The colors of the watercolor painting started to blur together in front of Lisa. Brown hair waved in the air. Jade eyes looked down. The woman’s white robe just needed some finishing touches. Her wings expanded over floating castles. Hopefully the public will like this at the gallery. Unlike Lisa’s last painting, which didn’t even get a glance. It was an abstract painting of many colors; she’d thought it was good, but the public had other opinions. Funny how I dreamt of this woman a few nights ago, she thought, writing a name below the angel: Celestina.
Lisa stood back to admire her work. Her body tingled just looking at the angel’s pixie face staring down at the city she was charged with. I’m so tired, I should stop for tonight. But I only have a few touch ups left. Taking her thin paint brush and dipping it in the brown paint on the pallet, Lisa hovered over Celestina’s hair when a child crying next door made her hand jolt. She scrutinized her apartment wall. Lisa shook her head and went back to her painting. A few moments later there was a knock on her door. Lisa stopped painting, left the bedroom and went downstairs. That time already?
Lisa crossed the living room to the front door and opened it. There stood her sister, Sara, soaked through from the rain. Sara’s gold bangs stuck to her forehead and water dripped from her straight long hair onto the balcony.
Sara stood tall and slim. Her eyes were accentuated with dark blue mascara that now ran down her face.
“Hey, sis,” Lisa said, while Sara gave her a hug.
Sara turned toward the stairs. “Come meet your aunt, Kristy.”
Lisa looked around the door to see a young girl, around fourteen climbing the steps, dragging a suitcase. When Kristy stopped at the door, Lisa saw a young Sara that reminded her of herself four years ago. Kristy’s brown hair was tied back in a ponytail. Her sparkling eyes made her skin light up, If only she didn’t have a crease on her face.
“Hi, Kristy. I’m Lisa,” she held out her hand.
“Hi,” Kristy said solemnly, without extending her hand.
“Don’t be rude, Kristy,” her mother said.
“That’s okay. Why don’t you come in?” Lisa said.
“Could you just watch TV or listen to your ipod while I talk to your aunt?”
“Sure.” Kristy sat her suitcase down then plopped on the couch.
“Can I get something to drink for you two?” Lisa asked.
“I’ll have a Sprite,” Kristy said, putting her headphones on.
“None for me,” Sara said, looking at the painting of a park hanging on the wall.
Lisa handed Kristy a can. “I made some tea. I was hoping it would keep me awake.” She told Sara.
“Sure.” Sara sat at the kitchen table and Lisa handed her a cup. “Did you paint that?”
“I did,” Lisa said, looking at a multi-colored painting on the wall, sipping her tea. “I tried to sell it at the gallery where I work but no one seemed interested so my manager had me take it down.”
“It’s okay. I’m working on something better.”
“I shouldn’t ask you to do this. Especially when I haven’t seen you in years. I’m sorry I haven’t called. I’ve been moving around. I just don’t know who else to turn to. I don’t think our parents have forgiven me yet.”
“That was eight years ago. Now you’re getting help,” Lisa said. “They will.”
“I’m surprised you said you would take in Kristy for me,” Sara looked down. “Especially after the things I’ve said to you.”
“That’s what families do. We forgive.” Lisa held out her hand and her sister took it. Something doesn’t feel right.
“About Kristy staying for six months. Um, well…it might be longer.”
“Longer?” Lisa whispered. “How much longer?”
“Er…let’s say a year or longer.” Sara swallowed and tried to avoid Lisa’s glare. “I just need time to put my life back together.”
“Your life…what about my life?” Lisa spat.
Sara wiped an eye. “I need someone to look after her. I don’t want her following my path.”
“Doesn’t she have any other place to stay?”
“I trust you. I don’t want her to go into the system or to our parents. I don’t know what they’re like anymore.” Sara rested her hand on top of Lisa’s.
Lisa’s eyes softened. She sipped her tea then sighed. “I’ll do it for her.”
“I’ve already enrolled her in school. I’ve also slipped in an envelope that has money and a letter to her in her suitcase. I can’t bear to tell her now.”
Sara hugged Kristy and told her she’d return in six months.
“Why can’t I stay with my friend Holly in LA?” Kristy whined.
“Your friend isn’t an adult. She is,” Sara said pointing to Lisa.
Kristy gave her mother a hug. She looked at Lisa then shook her head. “Thanks, you’re an angel, sis.”
Lisa had a queasy feeling as she watched her sister descend into the darkness. Like she wasn’t coming back. Thunder boomed overhead, off in the distance, approaching fast.
Lisa put Kristy in the bedroom upstairs in her painting room. “That’s a nice painting,” Kristy said.
“Thanks,” Lisa said while cleaning up her paintbrushes. “Why does my mom have to go out of town for her drug treatment?” Kristy asked putting her purse down.
“Because New York has the best drug program,” Lisa said, unfolding the couch into a bed; she then put Kristy’s suitcase on it.
Kristy stared at a framed picture on the dresser of the two sisters. “Were you close?”
“Not really. She moved out with our father at sixteen when I was seven.” She coughed. “Well, everything in this room is yours.”
“Can I take a shower?”
“Of course. It’s your pl—place too,” Lisa replied, swallowing. “Just don’t touch the paintings or supplies, please.”
While Kristy was in the bathroom, Lisa wondered if she should do what her sister couldn’t and tell Kristy the truth. Lisa searched for the envelope. Five hundred dollars and the letter along with papers to sign for permanent custody.
Lisa’s hand began to tremble. How am I going to tell Kristy?
“I haven’t been here for five minutes and you’re already going through my stuff?” Lisa turned around to find Kristy at the doorway wrapped in a towel.
“I—I don’t know how to tell you—”
Kristy grabbed the letter from her and read it. She stood frozen, the paper shaking in her hand. She collapsed onto the bed. “Why?”
Lisa sat next to her and rubbed her back. “Your—your mom is just trying to do what she thinks is best for you.” She didn’t know what else to say, but she was sure more needed to be said.
Kristy’s tears flowed. “What did I do?”
Lisa wiped her own eyes. Definitely more needed to be said. Now it really is your place.
* * *