The Cinderella Deal(3)

By: Jennifer Crusie


thought I’d have a show by now, but nobody understands what I’m doing. And even though I almost have enough paintings for a show, I’m not sure what I’m doing is right for who am I now anyway.“

 

Julia sipped her tea. “Ouch. Hot. Blow on yours first. What do you mean, you’re not sure what you’re doing is right? I love your paintings. All those details.”

“Well, that’s it.” Daisy shoved her tea away to lean closer. “I like the details too, but I’ve done them. I think I need to stretch, to try things that are harder for me, but I can’t afford to. I’m building my reputation on primitive narrative paintings; I can’t suddenly become an abstract expressionist.”

Julia made a face. “That’s what you want to do?”

“No.” Daisy shut her eyes, trying to see the paintings she wanted to do, paintings with the emotions in the brushstrokes instead of in the tiny painted details, thick slashes of paint instead of small, rich dots. “I need to work larger. I need—”

The mewling cry that had teased her earlier came again, louder. “That is definitely a cat,” Daisy said, and went to open the window.

The wind exploded in and stirred Daisy’s apartment into even more chaos than usual. Liz rolled to her feet and meowed her annoyance, but Daisy ignored her and leaned out into the storm. Two bright eyes stared up at her from under the bush beneath her window.

“You stay right there,” she told them, and ran for the apartment door.

“Daisy?” Julia called after her, but she let the door bang behind her and ran out into the rain. Whatever it was had vanished, and Daisy got down on her hands and knees in the mud to peer under the bush. A kitten peered back, soaked and mangy and not at all happy to see her. Daisy reached for it and got clawed for her pains. “I’m rescuing you, dummy,” she told it when she’d hauled it out from under the bush and it was squirming against her. “Stop fighting me.”

Once inside, she wrapped the soaked little body in a dish towel while Julia and Liz looked at it with equal distaste.

“It looks like a rat,” Julia said. “I can’t believe it. You rescued a rat.”

Liz hissed, and when Daisy toweled the kitten dry, it hissed too.

“It’s a calico kitten.” Daisy got down on her knees so she could go eye to eye with the towel-wrapped little animal on the table. “You’re okay now.”

The mottled kitten glared at her and screeched its meow with all the melody of a fingernail down a blackboard.

“Just what you needed. Another mouth to feed,” Julia said, and the kitten screeched at her too. “And what a mouth it is.” Julia shot a sympathetic look at Liz. “If you want to come live with me, I understand,”

she told the cat. “I know you’re legally dead, but even you must draw the line at living with a rat.”

Liz glared at the kitten one more time and then curled up under the light and went back to sleep.

“A kitten doesn’t eat much,” Daisy said, and went to get food. She found a can of tuna on the shelf over 

the stove, stuck behind her copy of Grimms’ fairy tales, a jar of alizarin crimson acrylic paint, and her cinnamon. She took down the can and called back to Julia. “Want some tuna?”

“No. I just came over to bring you the cookies, and then I got distracted.” Julia and the kitten looked at each other with equal distaste. “You know, this is not a happy rat.”

“Stop it, Julia.” Daisy dumped the tuna onto a china plate covered with violets, scooped a third of it into a half round of pita bread, and divided the remaining two thirds between Liz’s red cat dish and a yellow Fiestaware saucer. She took the dishes back to her round oak table, dropping Liz’s red bowl in front of her as she went. Liz was so enthusiastic about the tuna, she sat up. Daisy put the yellow saucer in front of the kitten and stopped to admire the violets on her plate next to the complementary color of the Fiestaware. Color and contrast, she thought. Clash. That’s what life is about.

“Daisy,” Julia said. “I know you’re going to freak when I say this, but I can loan you a thousand dollars. I want to loan you a thousand dollars. Please.”

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