Authors: Meredith Greene
|Draw Me A Picture
|Montgomery Family 
|Belator Books (2007)
Unemployed and alone, Stanford grad Michelle sells drawings on a Manhattan
street corner to eat. Lonely, she draws a portrait of a handsome English attorney that walks by her each day; William Montgomery sees the picture
and eventually, the two meet. One hitch: Michelle's nutty, estranged
uncle is William's new boss. having finally found his niece, Oscar
Maclane is determined to find out if this Englishman is good enough for
her. Books one of a series.
DRAW ME A PICTURE
A novel by Meredith Greene
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Meredith Greene of Belator Books
Draw Me a Picture
Copyright © 2008 Meredith Greene All Rights Reserved
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All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
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For Stephen, who inspired me to write in the first place—and to persevere to the end--who helped me shape the characters and supplied succinct edits… and who was subsequently written into each male protagonist written of thereafter.
A hearty verse of thanks also must go out to the dedicated reviewers of FictionPress.com & Writerscafe.org who took the time to contribute many vastly-appreciated opinions and then went on to buy our books.
The passing faces never failed to interest Michelle Gregory. Each day, a continuous crowd of people walked by her corner… a veritable lava-flow of human beings. Most of them saw nothing but the quickest way to wherever it was they were going. Some of the faces wore anger; others appeared worried; the majority, however, held a fixed expression of intense concentration. After her move to the ‘Big Apple’, Michelle learned quickly that New Yorkers seldom smile, being completely immersed in their various occupations. At first she wondered--naively--if the amount of stress that they embraced so willingly was worth the angst and apparent insomnia. Three years later, she was convinced that the populace not only thrived on stress, but prided themselves in being able to do so.
Sitting on her sidewalk-mat, Michelle shivered. At one time her coat had been thick and warm, though lately it sported patches on the back and shoulders. The biting fall air spoke strongly of its intention to surrender wholly to winter. As intimidating the thought of freezing rain, icy winds and deep drifts of snow Michelle knew she was one of the lucky ones... she was not truly homeless. Selling her drawings on the busy Midtown corner enabled her to purchase food and the necessary hygienic supplies.
Two years had come and gone since she was fired and blacklisted by the prominent Johnson & Black Accounting Firm. Despite visiting the unemployment office frequently, no other firm would hire the overly-moral CPA from Denver. Her “ethical issues”--as her previous supervisor had put it--interfered with the firm’s normal routine of pulling illegal strings which allowed certain large clients to get away with hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes they rightfully owed. Michelle’s refusal to go along with such tactics had cost her everything: her income, her dignity and even her beloved loft, a place she’d come to call home.
“And, here I sit,”
Memories of her short financial ‘career’ still felt unwelcome. Drawing was the only other marketable talent she possessed, and yet she found herself “overly-qualified” for every menial job she applied for. A glut of dishwashers, actors, models and waitresses vied with each other fervently for the few jobs available. Oddly, the walking business-folk didn't object to purchasing Michelle’s $5 portraits, landmark sketches and caricatures. Every day, the Stanford-grad hid away her pride and trekked the eleven blocks from her hotel to sit, sketch and sell her pictures. The most popular items among the locals were funny caricatures of Mayor Bloomberg and other political figures; the tourists favored her renderings of the Brooklyn Bridge and Empire State Building. Each sale added to the small pile of folded bills kept in a shoe box in her hotel room. Coming back ‘home’ with just $20 was a good day.
At least housing was not a problem, like for so many others who tried to make it in New York City. Shortly after Michelle was sacked a friendly ex-coworker called her, with the phone-number of a Mr. Jason Chan. Michelle was in a near panic at the time--finding the job market so hostile--so she called. Mr. Chan turned out to be the manager of the prestigious Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and was under pressure to shave his budget. In their first meeting the man explained his intention to drop the hotel’s pricey accounting firm and go with a far less expensive one, with just partial audit insurance. He just wanted Michelle to comb through the books and make certain all was in order prior to the transfer. Michelle dove into the piles of paperwork and software with a sort of desperation to prove herself.
The experience proved highly therapeutic. It reminded Michelle of her talents in navigating mazes of numbers. Her work allowed Mr. Chan to save more than he’d hoped for. The fear of IRS scrutiny gone, the manager readily agreed to Michelle’s bargain: in exchange for keeping a watch for audit flags she insisted on a free room, with laundry services. Art that time, Michelle’s apartment lease was up and housing had proved itself the most precious of commodities.
Sitting on the street corner Michelle looked over at her display of portraits and wondered what her parents would have thought about their daughter vending sketches in order to eat; her mother would have wanted her to move back in; her father would've joked about getting the Stanford tuition money back.
Tears pricked the corners of Michelle’s eyes at the thought of them. Four years earlier, a late-night car accident had taken their lives. Time did little to heal the void they left. Even moving to New York had not chased away the ache in her soul; they were her only family in the United States. A few distant relatives of hers existed in Scotland, but Michelle had never met them. She did have an uncle, her father’s brother, but he'd proved to be a bit eccentric... always working construction jobs around the world or holed up in some little-known country, often disappearing for years on end. The man had not responded when Michelle sent news of her parents’ death; he did not come to the funeral. She feared that he was dead, or worse... that he didn’t care. Amid millions of people--in the city that never sleeps--Michelle felt completely alone.
