Bianca, or “Bee” as both of her parents called her, sat in the doorway of the laundry room in the garage, banging on the toy xylophone that was once Destiny’s toy. She was a little more than 4 years old, but she already had a decent talent for anything that was even remotely creative.
“Sounds great, Bee,” Desi said to her youngest as she sat on the floor, folding clothes fresh from the laundry. “Just a little more practice, and you’ll be as good as your Daddy.”
“Thanks you!” Bianca chirped. “I gonna be inna ban, like Daddy!”
Destiny sighed. Not you, too, she thought. “Technically, Daddy wasn’t in a band, love.”
“But he pays good!” The look on Bianca’s face was so serious, Desi had to chuckle.
“I know he does…” Desi began, then Arthur appeared in the garage, keys in hand.
“I know he does, what?” Arthur asked, winking at his wife.
“Pay panno good!” Bianca answered excitedly. “I go wiff you, Daddy? Where you going?”
“Not now, Angel,” Arthur replied. “I’m going to pick up Bree from school. I got a call from Mr. Scott.”
“Uh oh,” Destiny said. “What’s wrong?”
“I won’t know until I get there, love. It doesn’t sound good, though.” Arthur hopped into the sports car that Desi bought for him for his 50th birthday. He blew a kiss to Desi and left.
“Uh oh,” Bianca repeated. “Bree in trubba.”
Destiny laughed. “You may be right. Come on, sweet pea. Let’s get you some lunch!”
“Gilled chee, pease!” Bianca babbled as Destiny carried the girl to the house.
“Yes, love,” Destiny sang. “Grilled cheese it is.” She kissed the baby’s forehead and sat her in the high chair. Bianca sang in baby babble as Destiny started lunch. She loved hearing Bianca’s songs and listened while she cooked lunch for her baby girl.
“Do you got my puhmission slip, Daddy?” Bianca was putting her books and one doll into her backpack for school. Her class was going to the theater that day for a field trip, and Bee wanted to make sure she wasn’t left out.
“Yes, little love. Check your pencil box.” Arthur was sweeping up crumbs from breakfast, wishing Destiny would call home. She was on tour and had been gone for a few days. He was nearing burnout and needed a break.
Checking the small plastic box and finding the paper she wanted inside, she turned and gave Art two thumbs up. “Thanks you, Daddy! Did you sign one for Patti, too?” The girl referred to her imaginary friend, Patricia, or Patti.
“Yes, Patti can go, too.” He laughed and handed her a lunch bag and a small amount of money. “This is for you to spend at the theater. Give it to the teacher when you get to school, okay Bee?”
“Okay, Daddy!” She grabbed the $10 bill from Arthur and stuffed it into her pocket. She picked up her backpack as Arthur draped a sweater over her arm.
“It’s going to be chilly today, sweetie. Don’t forget your sweater.” She put the sweater on and hauled the pack over her shoulder. “Have fun, baby girl!” Arthur called to her as she ran to the bus.
At the theater, she got to see all of the backstage places that Destiny had described to her. She knew what every piece of stage equipment was called, and what it did. The manager of the theater was quite impressed with her. “How do you know all this, little girl?”
“Well,” she started, “My Mama is Destiny Hill, an’ she tells me all this stuff!” Immediately, Bianca became the class pet for the duration of the trip and even got a free snow cone from the concession area and a poster, which she paid for, from the souvenir shop.
On the bus on the way back from the theater, one of the boys in her class started teasing her. Soon, all the kids on the bus were joining in teasing her, until the teacher finally stopped it. She just sat in her seat, now by herself, and endured the teasing. Even her best friend, who she sat with on the way to the theater, and who she played with every day after school, shunned her and joined in on the teasing. Determined not to cry, she sat in silence, arms crossed in front of her, talking to Patti. Of course, that made things much worse, but she kept talking to Patti anyway, as though she didn’t hear them.
