Chapter Thirty-Three

I’ve got a bone to pick with Fate.

Fate likes to portray itself as a genial character, a helpful soul, a guardian angel who will be there for you to lean on when the going gets tough. Don’t know what to do? Leave it up to Fate to decide. Life in a mess? Let Fate sort it out – he knows best. Single and heartbroken? Fate’s got something wonderful in store for you.

No wonder everyone is keen to put their feet up and let Fate look after them. It’s rather like your granddad. Or a very hands-on organised person, sort of your own personal PA.

Only in my experience Fate is no such thing, and the same goes for his little brother, Destiny. Quite frankly they’ve made a real mess of things where I’m concerned. So from now on they can bugger off and stop meddling. I’m taking charge of my own life, and when it comes to love, Fate can mind its own bloody business.

Besides, like I said, I’m not wasting any more time thinking about that love stuff. That was then and this is now.

So, as Monday morning rolls around, it’s a whole new me who wakes up before her alarm, puts on clothes that are hanging up and sets off for work in plenty of time.

‘That was then and this is now,’ I repeat to myself under my breath as I stride along the street. ‘That was then and this is now.’ Robyn says I have to keep repeating it to myself as an affirmation.

Robyn’s big on affirmations. When I first moved in, I would find them stuck on bits of paper all over the apartment and hear her wandering around the house saying them. I have to admit I’d thought she was a bit batty. ‘It’s about replacing a negative thought with a positive one,’ she’d explained. ‘So, for example, if you’re worried about something and want to improve it, you say an affirmation.’

‘I’m worried about this Visa bill,’ I’d replied, waving my red, overdue statement at her. ‘Got an affirmation for that?’

Closing her eyes, she’d pinched her nose as if in deep concentration for a few moments, then opening her eyes, replied solemnly, ‘“I pay my bills with love as I know abundance flows freely through me.”’

Suffice to say, I got charged a late fee and a ton of interest.

But that was then and this is now, and although I still have my reservations, and I still think Robyn’s a bit batty, the way I see it a few affirmations can’t hurt. It’s all part of my determination to turn over a new leaf, a blank page, plus anything else that I can get my hands on, and focus on what’s important.

Like Kate and Jeff. His operation is scheduled for this afternoon and so I’ve arranged to work a half-day and meet Kate at the hospital.

‘No, I’m fine, honestly,’ she’d protested. ‘You don’t need to come.’

For the first time in my life I’d stood up to my sister. ‘Tough – I’m coming.’

First, though, I need to deal with the fallout from my meeting with Artsy, I muse, reaching the gallery and pushing open the glass doors. I’m bracing myself for Magda’s inquisition. Apart from the quick telephone call afterwards, we haven’t spoken, and if I know her, she’ll want all the details. And who can blame her? If he agrees to exhibit, the gallery is saved. And if he doesn’t . . .?

Nerves twist in the pit of my stomach. I don’t even want to think about it. Not yet, anyway.

Stepping inside the gallery, I wait for the usual cry of ‘Loozy!’ and for Magda to appear. Only she doesn’t. I glance around the gallery. It’s empty. Valentino scampers out from the back, snuffling and yapping, and jumps up at my legs.

‘Hey, boy.’ Magda’s obviously here, but where? ‘Magda?’ I call out, walking past the reception desk and towards the office at the back of the gallery. My footsteps echo on the concrete floor. ‘Are you here?’

I’m about to enter the office when abruptly the door is flung open and out jumps Magda. Wearing a white trouser suit and sporting a bright orange tan, she looks startlingly like an Oompa-Loompa.

‘Oh my God.’ I jump back, spilling my coffee and dropping Valentino, who gives a high-pitched yelp. ‘You frightened the life out of me!’

‘I’m sorry. I was . . . er . . . a little tied up.’ She stands in the doorway looking all twitchy. ‘I didn’t hear you come in.’

