Calendar Girl:October Book 10By: Audrey Carlan
Silence. That’s what greeted me when I entered Wes’s Malibu home. My home. I don’t know what I expected. Perhaps the thought crossed my mind that the universe would suddenly open up and deliver heaven on Earth in the form of my man safe and sound on American soil, standing in the comfort of our home. Because ultimately, that’s what it was. Our home. Wes had been adamant that I change my way of thinking about what Gin referred to as the Malibu mansion. The alternative, Wes said, would be that we found something new together. I didn’t want that. Truthfully, I’d rather immerse myself in everything that was him. Whole. Unique. Understated. Glorious.
Wes worked hard for everything he’d amassed at such a young age. He wasn’t boastful or greedy. The clean lines, and easygoing décor begged to be sat on and spoke of that mentality. As I walked through the dark, empty rooms, I reconnected with his things, but it had changed. Something was different. I looked around with an analytical eye and surveyed the subtle differences since the last time I’d been here two months ago.
On the mantle above the stone fireplace was a small one-foot-tall statue of a ballet dancer, her long leg extended out and up. Her hands held the leg at the ankle above her head as she balanced on pointed toe. The piece was my mother’s. She’d hoist herself up on her toes, bend back, and show me exactly how a ballerina executed that move. My mother had been a showgirl in Vegas, but before that, she was a dancer, classical and contemporary. I loved watching her move. As she cleaned the house, she’d twirl around to music only she could hear. Her black hair fell to her waist and fluttered around her body like a dark cape. At five years old, I thought my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world, and I loved her like no other. That love was misplaced, but the statue wasn’t. It had pride of place on the mantle, and as much as I wanted to knock it off, let it crash to the ground, I left it there. Had I not wanted to keep it, the item would have been donated. Sometimes memories hurt, even the really beautiful ones.
I turned and surveyed the living room. On an end table was a framed photograph I recognized. Maddy. It was the day before she started college. I’d followed her around the school like a lost puppy. Mads, on the other hand, skipped, holding my hand, swinging our arms in the process. We went from class to class as she showed me each one of her courses and what the program book said she’d be learning in them. Her happiness was exuberant, and I relished in it, knowing that in that moment, my girl, my baby sis, was going to make something amazing of herself. She already had. I was beyond proud of her. The sky was the limit and nothing would hold her down.
Continuing my journey into the kitchen, I found a collage of images held by magnets to the fridge. Loose photos I’d peeled off the fridge at my tiny apartment were added here. Maddy, Ginelle, Pops. There were also a couple of new ones. Pictures I hadn’t printed. Wes and me. One from dinner, and a selfie we’d taken in bed together that just showed our faces. He must have added them. That was the beginning of it all. I ran my finger over Wes’s smirk. So confident and sexy, holding me close in his bed. My chest tightened, and I rubbed at the ache. Soon. He’d be home soon. I had to have faith. Trust the journey. Now more than ever I needed to believe those words I’d had tattooed on my foot.
Moving into what had become our bedroom, I stopped dead in my tracks, mouth dropping open, eyes wider than dinner plates.
“Holy fucking shit.” I looked in awe at the image that stared back at me. My image.
It was the last portrait Alec had taken of me back in February, standing at the space needle observation deck taking in the view of Seattle. My hair was blowing out behind me in a fan of ebony locks. That day, I’d felt liberated. Free of the burden my father had inadvertently placed on my shoulders and the requirement to be whatever the client needed—all of that gone in that one second of peace. In that moment, I was just Mia, a girl seeing real beauty for the first time in the landscape before her.
I couldn’t believe it. Weston had purchased the most expensive piece Alec had created of me. I mean, in our conversations over the year, I’d finally told him about Alec. Well, not the nitty gritty details, just the basics. I made a point to tell him about the art, how each piece had changed me, allowed me to see life, love, and myself more clearly. We’d been in bed, naked, wrapped around one another when I told him how much I owed Alec for that lesson. How taking his money felt wrong because of what he’d given me, but I’d had no choice.
Pulling out my phone, I scanned the contacts and pressed the call button.