Hope swiped the last few strokes onto her latest masterpiece and sat back to admire her work. She was good. She knew it. She just needed someone else to think so too.
A door opened down the hall, letting Hope know her son, Adam, was awake. At four Hope knew Adam’s naps weren’t going to last much longer. She just hoped he would be good while she took time to paint. Working full time during the week left little time for Hope to work on her art, but she wasn’t about to give up. She wouldn’t let another one of her dreams go.
Adam shuffled into the room and curled up on Hope’s lap. She looked down at his raven black hair and bright blue eyes and her heart clenched like it always did. He looked just like his daddy, not that Paul knew anything about Adam.
When Hope found out she was pregnant, Paul was already gone. As her brother’s best friend he regretted seeing her behind Alex’s back. The guilt got too much for him and Paul left town, changed his number, and never looked back.
Hope knew it was for the best. Paul had told her many times he never wanted kids so having one when he was barely 20 years old would have been like a prison sentence. Not for Hope though. She’d always wanted to be a mother. Of course she’d imagined it with the father by her side and when she was older than 17, but she’d done the best she could.
“Can we get ice cream, Mommy?” Adam asked as Hope rubbed his back and played with his hair. They had a trip planned to a local coffee shop that afternoon, one that carried artwork from local artists. Hope wanted to see if they would show some of her pieces, even one, to get her started.
“Yeah, I think we can do that. Why don’t you go get dressed and we’ll get some ice cream after we go by the coffee shop.”
Adam crawled off her lap and padded down the hall to his room.
Hope sorted through the paintings she had set to the side and picked the ones she wanted to show the manager. She’d been to Beans a few times and knew their style and color scheme and Hope wanted to bring in pieces that wouldn’t take away from the atmosphere of the funky, trendy cafe. She slid three canvases into a portfolio and went to get changed out of her painting clothes.
The ride to the Beans was short and Adam chattered away in the backseat, playing I-Spy, asking questions, and counting. When he got in moods like that Hope couldn’t deny how much he was like his father with his inquisitive nature. It was her favorite times with her son when she could remember what Paul was like, how he was, before he left to relieve his conscience.
Hope never knew how her brother didn’t recognize his best friend in his nephew. Alex had asked her many times who the father was but Hope refused to tell him. She was lucky to have him when she was pregnant. Their parents had died in a car accident and Alex took custody of Hope since he was 18 when they died and she was only 15. Alex worked hard to support the two of them and loved Adam like he was his own son. Hope always felt Adam healed some of the pain Alex felt when Paul disappeared and didn’t look back.
He’d definitely healed some of her pain.
Beans was busy when Hope and Adam arrived. Hope went up to the counter and asked for Monica, the manager. They sat at a vacant booth while waiting for Monica to come out to see them.
“Hi, I’m Monica. You must be Hope.”
Hope stood and shook her offered hand. “I am. Thank you so much for meeting me. This is my son, Adam.”
“Hi Adam. How are you?” Monica asked in a friendly voice.
“Do you have ice cream?”
Hope’s cheeks flushed but Monica only laughed. “You know what, we don’t. But we do have cookies. Would you like one?”
Adam’s eyes lit up and they both looked to Hope for an okay. When she nodded, Monica reached her hand out for Adam’s and led him back to the edge of the counter. She went around the edge and slid a chocolate chip cookie into a bag. She handed it back to Adam and they walked back to the table where Hope was.
“What do I owe you?” Hope asked, pulling out her wallet.
Monica waved her hand. “We give cookies away to kids all the time. It’s no big deal. Besides, if he’s eating we can talk for a minute.” She winked and gestured to Hope’s portfolio.
Hope busied herself pulling out the canvases she brought. She set the first against the wall of the booth, propped one up on the table, and held the third. Monica immediately reached for the one Hope was holding and gazed at it lovingly.
“This is stunning. The colors are perfect in here and the design is modern but with a subtle nod toward a more traditional style. This will definitely sell.”
She set the painting down and looked at the other two. “Wow, these are just as good. You said you’ve never had a showing before?”
“No, I’m working full time and, well, don’t have as much time to paint as I’d like.”
Monica nodded in understanding and picked up the other two paintings. “These are beautiful. They compliment the restaurant so well and I love the overall feel of them. You’re very talented.”
“Okay, so how this works is we’ll display them but the sale is on consignment. When they sell, and I have no doubt they will, you will get 85% of the sales price and we keep 15% as a fee. I’m thinking we sell them individually for $600 each or as a complete set for $1500. What do you think?”
Hope nearly passed out hearing those numbers. She’d expected to be offered less than $100 and to think her paintings could sell that well was terrifying and exhilarating.
“I think that sounds amazing.”
“Great,” Monica said, stacking the paintings up. “Give me a minute and I’ll have the paperwork for you to sign.”
Hope grinned like a fool as Monica walked away and was still grinning when she came back and handed over the paperwork. Hope reviewed everything quickly then signed her name on the bottom. She stashed her copy of the paperwork and shook hands with Monica again, thanking her profusely.
Outside, Hope breathed a sigh of relief. If those painting sold she would be in a much better place, and maybe, just maybe she’d be able to do something nice for Alex after all he’d done for her. Things were definitely looking up.
Hope made sure Adam was buckled up and then climbed into her seat and backed out. Before she’d cleared the car next to her, her car stopped and she heard the telltale crunch of a car accident. She hung her head and wondered how in the world she’d been so distracted.
Grabbing her purse and telling Adam to stay put, she climbed out, digging to find her insurance information. A man’s voice apologized, a voice she recognized, a voice she’d never forget.
She looked up at the man behind the voice and her eyes met with ones that matched her son’s. Eyes she hadn’t seen in almost five years. Eyes she never thought she’d see again.
“Paul,” she whispered.