Femininity radiated off her, like steam from a pot of herbal tea. Her sleeves were ruffled and rhubarb red, as were the trio of roses on her bodice. She had a ballerina’s poise, a cocked head, and a pensive expression, which gave no indication of what she was thinking. I’d never get away with a gown like that, Isabella mused. Too scandalously flirtatious. On the roll of a dice, Isabella’s world had crumbled. Her boyfriend had kicked her out, she was between jobs and her sister refused to put her up.
Granted, she had a trunk of smelly art gear and without a studio, it was impossible to keep the odour of turpentine from invading every nook and cranny. Her last show had gone gangbusters, but once she had paid the caterers, the rental and the insurance, her slice of the pie was woefully small. Scratching her chin, she wondered. Perhaps her uncle would show some mercy. He had a large townhouse with a shed at the back where she could store all her stuff and wouldn’t ask for much board.
Glancing at some biscuits in a shop window, Isabella’s stomach rumbled. She caught sight of her coat in the reflection. It was stained and misshapen and the collar scratched her neck. Putrid air from a revving engine coated her tongue and she grimaced, checking the time. She’d bought her preloved watch at a street fair, but she never told anyone. Most people assumed it was a Cartier. It wasn’t, of course, just a cheap imitation.
Come on, girl. Isabella chided herself. Keep walking. The door tinkled as she stepped in and took off her watch.
‘That’s a sweet piece,’ the pawnbroker muttered.
‘Yes. I got it years ago from my great aunt.’
‘Hmm. I see you’ve had it gold plated. Not worth it of course, but attractive nonetheless.’
Isabella groaned inwardly. Her friends had been fooled, but not this guy.
‘I’ll give you fifty dollars,’ the cashier said.
‘Nah, it’s not worth it. Fifty dollars, take it or leave it.’
What a measly price! Through the open zipper of her handbag, the lady looked wistful. Her dress swirled, frozen in time and her lips were a bright fuchsia.
A man in a pinstriped suit sailed through the door as the bell jingled.
‘Found a house-sitter yet, Larry?’ The pawnbroker asked.
‘No, although I’m considering going online.’
Isabella straightened up. ‘I’m looking for something, actually. Do you have any pets?’
‘No, but I do have a lot of valuables and some indoor plants.’
‘I’ll give you my card,’ Isabella said, feeling professional. She’d had a ton printed a year ago in a bid to revamp her image.
‘An artist? Well, that’s impressive. Why don’t we go for a coffee and I’ll fill you in?’
He sold his grandmother’s Limoges plates for a much larger sum than she had received, but it didn’t matter. Touching the cool porcelain of the lady’s arm, Isabella smiled. ‘Saved by the bell,’ she whispered and strode into the frigid wind.