Read Fixing The Future Chapter One… – Ali Parker

Read Fixing The Future Chapter One…

Chapter One


A pair of songbirds sang a colorful morning lullaby outside the living-room window while I balanced precariously on the ball of one foot, teetering on the edge of a chair to straighten out the frame above the fireplace.

Grace stood back with one hand planted on a slender hip, the other resting thoughtfully under her chin. She tapped her pointer finger upon her bottom lip and hummed. “A little further to the right.”

I groaned. “I’m not tall enough for this.”

“You’ve almost got it.”

The chair creaked and groaned as I shifted my weight, and the bird song outside reached a higher pitch, as if the feathery little guys sensed the danger. With the very tips of my fingers, I managed to straighten out the frame. I stepped off the chair and padded barefoot across the living-room rug to look at the picture beside Grace.

“I think it looks good,” she said.

“Of course it does.” I tilted my head to the side. “Walker painted it. It would look good anywhere.”

Prior to hanging it above the fireplace, I’d kept the piece I bought at Walker’s gallery behind my desk in my home office. He’d sold it to me for a steal the very first night we met him. At the time I thought he was just an obscenely wealthy artist using me as a charity case, but it turned out he had the hots for my and Grace’s old roommate, Nora, Grace’s cousin. She and Walker were currently on a flight back from Europe, where they’d been sipping expensive wine and dining on rooftop patios making friends with locals while exploring the history and hidden gems so Nora could write her travel pieces.

Sometimes I envied her life, and other times I felt full of gratitude for my own.

“I still think it looked better behind my desk,” I mumbled.

Grace flashed me a smile. “At least this way I get to enjoy it, too.”

I grunted.

The only reason I’d taken Walker’s painting down from behind my desk was because my mother, bless her and her good intentions, had seen it in the background on one of our Skype calls and immediately fallen in love with it and assumed I’d become the art lover she’d always been. My mother was the sort of woman who expressed love in the form of gifts, so she’d mailed over a massive print of a naked couple tangled up in each other. 

The painting was quite… revealing.

“Help me hang the porno painting from my mother now?” I asked Grace as I moved to the bottom of the stairs of our townhouse.

She chuckled and tucked her pin-straight brown hair behind her ears. She’d just gotten a trim the other day, and the ends were fresh and blunt, hovering just over her shoulders. “You’ve got it. Are you sure that’s where you want to put it?”

I made my way up the stairs, one hand trailing up the railing. “It’s not staying there permanently. I’m going to hang it, call her, and take it down. She means well. She just doesn’t know my taste at all. She seriously thinks this monstrosity is on par with Walker’s work.”

Grace and I reached the top of the stairs and ducked into my office. I’d given it a refresh last month with crisp white paint on the walls and a new coat on the baseboards and crown molding. My desk sat upon a jewel-toned Turkish carpet, and accessories around the room really pulled all the colors together. 

The painting my mother sent me sat propped up against the wall behind my desk chair.

I sighed. 

Grace patted me on the shoulder. “It’s not that bad. Don’t be so dramatic. We’ll hang it and you can take it down as soon as you finish your call with your mother.”

“I still have to keep it.” We both moved to either side of the frame, lifted it up, and struggled with our cheeks pressed against the wall to eyeball the tiny hook on the top of the frame. We pulled down gently, trying to get it to catch, but it took at least three minutes before the frame caught, and another two to get it straight and balanced.

We stood back and looked at it.

“I hate it even more now,” I said.

Grace’s nose scrunched up as she thought of something productive to say. “It’s… it’s… unique.”

“That’s just another word for terrible.”

“I mean, I like the colors.”

The painting had been done in sweeping pastel strokes. The woman’s hair was lilac purple, and the man’s hair—not the hair on his head, I might add—was light blue. He had a slender, unassuming physique, which made his gigantic set of cock and balls all the more jarring.

“I can’t stop staring at it,” Grace whispered.

“The dick?”

“Is that even a dick? It’s more like a forearm. Or a skateboard. This is so not a thing my mother would ever consider buying me.”

I snickered. “Yeah well, my mother is cut from a different cloth. We know that. I’d kill for my mother to buy me classy oil diffusers or cozy slippers like your mom.”

“I’ll buy you both for your birthday.”

“What would I do without you, Grace?”

My computer chimed. I knew instantly that would be my mother checking in to see if we were still on for our call. Grace stepped out of my office and left the door open just a crack behind her. Outside, I could still hear the birds chirping as I took my seat, signed into Skype, and video-called my mother.

Her face filled my entire screen after three rings. My mother, a boomer if there ever was one, still hadn’t gotten the lay of the technology land, but she tried her best.

“Back up a bit from your tablet screen, Mom,” I said.

“Hold on, honey!” she shouted, and I turned my computer volume down.

I waited patiently for her to get everything settled and knew by the window behind her that she was sitting in her favorite corner chair in the living room of her home. 

Her eyes lit up when she saw the painting behind me. “Oh! My goodness, Juliette, it looks gorgeous! What do you think? Don’t you just love it? I could feel the artist’s passion when I saw it and knew you just had to have it. I think the bright colors are so much more cheerful than the other painting you had up, don’t you?”

That was my mother’s not so subtle way of saying, hey, don’t you think the painting I, your loving and ingenious mother, bought you is so much better than the twenty-five-thousand-dollar, one-of-a-kind masterpiece from Walker Vice?

I twisted to look at the painting over my shoulder. The penis with the powder blue pubic hair was right in my line of sight. Forcing a smile, I turned back to the camera. “It’s really something else, Mom.”

“You hate it.”

“Did I say that?”

