brown wooden figurine on white table

Gainsay

Twenty-four-year-old Melanie Frances was a firecracker vibrant, pretty and feisty. She’d always been a force to be reckoned with. Today was no exception. Melanie along with a large crowd of followers was sitting in anticipation until the town council addressed her issue. They were balking about accepting her latest artwork, calling it too Avant guard for their charming homey laid-back town. This was the last meeting before finalizing the deal.

She’d been asked to sculpt two figurines to grace each end of the garden that ran down the center of the main thoroughfare including a fountain that would be surrounded by a grouping of perennials and she’d agreed to change her designs on three separate occasions in compliance with their suggestions even though she suspected they wouldn’t agree with her final entries either. Her sculptured figurines were elegantly and discreetly robed in togas and still, they disagreed.

As she scanned the room, she noted two new individuals present that she knew by reputation; one was a fellow sculptor from a nearby town and her manager and she suspected someone had lobbied hard for Amanda Bines sculptures or she wouldn’t have been invited. She sighed. The light dawned when she swivelled her head and found Greg Morrow staring at her before quickly averting his gaze.

Greg sat on the council and they’d dated for several months but she’d stepped back and knew he harboured ill will since he’d felt he had lost status. He’d often said having her on his arm improved his position and reputation and was part of the reason she’d suggested the end to their liaison such as it was. He must have felt her eyes still on him because he instantly turned looked shamefaced. “Aha!” she remarked under her breath. The seeds of discontent came from that direction. She could counter that.

The head of the council indicated that the next discussion on the docket was the sculptures that would eventually grace their beloved town. He stated the city’s case and asked reluctantly for comments and suggestions. Grace Wither quickly stood and handed out photos of her submissions to the audience. Even Melanie was curious and when handed three separate photos, smiled. Well well! They were uncannily close to the originals she’d submitted for consideration. Most interesting, she thought. Waiting patiently for Grace Wither to finish her presentation, Melanie felt several eyes flash in her direction. They were all in for a surprise.

Standing tall, she peered at the gathered crowd before beginning her speech. “I’m sure I speak for Grace Withers,” she nodded in her direction before continuing, “when I express our combined gratitude at this wonderful opportunity at representing our fair town and its inhabitants in such a delightful and memorable way.” She once again paused momentarily before adding, “After much thoughtful consideration, I respectfully withdraw my sculptures for consideration. You certainly can’t go wrong in choosing Grace’s work, which you’ll find is exquisite and would certainly add elegance and style to our fair town. The startling looks and immediate silence in which a pin could be heard dropping continued unabated.

The Mayor guffawed at a loss for words, “Um, Miss Frances, I’m at a loss, I don’t know what to say. I – we certainly didn’t expect this result…and you’ve left us scrambling…may I ask why you have suddenly changed your mind?”

“With all due respect your Mayor Thompson, the very fact that Grace Wither has been asked to present her entry for the honoured event suggests otherwise especially at this late date! Also, I feel my workload is too heavy at this time to consider taking on another project. Thank you once again for your consideration.” With that, she stood, turned and walked out of the town hall. As she left she heard a hum of voices that quickly escalated into arguments. So be it, she thought. Have at her!

Head held high, she strolled homeward. Since she only lived three blocks from the town center, and it was a lovely evening, she had decided to walk rather than take her car. Hearing hurried footsteps behind her, she turned and looked over her shoulder to see Damian Rogers hurrying her way. As soon as he caught her eye he called out, “Miss Frances, can I have a word?”

She stopped turned and said, “Surely, Mr. Rogers. How can I help you?”

“Where are you headed? May I walk with you?”

“I’m heading home actually, and sure, your welcome to tag along.”

“You know who I am,” he stated in some surprise.

“Who doesn’t? Your reputation precedes you; as part of the art world, I’ve heard some positive things about you and how you stand by your clients.”

“Thank you, that’s most kind.”

“No, it’s the truth,” she remarked without hesitation.

“May I ask why you withdrew your work?”

“Who can gainsay the efficiency or otherwise of the city council? I could explain, but it would fall on deaf ears in there, she nodded toward city hall, and more than likely sound like sour grapes to you, so I don’t feel the need to justify my actions.”

“I’m only asking because my client is concerned and if your reasons for pulling your work are valid, she will do the same. She’s not interested in usurping something she feels should righty belong to the resident artist and she’s not willing to stand with a city counsel that doesn’t respect its own artist which in all fairness they should. We had no idea it was a last-minute invitation or that she was entering on the tail end of this which is insulting to both of you. She was wondering why this is happening and frankly, so would I. We wouldn’t have entertained the idea at all had we known the true circumstances.”

“That’s very gracious of both of you. Please don’t let the situation dictate your client’s success. It truly is a delightful honour and I can think of nothing more special.”

“All the more reason the honour should belong to you.”

They’d arrived at her home and she asked, “Care for a drink? I have scotch, brandy and wine along with coffee or tea.”

“That sounds wonderful, and yes, I’d love some brandy.”

Melanie unlocked her door and entered and as he followed, he was delighted with the elegant modern edgy decorations that flowed beautifully throughout the space. “Remarkable. Really beautiful!” His appreciation was clearly evident in his expression and voice.

“Thank you. It’s home.”

He settled on the chesterfield while she poured a brandy for him and opened a bottle of wine for herself. Opting for a wing-back chair facing him, she relaxed into the chair.

“Thank you, this is good brandy,” Damian remarked appreciatively.

“I don’t indulge often, but I know what I like.”

“To be frank so do I. And I like and admire your style. I’ve heard tell your feisty forthright and straight and that your artwork which I’ve often admired is brilliant. Why don’t you have a representative?”

“Honestly, I’ve never required one. I know what I’m worth and I expect to be paid accordingly. I don’t require someone to handle me if you will.”

They visited for over two hours before Damian realized the time and said, “I really should go. I’ve enjoyed your company and I”m pleased you invited me to join you.”

Standing, Melanie quietly stated, “I’m glad I did too. Your good company. I like intelligent witty men.”

At the door, he said, “I’ll tell my client to withdraw. I know she doesn’t want to be involved in this and I don’t want her involved either. You both deserve better.” He paused, “On another note, I’d like to see you again. You intrigue me and I’d love to get to know you, see where or if this leads anywhere.

“I agree so we’re on the same page. Let’s do this.” They quickly exchanged phone numbers and he promised he’d phone her within a couple of days for a real date. She smiled as she watched him walk away. Yeah, surprises could be a good thing and this was one of them she decided as she closed the door, the lingering smile still playing upon her lips. Looks like city hall had done her a favour after all.

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