“Paint me!” Mama came up behind me on the balcony. My canvas was empty and my paints sat untouched. I was searching for something to paint, but the dismal browns of winter did anything but inspire me. Mama began gathering my things, she didn’t wait for my reply. “Where should I set up?”
“How about in the downstairs living room? The sun is probably nice in there.” It had never occurred to me to paint Mama before. I doubted I could do her justice.
Mama sat patiently in a wing back chair beside the large floor length window. She watched me set up my easel and paints as if there was something interesting to see. “How should I sit?”
“Just like that.” Her natural elegance was evident as she crossed her legs, her silk robe falling open at the knee. I studied her for a moment before putting my brush to the canvas. She would be easy to paint, but hard to capture. There was something about Mama’s carefree beauty that would be impossible to recreate.
“You don’t have to be totally still…” She sat like a statue. I wasn’t even sure if she was breathing anymore.
“I don’t want to mess you up!” She smiled.
“You won’t.” I slid the tawny paint across the canvas and her hair appeared. The sun outlined her body, danced on the silk of her robe, and shimmered across her face. It was the perfect scenario for art.
I dabbed white in the pale blue paint, capturing the flicker in her eyes. I was finished. “All done?” The statue came back to life.
“Yes,” I nodded. “But I don’t want you seeing it.” I never knew whether my work was good or bad. I needed to study it for awhile. “Let’s let it dry.”
Mama agreed, and headed into the kitchen to check on dinner. Maria was making lasagna and the smell of garlic was already floating around the house. I sat and stared at my work. It looked like Mama, anyone could see that, but I still wasn’t sure if it embodied her.
“Beautiful.” Father stood behind me. I wondered how long he had been standing there.
“Thank you.” Those were the first two words that I had humored him with since I arrived home for Thanksgiving break.
“What did she think of it?”
“She hasn’t seen it yet.” I glanced back at him, he was still staring at the painting.
“She’ll love it.” He turned and began to walk away, but stopped. “I would like to have it in my study, if it doesn’t already have a home.”
I laughed. “I don’t think so.” I couldn’t believe that he had the gall to say that. I wondered if he knew how absurd it sounded.
Dinner was strained. Anna chatted away about her first semester of college, Mama listened attentively and asked lots of questions, but Father simply looked down at his plate and ate. I watched him, still trying to figure him out. If he loved Mama, why had he cheated on her? If he wanted her painting in his study, why had he tainted his study with extramarital sex?
“I thought of a perfect place for your painting, Addy!” Mama announced, once Anna finally ran out of things to say.
“Well, I auctioned the ship painting off for charity. The one in Daddy’s study. I think the portrait would go great in its place!’ Mama hadn’t even seen the painting yet, but had faith in my work.
I looked over at Father, he was still looking down. “It is your painting Mama, wherever you want it is fine.” Maybe having her looking down at him would keep him from chasing after Maria. Maybe Mama’s ice cold eyes would keep his hormones in check. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
“Great! I can’t wait to see it after dinner!” Mama smiled brightly.
“Addy, should paint me!” Anna was so vain.
“Adeline.” I reminded. “I go by Adeline now.”
“Well then, Adeline should paint me! I’m sure Joe would love to have my face on his wall.” She knew it would be a cold day in hell before I painted her.
“Joe has a camera doesn’t he?”
“Don’t give her any ideas!” Mama joked, lightening the mood. After dinner we headed into the living room together and she cried at the sight of herself. I watched as she studied her face, commented about how I had captured her likeness, and thanked me. I was proud of my work, no matter where she decided to hang it.