Even though I wasn't bidding, I got caught up in the frenzy. I could see whyDullsvillians waited all year for this event. It was like high-priced bingo, everyone waiting on the edge of their seats, wanting the glamorous prize, or hoping their item might make them millions-more than they already had, anyway.
A covered painting was brought to the easel. They unveiled it to a few gasps and whispers. It was a landscape of the country club itself.By Alexander. I was soproud, his artwork was displayed for all to see. No one even knew Alexander had painted it.
"This is a painting from a rising European artist," Mrs. Mitch.e.l.l said. "There was little information about the artist, but as you can see, the work speaks for itself.A one-of-a-kind original painting. The artist states, 'The inspiration was the beauty that unfolds when I open my eyes in this town/ "
The audience whispered and sat up as if they were eyeing a museum piece, "Bidding starts at five hundred/' the auctioneer began.
"Five hundred?"I heard someone say in front of us.
"I can't believe we're doing this. This whole thing is going to blow up in my face. I can kiss the Mansion and you good-bye," Alexander said in my ear.
"Five hundred is a steal," the person in front of me continued."I bid seven hundred."
I turned to Alexander in amazement.
"Eight hundred," another said, holding up their sign.
"Nine hundred,"' still another shouted.
"Do I hear nine-fifty?" the auctioneer asked.
"A thousand," the first bidder answered.
"Eleven hundred?Do I hear eleven hundred?"
The second bidder held up her sign, "Fifteen hundred-"
The signs went up until it reached two thousand dollars.
"Sold for two thousand," the auctioneer proclaimed, and slammed his gavel.
I grabbed my boyfriend and hugged him with all my might. Even though I knew Alexander's art was
priceless, I was so proud his pictures commanded so much money. The most money I'd ever made in sales was three dollars from my chocolate milk stand in the middle of summer.And my dad paid for it.The members couldn't contain their comments and began to buzz about the painting.The highest bidder was the president of the country club. "I'd like to hang it here in the club for all to see," he said proudly.I was not only flabbergasted because Alexander's artwork sold for so much money but because my ghostly gothic vampire boyfriend's work was going to hang in Dullsville's conservative country club.A piece of jewelry was shown next. Now I was fidgeting in my chair, antic.i.p.ating anotherSterling painting going on the auction block.After a six-foot-high sculpture of a mother and child was sold, a narrative quilt was auctioned off.Then another covered painting was placed on the easel. When it was uncovered, it was revealed to be Dullsville'sMain Street . "Another beautiful piece.It captures the charm that is our town," Mrs. Mitch.e.l.l said. The painting was of the shops on the square.s.h.i.+rley's bakery.The fountain.Children eating ice cream. Looking at it made me feel I was standing on the square with the townspeople.
"Lovely," the couple in front of us commented. "Starting price one thousand dollars."Several signs immediately rose, "Fifteen hundred/' the auctioneer called. Several signs kept flying up at the same time. The bidding war increased and finally ended with a winning bid of four thousand dollars.I squeezed Alexander's hand so hard I thought it was going to break off.I made a quick note of how much Alexander had made.
When the next item was a mosaic mural, the crowd sighed.
They perked up when the following item was a covered painting. When it was unveiled to be a painting of the town from the "European artist/ everyone was on the edge of their seats; the blue bloods were antic.i.p.ating a sign war.
This time it was the front ofHatsy's Diner, I could almost hear the fifties music playing and smell the aroma offrench fries cooking.
"Starting price one thousand five hundred dollars."
"He bid two thousand," Mr. Berkley said.
"Two thousand five hundred," another shouted.
"Three thousand," still another shouted.
"Do I hear three thousand five hundred? "
Mr,Berkley held his sign high, "Do I hear four thousand?"
Another bidder raised his sign.
"Do I hear four thousand five hundred?"
Mr. Berkley raised his sign.
"Five thousand," Ruby White suddenly burst out. "Going once, twice...Sold for five thousand dollars."
I cheered, but when the couple in front of me turned around, I tried to play it cool.
When another painting was put on the easel, the members became very excited again. They thirsted to get their hands on an original painting by this hot new artist.
When they revealed it, it was a portrait of flowers, obviously painted by an artist other than Alexander. Mrs. Mitch.e.l.l went on to talk about this artist, but the bidding didn't start high, nor did it skyrocket.
The crowd waited impatiently for the next painting to be presented.
And when it was again one of the European artist's creations, the hands began waving.
It was now becoming clear to me after seeing these paintings one by one-the cemetery under the soft glow of moonlight; the rail yard, with its bright-colored boxcars andsunfire yellow weeds; the front of the high school, its American flag blowing in the wind; the swings underneath a blue sky at Evans Park; the drive-in running an old movie-that even though Alexander only visited these places at night, he was seeing Dullsville in brilliant colors and happy hues rather than the dark and dismal black and white I'd seen it in my whole life. These were the places we'd visited together. My heart melted seeing that I'd had something to do with Alexander's happiness here, and that his vivid impressions were of our experiences together. Finally they revealed the last painting. But this painting was unlike the others. It was a picture of me.
The members sighed, "That's not the European artist," many of them said.
