The lift doesn’t fall. The mirrors don’t shatter. When the door slides open, she stares at her shifting reflection one last time before stepping onto the worn carpet at her feet. In places, the carpet is stained with paint. There’s also the occasional cigarette burn. You’re not supposed to smoke in the building, nor are you meant to drink. Gretchen does both. In her studio space, she has two locked toolboxes. One contains her paintbrushes, the other, alcohol. Cans of cider, mostly, plus a small bottle of brandy. The cider loosens her limbs for when she’s about to paint, and the brandy keeps her warm because the studios are colder than the streets outside. She doesn’t like the taste of brandy, and it gives her heartburn, but it does the job. She still needs wine for the evening, though. It’ll be no good at all if she’s left feeling tipsy with no wine to celebrate a day of painting. Still, she has plenty of time to figure that little problem out. What matters first and foremost is to get to her space, have a tipple to warm her bones, then find the best way to conjure some magic. If she doesn’t make any magic, the day—and her life—will be ruined, and she’ll fall into a funk that might last for weeks. Blowing warm air onto her poorly fingers, she walks head down along the corridor with its plain white walls and notice boards providing details about events she hasn’t the slightest interest in until she reaches a locked double door. To the side of it is an ancient-looking card reader. Removing a battered and cracked piece of plastic from her purse, she swipes several times before the subsequent click lets her know she’s good to go. Pushing the doors open, the smell of oil paint hits her like a wave. The aroma is intoxicating, and all at once, the desire to create something pinches her clit causing her legs to buckle. Stumbling forward, she lurches like a sprinter diving head-first for the finishing line. Luckily for her, no one sees, but when the second wave of fresh coffee washes over her, she loses control and collapses like a flower to the floor—ashamed yet bursting with life.