In / Balance

Alberta Arts District 
In / Balance

 Was this the place?

 Lara looked up at the building through the windshield of her car, mouth slightly open with consideration. It certainly looked like the place. The neighborhood was classy enough. She’d passed a Coach on the road. Who knew those standalone even existed outside of LA? For that matter, down the street from her own house. Fucking Gentrification—her thoughts had savagery that her mouth was careful to conceal.

 She killed the engine and popped the trunk. Whatever had possessed her to create something for an art gallery drove her to be awake early on a Saturday. When her Etsy business boomed several years ago, plenty of people reached out to her inquiring about custom projects. Art installations were never something she considered, however. Her small arts were merely different from bigger ones. They felt more suited for personal enjoyment. Pendants, earrings, statement necklaces weren’t the kind of things you’d put in a gallery unless they were incredibly old, famous, or expensive. Since her pieces were none of those, she was perplexed at her own decision to volunteer.

 Several months ago, a gallery proposed an exhibit about the earth and sought installations from local artisans. It was just a mile away from her house, in a part of town she never visited but to run the odd errand. She felt out of place on this overdressed block, preferring the other parts of the art district. The gritty, honest, unapologetic way businesses filled a street made her think of home. And the community down on her street had to be better than this. She bet the gallery-owner didn’t even know the people who lived in the apartments above the space. Lara counted at least three separate window AC units above the smooth glass frontage.

 The air was cold for August, but Lara wouldn’t need a coat until it was below freezing, at least. Sometimes she wore one in 40-degree weather to make the people around her more comfortable, but not today. She was just herself today.

 Her trunk held five rocks, descending in size. The largest of the group could be considered a small boulder. Each had chunks of crystal and semi-precious stones pressed into their surfaces in a rainbow of different colors. This technique used for public enjoyment was chancy. She couldn’t explain that the rock simply allowed her to manipulate its surface. Instead, she’d say something about hewing perfect little slots for each stone. Assembled, each rock could balance on top of one another, and the crystal rainbow seemed to spill down from a singular point at the apex.

 Pride surged within her. She put her hands on her hips and considered the best way to get all of them in the door. The biggest one first? Yeah, that was the play. As the base, she wanted to make sure it was positioned on level ground.

 Leaning in, she picked up the thing. It was at least 40 pounds. The green hues in her brown eyes bled away, leaving a bright, shining red. Her power made the stone somewhat lighter, but nothing could change its unwieldy shape. She tottered to the gallery entrance, cursing under her breath for not getting the door opened before she’d started to unload.

Bennet handed over the small, flat box holding an early van Heemskerck, one of the oldest pieces he had. "I'm sure you'll enjoy this for a long time, Mrs. Nouri." The middle-aged woman dimpled with glee as her son hefted the box. Bennet strode to the door to open it for them.

When they were gone, he maintained his aplomb even though he wanted to rub his hands in glee. He found he loved the business even more than he'd expected. There was a rush with every sale. It wasn't always about the money, though that didn't hurt. There was a satisfaction in matching pieces to people who would have the same rush he got when he purchased the pieces in the first place. Perhaps even a greater one since they'd be keeping their choices.

Moving into the main room, he headed towards the discreet reception desk. There were a thousand things to do today and he was behind on most of them. Especially with getting his first exhibit of local artists going. He was a little surprised how much it had come to mean to him. Finding those talents that had the skill to cross the edge into Art was always tricky, but he'd keep to his standards, even if it meant for a small exhibit. It would grow over time.

A flicker of movement in his peripheral vision had him turning in time to see the woman staggering towards the entrance.

Carrying a boulder.

Portland was such an interesting city.

He rushed for the door, opening it wide. He didn't try to help yet; she had the momentum to get through the door and anything he did would upset that enough to make her drop the rock. Which, at closer look, wasn't exactly a rock.

But, once she cleared the threshold, he moved forward to catch part of the rock, regardless of the damage to his suit. It wasn't that heavy, but it was awkward. "Big isn't always better," he quipped.

He looked around quickly. He nodded towards a large empty plinth. "Let's set it down there."

 Someone had seen her struggling gait and opened the door. Those glass walls had a purpose beyond a silly display of wealth. Good. Lara grunted her thanks, and as she crossed into the building, the load was suddenly lighter. Her new partner made a snide remark. She took a deep breath—finally able to thanks to the reduced weight—and said sharply, “It is when you’re talking rocks.” He should know that if this exhibit was his idea, and by the look at him—Lara gave him an unashamed examination as they scuttled the last few feet to an empty plinth—he certainly looked the part.

 She maneuvered around, ensuring the crystals would catch the light from the windows. Their brilliance would do nothing facing the inside of the gallery, no matter how well lit. “Move it a little to your left.” She commanded, moving in the opposite direction. The purple amethysts began to reflect sunlight, their facets shimmering. Tiny spots of light appeared on the ground below, and she set down her end. Her eyes went back to normal. “Can this thing hold another 40 pounds? The rest of my rocks aren’t as heavy, but I’ve got four more.” She walked around the display, examining the position. It was perfect. Glancing at the wall behind the plinth, she grimaced, hoping nothing would be placed in that spot; she didn’t want to show anyone up, but shadows from her sparkly balancing act were unavoidable.

Bennet merely raised an eyebrow at the curt tone in response to a simple attempt at humor. Temperamental artists wasn't anything new to him, regardless of whether it was justified or not. He could choose to believe she was out of sorts because she had to lug the small boulder inside. When she gave the order, he started to lean more to the notion that it might just come naturally. He wondered if it was a Portland idiosyncrasy that people went right into business before making simple introductions or even polite greetings or thanks. If so, he'd been away from the States longer than her thought.

He studied the piece. Bennet was quite sure people would wonder how she could have created it. But the tell-tale sense that she was a witch at least partially answered that question. What he saw showed real promise. If the other pieces were of such quality, he might just rearrange a few things to have it a bit more central to the exhibit.

He ran a thumb along his jaw, an unconscious gesture while he thought. There were any number of ways he could handle this but ultimately, neither he nor any employee was going to be ordered about, treated as lackeys or doormats, for the sake of another's hubris.

So, he kept his tone mild, but implacable, as he ran a practiced eye over the piece. "It can hold the weight. Of course, I assumed you wanted to showcase your work with the actual exhibit, which is not in this section." He gestured her to follow, preferring to lead to give her time to stew if she chose to.

It was a short walk to where the exhibit was going to be held. Stone, rock, cement were difficult to showcase. Which is why he made sure this room brought in more natural light, via specialized lamps, skylights, and windows. He was determined that every artist was given a proper setting. Her added gems made it trickier, though. He paced a bit, calculating the angles, changing light, and the probable size of her piece. He stopped at one spot, judging it as perfect. "Here.This is the perfect spot."

"Bennet?" He turned to see his part-time assistant rush over. "The felting shipment was short. There isn't enough time to get another order in."

Ah, the vagueries of owning a business. "Charlize, would you be willing to go local and get some?" As she nodded, he added, "And ask Jake if he would mind helping me bring in some pieces," nodding towards the newly arrived artist, who he figured was probably steaming by now. "There's four more, but not as large."

As she hurried off he turned back to the business at hand. "I apologize for the interruption." He held out his hand "I'm Bennet Sinclair" Then he gestured to the space, "Will this suit you..." He left the sentence hanging, a silent invitation to introduce herself, and perhaps gather her manners.

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