Portrait, Chapter 7

Small Portrait .jpg
by Leslie Moore

Chapter Seven

Matt skewed my whole world in one fell swoop. When he told me he was worth a half a billion dollars I didn’t know what to do or say.

This world is all supposed to make sense, right? I mean, do all fairy tales deserve a happily ever after? I don’t know. No, really. I do know my world stopped that day.

I have no concept of what a half a billion dollars is. If you live in New York you hear about people who have millions or billions of dollars. But, my income is less than a hundred thousand dollars a year and I save my paperclips. I eat leftovers. I put the cork back in wine.

What are you supposed to do when all your dreams suddenly can be fulfilled? When every thing is within your grasp? I never wanted to be rich. Sure, back when I was five I wanted to be magically changed into a girl and have parents that loved me. But, you don’t need millions of dollars to be loved.

When I was little, I had this reoccurring dream. It was where I fell into a large postal storage box. Those big green ones that used to sit on city street corners. How I fell in, I don’t know. But, I’d find myself sitting in one and next to me was this cute little girl, so pretty, delicate, and oh so sweet. We’d look at each other and I would change into her. I’d trade places. And then I’d be out of the mailbox and go to her house and become her. And I had this dream a lot. I never told anyone especially my father, the Reverend or my mom, the hand wringer.

But, I never felt abused unless you think about the Reverend being verbally insensitive. Actually, I take that back. I was smacked around a lot. I had a big mouth and spoke my mind. And my parents were so conservative you would have thought we grew up in the dark ages. So when I heard stupid things being said, I spoke up. I guess it was always the wrong time because I got pounded occasionally. But, back then, I thought I deserved that it was what was coming to me for being disrespectful. I hadn't learned that all men of God weren't like Jesus or Gandhi.

But, back to Matt and his thoughts of taking care of the downtrodden. I live in New York and we have homeless people with mental illness and poor people full of hopelessness everywhere. Have you worried about how many hungry kids go to bed without dinner? Or how many fathers and mothers fight over money instead of hugging their kids? Matt wanted to change that.

And Matt wanted to use his money to help fix those problems. It boggled my mind that he could have that much power. I got confused just trying to think about it. Especially when he mentioned that his mother had more than twice that much money and all she did was redecorate her large apartment and ride in a limousine.

But Mrs. Statler viewed money as the gateway to power.

We're all supposed to be happy in this is the modern age where diseases are treatable and technology can solve our problems. But, why is everything always tied up in knots and just a breath away from happening? I think I read it was Marshal McLuhan and McGill University that said we have enough food to feed everyone in the world but there’s a serious problem with distribution.

This is the kind of stuff that bothered me. And when Matt said he had enough money to put a dent in solving childhood hunger and taking care of needy people, I should have been excited.

But something screwed with my head that day and I was sad. Maybe it was visiting the Wicked Witch of Manhatten or hearing her insults. But I had that ashes taste in my mouth and was upset. Even on this sunny day, I felt a chill in my bones. I was shivering when I fell asleep spooning Matt.

Hours later, I was thrashing inside the bed covers. Well, actually I was tangled up and frightened. The same sheets and covers that Lisa, the babe from the art gallery, helped Matt pick out.

Eighteen months ago, when Matt and I met, I turned him down for a date. I said I just wanted to be friends. So for those first six months, Matt and I were just friends. Back then, I told him, actually encouraged him, to actively date others. I smiled when he told me about his women. Secretly, I was insanely jealous and wanted to go around and club them all to death. But I would nod and tell him how happy I was when all I wanted was jump on his bones, kiss his face,

Back then, we were supposed to be friends, just friends. I wanted to keep my distance. But, slowly I was falling in love with him. I wanted him. And after a while, it was all I could think about.

I yearned for the body that Miss Art Gallery was feasting on. I wanted to trade places with her. I even envied her English accent, her trim figure. and her beautiful face. I wanted to be whatever attracted Matt to her. I did like my hair better. Mine was thicker and healthier. Bleaching is not my thing.

We finally started dating and slowly I let him into my life and my world.

But this afternoon, when Matt told me how much he was worth, a strange thing happened. I felt it was the time to say goodbye to our relationship. I never realized he was that rich. I suddenly was suffering from insecurity. I felt I was not worthy of dating Matt anymore.

That same night, I had this terrible nightmare. Someone was chasing me. It was so dark I couldn’t see a face. Everything was hazy. I felt something grabbing at me. Matt was shaking me, assuring me everything was all right as he woke me from my nightmare.

But, even as I woke, it didn’t feel like everything was all right. I was wide awake and scared. I sat there on the edge of the bed and looked out the window and listened to the street noise.

I felt shaken. I had this underlying dread. I’m strong. I’ve persevered through all sorts of nonsense and weathered every shit storm tossed at me. I’ve been snubbed, called names, and shunned. I’ve heard slurs said behind my back. I was teased as a kid. And I lived through all of it and come back strong.

Sure, throw it at me. I’m steel. I’m tough. I can take it. But, in the night when everything is quiet and everyone is asleep, the monsters in my dreams shake me to my core. I feel slithery things on my skin while my feet were frozen in place.

I wasn’t going back to sleep. And sitting there was just stupid. I quietly told Matt I was going to go do some work. He offered to go with me and I told him I was fine.

I got up and put my clothes back on that I wore last night. Then I put on my coat and grabbed my keys. The walk back to the shop is short. The night air felt good. As I passed Mrs. McCarthy’s Flower Shop I looked at her building. It looked twice as big as mine and the lot was immense.

I fantasized about moving the business into the flower shop and hiring a few employees. I wondered what the second floor looked like. And Matt said something about building an addition in the back. I reminded myself to look at it tomorrow and to talk to Agnes McCarthy about where she was moving to in Florida.

I unlocked my side door and there was Mabel staring at me in the shadows of the kitchen light. I turned on the staircase light and we went upstairs to my bedroom. We both hopped on the bed and lay there together. I listened to Mabel’s breathing and had my hand on her heart. As we lay together I closed my eyes and fell back to sleep.

I woke when Matt climbed into bed with the two of us. He held me and when I turned to face him, he smiled. He kissed me softly on my lips and cover my face with gentle kisses.

“I love you, Caroline.”

I cried as I fell asleep.

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This story is 1470 words long.