the pearl

Art History

She got her bachelor's in art history because there was nothing else that interested her. English involved way too much reading, art wanted you to have talent, and as for science — yeah, right. With Hank doing well in economics and everything, she figured she didn't really have to worry about working for long. Sure, her roommate made little tsk-ing noises whenever Joyce said anything like that, but from what she heard, she wasn't actually looking for a man anyways, being one of those women's libbers and all.

So Joyce got a B.A. in art history and then got her M.R.S. degree (the joke her father made at the wedding, of course), spent a few years working in an L.A. gallery that her parents occasionally bought pieces from, then, once Hank was settled, quit, had a baby, raised her, had another, raised her too, and, eventually, sat alone in the house, both daughters off to school, a maid in the kitchen, and nothing for her to do.

She was doing exactly what she wanted.

Or so she told herself every morning.


It began, unsurprisingly, considering her situation, with a field trip. Buffy's fifth grade class was going to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs, or something like that, and it was Joyce's turn to be transportation/assistant/helpful parent. She took Dawn to preschool, ran the minivan through the quickie carwash just in case the other parents made comments, and arrived at the school just as the kids were filing out of the classroom.

Five 11-year-olds, including her daughter, who shrugged and snapped her gum when Joyce said "Hi", piled into the car and waited, sullenly, for her to drive off. Of course, once they got onto the freeway, Buffy started complaining about the music and the traffic and couldn't they stop for something to eat before they got there instead of having to eat the totally gross lunches they were carrying?

Joyce had forgotten to make Buffy a lunch. She assumed that the maid did it.

She mumbled something about finding a Macdonald's after the trip.


Being a parent assistant didn't require much. You stood at the back, made sure no one wandered off, and pretended to pay attention to what the tour guide was saying. Joyce did her duties perfectly, nodding at the appropriate moments, whispering sharply to any children who were goofing around, and spent her time staring blankly at whatever was in front of them, trying to remember whether or not she had told the maid about Hank's shirts.

There were four floors of things to be told about in the museum, from the dinosaurs to the California history to the various artefacts from various far-off places. Joyce kept track of the stragglers and smiled at Buffy's teacher whenever she looked her way.

They were in the main hallway, looking at the two dinosaur skeletons fighting, when it happened. Joyce looked up at the skeletons, then looked away, the boredom from Buffy's classmates suddenly seeping into her system. She took a quiet step back, deciding to keep an eye on the children from afar, when a brief glimpse of something caught her eye.

She took a few steps closer to the display box, and stopped just where she could read the sign.

"Xochiquetzal, goddess of birds, butterflies, song, dance, and love."

She stared at the stone statue in front of her. She remembered seeing it once, pulling it from a wooden crate, the raffia floating down in the faint breeze from the air conditioning. She remembered writing the details from the box, filing the information, everything she did for at least a hundred pieces of art, and all of them ending up in places like this.

She remembered the look of disappoint on the owner's face when she said that she was leaving.

"Mom..." Buffy's voice cut through her thoughts.

"Yes, honey?" she replied, her eyes still on the statue.

"Miss Hillborough said that we could go to the gift shops now...can I have some money? There are, like, these really cool earrings that I want..."

Joyce's stayed on the statue. "You have a credit card, honey. That's what your father gave it to you for..."

"Yeah, but, then, like, there's a Macdonald's at the Science Museum, and Miss Hillborough said that we could go there afterwards and they don't take credit cards, remember?"

Joyce reached into her purse and pulled out some cash. "Here..." she said, her voice distracted, still looking at the statue. "Make sure you're back at the car by three."

"Okay, Mom..."

She heard Buffy's friends exclaiming at the amount of money Joyce had given her, and blinked, finally coming out of her reverie. She looked around, spun, and strode off to the gift shop.


When Hank came home from another hard day at the office, he found a rapidly-cooling pizza on the table, his two daughters eating it in front of the television, and Joyce on the floor in his study, surrounded by her old textbooks and several books that appeared to be brand new.

