Chapter 20

MARYA AND CHARLES-Edouard had agreed to baby-sit for Ian, when Chris and Francesca left for Miami for the weekend. She could hardly wait to see the different art fairs. There was Scope and Red Dot, and fourteen others, along with Art Basel, which was the finest in the world. The work that was exhibited there would sell for a fortune. Her father’s dealer had a booth, her father and Avery went every year, and she had promised to call them. Francesca and Chris were staying at the Delano, and when Chris saw it, he loved it. Each of the elevators was lit up in a different color, and the rooms had been designed by Philippe Starck. The weather was balmy and warm when they arrived, and Chris was dying to spend some time at the pool. Francesca wanted to go straight to the fair and get started. They’d be seeing more art in the next few days than most people saw in years.

Art Basel was at the Convention Center in Miami Beach in an enormous hall, and the others were at the Ice Palace and scattered around the city in different locations. Some of the smaller fairs had taken over hotels, and each room was rented by a different dealer. And there were parties in a dozen locations, in discos and hotels and restaurants. Francesca had received a stack of invitations. It was Chris’s introduction into the serious art world, by total immersion. He was excited about sharing it with her, and willingly put himself in her hands. But he stopped her before they left the room, and they wound up in bed for half an hour. It was a nice way to start the trip. They showered, changed, and went out.

They caught a cab at the hotel, and went to the Convention Center. There was a separate building for younger artists and more avant-garde work. Francesca’s dream was to show at one of the smaller fairs in Miami one day. She was planning to apply to Red Dot the following year, but didn’t feel she was ready for it yet. And she expected to spend several years on the waiting list. Getting into art fairs was extremely political, and often depended on who you knew. She had a great in through her father, but she hadn’t traded on it yet. She would if she absolutely had to.

“I’m never afraid to grovel for my artists,” she said to Chris, and he laughed as they got out of the cab at the huge hall. She had a pass from her father’s dealer to get in, and a few minutes later they were walking down the aisles, stopping at each booth to check out the art. Chris was amazed at what they saw. There were an infinite number of traditional dealers, selling important paintings. He saw three Picassos in less than five minutes, at astronomical prices. He saw a Matisse, a Chagall, two de Koonings, a Pollock, and two of her father’s paintings were exhibited by his dealer. One had a red dot next to it, which meant it was already sold. The other had a white dot, which meant it was on hold for a client. You had to have a big budget to buy there.

“Where does all this stuff come from?” Chris said in amazement. He had never seen so much art in his life, and the high caliber of the artists shown there was impressive.

“Europe, the States, Hong Kong.” Dealers from all over the world were showing there, and had flown in from everywhere. There were also a vast number of avant-garde galleries that were showing art that was intended to shock. There were video installations, conceptual art, and in one booth a huge mound of sand on the floor. It was selling for a hundred thousand dollars, and installed by the artist, who was well known.

Chris made comments as they walked along, and Francesca told him who some of the artists were. She loved being there with him, and they stayed until nearly eight o’clock, and after that they took a cab to a party she’d been invited to at a restaurant called Bed, where people sat and lay on mattresses and ate dinner. Every conversation they heard around them was about art and artists, the quality of the show, the expensive pieces that had already sold. Francesca ran into a lot of people she knew and introduced them to Chris. She was having a ball and loved every minute of it, and he was enjoying himself too. This was her world, and it fascinated him. Everyone seemed to know her.

They didn’t get back to the hotel until two A.M., after stopping at another party hosted by a dealer at a disco. They danced for a little while and then went home, and fell into bed in their stark white room at the Delano. They were dead to the world when Ian woke them up the next morning. He had just bought a Christmas tree with Marya, and they were making decorations. They were going to bake some of them to hang on the tree, and he sounded excited. Chris smiled at Francesca proudly after they hung up. Ian promised to call them back later.

“He’s such a great kid, isn’t he?” Chris said, cuddling up to her in bed.

“Yes, he is,” she agreed, “and so are you.” She kissed him, and they got up a few minutes later. And an hour after that they were back at the fair. They stayed there all day until Chris begged for mercy, and said he couldn’t look at another piece of art. They had almost finished with Art Basel by then, and she still wanted to see Red Dot and Scope, but she agreed to take a break, and spend an hour with him at the pool. He lay gratefully next to her, and looked ecstatic, as he held a beer.

“Jesus, they’re not kidding when they say this is the biggest art fair in the world.” She laughed at his look of exhaustion. There was still a lot she wanted to see, although she didn’t think they’d get to all the fairs. She had five on her list for the next day. They weren’t going back to New York till the afternoon, on Monday, and that still didn’t give them time to see it all.

By Sunday, Chris said he was on art overload, and she laughed and said he looked just like Ian. He wanted to go back to the hotel and watch football. So she agreed to meet up with him later that afternoon.