Once the bus dropped her off at home, she could no longer hold her tears. Dragging her backpack behind her, the sweater dusting the ground as she walked, she burst through the front door and started to cry. Arthur took one look at her face and knew something had gone horribly wrong.
“What’s wrong, Bee?” He stooped down and opened his arms to hug her. She stepped into his waiting hug and wrapped herself around his neck.
“I hate school.” Her ragged sobs echoed through his ears and her hot tears dripped onto his shirt.
“What? Why? You were looking forward to the trip all week.” He got down on his knees and sat back on his heels. With one hand, he patted his leg, motioning for her to sit, which she did. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his handkerchief, and gave it to Bianca.
“The kids were mean to me on the bus. All I did was tell them that Mama is Destiny Hill.” Arthur frowned. “They said that Mama can’t sing and that she shlepp her way up.” Bee blew her tiny nose. “What does that even mean, Daddy?”
“Never mind that, sweetheart. I’ll have a chat with the principal tomorrow.” He gave her another hug and fixed her a glass of milk and some fresh cookies. “Do you have homework tonight?”
“No, just an essay.” Bianca plopped herself in front of the television with her snack.
“Well, you can watch a little television, but then I need you to write that essay, okay love?”
“Okay Daddy,” Bianca replied, munching on her cookies.
“Bee!” Arthur called from the kitchen. “Time for breakfast, young lady!” Bianca was busy painting on Destiny’s old easel.
“Just a minute, Daddy!” She called back. “Just one last thing!”
“Bianca, NOW!” Arthur shouted back. “The bus will be here in thirty.”
Bianca huffed and threw the paintbrush onto the floor, which left a big paint smudge on the hardwood. She didn’t like to be interrupted when she was in her creative zone. She rushed to her bedroom and threw on the first things that she put her hands on; a pair of plaid pants and a polka-dotted shirt. She grabbed her horn-rimmed glasses and put her long, curly hair into a messy tail and stomped down the stairs.
Arthur scowled at her, his head pounding, not appreciating her attitude this particular morning. “Lose the attitude, little missy.” Handing her a plate of French toast, he asked, “Is there something wrong, Bee?”
“Naw, Daddy. I just wanted to work on my paintin’.” She tore into her breakfast as though she hadn’t eaten in days.
“Sorry, little love,” Arthur replied. “You have to go to school. End of story.”
She huffed again and finished her meal just as the bus arrived. “Bye-bye Daddy!” Bianca said and blew her father a kiss.
Arthur finished up the dishes and collapsed into his rocking chair, sick with flu. I’m glad she is the last one, he thought to himself. I’m about done!
Destiny had been upstairs in the loft doing some dusting when she spotted the drying paintbrush on the floor. This wasn’t the first time Bianca had made a mess and failed to even acknowledge she did it. But as Desi set the brush onto the easel, she caught a glimpse of the girl’s painting. It was a scene that was strangely familiar, though she was certain Bianca had never seen such a place. Snow lightly falling, street lights shown on some icicles that dangled from the roof of an old farmhouse. A beige horse in the background galloped into the storm. Destiny realized that Bianca had painted a house that was eerily similar to the old Farmer house in Appaloosa Plains. She had long since given Penny’s old photos to Bree, and she was certain that Bianca had never seen the house she had painted in the idyllic scene. She must have imagined what that old house would look like, Destiny thought. She sat staring at the unfinished masterpiece for a long time, marveling at her daughter’s talent and vision.
Bianca swung the door open and made the most dramatic entrance of her life, as though she was auditioning for an acting role in the next big movie. “Guess what?” she posed, her hand on her forehead, pretending to faint.
Destiny started to laugh. Bianca was always her own person, even as a little girl. Her style was eclectic, maybe even a little BoHo, her command of the language sometimes shady at best, but Bianca’s creativity and imagination was even beyond Destiny’s own ability at her age. “Okay, I’ll bite.” Destiny thought for a moment and finally came up with, “You painted my portrait on the school sidewalk!”
