An excerpt from chapter 14 of Waiting For Spring.
“Tess didn’t go to college,” my mother started.
“Neither did I,” Brian returned.
“She wanted to go to school for her painting, but I told her that I wasn’t about to pay for her to play with her paints. Not when she could fool around with them at home for free.” She narrowed her gaze at me. “If you were really serious about it I’m sure you could have found…some way to pay for it on your own.”
I finished my beer. Two thirds of a bottle in one long, noisy gulp. I plunked it down on the table and looked towards the big, beautiful beer bucket, sitting prettily on the floor next to the kitchen counter. And I wondered if a fourth would do me more harm than good.
“She’s much better off cleaning, anyway,” my mother added. “She’s good at that.”
She’d finally managed to shock Brian. He sat silently for longer than I thought possible. Just staring at her. She held his gaze. Just waiting. And he said:
“Tess sold a painting last month. Obviously someone thinks she’s good at that, too.”
She only shrugged.
He set his fork down and rested his arms on the table. Leaned forward. “Don’t you think she’s a good painter, Mrs. Bellows?”
He thought he had her cornered. That he knew what she’d say, what she’d have to say. But he was wrong. He’d done it. And he didn’t even know it.
He didn’t know her.
She looked at me. At me, with those hard eyes. And I wanted to look away from them but I couldn’t. So I sat there, staring back at her. Just waiting.
“No, I don’t. And I think she’s wasting her time and her energy and her money when she should be using them for–”
But she didn’t get any farther. At the words, No, I don’t, Brian grabbed my hand. I looked away from my mother and over at him. His eyes were filled with remorse. Because now he knew.
“Don’t listen to her, Tess. You’re a great artist.”
I couldn’t think of anything to say. Part of it was because I was a little foggy from having downed three beers in less than fifteen minutes. But most of it was because his words were still bouncing around in my brain. They echoed. Everywhere. Especially:
It sounded good. Better than good. I especially loved the way it sounded in his voice. And I loved him for saying it, because it was the first time anyone had. Not just, you do good work or that’s a nice painting.
But even better than that was: Don’t listen to her. Because what he’d really meant was: She’s hurting you. And I’m gonna make her stop. Even though it wasn’t true. Nothing, ever, would really make her stop. But at least it was true for a little while. And at least he was willing to try.