Emmalina sighed quietly as she climbed out of the small, cramped car that smelled like feet. Another day of working as a sign painter, another day where it felt like her soul died, just a little bit. At first, being productive and making money had felt good. And she had been very grateful when the store owner agreed to let her keep working there after she missed all that time while looking for Kayne. But the job itself – it felt like it was pulling the creativity right out of her. How many more times could she paint words on an uninspiring poster before her eyes melted out of her head?
She went inside and found Jason looking intent at the computer. That was how she was used to seeing him; he spent most of his time chained to it. Some time ago, she’d finally asked him what he was up to, and she hadn’t been satisfied with his vague answers. Finally, he’d confided in her what he was up to. What he was doing – that was worthwhile. And he truly seemed on the cusp of really changing Oasis Springs.
Not wanting to disturb him, she quietly fixed herself a plate of the fried fish someone had made earlier and sat down on the sofa.
She looked at the almost-finished painting she’d left on the easel the night before. When she finished it, it would just go into the basement along with all the others. Sure, a few got hung up in rooms around the house, but there wasn’t space for the big ones on any of the walls. So they just got shoved into dark corners of the musty basement.
“Hey, Dad,” Baz said as he came up from said basement, his voice deep and full of gravel. “Still working on the mystery story?”
“Yup, that’s the one.”
Baz shook his head and came around the table. He smiled when he spotted Emmalina. “Hey, Em,” he nodded.
Emmalina smiled at him. “Baz. You’re going to wear that punching bag out.” At first, she’d been intimidated by him. He was so reserved; it was hard for her to read him. Fortunately, after she’d been there for a while, he’d relaxed some and seemed to accept her as part of the family. “Hey, can I ask you something?”
He arched a single red brow and took a seat across from her. “Sure.”
“Why did you choose your career?” Knowing now what she did about Kayne and Shannyn’s professions, she would’ve pegged Baz to follow after one of them. She’d been shocked to find out he was hiding a wicked intelligence behind his façade of perpetual boredom; he was training for space missions of all things!
Baz shrugged. “Have you looked around town lately? Everything is shit. And I don’t mean just the people. I mean, the appliances, the furniture – everything. It’s garbage. But if anyone has the tech to make stuff better – it’s the science folks, right?”
“So you’re trying to make the town better, too.”
He snorted softly. “It’s a purely selfish endeavor, I swear. Don’t make me out as some kind of hero, Em. Save that for Quinn.”
Emmalina frowned slightly. “He’s in law enforcement, isn’t he?” That was what he’d told her.
He snorted again. “Well, sort of. He’s working for some kind of fancy agency. Can’t be that fancy if they didn’t run a background check on him. But I digress. He’s got some kind of big dreams about opening the town up, at least within itself. So people can visit places and stuff.”
“It’s like this whole family is trying singlehandedly to restore the town.”
Baz shook his head and got to his feet. “Well, Dad and Quinn, maybe, but me? I’m just in this for me and mine. Other people benefitting is just a coincidence.”
He headed outside, presumably to go for a run – since all he seemed to do was play chess or exercise.
After he had gone, Emmalina looked at her painting again. Painting was her passion. Aside from Kayne and Catalina, it was the thing she loved most. Yet, she also wanted to do something worthwhile. Jason, Quinn, Baz, Myrcella – they were all contributing to making the town better and safer. Emmalina certainly wasn’t going to help with anything by working for a sign painter.
“You look troubled.”
She looked up to see Jason’s kind eyes focused on her. “Oh, no. I’m just thinking.”
The older man sat down next to her. “Thinking hard, it looks like. I heard you and Baz.”
Emmalina shifted around to look at him. “I guess I was just thinking about how you’re all doing things that really mean something.”
“You could, too. If you wanted.”
“The only thing I know how to do is paint.”
Jason smiled softly. “You know, before the apocalypse, there was a great art gallery here in town. It got attention from all over the world. People from here and abroad would sell their art there. It might not be a bad idea to bring that back.”
“How would that help anything?”
“Besides putting some more money in people’s pockets? It’ll give you and everyone in town a place to share what they make. I doubt you’re the only person with a basement full of things they’d love to share with the world.”
Emmalina looked away from him and her eyes rested on her painting for a long moment. She could almost imagine it hung up in a fine frame to be admired and purchased. “I don’t know how to make that happen.”
“That you’ve got to figure out on your own. Get out a hammer and build it yourself if you have to. If it’s something that you truly want, you’ll make it happen, Emmalina.” He smiled gently at her. “You can do it. You’re stronger than you look.”
He went back to his work, and Emmalina was left alone with her thoughts. Could she do it? It would take so much work…but nothing could possibly be harder than tracking Kayne down, and she did that. She could do it. And – so what if it didn’t make the kind of impact on the town that Jason or Quinn wanted to make? Perhaps she could take a page from Baz’s book.
Slowly, a smile crossed her face. An art gallery. She would open an art gallery.