“I don’t skip,” I defended rather poorly.
The nurse rolled her eyes, but said nothing more, returning to her duties just as quickly as she’d come over.
I had a thirty-minute window before my next surgery, so I decided to take a moment to relax in the doctor’s lounge on the second floor. I sat down in a vacant leather chair and pulled out my phone, casually looking up some more information about the Bodega. It was smaller than I expected, and Google indicated that the gallery’s peak times seemed to be never. Maybe that was one of the reasons why the curator chose an artist willing to pay more for the show space. With little foot traffic and in a slightly rougher part of town, the Bodega was probably struggling to turn a profit. From an emotionless business side of things, I totally understood. But I also felt indignant on Daliah’s behalf. If the painting she was working on in her living room was exemplary of her other works, I truly believed she deserved a chance to share her creativity.
Once I found out the number to the gallery, my fingers danced across the glass screen of my phone to dial.
“You’ve reached the Bodega Gallery. This is Charlie speaking, how may I help you?”
“Hey Charlie,” I said, “I wanted to know how much it would cost to rent out your whole floor space for an exhibit.”
“That depends on how much floor space you’ll need, sir. Are you a local artist hoping to display your work?”
“No, I’m not. I’m calling on someone else’s behalf. Daliah Flowers?”
“Ah, Miss Flowers. I do apologize about our little scheduling conflict. I’m sure you understand the art world is quite competitive. No hard feelings, yes?”
“Tell me, how much would it cost to rent out the whole gallery?”
The man on the other end of the line clicked his tongue. “Well, that entirely depends on how long you would want your exhibition to run. We have to take into consideration things like electricity, displays, catering, invitations and printing, and the like.”
I took a moment to think. I’d never been to an art show before, so I didn’t have any sense of the level of effort that was needed. “How about over three days? Let’s say this upcoming Friday through Sunday?”
“I apologize, sir. But we already have a show booked for–”
“I’m well aware. That’s why I’m willing to offer you triple.”
The man on the phone failed to hide a choked sound of surprise. “R-really? That’s nearly fifteen grand.”
“Be sure to give the artist a full refund, and I promise to pay you upfront in exchange for your gallery space dedicated to Daliah Flowers.”
“We accept credit or cheque,” the man said immediately.
I couldn’t help but smirk. “It’ll be by cheque. I’ll stop by later this evening to drop it off. And I’ll want a receipt, if you don’t mind. Just to cover all my bases.”
“And what is your name, sir? Just to know who I’m expecting. I’ll call Miss Flowers immediately to let her know of the change of plans.”
“I’d prefer to keep my name out of it,” I said hastily.
“Ah, an anonymous donor. I understand, sir. The Bodega will respect your privacy.”
“Thank you,” I said and hung up the phone.
I didn’t want to give my name because I didn’t want Daliah to find out what I’d done. She’d probably feel overwhelmed and freaked out that I’d do something so incredibly brash. I was really starting to like her, and I didn’t want to scare her away. Daliah was special in a way I simply couldn’t describe. In many ways, being near her made me feel great. I felt at ease, calmed by her mere presence. She wasn’t just some fling, some spur of the moment decision. Unlike the women before her, Daliah made me feel alive.
For the first time in a very long time, I’d found a woman who I could honestly see myself with for many years to come. Forget work, forget the Chief of Surgery position. I thought focusing on my career would make me happy. If I just kept my head done and concentrated on the grind, I thought I’d somehow find fulfillment. But I was starting to realize that none of it mattered if I couldn’t share my success and struggles with the people I cared about. I’d been alone for so long, had drowned myself in work for years, that I hadn’t realized I was lonely. Not until Daliah blasted her awful music and stumbled right into my life. All I wanted to do now was do right by her and earn her smile. To see Daliah’s face light up meant more to me than I could have ever possibly imagined.
The first thing I did when I hung up the phone was dash out of my apartment and sprint toward Edgar’s. I hit his door rapidly with my palm, so excited I thought I was about to pass out. He answered almost immediately, still in his set of navy-blue scrubs. He must have just arrived home.