“Have you ever heard of the term “chiaroscuro”? Michael told me about it after his art class yesterday. It means the play of light and dark. Am thinking of making that a theme in the book I’m about to start – hmmm.”
Merde,” shouted a man into the ear of the woman beside him, trying to raise his voice above the din of conversation. “This stuff is shit. Can you believe Clara Morrow got a solo show?”
The woman beside him shook her head and grimaced. She wore a flowing skirt and a tight T-shirt with scarves wrapped around her neck and shoulders. Her earrings were hoops and each of her fingers held rings. In another place and time she’d have been considered a gypsy. Here she was recognized for what she was. A mildly successful artist.
Beside her her husband, also an artist and dressed in cords and a worn jacket with a rakish scarf at the neck, turned back to the painting.
“Poor Clara,” agreed his wife. “The critics’ll savage her.”
Jean Guy Beauvoir, who was standing beside the two artists, his back to the painting, turned to glance at it. On the wall among a cluster of portraits was the largest piece. Three women, all very old, stood together in a group, laughing. They looked at each other, and touched each other, holding each other’s hands, or gripping an arm, tipping their heads together. What ever had made them laugh, it was to each other they turned. As they equally would if something terrible had happened. As they naturally would whatever happened.
More than friendship, more than joy, more than even love this painting ached of intimacy.
Jean Guy quickly turned his back on it. Unable to look. He scanned the room until he found her again.
“Look at them,” the man was saying, dissecting the portrait. “Not very attractive.”
Annie Gamache was across the crowded gallery, standing next to her husband, David. They were listening to an older man. David looked distracted, disinterested. But Annie’s eyes were bright. Taking it in. Fascinated.
Beauvoir felt a flash of jealousy, wanting her to look at him that way. Here, Beauvoir’s mind commanded. Look over here.
“And they’re laughing,” said the man behind Beauvoir, looking disapprovingly at Clara’s portrait of the three old women. “Not much nuance in that. Might as well paint clowns.”
The woman beside him snickered.
Across the room, Annie Gamache laid a hand on her husband’s arm, but he seemed oblivious.
Beauvoir put his hand on his own arm, gently. That’s what it would feel like.