A sharp beep brought the young artist back to reality; glancing down at her watch, Michelle smiled. It was 12:05. Sitting up, she eagerly searched the oncoming lunch crowd for a particular face, one with brilliant blue eyes. Sequestered beneath Michelle’s bed at the hotel--inside her sketch portfolio--sat a portrait... one lovingly crafted. It portrayed a handsome man in his early thirties, with a strong jaw, merry eyes and a downright gorgeous smile. The man’s face reminded Michelle of how one of the Knights of the Round Table must have looked, minus the beard, possible fleas and hygienic issues. While she was drawing it, Michelle was amazed at how the lines seemed to drip right from her pen onto the thick paper, as if they had a mind of their own. Each night, she took the portrait out and allowed herself a moment’s gaze and a wistful smile before putting it away again.
The man of Michelle’s secret portrait did—in fact--exist. He walked by her little corner every day, at exactly 12:06. Even on weekends. His routine appeared to be everything to him; it was the thing which made Michelle take notice of him in the first place... he was never late. Dark blond hair set off the man's dark blue eyes nicely. He appeared right around six-foot tall, by Michelle’s reckoning... though it was hard to accurately guess from the ground.
In spite of the stranger’s good looks Michelle did not entertain romantic thoughts about him. Not--at least--until the day she saw him smile. A few months earlier, a small child accidentally bumped into the man, interrupting his stride. Michelle watched as the scene unfolded not seven feet away from her corner. Brows gathered, the man frowned down at the little urchin. A smile spread slowly over his face; his eyes shone like sapphires. Michelle stared at him. The stone mask of the no-nonsense businessman seemed to crack; a ray of light shone through from some other realm, revealing a glimpse of his soul. It was his smile that had inspired the portrait.
As she searched for his face in the crowds, Michelle reminded herself how futile it was to look and hope. Once--in a mad moment of bravado--she'd actually toyed with the idea of falling into step with him and saying... well, something. Courage failed her. Later, she laughed at her own foolishness. What would she say? “Hi... want to get some dinner?” Michelle imagined him looking at her askance, lifting an eyebrow or simply walking away in disgust. Certainly her face and clothes were clean, but her bedraggled, worn attire was just one step above ‘waif’… not to mention her currently unemployed situation. The very idea was unthinkable. Still, something compelled her to look for him each day, and to wonder.
12:06. The face she sought appeared. The blue-eyed man walked swiftly towards her, talking on a cell-phone. Michelle leaned forward--as far as she dared--in order to hear his voice. Bits of conversation floated toward her through the other sounds of the street and pedestrian footfalls. He had a pleasant voice, fine diction and a decided English accent. He passed quickly and was soon lost in the moving crowd of walking suits, heading to wherever it was he went. Michelle sighed, heavily. For the few seconds she saw the blue-eyed man each day, she felt light. But---in his wake--her emotions shifted to more downcast feelings, accompanied by a tendency to pity herself. He was so strikingly good-looking, so poised; she imagined herself looking like the Little Match Girl… soot-ridden... lighting matches to keep herself warm.
“Ah, well,” she whispered, “Until tomorrow.”
After two years of selling her drawings out on the streets of Manhattan, Michelle had learned to embrace optimism. The alternative to this was depression; she saw daily examples of this in the lined faces of lost souls who shrouded themselves in alcoholism and misery. The sight of those at rock-bottom kept Michelle’s spirits up; there was a lot to be thankful for, even in her situation.
A middle-aged businessman in a dark suit passed by, glancing at one of the cartoons on Michelle’s display. He laughed and dug in his pocket for money. Taking the picture down from the display board, Michelle quickly wrapped it in brown paper and tied a length of twine around it before handing the package over. As the man walked away Michelle smoothed and folded the precious bills, discreetly stowing them away in her sock.
The day proved profitable; she sketched five drawings and sold four. As the sunlight waned toward twilight; Michelle stood and habitually folded her cardboard display. Adjusting her coat, she picked up the little rug, rolled it and pulled down the brim of her hat. It was not wise to be out here after dark. Stepping into the narrow river of people Michelle joined them for the walk home, eleven blocks of familiar sights, smells and sounds. The sharp tang of Chinese food and hot-pastrami filled the air. Hot dog stands and vendors selling hot chestnuts gathered at the street corners.
Working her way toward a fruit stand Michelle exchanged a nod with the elderly Vietnamese woman sitting behind the rows of apples. The woman immediately picked up two, rosy-colored pieces of fruit and put them in a small sack; she knew Michelle by sight. Handing over the money Michelle took her fruit with a smile. Down the block she gravitated towards a take-out window with excellent Chinese food. With today’s sales she was able to get chow mien, broccoli beef and egg-rolls. The food smelled sublime. Michelle hastened her step toward home; she couldn’t wait to sit down in her room and devour it.