The Fake
Paper Wings
After school Friday, Dad pulled out half a dozen blank canvases and leaned each of them against the wall.
“I was thinking about creating a collection within the collection of various types of lights—candlelight, chandelier, flashlight, lamp, nightlight and moon. It’s kind of ambitious, but now that you and I are working so well together I think it’s possible.”
I shrugged. There was an element of light and shadow in everything I’d ever done, but painting actual light, especially realistically, was extremely difficult. You couldn’t just translate what you saw onto the canvas—there was something extra that was difficult to capture.
Dad had a new gleam in his eye—it was hopeful. Determined. “We can do this. Look what we’ve accomplished in the past few months.”
“What you’ve accomplished,” I said, slipping my arm through his. “You’ve done most of the work. I’ve just finished them up.”
He nodded, but looked away.
“Why don’t you paint with me today?” he asked.
I stood up brushing my pants and walking toward the easels. “There isn’t anything far enough along, is there?”
He made several quick brush strokes and in less than five minutes there was a rough outline for the chandelier.
“Is that enough of a start for you?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Of course you do,” he said, handing me a brush and laying his palette on the table so we could share.
I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. Up until then I’d been finishing paintings that were nearly done. This was a very rough start and I wasn’t sure I could get the essence right. Plus, it seemed more wrong to pass off an entire painting done by me as one of Dad’s. It was bad enough to finish them.
But there was something in Dad’s eyes—pleading, maybe—that made me think I needed to try. I centered the canvas, dipped the paint in Naples yellow and began.
After a few minutes I’d taken the outline and made it my own. Dad’s lines were covered with mine and the chandelier had shape and basic color. Dad examined it and tweaked the composition just a bit by adding a corner in the wall behind the fixture, so there could be a dark space to counter the light. Then he went back to his own painting.
Standing there with Dad and painting together made me feel light. My worries evaporated. I felt no hunger, or pain, or fear when I was painting. There was only the brush and the paint and happy thoughts. Maybe Dad would get better, maybe Grayson liked me, maybe New York was exactly what we both needed.
After a few hours Dad’s moon looked nearly done. He’d need some help with a few shadows, but he’d captured the soft glow almost perfectly. My chandelier was still a mess, but I was fairly certain I could make it right with enough time.
Dad reached out for my hand. “I couldn’t do this without you.”
I smiled a not quite happy smile because I knew what he said was true. He needed me now. He was the master, the beloved artist who was celebrated all over the world, but he might never finish another painting without my help.
Dad’s hand trembled as he tried to add a shadow to one of the big craters. “Any big plans for your birthday next week?”
I shrugged.
“We’ll do pizza or something.” He grinned. “Pizza works for every occasion, right?”
“Definitely,” I said, adding a gold highlight along one of the chandelier’s swoops. “I do have something big though. I guess. Kind of. It’s not really a birthday thing, exactly, but I am going on a date tomorrow.”
Dad’s playful smile turned into something pained. “A date?”
I forged ahead, hoping to get through this weird moment and back to happy father-daughter time. “Grayson’s taking me to dinner and a show or something.”
Dad blinked.
“You like Grayson, remember?”
“It’s just that… I didn’t realize...” He scowled at his canvas and the expression had nothing to do with the painting.
“Dad,” I said soothingly. “I’m going to be sixteen on Tuesday, remember? Sixteen-year-old girls go on dates. Actually, so do fifteen-year-olds and fourteen-year-olds and basically anyone who isn’t named Claire Foster.”
I thought he would laugh. I thought it would lighten the mood and he’d decide to be happy for me.
It didn’t.
“It’s a big city, Claire. Maybe if we were back home it would be different.” He focused on the painting and his jaw set in a way that made him look like someone else—someone not fun and chummy and dad-like. “Besides,” he said. “I thought you and Grayson were just friends. I’d never have let you spend so much time with him if I thought it was anything more than that.”
“You ‘let me spend time with him’?” I said, gritting my teeth and putting down my paintbrush. “Since when do I need your permission to make friends?”
“You don’t, of course,” Dad said, brushing a little more black into the bits of universe surrounding his moon. “It’s just that a date is different.”
“Not that different.” I dunked my brush in acetone, not in the mood to paint anymore. “Grayson and I have met at the coffee shop a dozen times, just like people do on dates. That never seemed to bother you.”
Dad set down his brush and looked at me. “That was homework. Dating is different than doing homework with a boy. You aren’t emotionally ready.”
I stared at him, stunned. I never even imagined he wouldn’t be okay with me going on a date. I took a cab to and from school everyday. He trusted me to do grocery shopping and pay our bills. And I did a whole lot more that…
Heat filled my chest, bubbling until I thought it would overflow. I was angry. I felt belittled, betrayed, and something worse. “So, I’m not emotionally ready to go on a date, but I am emotionally ready to paint your pictures and to lie to your collectors,” I couldn’t stop the words now. They blasted from my tongue like bullets, intent on wounding. “Maybe you don’t want me to have a life because you’re afraid if I did I wouldn’t be able to fully devote myself to taking care of yours.”
He closed his eyes tight, like he was shutting out tears or maybe just trying to conjure a picture of his formerly obedient daughter. I knew I should apologize, that I’d gone way over the line, but the words were already out and some of them, though I wasn’t sure exactly which, were true.
He walked out the door, turning for a moment to say, “I just don’t want you to get hurt.”
I spent the night feeling alternately angry and remorseful. I wondered if I should text Grayson to tell him I couldn’t go or if I should sneak out while my dad was busy.
I was practically an adult. He couldn’t control me anymore. I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true. He was in the wrong.
But he was sick. And he needed me. And this may have just made it worse. How could I be so selfish?
My thoughts swirled all night long, with only moments of fitful sleep thrown in between. I slept late and when I woke I knew what I had to do.
I tripped bleary eyed toward the studio, prepared to apologize.
I didn’t come to New York to go on dates. I came to help Dad. That was why I was here, and last night I’d done exactly the opposite.
He wasn’t in the studio. The paintings from last night hadn’t been touched, still frozen in that moment of tension. My chandelier seemed to be all rough diagonals and harsh light. Dad’s moon was calm and gray and comforting. On the edge of the easel he’d left a note.
“Gone out. Be back before your date. Love, Dad.”
At first all I saw was the label. The designer’s name meant the gorgeous striped scarf probably cost more than the rest of my wardrobe combined.
“It’s too much,” I protested.
Dad pulled it out of the box and slipped it around my neck. He grinned. “It’s not too much. It’s perfect. Going on your first date is a big deal. You needed something special.”
I felt a little guilty as I smoothed my hands over the soft wool.
“You look perfect,” Dad said, patting my shoulder.
I hugged him and told him I loved him and I was sorry and I never wanted to fight again.
Before he could respond, the bell rang.
“I’ll try to be back early so I can work on . . .”
“Don’t you dare,” Dad said. His eyes were still sad, but he was smiling so I wouldn’t notice. “I think I can take care of things by myself for one night.”
Create an account

Create an account to get started. It’s free!

Sign up

or sign in with email below