“Very funny, Mama. No, I’m going to Junior prom on Sunday night.” Bianca was already planning in her head what she would wear, but she was certain she already had the perfect outfit.
Arthur’s ears perked up when he heard the word ‘prom.’ “Oh? And who will be taking you, and why haven’t your mama and I met him yet?”
“Relax Daddy,” Bianca retorted. “I’m going with a bunch of friends. No boys like me at school, anyways. They call me the ‘weird girl’.”
“Don’t you worry about the boys, Bee,” Destiny said with great relief in her voice. “If they don’t like you, it’s because they don’t understand you. But someday, you will have every boy in this town wanting to date you.”
Bianca made a funny face and turned to go upstairs. “I hope not!” She yelled from halfway up the steps. Destiny and Arthur looked at each other and laughed.
“It’s a good thing she wasn’t our first,” Arthur quipped.
“Yep,” answered Destiny. “She’d have been our only one.”
Destiny followed the girl upstairs and whispered to Art on her way by, “I’ve got this one.” Art blew her a kiss and whispered back, “Thank you!”
“Bee?” Destiny called through a closed door.
“What Mama?” Bianca answered.
“Do you need help with your dress, honey?”
“No, Mama,” Bianca laughed. “It’s not until Sunday!”
Destiny heard Bella laughing with Bianca. Oh, she already has help. Hmm. “Okay, Bee. If you change your mind…”
“I won’t,” Bianca answered, Bella laughed in the background.
By the time Bianca was in high school, she had a beautiful portfolio of artwork she had done since her childhood. She never felt more alive than when she was painting, and her passion showed in every aspect of her life. But what she had in talent, she lacked in personal style. Very seldom did anything the girl wear actually coordinate. She never looked out of sorts, however, because she somehow had the perfect accessory that made the whole outfit work. But when she was painting, a good, comfortable pair of Desi’s old jeans and Arthur’s old, holey tee shirt was exactly her style. Like her oldest sister, Bree, she tended to be shy and withdrawn, but around the right people, Bianca was the life of the party. Funny and smart, though not very refined, she reminded Destiny of a much younger self who looked much more like Arthur than her.
“Mama, can I ask you a question?” Bianca asked Destiny one night as she finished her homework.
“Sure sweet pea, what is it?” Destiny dried the last dinner dishes and sat down with her youngest.
“Would you be mad if I moved to where you’re from?” Bianca never worried about how her words would affect others. She just said what was on her mind, whether it was for the better or not.
“Well, of course, I wouldn’t be mad, sweetheart.” Desi bit her lip. She was hoping that the girls would stay in town until the Reaper came to visit Arthur and her. “I don’t know what family is still there, princess.”
“That’s okay, Mama,” Bianca stated. “You always talk about it like you miss it, so it must be a pretty cool place.”
“That it is, Bee,” Desi replied, smiling. “That it is.”
Bianca strolled around the art gallery, hands folded in front of her as the class roamed aimlessly. She walked to a corner display and stared at it. The vision and ability of the artist struck her, and she made mental notes of possible techniques to try on her own paintings. Next to the painting stood a sculpture she had seen before. It was on loan from the gallery in France, where she first saw it when she was just a child. Admiring the lines and curves of the sculpture, she reached to touch it when she heard the teacher yelling for her.
“Bianca! It’s time to move, dear. We’re leaving.” Mrs. Avila called to her.
Reluctantly, she walked away from the display and toward the class, who was now laughing at her. At this point, ridicule and laughter didn’t bother her anymore, so she just shrugged her shoulders and stood in line to get counted in the class. On the bus home, she sat alone, daydreaming of the gallery. It was her favorite field trip yet, and she couldn’t wait to tell Destiny and Arthur.
“I’m home!” Bianca yelled when she walked through the front door. When no one answered her, she added, “If anyone cares.”
Destiny, who had been doing laundry in the garage, walked through the back door carrying a basket full of clothes. “Hi, Bee! How was your trip?”