‘Oh well, never mind,’ I say, smiling. ‘Let me just hang my coat up.’

I go to enter the office, but she bars my way with an outstretched arm as if doing a stretch against the doorframe. Which is very odd. Magda doesn’t stretch. Not even at her health club apparently: ‘I go there to use the wonderful hot tub and watch the even hotter trainers,’ she’d once told me unapologetically.

‘Sorry, I just need to get through,’ I say, making a gesture with my coat.

‘Let me do it.’ Flashing me a smile, she takes my coat from me. ‘I’ll hang it up for you.’

Now I’m really confused. Magda doesn’t hang up other people’s coats. She doesn’t even hang up her own coat, for fear of ruining her manicure.

‘Are you feeling OK?’ I peer at her uncertainly.

‘Who? Me?’ She clutches her chest in exaggerated surprise. Trust me, her acting is worse than mine. ‘I’m just a little preoccupied,’ she explains, hopping from one white patent stiletto to the other. ‘I have things on my mind.’

‘Oh, of course.’ I nod, suddenly understanding. She’s probably spent a sleepless weekend fretting about the gallery, worrying if my trip to the Vineyard was a success. ‘You mean Artsy.’

Her reaction is not what I’m expecting. Instead of nodding compliantly, she looks shocked. ‘What about him?’ she demands defensively.

‘Well, I imagine you want to know all about what happened at our meeting. In the Vineyard,’ I prompt. Gosh, she is acting really weird. Even weirder than normal.

‘Ah, yes, yes, of course.’ She nods vigorously. ‘Your trip to the Vineyard.’ The way she says it, it’s almost as if she’d totally forgotten about it and was thinking about something else entirely. ‘I’m all ears.’ Putting her arm round my waist, she leads me across the gallery and over to the reception desk.

Basically moving me as far away from the office as she can get me, I can’t help noticing. I glance at her sharply. What on earth’s going on? Why is she acting so bizarrely?

‘Go ahead. Tell me everything,’ she says in a stagey voice, plonking me on to a stool.

‘Well, he was really nice, not what I was expecting,’ I begin, my mind spooling backwards, ‘but then I’m not sure what I was expecting.’


‘You know, when I first arrived, he had me digging his vegetable patch.’ I smile at the memory. It seems so surreal now I’m back here in New York. ‘Then he showed me his recent artwork, which really was quite . . .’ I look at Magda. She’s not even listening. Instead she’s fiddling with her hair and looking around shiftily.

‘Mrs Zuckerman?’ I say in a firm voice.

It grabs her attention. ‘Er, yes, Loozy?’ She attempts an innocent expression, which quite frankly couldn’t look more guilty.

‘You seem preoccupied,’ I say questioningly.

‘I do?’ Her eyes are rabbit-in-the-headlights wide and she hesitates before saying, ‘One moment. I forgot something,’ and scuttling back across the gallery and disappearing into the office.

I stare after her, perplexed. And more than a little bit peeved. Sod it, she’s not even interested. I flew all the way to Martha’s Vineyard to meet Artsy; I even shared a bed with Nate because of him, well, sort of, and all because Magda made out it was this huge big deal, that it was the only way we could save the gallery. Now I’m back here and she can’t even be bothered to—


I snap back to see Magda re-emerging from the office doorway, then stepping to one side to reveal a tall figure wearing lederhosen, a white frilly shirt and a large-brimmed hat. His face is partly in shadow, but there’s only one person I know who’d wear clothes like that.

‘Artsy?’ I gasp, taken aback. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘Exhibiting!’ whoops Magda, before he can open his mouth to answer. ‘Isn’t that right?’

It’s a statement, not a question, and I gape at Artsy. A bolt of relief, delight and God knows what else zips right through and threatens to erupt like a great big firework. Is it true? My eyes search his out under the brim of his hat. Is it?

‘I do believe that’s correct,’ he replies with mock formality, then glancing at me, winks.

