A woman meets a rich man and pretends that she is from a wealthy, successful family but things change drastically when he meets her mother.
Dina Gore was a brilliant artist and her work was starting to be recognized. When a gallery offered her her first solo exhibition, she was delighted and excited. Her career was finally taking off, but what she didn’t know was that she was about to meet the love of her life.
Dina was chatting to a friend at the opening party when an art dealer walked over with a tall, handsome man. “Darling,” he said, “this is Ralf Harding, and he wants to meet you!” Dina was stunned! This man could make her a star!
Ralf Harding was a well-known philanthropist and art collector who prided himself on discovering new talent, and the way he was smiling at Dina, she knew that he’d liked her work.
“Miss Gore, it’s a privilege to meet you. Your work touched me deeply,” Ralf said with that dazzling smile. He gestured to the paintings and asked, “This is based on your own experience?”
Dina looked at her paintings depicting the desperate life of the nomadic poor and then at the elegant aristocratic-looking Ralf. “Oh no!” she said, “I’m afraid not! I’m embarrassed to say I was a child of privilege.”
We can try to hide who and what we are, but the truth will always come out.
Ralf was gazing at one of her paintings showing a little girl sitting on the steps of a decrepit caravan sharing a can of tuna with a scruffy dog. “You capture the essence of desperation and hope masterfully,” he said.
Dina nodded. “When I was 10, I made friends with a little girl whose parents were pickers on my family’s estate. I was profoundly affected by the way she lived, by the poverty they endured. I couldn’t get it out of my mind.”
Ralf turned and looked down at Dina with an intense expression in his dark eyes. “Your compassion and the tenderness with which you show this side of life moves me, Miss Gore.”
“Dina, please, call me Dina,” she said.
“Have dinner with me, Dina,” Ralf said quietly. “I want to get to know you.” Dina accepted, and from that evening on she and Ralf were inseparable. She had never imagined meeting a man who understood and accepted her so completely.
Dina was deeply in love, but there was one thing she was holding back: she wasn’t a child of privilege, she was the little girl sharing a tin of tuna with a scruffy dog. The miserable itinerant life she’d depicted so brilliantly in her paintings was her own childhood.
Dina could just imagine elegant, sophisticated Ralf turning away in disgust. Yes, Ralf was kind and compassionate, but would he still love her if he knew how desperately poor she’d been? She couldn’t tell him. She wouldn’t tell him.
What Dina had never expected was for her lie to explode like a badly rigged bomb and shatter her life. A few days before her birthday, Ralf asked her about her family, where they lived, and Dina had vaguely put him off, but her anxiety grew.
Why was Ralf so interested in her family suddenly? So the next time he asked she told him her mother was spending the summer in Rome, and her brother was in Argentina working on a business project.
Thankfully, Ralf dropped the subject, and Dina started to breathe again. She had to find a way out of this lie, she thought, a way that did not include telling Ralf the truth. But how?
Ralf insisted on organizing a birthday party for her at an exclusive New York restaurant, and he invited all their friends. Dina had never been happier, and as she danced with Ralf, she remembered her miserable childhood and smiled.
She would never have imagined herself like this, in the lap of luxury, feeling and looking like a princess, with a wonderful man who loved her. Then Ralf raised a hand and the music stopped.
“My darling,” he said smiling, “I want you to know how much I love you.” and Ralf dropped to his knee and held out a beautiful ring. “Marry me, Dina.”
Dina was gasping, tears in her eyes, and their friends were clapping and whistling. “Yes,” she cried, “Yes! I love you!” Ralf leaped to his feet and kissed her. Then a harsh well-remembered voice intruded.
“My baby’s gettin’ married!”
Dina turned around and came face to face with her mother. She was wearing a crumpled printed sundress with an uneven hem, and her hair was scraped back on top of her head. She was grinning, showing her decayed teeth and stretching out her arms.
“My baby girl!” Mrs. Gore cried, and threw her arms around Dina, overwhelming her with her alcohol-laden breath. “And you must be Ralf! I got your message and I couldn’t miss my baby’s engagement!”
Ralf looked dazed but he stepped forward and shook Mrs. Gore’s hand. She smiled at him. “Well! Ain’t you a fancy one! And you look like you doing well too! You’ll be good to your old mom-in-law, won’t you?”
Mama,” Dina cried, recovering her senses, “What are you doing here?”
“Oh I got a phone call from a nice lady telling me you were getting engaged, and here I am!”
“I asked the gallery to contact your mother,” Ralf explained. “They had her contact as your next of kin, and I wanted to surprise you. I didn’t think we’d both be surprised.”
Mrs. Gore took a glass of champagne from a waiter’s tray. She gulped it down and grimaced. “Don’t you have bourbon?” she asked the waiter. She turned back to her daughter. “I took the bus, baby, but mama’s got nowhere to stay…And no money.”
“You can take the bus right back, mama,” said Dina coldly, “I’ll pay for the ticket.”
“Now that’s cold, Dina! You ain’t seen your mama for ten years and you send me back without a cent?” Mrs. Gore whined, “I ain’t got no one but you, Dina!”
“What about Jimmy, mama? He was always your favorite. You can go ask Jimmy for money,” Dina said coldly.
He’s in jail, baby. You know Jimmy and his temper…” Mrs. Gore squeezed out a few tears, “You all I have left!”
Dina was shaking, and Ralf placed one gentle hand over hers. “Mrs. Gore,” he said calmly, “I’ll have you flown back home, and I’m sure we can come to some arrangement so you’ll be comfortable.”
Ralf made a phone call and discreetly drew Dina and Mrs. Gore into the restaurant’s hallway. “Mrs. Gore, my chauffeur will drive you to the plane.” He drew his wallet and handed the woman a thick wad of cash which she counted greedily.
“That will do for starters…” she said, tucking the money into the bodice of her dress.
You ungrateful little monster,” Mrs. Gore screeched. “After all I’d done for you! Slaving and working…”
“What you’ve done for me? You beat me when you were drunk and when you were sober! My life was such a nightmare that I lie to people about it! I lied to the man I loved, mama because I’m ashamed of you.”
Dina turned to Ralf with tears running down her face. “I’m sorry Ralf, I’ve been wanting to tell you the truth for so long, but I knew you’d see that I’m not worthy of you. I didn’t want to lose you.”
“I love you, Dina,” Ralf said quietly, “I don’t care about your past, except that it’s hurt you. All I care about is that you spend your future with me.”
Ralf had Mrs. Gore sent back to Ohio, and she wasn’t invited to the wedding. Dina learned that no matter what might happen in the future, she could count on Ralf. He really did love her, for richer or for poorer.
What can we learn from this story?
1. The truth always surfaces. We can try to hide who and what we are, but the truth will always come out.
2. The past may have hurt us, but our scars are not a road map locking us into a journey into misery. We can leave it all behind and start a new life.