards would be renewed at the end of the week, and I was counting down the days. my interests would probably grow sizeably by now.
The lights dimmed, all conversation fading away, and a woman in a tweed dress mounted the stage. There was no introduction or big speech; she just motioned for five men in suits to bring five large paintings to the stage. I gasped when I saw them. “These originals by Renadio Cabliana are part of a seven piece set, but the first and last have already been claimed, so these are the only ones left. We have Discovery, One And The Same, In My Dreams Forever, The Fruitful Tree, and The Curse of the Devil. Just in case anyone cares, the missing pieces are First Love and The Flaming Sword. Now, do I hear four-hundred grand? Do I hear four-fifty? Five-hundred. Come on, people, these are priceless, and the only Renadio Cabliana paintings we have left in the world.” The woman sounded bored. “Great, do I hear five-fifty?”
Breaking out of my stupor, I raised my hand. Soon it was a war between me and a young woman in a blue summer dress. Back and forth we went, she looking determined as to chop off my head to win. Finally, I just called out, “Two-point-five million!’ just to be done with it.
The woman’s jaw dropped, and so did her hand, in utter defeat. Everyone turned to look at me, and Lee looked very amused. The auctioneer quickly regained her composure and said, “Going once, going twice, sold! To the lady in the front row, Miss Hanuara Fei-Ling!” the men cleared the paintings, and new pieces were brought onto the stage. Amid applause, Lee and I left. A short, dimly lit hallway led backstage.
“Art is power,” he whispered to me. “Art gives you the power to destroy or create, influence major changes in the world. It can make you cry, or laugh. The great masters have the power to manipulate you in whatever way they want.”
It was only after the claiming paintings and walking back down to the main rooms did I notice the young woman in the blue summer dress talking on the phone, just outside a room labelled 743. “I’m sorry, honey,” she was saying. “I tried as best as I could. But you know those rich people. Money gets them anything they want, and there isn’t a thing anyone can do about it.” I froze. Lee, with the little cart to carry the paintings, almost ran into me. catching sight of me watching her, the woman glared and then strode away. I watched her for a split second, and then I was chasing her.
“Ma’am! Ma’am!” Grabbing her arm to stop her, I ignored the withering look she shot me.
“What can I help you with?” she asked coolly.
I motioned to the cart. “Here. take them. they’re yours.”
She shook her head. “No, they’re not. You got them, you were able to pay for them. congratulations, by the way.” her smile was genuine. Apparently, just the fact that I was willing to give them up for her was enough to kill hard feelings. She was a good person, which was exactly why I could not take these.
“Ma’am, I insist. These are priceless, so it doesn’t matter what I paid for them. consider it a gift from a sister.” I smiled apologetically and motioned for Lee to hand her the cart handle.
“Oh,” she said. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Then don’t say anything. have a nice day!” striding like I had to get somewhere, I left her staring at the rolling cart. Outside, I smiled at Lee.
“Art,” I said, “gives you the power to make dreams come true.”
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