The firework erupts silently inside me. Fizzing and showering me with a million pieces of glitter.

I did it. He said yes. We’re saved.

I want to punch the air, high-five Artsy, pick up Magda and swing her round, tickle Valentino’s tummy, but instead I force myself into professional mode.

‘That’s great news,’ I reply evenly, trying to silence my inner voice, which is shrieking excitedly in my head. ‘The gallery will be very honoured, and I’m sure you’ll find a very happy home here at Number Thirty-Eight.’

Magda shoots me a look of grateful appreciation. Something tells me she’s been whooping, ‘Wonderful, wonderful,’ ever since he broke the news to her.

‘I’m sure I will.’ He nods lazily, chewing gum. ‘Especially now I’ve met Mrs Zuckerman personally.’

‘Please, call me Magda.’ She blushes and giggles coyly like a schoolgirl.

A schoolgirl with a crush, I realise, glancing across at her.

‘I’m sorry, it was all my idea.’ Artsy turns to me.

‘Sorry?’ I look at him in confusion.

‘The surprise,’ he explains. ‘I thought it might be kinda fun. I’m afraid I can a bit of a practical joker.’

‘But you’re not joking now,’ I check hastily.

He grins and strokes his beard, which he’s shaved into a point and plaited with tiny beads. ‘No, this bit’s for real.’

Magda and I exchange glances. She looks like she’s died and gone to Gucci.

‘After you came to see me in the Vineyard, I did some research, asked around, and I liked what I heard.’ He glances at Magda and she puffs out her already inflated chest. ‘So many galleries have sold out. They’re not about the art any more. They’re not about giving art to the people. They’re just about money and profits and making the rich richer.’

‘Yes, it’s true,’ agrees Magda. ‘So true.’

‘But you seemed different,’ he muses, glancing at me. ‘You seemed to care about what I was doing, about the art, about the process.’

‘I liked your story about the socks.’ I smile and he grins.

‘I totally dig your philosophy,’ he continues, turning to Magda. ‘Everyone should be able to enjoy art. It should transcend all social classes, speak to the Proletariat, not just the bankers on Wall Street.’

‘Absolutely,’ nods Magda fervently. ‘Those bankers.’ She makes a disgusted tutting noise with her tongue. ‘All they care about is money. They don’t care about people, their lives, their hopes and dreams.’

I can see she’s thinking about her own apartment being repossessed and the gallery being taken away.

‘Yeah, exactly,’ agrees Artsy. ‘That’s why I’m so excited to be exhibiting with you guys. I’ve never felt the need to show my work before, never wanted to, but now I know this is totally the right home, totally the right thing to do,’ he enthuses, flinging his arms around.

‘Great.’ I smile. Gosh, this is amazing. Finally something is going right.

‘Yeah, I’m totally stoked about the concept of having an exhibition and not selling my art but giving it away for free. I mean, it’s genius!’

There’s a pause.

‘Excuse me?’ Magda looks suddenly confused. ‘Free?’

‘Yeah, it’s, like, your philosophy, right? Art should be for everyone, no matter if you’ve got a million dollars in your pocket or not even a dime.’

I feel a cold, creeping dread. He cannot be saying what I think he is saying.

‘You want to give your art away?’ I venture cautiously, the smile freezing on my face. I hardly dare speak the words. ‘For free?

Making a gun with his fingers, he points it at me and pretends to pull the trigger. ‘Bullseye!’ He grins, looking pleased with himself.

Bullseye?’ croaks Magda in a strangled voice.

‘Rather than sell it?’ I persist, in dazed disbelief.

‘Hell, yeah.’ He nods, still grinning. ‘It’s the future of art. Art for the masses.’

I’m trying to remain calm, but inside I’m that little figure on the bridge in Munch’s The Scream. I swallow hard. OK, don’t panic, Lucy. You’ve got to turn this around. You’ve got to change his mind. Think, goddam it. Think. ‘Yeah, it’s an amazing idea, truly genius.’ I summon my courage and take a deep breath. ‘It’s just . . .’

