Title: Only When I Fall
Entry Nickname: From Gutters to Galleries
Word count: 80K
Genre: Upmarket Fiction
If she could find a better paying job than the Museum of Fine Arts café, Mia Clarke wouldn't have to keep selling drugs. As a single mom, it kills her to help people throw away their dreams—especially Tris, her former partner in both love and graffiti art. When he stops by the café for a couple of grams and accidentally leaves behind a gorgeous painting, Mia anonymously enters it into an online art contest, hoping to help him turn his life around.
Soon, the image goes viral, sparking a widespread search for a troubled loner with a singular gift. But not everyone searching for Tris means him well. A posh art dealer with a trail of disappearing protégés and his sights set on his next mark, a social network moderator obsessed with the anonymous contest entry, and a groundskeeper required to evict the homeless are all closing in on the abandoned utility room under a Charles River bridge where Tris has been staying.
Weighed down by her guilt over being both Tris's dealer and the one person who can help him find the recognition his talent deserves, Mia vows to quit selling drugs and to fight to save the man she wishes she didn't love—for herself, for him, and for the daughter he never knew he had. With pursuers closing in, Tris must shake the heroin in his veins and leave his old life behind or risk losing not only his life's work and the person he loves, but the very life to which he clings.
The Museum of Fine Arts was humming. Patrons clopped around on marble tile toward the new Vermeer exhibit, loners sketched landscapes in their spiral pads, and tour guides directed groups between potted ferns from the European galleries to the Americas. An odd tang of coffee and parmesan wafted from the café on the first floor.
Mia Clarke wiped down table five, the edge of her full-sleeve tattoos peeking out from beneath the black uniform shirt cuffs buttoned at her wrists. She brushed a strand of pink hair behind her ear. As she rushed to take an order from a customer at the next table over, a different kind of customer stepped into the café.
She saw Tris out of the corner of her eye. He was hard to miss.
His dirty blonde hair was matted and fell past his shoulders like a neglected houseplant, its tendrils winding their way through his overgrown beard. Glancing around the room, he found an empty chair and slid into it. Their eyes met and she raised a finger for him to give her a minute.
Finishing up with her customer, Mia approached.
"Hey, Tris. Can I get you a cup of coffee?"
He sat hunched over the table, his eyes unreadable. "No thanks. Just a fruit cup."
A thin sigh escaped her lips. "How about a muffin or something?"
She knew he didn't care about the fruit. He came for the heroin she slipped inside.