eling, but she cared little for her appearance. Men or women seldom
approached her because she exuded no sexual signals whatsoever; she
was aloof and unapproachable.
When Claire entered the gallery, a waif-thin gallery intern with angelic cheeks poured her a half glass of chardonnay before turning back
to her Instagram. Nicola worked in a pop-art style. Claire walked past
a piece that was simply a number of emojis lined up like you might see
them displayed on a phone, but the emojis were all ways of being killed—
an electrocution emoji, an emoji of a slit wrist, a bloody bathtub, and so
on. Next to it was a painting of various phallic-looking vegetable emojis
and sex acts. The title of the show was “Desperately Needed Emojis.” It
was clearly a hit. His paintings would hang in the lobbies of tech start-ups around the city.
Claire knew Nicola as a gallery-mate and considered him a friend.
Sometimes they would have a coffee in Central Park, and Nicola would
tell her all the gossip about other artists, but now that she thought of
it, it had been a year since they had even done that. Tonight, he was
the star. He was drinking an enormous smoothie, surrounded by some
other artists and a couple of art critics she recognized. It wasn’t like her,
but she felt a moment of hesitation, like she didn’t belong there, couldn’t
approach her own gallery mate. But when she approached, everything
seemed fine. Nicola hugged her. They exchanged exaggerated cheek
kisses. Some small talk slipped straight from their mouths into oblivion.
Then, as Claire walked away from the group, she heard Nicola say to one
of the critics, “Yes, his granddaughter,” and she felt a static charge pass
through her chest, a tingle in the back of her skull.
The room now had too much input, too much information. She instinctively searched for an escape and slipped into the back office, where
she found Susan McCaskill, the gallery owner, one of her grandfather’s
former students. They might have been lovers. Everyone was lovers back
then. Susan was older now, wore her gray hair wrapped in a fantastic
twist on the top of her head and her glasses hung from a silver chain
around her neck. They hugged and sat down. Claire felt better in Susan’s
presence, her motherly calm.
“How are the pieces coming?”
Claire just shrugged and gave a half smile.
Susan tucked some hair behind Claire’s ear. “Be sure to do some more
smaller pieces this time. We need to hit all the price points. I know it’s
tedious, but that’s the business. And please talk to Nicola about getting