‘Just what?’ Pausing from bouncing cheerfully around on his big purple Nike trainers, Artsy looks at me and frowns. ‘Temperamental artist’ is screaming all over his pouting face.

I stall. It’s just that this will mean that Magda will lose everything, because she’s relying not only on the publicity that his exhibition will bring, but the commission on sales to save her business, her livelihood and her home. I glance across at her. Her face has paled and she looks slightly bewildered, like my nan used to look when my granddad had died, as if she can’t quite comprehend what’s going on.

I glance back at Artsy. How can I tell him all that?

I can’t, can I?

‘It’s just such an incredible idea of yours,’ I say at last, forcing a bright smile. ‘Truly genius.’

It’s like flicking on the flattery switch. ‘I know, right?’ His smile snaps right back on. ‘OK, well, if that’s all sorted . . .’ He goes to high-five me and Magda. ‘Later, peeps.’ And striding across the gallery in his lederhosen, he disappears out of the door and on to the streets of Manhattan.

For a moment neither of us speaks. I’m still trying to absorb what’s just happened. One minute everything seemed to be going so fantastically well and then the next . . .

Apprehensively I turn sideways to look at Magda. Crumpled into a chair, she looks tinier than ever, almost childlike.

‘Magda, I’m sorry,’ I begin falteringly.

For a moment I don’t think she hears me. It’s as if she’s miles away, staring into space, and then her head tips slightly and she looks up. ‘Sorry?’

‘About the gallery, about everything.’ I wave my arms helplessly.

Her heavily mascaraed eyes flick around the gallery, as if taking everything in, before turning to face me. ‘Don’t be sorry,’ she says quietly.

‘I know, but—’

Never be sorry.’ Her voice is still low, but there’s a steeliness to it, and drawing herself up to her full height, she seems to summon an inner strength from somewhere. ‘So I lose the gallery? Lose the apartment?’ Her eyes flash with determination. ‘So what? My relatives lost everything in the war. They lost each other.’

Our eyes meet and all at once I see a depth in Magda that I’ve never seen before. I’ve seen her being loud and outrageous, witnessed her exaggerations and dramatics, listened to her crazy stories and been amused by her innate humour, even when she doesn’t realise it. But this is something else. Something different. Something noble.

Something pretty goddam special, I think, feeling a sudden surge of respect.

Seemingly galvanised, she takes a deep breath and stands up. ‘This is not a reason to be sad. This is reason to celebrate,’ she declares, beginning to pace around the gallery. ‘We are going to exhibit the hottest artist in town. In the world most probably!’ Flinging her arms out wide, she turns to me, her eyes flashing with exhilaration. ‘This is wonderful, Loozy, wonderful!’

Her enthusiasm is infectious, and despite everything I feel myself getting swept up in it. She’s right. Artsy is the hottest artist out there right now. No matter what happens afterwards, the fact that he’s chosen our gallery to stage his first proper exhibition is a huge achievement. The publicity will be incredible.

‘We’ll have to have a really great party,’ I say with a smile, ‘and this time we’re getting real champagne.’ Even if it means putting it on my credit card, I tell myself determinedly.

‘Real champagne, real everything! It will be incredible,’ cries Magda. Bending down, she scoops up Valentino and hugs him to her tightly. ‘People will talk about it for ever. This gallery will not close quietly. Oh, no, we will go out in a blaze of glory! Like The Titantic!’

The Titanic?’ I ask, slightly bewildered.

‘It was sinking, but the band still played on,’ she says, her lips quivering. ‘The band played on to the very end.’ She looks at me misty-eyed and, reaching for my hand, pulls me into a group hug: me, Magda and Valentino. ‘That’s what we’ll do, Loozy. We will play on to the very end.’

You're the One That I Don't Want