"What happened?" he asked.

She looked up from her reading, and smiled. "Oh, nothing. Just decided that I needed to do some research." She looked back down at her book. "Do you have any books on business plans? I think I should probably set out one before I go to the bank for that loan..."

"Loan?" He blinked. "What loan? And a business plan?"

She looked up again. "Yeah. I need a loan to rent space." She smiled at him. "I'm opening up a gallery."

He set down his briefcase, still staring at her. "A galley? Joycie, honey...what?"

She set a bookmark into her book, closed it, and looked up at him. "Well, see, what with Dawn in preschool now, and Estella doing so well with the house, there isn't really much for me to do, so I thought that maybe I should look into getting my job at that gallery back. And then I started thinking that there's a real market for ethnic art in Los Angeles and that it'd probably be better if I started my own gallery."

Hank blinked a few times. "And you decided all this without talking to me?"

"I'm talking to you now, aren't I?"

"That's not what I meant, and you know it. Galleries don't make much profit — and you'll be lucky to keep it afloat for those first years. You should've talked to me before you started getting out all your books and even thinking about things like business plans and loans and everything." He crouched down next to her. "Buffy and Dawn need their mommy around as much as possible. If you do this, you're always going to be at the gallery, and they'll never see you."

She shook her head. "Of course they'll see me, Hank."

He stood back up. "Are you so sure about that? Because it looks to me that, right now, they're eating cold pizza and watching TV while their mother's in here trying to remember things she learned back in college..."

Joyce's eyes narrowed. "Oh, and I suppose you're the best parent in the universe, huh? What about your job? If you're not calling up and telling them you're working late again, you're off on some business trip."

"I work to support this family, Joyce! I work to keep you and the girls happy!"

"Well, maybe I'd be happy having a life outside of this house. Ever think about that, Hank?"

"You never wanted a life outside of this house before! You were the one who wanted all this! 'Oh, Hank, let's have a baby...' 'Oh, Hank, now that Buffy's in school, let's try again...' 'Oh, Hank, let's stay here forever...' And now you suddenly decide otherwise?"

She stood up, clutching the books in her hands. "When you decided to switch firms, I was behind you. When you decided that starting your own firm was for the best, I was behind you. Every financial decision you have made concerning this family, from this house to our mutual funds, I have been behind you. The least you could do is support me in this."

"No, Joyce, I don't have to. You're coming up with this harebrained idea, you haven't discussed this with me, and I don't have to support you on this when you're not even listening to me!"

She straightened. "Look, I'm just going to come up with a business plan and see about a loan, all right? I don't even know if this entire thing is possible. But I'd appreciate a little more support and a lot less shouting."

He slumped, shaking his head. "Whatever, Joyce..." He walked out of the room.


The gallery opened a year later, filled with small treasures from around the world. Within a week, she had sold her first piece, and within a month, she had the names of several dealers and buyers who were pleased with the Summers Gallery.

Hank never asked about the gallery, nor mentioned the argument they had that night.

Buffy ignored it as she did everything her parents said.

Dawn enjoyed it, spending her afternoons there surrounded by things she could admire, but never touch. Joyce would let her play with Styrofoam peanuts, and when customers would come in, she'd smile and wave at them, charming them.

Each night, Joyce would sit in the kitchen table with her account books. She didn't need to work on them — she had a computer with all the appropriate software — but the twisted pleasure she received from leaving them open for when Hank would get home was more than enough to keep her doing it.

He stayed later and later at the office. At every social event, she'd discuss the gallery in front of him. He would drink and ignore her, and she would hand out her card to potential customers. Their children grew, their businesses prospered, and, eventually, they had nothing to say to each other.

This Angel/Buffy the Vampire Slayer story was written by Kate Bolin. If you liked it, there's plenty more at And you can feedback her at