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By:Lulu Pratt & Simone Sowood

The Rich Bitch


“Don’t give up,” Ava says.

“It’s not like I have a choice,” I say, frowning as I examine the way I’ve captured the movement of water on my canvas.

“There’s always a way. We’ll find it, have faith.”

“I’ve been here six months and have sold exactly one painting.”

“And that one painting was great, just like all your others,” she says gripping my shoulders and squeezing. “It’s just about being discovered. It will happen. You’re too good for it not to.”

“I’m too crap, and that’s why it won’t happen. If I was any good, it would’ve happened by now.” I fling my brush onto my wooden tray and sigh. Being faced with rejection every day has destroyed any belief I had in my abilities.

“That’s not true. If you weren’t any good, I wouldn’t let you live here rent-free. I’d go find an accountant who arranges all her rent payments upfront.” Ava wears a bohemian scarf wrapped around her head, and it bobs as she waggles her head.

“Thanks for reminding me what a freeloader I am.”

It hadn’t started that way. When I first moved to Santa Barbara I paid Ava rent, funded by an inheritance from my grandmother. But art supplies cost a fortune, and I was running through my inheritance so quickly that Ava decided not to accept any more rent from me, no matter how hard I tried to pay her.

“You aren’t a freeloader. You’re going to owe me the commission from your tenth and twenty-fifth paintings sold, remember?”

The corners of my mouth turn up and I can’t help but laugh. “One painting isn’t going to make up for all the rent I’m not paying you.”

“Yes, it will. It won’t take as long as you think, not if you keep on painting like that.” Ava nods her head to the bold colors and delicate swirls on my canvas. We both stare at it for a few minutes. All I can feel is frustration at it. Frustration that no matter how much effort I put into it, no matter how much of my blood, sweat and tears, it’s most likely going to end up gathering dust in the attic.

“I don’t know how to thank you for all the support you give me. Both financial and emotional. I would’ve given up weeks ago if it wasn’t for you.”

She squeezes my shoulders and says, “Skye, listen to me. You are one of the most talented artists I’ve ever come across. You’re a dream come true to me. Every art history professor dreams of discovering a talent like you. It’s an honor to have you in my home.”

“I’m going to request extra shifts at the restaurant. I know they said they only need me on the busy Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening shifts, but I heard a rumor that one of the guys on the day shift has been slacking and is going to get fired.”

“Absolutely not. You cannot work during the day. You need to be here, capturing the natural light.”


“There is no but. Either you’re serious about supporting yourself from your art or you’re giving up. There’s no in between.”

I take my brushes to the utility sink in the next room and begin cleaning them, Ava continues to stare at my work in progress.

She’s very kind but I struggle to understand why. My own parents have disowned me for wasting the money my grandmother left me. They insist painting is a hobby and not a real job, and that I need to get myself a real job real fast.

Ava found my blog online and, according to her, knew in an instant I was set for big things. She even paid for my plane ticket from Michigan. At first I’d assumed she was rich because she has a nice house with a view of the ocean in the distance. Then I found out she’s given away most of her money to various charities for fighting poverty and realized she only kept the amount of money she felt she needed.

I should’ve known, given the anti-poverty and ‘share the wealth’ themes of my paintings.

Knowing she isn’t rolling in money makes me feel even guiltier about not being able to pay her rent. As it is, on top of my paycheck, I’m still dipping into my inheritance and all I’m covering is my art supplies, the upkeep of an old banger I bought to get to and from work and my groceries. Though I take as much food from the restaurant as I can.

“I see it,” she says from the next room.

“See what?”

“The meaning. I see what you’re doing. It’s genius.”

Patting dry the brushes in my hands, I walk back into the room she has converted into a studio for me. It’s mostly empty, and light floods through the large windows onto the easel standing in the middle of the room. Ava is a few feet away from it, staring at it with her hands on her hips.