They had dinner at a trendy restaurant in South Beach that night, with her father and Avery and his dealer, who was a fascinating man. Chris had an interesting conversation with him about Italian art in the Middle Ages, which he had studied in school, and enjoyed a lengthy conversation with Francesca’s father about his work. The two men seemed to get along famously, and Avery winked at Francesca from across the table, while she listened to their conversation with one ear. So far so good. She could tell from her father’s expansiveness with Chris that he liked him, and she was pleased. “I really like your guy,” Avery commented to her in a whisper as they left the restaurant. “And I can tell your dad does too.” It would have been hard not to. Chris was intelligent, interesting, solid, nice to be with, and loved what he was learning about her world.

It was a nonstop art bath all weekend, and by Sunday night even Francesca was tired and happy to go back to the hotel. There were only three more shows she wanted to see the next day, and Chris flatly refused and said he was going to lie by the pool. She didn’t mind his doing that. There was so much to see, and so many people she knew, that she was fine being on her own. And she and Avery went to two of the smaller art fairs together, set up in small hotels, on Monday morning.

“I really like Chris,” Avery said casually as they strolled through the booths. “And so does your father. He’s intelligent and fun to talk to, and crazy about you. I like that a lot for you,” Avery said, smiling at her.

“I’m crazy about him too. I’m not renting to any more roommates when Marya leaves, by the way. Chris and I are going to split it.” Avery was relieved, and started chatting with a friend from a gallery in Cleveland, when Francesca heard her cell phone ring in her purse. It was Chris, and he sounded panicked.

“Where are you? How fast can you get back here?”

“I’m at one of the smaller fairs at some hotel near the beach. Why? What happened?” There was a lot of noise from people talking around her, and poor cell service in the hotel. She stepped into a hallway to try and hear him better. She had no idea what he was talking about, but she had never heard him sound so frightened.

“Kim grabbed Ian. From school. She’s got him.” He was in tears.

“Oh my God. How did that happen?” Francesca was panicked for Chris and Ian. Especially Ian. They knew that she had gotten out of jail two weeks before, and was at a fancy rehab in New Jersey. She was due to stay there till Christmas, but she could walk out of it anytime she wanted to, and Chris had been sure she would. He had told Marya to be careful. They had hardly gone out all weekend, except to buy the tree. She had kept Ian busy making decorations and baking cookies.

“She showed up at his school this morning and said she had visitation with him and was taking him to a doctor’s appointment for a booster shot. And they believed her. I guess Ian was happy to see her, and went with her. The school just called me to verify it. But she had already run out the back door. I don’t know where he is,” Chris said. “I have no idea what she’ll do with him, or where she’ll go.”

“She can’t be that crazy,” Francesca said, trying to calm him down, and he shouted at her for the first time ever.

“Yes, she is!” he roared over the phone. “I’m going to kill his fucking school. They know he’s not supposed to be with her without supervision. I gave them a copy of the court order. How fast can you get back here? Where are you? There’s a one o’clock flight to New York. I want to be on it.”

“I’m not sure exactly where I am. We went to another fair before this.”

“I’ll pack your stuff. Meet me at the airport. United Airlines.” Francesca went back to find Avery and told her what had happened. And Avery looked as worried as she was.

“Do you think he’ll be all right? She wouldn’t hurt him, would she?”

“I don’t think so. Not intentionally. She’s more likely to hurt herself, doing something crazy. Maybe she just wants to scare Chris, or show him she can do whatever she wants. She’s pretty nuts.” All she could think of was the list of horrors she had heard at the hearing. But Ian was eight years old now. He was resourceful and could take care of himself better than most kids his age. He had had to whenever he was with his mother.

Francesca kissed Avery goodbye in haste, ran outside and caught a passing cab, and told him to take her to the airport. She was wearing running shoes, jeans, and a T-shirt, but she would have boarded the plane in a bathing suit to be with Chris. He looked frantic when she found him at the airport. He had just checked her bags in, and was carrying her coat.

“Maybe she took him to her apartment,” she suggested. “Can you call the police?”

“I already did,” he said, looking tense. He looked as though his nerves were raw. “I don’t know why Ian went with her. He knows better, and he knows he’s not supposed to.”

“She’s his mother,” Francesca said gently, as they ran toward the gate. They had barely made it, and were the last passengers on the flight.

“She’s not answering her cell phone. The police are looking for her now. I told them I think Ian is in danger. And I believe he is. The woman is insane.”

They boarded the plane, and took their seats. And Chris hardly spoke on the flight. It was the longest three hours of her life, watching him, and knowing he was dying inside. He was terrified for his son. Francesca didn’t even try to talk to him after a while. She just held his hand. Chris drank two straight scotches on the plane. And he dozed for a few minutes after that. There was nothing they could do until they landed.

