Melody led Ben up the stairs to the top level of the Gallery. Ben didn’t mind following her as he watched her climb the stairs in black heels and a slim burgundy dress. How did I get so lucky? Ben couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen her that happy as she explained which local or semi-famous artist painted each item. Melody’s blue eyes glowed at each new piece, and it made Ben want to kiss her. But he’d restrained, not wanting to interrupt her enjoyment of the art.
“The program said Tom Clare will speak in five minutes,” Melody said, “but I want to get closer.”
“You won’t leave me for some artist, are you?” Ben said.
He was only joking. The art world eluded his understanding. After last year, he didn’t want to lose anyone else. The attempts to understand art was only to keep Melody. With the death of six coworkers, to the tortures from Bradley Brown, Ben couldn’t connect with people anymore. Focus on Melody. Don’t let her feel you don’t care. Ben refocused on his surroundings.
“You know I wouldn’t do that, my little Bennie-wen,” Melody said.
Ben could feel her crooked smile, though he still couldn’t see it.
“Thank you, Me Lady,” Ben said.
Melody stopped and shot a scowl in his direction, but then faltered into a sly grin. Melody hustled to the small stage erected with a microphone and a flat white background. Many of the occupants gathered in fine suits and gowns that made Ben feel like his suit left him underdressed for the occasion. I still don’t know how Melody afforded these tickets. But before Ben could delve deeper into his worries, applause erupted to his right before the rest of the crowd joined in. A thin man with a wispy white goatee waved as he approached the microphone.
“Thank you, thank you, please hold your applause,” the man said.
Melody tugged on Ben’s arm.
“That’s him,” Melody said, “Tom Clare!”
Ben smiled and listened to Tom Clare’s speech about art and its importance in culture, but another person held Ben’s attention. Banking the edge of the crowd, a woman with fire-red hair and a lower-end dress that stood out against all the delicate fabrics crept closer to the stage. Tom Clare’s words might as well have been as weak as his goatee. A glint of silver appears next to the woman’s arm and disappears.
“Ben, what are you looking at?”
“Something’s not right,” Ben said.
The strange woman pounced onto the white stage, and a red splatter of blood cascaded across the floor. Tom Clare ran off the stage. Ben wanted to run, needed to run, but all he did was stare. The red-haired woman held her arm, screaming in pain, and then painted the white wall with her blood. The woman wept the entire time, and Ben felt Melody’s grip tighten on his arm.