“It was awesome, Mom.” Bianca smiled from ear to ear and told Destiny every minute detail of her trip.
When she was done, Destiny said, “Don’t forget your homework, Bee.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Bianca pulled her assignments from her backpack and began to do her homework.
On the television was a news report of an especially bad fire, and it involved Bree’s company. A three-alarm fire was almost unheard of in Starlight Shores. Destiny sat glued to the television for any news that Bree might be okay.
A few hours later, Bree returned home safely, smelling strongly of smoke and burnt fabric. “Mama, I’m home!” she yelled to Destiny.
“I was so worried!” Destiny yelled back. “I’ve been watching the news all day!”
“What’s been goin’ on, Mom?” Bianca asked, looking up briefly from her homework.
“Big fire down the street, Bee. Your sister was a hero today.” Destiny smiled and then sighed a full breath of relief.
Bianca was working on an art project when she heard the commotion upstairs. Frantic footsteps climbed the flights of stairs, then Bree called for her. Bianca dropped her pen and made her way up to the top floor of the house, nearly crashing with Bree on the way up. She continued to ascend the steps to arrive at the top and rounded the corner to see her mother on her knees and Bree looking distraught. Destiny looked at Bianca, and from the look on her face and glancing to see Arthur’s golden urn, she understood what had happened. Turning from the scene, she began running back downstairs, as she heard Bree yell at her phone, “NOW!” Hitting the bottom landing on the steps, Bianca ran straight for her bed, dove under the covers and cried herself to sleep.
Bianca’s graduation gown sparkled in the sunlight as she walked to the steps of the City Hall. In glitter paint, she painted a big, sparkly bee with the word “Bee” in fancy script below it. Her cap had a similar, sparkly design that she painted freehand. Hers was the only gown adorned with extra embellishment, and for a moment, Mr. Scott contemplated telling Bianca she couldn’t wear it on stage. But, he knew the family well, and he also knew that Bianca would have been deeply disappointed if he had not allowed her to wear the cap and gown. It was bad enough she lost her father this past year.
Behind Bianca, Bella held steadily onto Destiny as they made their way to the auditorium. Desi could barely walk on her own without assistance, but she made it clear to Bella that she needed to be at the ceremony. Bree was the ‘caboose’ to the train, bringing up the rear, camera strap around her neck. Inside the foyer, she snapped a picture of Bianca’s cap and gown, then the three women went to sit down.
Bianca was recognized for her exceptional artistic talent during graduation and was awarded a special achievement for being the youngest artist to be featured at the city museum. And like her sisters before her, Bianca graduated nearly first. Before Arthur’s death, she was in a position to earn the valedictorian honor, but her grades suffered as she grieved the loss of her father. After the last name was called, the group of graduates tossed their caps into a cloud of motion, except for one. When the last cap fell to the floor, Bianca was still wearing hers. After the ceremony, Bianca was not interested in dinner at a fancy restaurant, nor did she want a party in her honor. Instead, the family went home and quietly enjoyed a dinner that Bella cooked on the grill.
Five days after Bianca’s graduation, she and Bree were packing up the car with belongings for the long journey to Appaloosa Plains. Just when they both thought nothing else would fit, Bianca found her satchel of paints and pastels and a small sketch pad to stuff in behind her seat. Destiny, unable to stand for very long, leaned up against the fender of Bree’s car as they talked together. Bianca couldn’t wait to get to Appaloosa Plains, although she hated to leave her mother and sister behind. Finally, after what seemed like an uncomfortable eternity, Bree spoke up.
“Well, kiddo,” she told Bianca, “I think it’s time.”
Bee felt as though she would burst at the seams with excitement, but at the same time felt extremely saddened to leave her home and her childhood memories behind. She gave her mother a last hug and an “I love you,” as they both piled into the car. Bree rolled the windows down as they pulled away from the house, waving like mad and openly crying, for Bianca knew she would likely never see her sister Bella, or her mother again.
Up Next: Bella Atwood