They took a cab at the airport, and Marya was waiting for them at the house. It wasn’t her fault, but she felt terrible anyway. Chris had checked with the police the minute they landed, but they had nothing yet. They had gone to her apartment, and she wasn’t there. The elevator man and doorman hadn’t seen her since she got out of jail and left for rehab. Chris sat in the kitchen on Charles Street, with his head in his hands, trying to figure out where she was. Where would she take him? And then suddenly he had an idea. He looked like a madman as he stared at them both, and right then he was.

“If she’s not out buying drugs, or dead in an alley somewhere, there’s a bar on the West Side where she used to take him. They have pinball machines and arcade games. He loves it, and it’s close to her dealer.” He had given the police her dealer’s address too, or the last one he knew of, from Ian.

Chris ran out of the house before they could stop him, and Francesca followed him down the stairs at full speed. She didn’t even bother to take her coat although it was cold.

“Go back inside. I’ll call you if I find him.” He looked distracted and still frightened as he hailed a cab.

“I want to come with you,” she said, as he hesitated and yanked open the door. He didn’t want her to see what this was like, but she loved Ian too, and she was part of his life now, even this. He slid over, and she jumped in. He told the driver where they were going and said they were in a hurry. The driver made good time up the West Side Highway, and they were there in ten minutes. It looked like a sleazy place that would have frightened Francesca otherwise. They were open. And Chris pulled open the door and walked in. It was dark inside, and all he could see were the lit-up machines that blinded him for a minute. There was a bartender wiping down the bar, and two waitresses with heavy cleavage, short nylon uniforms, and fishnet stockings. Two men were playing with the machines. And then he saw him, in a back corner, playing an arcade game, a tiny figure standing in front of the machine. There was a woman with him, sprawled across the table next to him. She looked like she was asleep. Chris had the boy in his arms in a minute, lifted him off the ground, and took a long hard look at him. There were tears streaming down Chris’s cheeks, and he didn’t even know it. Francesca was crying with relief. Ian’s eyes were huge in his face.

“Are you okay?” Chris asked him, and Ian nodded.

“I’m fine.” Ian’s voice was small as his father held him. “She’s sick.” Which meant she had just shot up. She looked it. This was not a new scene to Chris, or Ian.

“I’ll take care of it,” Chris said through a clenched jaw and handed him to Francesca. Kimberly hadn’t stirred. “Take him back to the house.” Francesca nodded, and Ian took her hand as they walked out, as Chris jabbed his finger into his ex-wife’s shoulder. She didn’t move, and he suddenly wondered if she had OD’d while Ian played the machines. He felt for a pulse in her neck, and while he was looking for it, she groaned, and then threw up all over the table where she lay. Her face was lying in it. One of the waitresses saw what happened and came over with a towel. Chris pulled her head back with a hunk of hair clenched in his fist. She opened her eyes as the vomit dripped off her face. And hating her, he cleaned it. Heroin always did that to her, especially if she hadn’t had any for a while. And she’d been in rehab for two weeks. It was an easy way to OD after being clean.

“Oh… hi…” she said vaguely. “Where’s Ian?”

“He went home.” And then without even knowing he’d done it, he put a hand around her neck and squeezed. Her eyes opened wide as she stared at him, but she was too high to even be frightened, just confused. “If you ever do that again… if you ever touch him, grab him, take him anywhere… see him without supervision… I swear, Kim, I’ll kill you.” And as he stood there nearly choking her, he wanted to. For one crazed uncontrollable moment he wanted to snap her neck, and then with his whole body shaking, he let go. “Don’t you ever come near him again and take him with you when you shoot up and to a place like this.” Without another word, he pulled her to her feet then, and she staggered toward him. He dragged her outside into the sunlight, and she threw up again and then looked better. “I hate you,” he said when she glanced at him. “I hate everything about you, and what you did to our life… I hate what you do to him. He doesn’t deserve this.” And worst of all, Chris hated who he was when he was anywhere near her. She was a poison that filled him with rage. For an instant in the bar, he had wanted to kill her. No one could do that to him except her, and she wasn’t worth it. She never had been. A sob caught in his throat as he held her up with one hand and hailed a cab with the other. An empty cab came to a stop next to him. He opened the door and pushed her in. She reeked of vomit and so did he. She was thirty-two years old, and a once beautiful woman, but there was nothing left of what she had been.

Chris gave the driver forty dollars and her father’s address, and he looked down at Kim with disgust and the dying embers of his fury. “Go see your father. He’ll take care of you. And stay away from Ian until you’re clean.”

“Thank you,” she said, trying to focus on him, and then she laid her head back against the seat and closed her eyes. Chris looked at her and slammed the door of the cab. He was shaking all over as they drove away. He had almost killed her. He had wanted to, which terrified him. He walked for a few blocks and hailed another cab and got in. He gave him the address on Charles Street, and stared silently out the window all the way there, realizing that his life and Ian’s would have been destroyed if he had lost control and killed her. He never wanted to see her again. She was the worst thing that had ever happened to him. And Ian was the best thing. He tried to focus on that on the ride home.

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