“I can tell. You hate it.” She huffed. “I should have left it alone. I just thought it would be a nice reminder of me every time you walked into your office.”

“You thought two naked people about to have intercourse was the kind of thing I wanted to see to be reminded of my mother?”

She blinked into the camera like she had no idea what I was implying. “Art speaks differently to people, Juliette.”

No shit.

“What did it say to you when you bought it, Mom?” I asked.

“That they were in love,” my mother said simply. “I want that for you, Juliette. You know that. We all want that for you. How long has it been since you went on a date?”

“As a matter of fact I went on one last night.” My palms had become suddenly sweaty, so I ran them up and down my thighs the same way I used to when I was a teenager sitting at my parents’ dining-room table. Back then, they hadn’t been so keen on me dating. In fact, they’d been steadfastly against it, and the first time I ever went out with a boy was for my graduation. His name was Rupert, but we called him Rupe, and as kids we’d played street hockey in our cul-de-sac until the sun went down. I’d always been the kid called in first for dinner. When our mother’s bumped into each other at the grocery store a week before our high school graduation and learned that neither of their kids had a date to prom, they’d forced us together. Rupert gave me a powder pink corsage his mother picked out. I wore a dark green dress from a consignment store. We hardly said a word to each other all night but rolled our eyes in unison every time our mother’s tried to snap a picture.

Those were the days.

“You went on a date with a man last night?” my mother pressed, her eyes widening with accusation.

I licked my lips. 

“Your roommate doesn’t count as a date, Juliette.”

“I’m too busy to date, Mom. You know that. My work is my partner. When the time is right someone will come along, but I’m not going to force it. That’s the advice I give my lovesick clients. Why shouldn’t the same advice work for me?”

“There is absolutely no reason you should still be single,” my mother huffed. “You are a beautiful, intelligent young woman with plenty to offer. You know the ins and outs of balancing a relationship better than anyone. You deserve love, honey.”

Just because someone deserves something doesn’t mean they get it, I thought.

Love was my business, but I’d never had a man tell me he loved me or vice versa. I was a tribute to the single life. A single-stemmed rose, so to speak. I did my own pruning. 

“You should get on one of those dating apps,” my mother continued, relentless. She talked about all the apps she’d heard of, including Grinder, which she clearly had no grasp of, and told me all about her friends’ children who’d had success on the different platforms. We ended the call with me promising to consider making a profile and dipping my toe in the dating world.

As soon as our call ended, I slumped back in my chair and sighed heavily at my ceiling. 

Worst case scenario, I could always call Rupe if I was still single when I turned thirty-five. Maybe he’d be single too, and we could pretend to fall in love for the sake of our mothers. We’d done it for graduation. Why not do it for the rest of our lives? We’d make cute babies. He had a nice smile. 

I gave my head a shake.

Don’t be crazy. You’re not desperate.

Which was true. I wasn’t desperate to be in a relationship. Never had been. However, every time I spoke with my mother, I left the conversation feeling like I wasn’t enough because I was single.

It sucked.

It sucked big time.

My phone chimed, a ringing succession of three gentle bells. I’d picked the notification sound specifically for my clients so I knew it was one of them messaging me. Usually this meant someone needed me. I opened the app and found a message from a client I’d been working with for the last three years. 

‘I need to talk,’ the message read.

I typed back that I could hop on a call right this minute if she was free.

Less than thirty seconds later, her face filled my monitor. Her cheeks were rosy and wet from crying, and she dabbed at her nose with a tissue as she thanked me for making time for her.

“I’m so sorry to bombard you like this all the time.” Shirley sniffled. “Every time I feel like I’m on the right track with someone it all blows up in my face, and I’m left sitting here wondering how I missed all the signs. He broke up with me over a text, Juliette. Text. We’d been dating for eight months and the best he could offer me was a ‘hey, this isn’t working out, I’ll pick up my stuff tomorrow while you’re at work’ text?”

I flinched at her ex’s callous behavior. “I’m so sorry, Shirley. You deserve so much more than that.”

Her bottom lip trembled. “There’s already six pictures on his Instagram stories of him with other girls at a bar last night. He doesn’t care. It’s like… it’s like he’d already moved on months ago and I was still clinging to our relationship like an idiot. I’m so embarrassed.”

I wished I could reach through the screen and hug her. After switching to virtual counselling appointments, I’d been able to help more people, but I did miss the face-to-face aspect of in-person meetings. “I don’t think you have anything to feel embarrassed about, but I understand why you might be feeling that way. He blindsided you. You didn’t do anything wrong, and there is no shame in caring about something and trying hard to make it work.”

She dabbed at her eyes again and looked up into her webcam for the first time. Suddenly, her eyes widened with surprise.

“Is something else wrong?” I asked.

Her cheeks turned a deeper shade of red. “Um, no. No, it’s fine.”

Frowning, I realized she wasn’t looking at me, but past me, so I turned and looked over my shoulder.

Right at the giant penis and blue pubes. 

Oh fuck.

I scrambled up out of my chair, tripped over the corner of my Turkish rug, and pitched forward, clawing at the wall to rip the painting down. I caught the corner of the frame, knocking it askew, and it fell with a crash to the floor, the glass rattling but not shattering. 

“Are you okay?” Shirley called.

With my hair stuck in my lip gloss and my knees aching from landing hard on the floor, I cursed my mother and her shitty taste in art. Leave it to me to forget to take it down before taking an important call from a client.

Grace would be in stitches when I told her what the loud crash was about.

  • Lyne Carroll says:

    That scene is so funny lollllllllll

  • Lisa says:

    I love this book already, the first chapter has me laughing

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