This is the prompt from Magpie Tales this week.
Here is my story…..
Viola felt guilty. Alain’s funeral was packed. People were jostling for a good view of the coffin. It was a deep red, regal in a way, irreverent in the extreme; but Alain all over.
It had been raining all night. Sheets of water as if someone had released sandbags from a levee. There were buckets of mud in the cemetery. Full of sorrow and ghosts. The mourners slid, spattering the coffin.
Viola felt guilty, was guilty. She had broken up with Alain two months before he died. She had grown weary of never being sure where he was, who he was with, of making excuses for his artistic temperament. It had worn her down to a stub.
She had loved him till the end. The ache of it tore at her in her dreams. But she had never been sure he loved her in return. She wanted to open her mouth in song, in prayer every morning when the sun came up and feel love, his love, with every breath, but instead her mouth filled with silt like Ophelia in the river.
The mourners, Alain’s fans, his devotees, cast wicked glances her way. She was his muse and she had abandoned him. He might still be alive if she hadn’t been so selfish and left him. One had to make allowances for artists, they weren’t like other people. Oh, she heard the mutterings, the accusations. She felt like Yoko Ono when The Beatles split up.
The will was read immediately after the funeral. At Alain’s request. He didn’t see the point of reassembling people in a few days who were there right now.
He had bequested a lot of things. Money. Cars. The beach house. Some of his most famous, most valuable paintings were left to people he barely knew. A woman with a haircut like a comma fainted upon being left Enigma. Painted in reds and greys, it had a Sotheby’s valuation of two million dollars.
Alain’s sister, circling like a jaguar, was left cash. Lots of cash.
Viola, not wanting anything but a quiet corner to sit in, was given a key. Heavy, iron, with a long bow forged like a Roman centurion’s breastplate.
A slip of paper came with it. An address.
64 Nightingale Lane.
What is this key about? Where is Nightingale Lane? Viola tackled Alain’s lawyer; haughty, supercilious, holding a plate of canapes under the Enigma lady’s nose in an attempt to revive her.
I don’t know, he said. All I know is, it’s all for you. That’s what he told me. Maybe it’s a warehouse full of bottles of white spirit.
His glance angled down his nose as if that was all Viola was good for – cleaning Alain’s brushes.
In the morning the rain had stopped. The streets were washed with clear glaze. Raindrops sat like insects on the magnolia by the door; vintage china cup blossoms.
Viola remembered asking Alain why he never painted flowers or birds or rivers. Why everything had to be abstract. He had never said so but she knew he liked the magnolia. Gothic pink, he called it. Sometimes she caught him admiring it. It had been her wish that he would paint it.
Nightingale Lane was quaint, cobbled, in the heart of the textiles district. Viola could smell the clothing dye, pungent as burnt plum jam. She could hear the overlockers clicking, chainstitching ceaselessly.
She pulled out the key. The lock was scratched, abraded with use.
Viola turned the key and opened the door. It was a huge warehouse. Beams of steel held up the roof. Twelve foot windows faced north.
Viola idly thought that those windows would have attracted the kind of light Alain favoured for his work.
There were canvases everywhere. Stacked threefold, sixfold, tenfold against the walls. Forming mazes and mosaics like an Escher staircase.
They held sights Viola had never expected to see.
Colour and form neither arbitrary nor indefinite. Sidewalks bustling with people wearing bright coats, holding hands. Birds basking in floods of sunshine. Irididescent, coruscating rivers, moving, flowing outward.
Horses, dogs and fish in ponds, gleaming in rainbow light.
And everywhere, just everywhere, flowers.
The entire room was a garden. Animate, infused with spirit and life. An exuberant, bewitching landscape.
And there, right there, a magnolia, vivid, rich, Gothic pink in the morning light.
Viola sank to her knees, surrounded by shimmering, luminous, intimate colour.
It’s all for you, the lawyer had said.
It’s all for you.
And she knew in that moment that Alain had really loved her.
In all that light and colour.
Her pain, her sorrow, her loss dissipated.
There was a reimagining of the picture she held in her heart of the way her life had been.
And she was free to sit beneath blue skies forever, enfolded by a garden of flowers.