The Painting

The Painting

With a sigh and an upward glance at the deep blue velvet sky, Therese gathered her emotions and continued on with her journey, as rock upon rock of earth and sand kissed her bare feet. The cottage looked luminous in the distance. The air was filled with the fragrance of evening roses. She has arrived. With steady feet and quivering lips, she hugged her single wrap tightly over her body, and pressed forward towards the cottage’s door, her eyes never once lifting its gaze away from her destination.

Grandma Cassey was half asleep beside the makeshift firepit, oblivious to her surroundings despite the bicker backer of the crackling wood. “Granny, I’m here”, Therese said as she ran the back of her hand against granny’s cheek. The old woman shivered at the touch, nevertheless, she smiled upon seeing her beloved grandchild. “Therese dearest, what took you so long?” she half-said and yawned at the same time, beckoning the young woman to sit at her feet.

“Granny, are you sure?” “Yes, Therese, I am. You don’t think I changed my mind?” Her grey eyes looked deeply into Therese’s hazel ones. “But you loved those paintings very much,” Therese complained. “And it loved me back, all these years. Now I want you to take it, and do as I tell you now, child. Take it, and give it to Ross Aubrey. It should belong to him now. You understand me, Therese?”

“Yes granny” Therese answered. She knew those paintings were precious to granny, those were gifts of love given by her lover, Jonathan Aubrey. Standing now, Therese once more gazed at the beautiful paintings. Sunflowers, daffodils, roses and summer, moonlight, trees and joyful scenes of Lucerna Beach spoke to her.

Cassey was a beautiful woman, every man adored her. In the summer of her thirty-fifth year, her husband died, leaving her with a young daughter to raise, right there on the town of Lucerna Beach. She mourned her husband like any proper woman should. But not long after, she met Jonathan, the man who brought color back into her life, the man whose love gave Cassandra both heaven and hell at the same time, the man whose hands painted the beautiful paintings her granny now wanted to give away. Jonathan was married. They lived their life as secret lovers for twenty two sweet years, there, in their rendezvous cottage in Lucerna Beach. And the paintings. He left her those paintings when once more nature replayed the cruel game of existence and took him away from life.

Ever since she was little, she admired those beautiful paintings. Whenever she saw them she felt the deep love and passion this man must have felt for her granny. To have loved her so and yet not have the world acknowledge the depths of his love.

“Therese? You had better get back now. The night is deep. You don’t want to keep Ross waiting.”

“Granny, how can you…. How did you….” She could not bear to finish her words. Wise and discerning, Cassey nodded in understanding and turned to look at her beloved paintings one last time, and then answered her. “There are no reasons why you endure it. You only know that when a love so true has graced your life you can choose to take it or loose it. I chose to take it, and every single morsel of pain and sacrifice that went along with it. Its what kept me alive. I can part with these paintings now because all it ever stood for is already in my heart… it set me free. Now it is time that someone else be freed by it.”

She made her way back to the villa slowly. As she struggled up into the winding path a resolve formed in her mind. A tear fell from her eyes. She wiped it away, and upon entering the villa and into the arms of the man who now faced her, she hoped in her heart that she can bear what lay ahead.

“Darling….” Ross greeted her.

“Ross, we need to talk.” Therese placed the paintings on the floor and led him to look at it. As he knelt, the quizzical expression on his face turned into recognition, and then awe.

“These are my grandfather’s paintings! Look, its signed ‘Jonathan Aubrey’… I don’t understand, how did you find it?”

She faced him now. “They were my grandmothers’.”

“Your grandmother…was my grandfather’s mistress? Why didn’t you tell me? Why, why, why? How long have you known?” he demanded.

“After you…. you told me that your grandfather’s name was Jonathan, I knew. And I couldn’t tell you, I was afraid you would leave me, I knew you’d hate me just like your family hated my grandmother …”

“Oh darling……” he tried to embrace her but she didn’t let him. She continued “I told granny everything, I told her how you were on the quest of looking for those paintings and take it back from the woman who stole your grandfather…. I told her that its what brought you to here to Lucerna Beach, where we met.”

“And she just gave it to you?”

“Yes.”

“Darling, I don’t know what to say…”

“You can say goodbye.”

“Therese…….”

“No…”

“I Love you.” He held her and kissed her, the passion of owning her and loving her evident in every torrid stroke of his lips. Her heart loved him, wanted the kiss so much and have it go on forever, but with the last strength of her will she freed herself from his embrace…

“Ross this can’t go on between us. I’m sorry. I can’t, I just can’t. I love you, but I can’t.”

“Therese please…”

“No Ross. Its over. Please go. Go back to…to…your wife. Goodbye Ross.” She turned to look at him one last time through her tears. Ross picked up the paintings and slowly left. The silent thud of the closing door behind Ross signaled the torrent of tears to cascade from her heart. She wept like a grieving woman from night until dawn, washing herself in the sorrow of losing the man she loved so much.

Therese braved the jagged sand beneath her feet once more as dawn crept into the day. She went to the beach and faced the ocean, while red mixed with yellow in the lightening sky. In the distance, the seagulls cried and the cool crisp air joined their parade. She thought about her granny and marveled at her wisdom. “The paintings have set me free too, grandma. Thank you.” She whispered to herself. And as she marveled at the beauty emerging before her, she knew almost with certainty, that she too would have her own paintings someday…but it would be hers, and hers to keep alone. Of this she was sure, as sure as the morning came.

written by Vicky, 2001

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