Charleston, South Carolina
Ava DeMeritt say in the bay window as her mother flew around the room. She dipped her brush into the red, swirled it around with orange, trying the capture the sunset on canvas.
“You are not to see that boy again? You hear?”
Her lips quirked, her nose twitched. Her brushstrokes were feather light.
“Your mother’s right,” came her father’s faltering voice.
Ida huffed. “Oh don’t listen to this lout. If it wasn’t for you and those God forsaken cards,” she said, waving her hand at the empty room.
Ava glanced at window, contemplating hurtling herself from it. She focused on the fleeing sun.
“And for God’s sake stop that infernal painting! No man will love you–”
“But Joshua thinks-”
“I said a MAN, not a dreamer.”
“What is a man without his dreams,” Ava wondered. “Is that not what separates us from the lower beasts?”
She closed her eyes against her mother’s fury, fists, shouts. She winced as her mother ripped the unfinished piece from the easel and flung it against the wall.
“Ida, Ida stop, she didn’t mean it!” Her father said. He latched on to the fiery sprite, ushering her to a corner.
The two shuffled out of the room, leaving Ava to her now ruined painting.
“Miss Ava?” Cece asked. “Is you ok?”
CeCe walked to the wall and picked up the painting. “Did you see that boy again?”
“I done told you Mrs. DeMeritt wasn’t gonna like it.” CeCe shook her finger at Ava, then cracked a grin. “Did he kiss ya?”
“I kissed him!”
“Atta girl!” CeCe laughed and limped over with the painting. “I’m ‘fraid she did a number on this one baby.”
She looked down at Ava.
“Mama wants me to marry a bank account.”
“Ain’t you folks got enough money?”
Ava looked CeCe in the eye. “Daddy lost at cards again.” She gripped the brush harder. “Mama says it’s the Devil’s agent.”
CeCe pretended to faint. “Lord help me Jesus. This might be the first time I agreed with that woman.”
She looked at the painting. “Why don’t you sell your paintings?”
Ava snorted. “I can only copy, not do original paintings. Originality sells.”
“I noticed.” CeCe looked around, then rushed to close the door. She pulled out a dollar bill.
Ava put her hands up. “No, no that’s your’s.”
“Damn right baby. Take a look at this.”
Ava took it gently. “Why? It’s a dollar bill.”
CeCe grinned. “Is it now?”
“Well it looks like any other dollar bill I’ve ever seen.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out one.
She held them both up to the dying sunlight, wishing they hadn’t had to sell those lamps. CeCe waited.
“Son of a gun,” Ava said. “Is this funny money?”
CeCe nodded. “It sure don’t grow on trees. I got a business proposition for you, if you want to.”
Ava shoved the dollar bill back at her. “CeCe you could go to jail for this. The government doesn’t like to be beaten at their own game you know.”
“Guess you want to marry that bank account, huh baby?”
Ava pouted and inspected her bill again.
“I got a brother, I bet he’d teach you. But you better not forget me.” CeCe pointed at the empty room. “I know I’m next.”
Ava picked up her painting and nodded at CeCe.
“I’m all ears.”