“The sharks are circling tonight. Some of your opponents for that big to-do at the courthouse want to take some nips at you.”
I followed her glare to the other side of the room. The lead counsel on the Fullerton case was talking closely and stealing looks in our direction.
“Come. Let’s meet Jordan’s manager. The best I’ve ever met.”
She pulled me over towards a tall guy smiling at us in the corner.
“This man is Charlie Putnam, the best damn art manager in the world,” Eleanor exclaimed with a large grin, directing my attention to the tall black man dressed in a dark, well-cut suit. He was about my age. He held out his hand to me.
“Charles, please.” He glanced at Eleanor.
“I’m Katie Jones.” He shook my hand and then moved towards Eleanor.
“Auntie El, please don’t introduce me like that. You know if you say it everyone else will repeat it.” He hugged her tight.
“You’re my favorite nephew, and I’m proud of you,” Eleanor said.
“I’m your only nephew,” he said as he kissed her on both cheeks.
“Where are my students? I need to show them off and get them into a prestigious art school or get them hired. That’s the only reason I invited them to the shark tank.” She looked around and found two teenagers standing uncomfortably amongst the politicians.
“Will you be okay with Charlie, honey?” She emphasized his name with her grin.
Charles took my arm and led me away from Eleanor. “We’ll be fine, Auntie. I’ll help her find Jordan.”
“You know who I am?” I asked.
“We all know who you are. Jordan’s painted you more than others.” Charles enthused. “Except, he won’t sell the paintings of you. It’s obvious how he feels about you.”
How had I not noticed it until just last night?
“You’re his muse. All talented artists need one.” Charles continued. “It’s called ‘Devastation.’ It’s his work from about four years ago. He’s finally willing to part with it. Auntie says the pain has left his soul.”
“Yeah, I got that.” I glanced over at Eleanor with the teenagers.
“Did she voodoo you? She does that. We’re a family of perceptive people. It’s one of her gifts. It drives me nuts. When my wife and I were pregnant, she knew before us.”
Charles had the look of a dad with kids, tired but energetic. He loved them, worried about them. I took a deep breath, the emptiness washed over me like a wave. That feeling would never leave me, the longing to connect about kids, about Emily. It took too much out of me to explain, so I didn’t.
“You have kids?” he asked.
“No. You?” A much easier answer. After this morning, better.
I looked at Charles’ face. If Jordan and I were dating, we’d probably do weekend barbeques, or double dates when they had a babysitter. If. I pushed that out of my head. It was just for this weekend. There would be no future. There couldn’t be.
“Three adorable ones under the age of five. That’s why my better half is home right now. One of them has the flu, which means they will all have the flu by Tuesday. Including Emma, my wife. I’ve been on family exile until she gets it.”
“Is that how it works?”
“Wait until you have kids. You’ll understand my pain.” My heart stopped at the statement, like someone had punched me in the gut.
He glanced over at the door. “I’m sorry, I have to leave you by yourself. One of our potential buyers is here, and I need to sparkle. I would start the viewing here and make your way around the show. Your boy does amazing work.”
“Thank you.” I called after him as he rushed away. It was good, I needed a moment to catch my breath. I was fine but sometimes…
I stared at the painting in front of me. The title, “LA Before.” It was a sunset near the Santa Monica pier. The Ferris wheel was lit up and the joy on people’s faces was infectious. The painting was huge and filled the wall, so many vibrant colors giving a feeling of happiness.
“Hello, Kathryn.” That voice. I knew who it was before I even turned around. “I’ve never seen you out and about in DC before. Are you trying to gather intel before they announce the results?” Cameron Berkshire, my opponent from the Fullerton case, glared at me. It’s funny to me how some lawyers liked to compare penises. My practice spoke for itself. I was a winning appellate lawyer with over twenty important cases under my belt. He had three winning cases, and thinning orangish red hair.