Mia had no idea how she got out of there. Had Vincent thrown her out, or had she crawled out? She remembered being on the train, staring at the ad across from her of a handsome man with shaving cream all over his face. She remembered slowly realizing that Mr. Brockway was right.
His delivery sucked, but he was right. He’d hit the nail on the head, had zeroed in on the thing that had nagged at Mia for a very long time, but she hadn’t been able to name. Her work had no clear vision, no real point of view. It was what her professors called “needs improvement” and “let’s work on what message you’re trying to convey.” She tried one idea after the next, never finding that common thread in her body of work. Her subjects were run of the mill.
He was right—she didn’t have what it took to be a working, viable artist. It was so unfair! Her love of art was what ran through her veins.
She couldn’t keep the desire out of her. She couldn’t not create.
Mia was so shaken that she didn’t notice her landlady until she almost collided with her. Mrs. Chalupnik was standing in the entry hall with one thick arm across her body, holding her threadbare bath-robe closed.
“Oh, hi, Mrs. Chalupnik.” She put her head down and tried to scoot past. She was on the verge of a meltdown and didn’t have time to chat.
“The check, it’s no good,” Mrs. Chalupnik said, waving a paper at Mia with her free hand.
Mia’s step slowed. “What?”
“Your rent check is no good!” Mrs. Chalupnik said, only louder. “It comes back with insufficient funds!”
Mia felt a horrible twist of impending doom. “That’s impossible!” she cried, and took the paper, staring at it. How was that possible?
“Now you owe me two hundred dollars on top of rent,” Mrs. Chalupnik said. “You have until Friday.”
“But I can’t get it by Friday,” Mia said. Her head was reeling. “There has to be some mistake. I’m very careful about this—it’s impossible I bounced a rent check.”
“My eyes do not lie,” Mrs. Chalupnik said, jabbing a finger dangerously near her eye for emphasis. She snatched the paper from Mia’s hands. “Your bank, it doesn’t tell you this?”
Her bank. The truth was that Mia hadn’t collected her mail in several days. And she had turned off notices on her phone to keep the bat-tery from draining.
“You find the money,” Mrs. Chalupnik said. She turned around and opened the door to her apartment. The smell of sauerkraut wafted out and hit Mia squarely in the face before Mrs. Chalupnik slammed the door shut.
Mia whirled around, hurried to her mailbox, and opened it. Several things fell out, and among them, two notices from her bank. She fell back against the wall and slid down to her haunches in her stupid tea-stained dress and with a rash where her portfolio had rubbed against her leg as she’d trudged home.
So this, apparently, was how a life was completely deconstructed.
series, the Lear Sisters series, and the Pine River series. She is a recipient of the RT Book Reviews Best Regency Historical Romance award for The Dangerous Gentleman, and a six-time finalist for the renowned RITA Award for excellence in romantic fiction. She resides in Austin, Texas.