I pull my car into a parking spot several blocks away from the gallery, by both necessity and preference. The chilly evening wind lifts off the nearby ocean, blowing loose strands of my long hair astray with it. Goosebumps form on my arms and I gather my cream-colored shawl over my matching simple but elegant knee-length sheath dress. Okay, Ella’s dress and shawl actually, but we were always borrowing each other’s clothes. As a formality, I’d have asked if she minded, but I still can’t get her phone to ring through. I click my lock into place and slide my keys into the dainty, cream-colored shoulder purse that I’d bought on the pier last summer.
I inhale the air, embracing the sounds and sights, the action of the SoMa Art District, bustling with people enjoying the stores, museums, and array of art galleries. I don’t come down here often. I just can’t. It reminds me of those dreams I’ve never chased. It’s been too long though, I realize, nearly a year since I’ve enjoyed the market street scene. The architecture, ranging from newly developed shiny glass structures to old warehouses converted into home and work spaces, was as much art as the sculptures and drawings on the concrete walls of the random buildings. I feel something special here. I feel alive here. It’s what I feel when I leave that I dislike.
Bringing the gallery into view, I pause to watch a group of elegantly dressed visitors pour through its double glass doors lined in shiny silver for the black-tie affair. Artsy swirls of red letters, displayed above the entry, spell "ALLURE."
Nerves flutter in my stomach, though I can’t say why. I love the contemporary art Allure specializes in, love their mix of local, new artists who I can discover, as well as the established names whose work I already appreciate. Nerves are ridiculous. I’m uncomfortable in this world, but then, this isn’t my world. It’s Rebecca’s, and Rebecca is the real reason I’m here.
A glance at my dainty, handmade, gold wristwatch, also bought at the pier, confirms I have plenty of time to spare. It is seven forty-five, fifteen minutes until Alvarez will be unveiling a new painting that will be displayed in the gallery and up for silent auction through the end of the week. Oh how I’d love to have an Alvarez original, but they don’t come cheap. Still, a girl can dream.
Excitement filters in with nerves as I rush toward the door. A young brunette woman in a simple black dress holds it open for me and offers me a smile. “Welcome.”
I return the smile and enter the gallery, noting the nervous energy bouncing off the twenty-something girl as I pass, an energy that seems to scream "I’m new and don’t know what I am doing.” This isn’t Rebecca, who I know will be daringly bold and confident. In fact, the hostess brings out the schoolteacher in me, and I fight the urge to give her a hug and tell her she’s doing fine. I’m a hugger. I got it from my mother, just like I did my love of art, only I wasn’t talented with a brush as she had been.
The girl is saved from my mothering when the sound of a piano playing from a distant corner filters through the air and draws my attention to the main showroom. I am in awe. This isn’t my first time visiting the four-thousand-square-foot wonder that is the Allure gallery, but it doesn’t diminish my excitement at seeing it again.
The entryway opens to the main showroom of glistening white wonder. The walls are snow white, the floor glistening like white diamonds. The shiny divider walls curve like abstract waves, and each of them is adorned with contrasting, eye popping, colorful artwork.
I turn away from the showroom, attending to business before pleasure, and present my ticket to a hostess behind a podium. She is tall and elegant with long, raven hair. “Rebecca?” I ask hopefully.
“No, sorry,” she says. “I’m Tesse.” She holds up a finger as she glances through the glass doors at an approaching customer she needs to attend. I wait patiently, hoping this young woman can connect me with Rebecca. I listen attentively while she directs the new guest to a short stairway that leads toward the music, and apparently, the location where Ricco Alvarez will be unveiling his masterpiece.
“Sorry for the interruption,” Tesse finally says, giving me her full attention. “You were looking for Rebecca. Unfortunately she isn’t attending tonight’s event. Is there something I can help you with?”
Disappointment fills me. To miss an Alvarez event is not something someone in Rebecca’s role would likely do. I just want to know, for certain, that Rebecca is safe. Painting myself as a stranger doesn’t seem the way to do that. “My sister’s an old friend of Rebecca’s. She told me to be sure and say hello to her and pass along her new phone number. She seemed to think Rebecca worked big events like this one. She’ll be disappointed I missed her.”
“Oh, I hate that you missed her,” Tesse says, looking genuinely concerned. “I’m not only new, I only work part time, on an as-needed basis, so I don’t hear much of what’s going on internally, but I think Rebecca took some personal time off. Mark would know for certain.”
“The manager here,” she says. "He’ll be tied up with the presentation soon, but I can introduce you to him afterwards if you like?”
I nod. “Yes. Please. That would be perfect.”
The piano stops abruptly. “They’re about to start,” Tesse informs me. “You should grab a seat while you still can. I’ll be sure to help you connect with Mark after the presentation.”
A thrill shoots through me. “Thank you so much,” I say, before I head toward the seating area. I can’t believe that I am about to see an Alvarez original presented by Alvarez himself.