Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Portrait of Jean Abercromby

(Inspired by painting of same name by Allan Ramsay & Day Dreams by Alfred Walter Bayes)

He wants to paint my portrait. I suppose it was to be expected, I did marry a painter. I feel… unusual. I can’t quite describe it. It’s the way he looks at me. It’s different now. I’m no longer his Jean, his forever love, his sweetheart. Something has shifted in his gaze. I catch him staring; while we’re eating breakfast or talking, or when we make love. He looks at me with a cold determination, just for an instant. It’s as if he is weighing me up, sizing me, turning and analysing me. I am no longer a heart, a mind, a body. My flesh is merely a colour. I am angles and lines. I am shadows and light. I have become his subject.

Yesterday he brought me a posy of delicate, wild flowers. He said he picked them from the edge of the woodland that borders our estate. He wrote me a love letter and brought me tea with honey. We talked and kissed and sat on my tiny settee until late afternoon, when I dozed off, as I often do on an afternoon. I awoke a little later to find him sketching me in his little book. He had pulled my gown over the settee and placed my posy next to me. It was then that I realised how perfectly the flowers in my posy matched the flowers on my gown; red, white and blue with green leaves. Should I have felt flattered to find my husband drawing me while I slept? Perhaps. But there was that keen look again, that steely eye, that firm mouth. This was not a loving husband seeking to capture his beloved’s image to treasure. This was something else.

He smiled at me and put down his tools. ‘You are beautiful’ he whispered. ‘A vision. The afternoon light is your best. Tomorrow you will sit for me, in my studio. I am ready to paint you.’ He took my hands in his, putting aside the love letter I still held, and kissed them. Then he led me into the garden and we walked through the willows and along the riverside. There was a faint mist floating just above the water. It drifted silently towards us. It touched my skin as I stood at the water’s edge. I shivered. He drew me closer to him with his damp hands and held my shoulders. ‘You need a shawl’ he murmured. I smiled at him. ‘A lace shawl, yes, and a pearl choker around your neck. I have one. Yes, yes, and you will wear your blue dress.’ I turned back to the misty river, and felt my skin grow cold.

1 comment:

steven.nash82 said...

Do I sense a lurking feminist in there? lol. I really like the build of atmosphere in this and the narrator's refusal to be comfortable with her role as a vision of beauty. you bring out her distinctive voice beautifully