"No, that's not his work."
"Bidding starts at one thousand dollars."
No one raised their sign.
I quickly calculated my notes and realized we had fallen short of what Alexander needed.
My dad looked around. Here was a picture of his daughter and no one was buying it.
"Do I hear one thousand?"
"I'll bid one thousand," my dad said, waving his sign proudly.
Then Jameson got into the game. "One thousand five hundred," he called.
"Two thousand," my dad said.
"Do I hear two thousand five hundred?" the auctioneer asked. I peered around. No signs were waved. "Going once, going twice."
My heart dropped. We'd raised a lot of money, but we hadn't raised enough to buy the mansion.
"We're short," I said to Alexander. "Do I hear two thousand five hundred?" I shouted.
Alexander grabbed my arm.
"We have to get the bidding up," I whispered to him.
"Two thousand five hundred."Jameson raised his sign "Two thousand five hundred.Going once, going twice."
"Three thousand dollars," a new voice, coming from the back of the room, called.
"Do I hear three thousand five hundred?" the auctioneer asked. He banged his gavel."Then sold for three thousand."
Alexander and I stood up and hugged each other. We were so ecstatic we didn't care that anyone saw us. And I was too excited to wonder who the mystery bidder was.
"Now we just have to get that money to Mr. Berkley before Mr. Mitch.e.l.l does."
A few volunteers brought out all the auctioned items and displayed them so that everyone could take a last look at what they'd won and what they'd lost.Mr. Sterling put on his reading gla.s.ses and examined the tiny inscription about the rising artist whose work had quickly sold out.Then he turned straight back to us.The club members were milling about, talking to one another and discussing the auction. But there was only one member I wanted to speak to: Mr. Berkley. I weaved between the members until I spotted him.After a brief conversation with him, I raced over to Alexander, who was waiting by the kitchen."Here," I said, showing him Mr. Berkley's card. "You have an appointment tomorrow night at eight."We lingered for a few minutes while the crowd talked excitedly about the evening."I hear the artist is here," I overheard a patron say. "He is?" another asked. "I'd love to meet him.""The artist has been here the whole time," one woman said.
"Which one is he?" a man asked.
"The one in the cowboy hat?" another man inquired.
"No, he must have been the one with long gray hair," the woman said.
"I think you should meet your public," I said.
"I'm not sure that now is the time," he said anxiously, his face white as a ghost.
Alexander had done enough tonight. Though he was beaming from his sudden acceptance, he was too
humble to accept fame.We ducked through the kitchen and out a side exit to the opposite end of the club where the members were exiting. We were afraid that if anyone found out the artist was Alexander, they'd demand their money back. We were leaving through the patio exit when we were blocked by a thin wooden stick.We froze.Mr. Sterling stepped in front of us.Alexander and I didn't know what to do."You have your grandmother's gift," he said in his thick Romanian accent."It's just a hobby," Alexander said."I think you've just proved to me-and to yourself-that it's more than that. I've found that new artist I was looking for. I just didn't realize he'd been here the whole time."
Mrs.Naper handed back our graded English career essays. Matt and Trevor and all the other jocks were off preparing for a pep rally, so I wasn't going to have to face Trevor. Unfortunately, that was the only thing thatmadeschool exciting.
"I'm hoping you can give the papers to your partners,"Mrs.Naper said to us.
"I sure will," Becky said, excited. "We got an A."
"No surprise," I said.
"What did you get?" Becky asked.
I opened Trevor'sDullsvilleHigh School folder and saw the scarlet A next to his name. "Well, Trevor got an A of course." I designed my folder like it was the cover of a gothic magazine, complete with pasted headlines, gothic fas.h.i.+ons, and teasers. I opened it and hoped for a good letter in the alphabet. "So didI !"
After school, I biked over to Oakley Woods.
Mrs. Mitch.e.l.l answered the door. "h.e.l.lo, Raven."
"Hi, Mrs. Mitch.e.l.l.Is-"
"It was quite a surprise to learn that the European artist was actually Alexander."
I waited. Maybe we had embarra.s.sed her at the auction. It was as if at any moment the Wicked
Witch of the West would point her broom at me."I must say your boyfriend is truly talented. What a wonderful surprise to know that we had such a fine artist among us. It's a shame he'll be moving. We'd love to have his work in the auction next year.""Uh... thanks, Mrs. Mitch.e.l.l," I said, relieved. "Is Trevor home? We got our grades back from our English a.s.signment."
"Come on in. Trevor's upstairs."
I quickly raced up the main staircase and found Trevor's bedroom door ajar.
I tapped it. "h.e.l.lo.Soccer Boy?"
I could have waited in the hallway, but that wouldn't have been any fun at all.
Trevor's room was still a shrine to himself. I nosed around his awards and trophies and framed soccer
I noticed something large was covered in the corner. Maybe it was a mirror.
I snuck over to it and pulled back the cloth so I could take a peek.
Staring back at me was me -the final painting of Alexander's sold at the auction. I was shocked.
I heard the door begin to creak open and quickly recovered the painting.
"What are you doing here?" Trevor asked.
"Uh... I wanted to tell you we got an A."
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