Emily Wu checked her bank statement and sighed. It wasn’t going to work, getting her mother a nice Christmas gift. She was sick of the TV talking heads telling everyone it was the economy. The economy seemed good for the rich. Why didn’t any of that trickle down to her? She closed the bank app on her computer and rubbed her eyes. Her $8.53 per hour job gave her just over $1700 a month. It wasn’t enough. With rent so high, she had to live at the edge of town which meant she needed a car to get to work. She needed nice clothes to be the receptionist at the office she worked at. Thrift stores helped with that, but then there was the medical insurance, poor as it was, it was at least something if she got sick. Then the life insurance, taxes, cell phone bill, internet, and on and on and on. She choked back a sob. All she wanted to do was buy her mom a nice Christmas gift.
At work the next day she was looking through the paper. A local artists group was doing a workshop for gifts. Anyone could come and create a project. At the bottom was the price for the workshop, $25, and a name, Brian Wellsley with his phone number. Emily sighed. Twenty-five dollars was a quarter of her grocery bill or half a tank of gas. She thought about it all day. Finally, deciding that she could live on rice and beans for a week, she called the number.
“Hi, I’m Emily Wu. I saw your article in the paper. I’d like to sign up.”
“Great. Love to have you.” He gave her the address and time and when they hung up, Emily smiled. He sounded nice. It would be good to do something besides watch TV in the evening.
The day of the workshop, Emily brought clothes to change into after work. No sense wasting gas by driving home then back into town. The address turned out to be an old factory, turned into artist workshops and apartments. She’d heard about these. It seemed cool. There were signs directing people to a large open space where wooden tables, easels, stools were scattered around the room. Art hung on the walls and from the ceiling. The splashes of color made the room seem friendly and alive.
She found an empty stool and sat down at a table, greeting others who had also signed up. Brian introduced himself and several other artists and that they’d be helping everyone with their projects. After going over the projects available, they broke into groups, each around the project they wanted to do. Emily had to switch tables. She wanted to work on a pottery project. She was pleased to see that Brian was the mentor for her group.
At every step of the process of molding the clay, shaping it, prepping it for the oven and decorating it, Brian was there. His hands over hers, laughing. They went out for coffee after class and talked about their dreams. After five weeks, the workshop was over. Emily had a bowl, glazed blue, for her mother. But she had received a gift, too. New friends, a new-found passion and a new love.
They went out nearly every night. He spent the weekends at her house. By Christmas, he was invited to meet her family. Her mother loved the bowl. Even better, in the kitchen, she complemented Emily on Brian. “He’s a lovely young man, Emily.” She gave Emily a hug. “I’m happy for you.”
The next spring, they were married. One afternoon, Emily was looking at her bank statement. She played with the ring on her finger. The statement didn’t look any better but she no longer fretted. Her life was now full. Happiness covered everything and she felt rich beyond measure. Brian came into the room and gave her a kiss on top of her head.
“We still solvent?”
“Barely.” She laughed and turned off the computer. “And that’s enough for me.”