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.ย  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.

She wept.

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.

An exhalation.

And she was free to sit beneath blue skies forever, enfolded by a garden of flowers.

24 thoughts on “REIMAGINING

  1. oh my I love your story- and even though sad and we dont know how Alain died-
    you painted beautifully with words how they loved each other


  2. Oh Selma, This is beautiful. It made me feel so good, so sad…an engaging read. I’m happy he painted flowers. Sometimes we don’t see love for what it is, until it vanishes forever. thanks for this…..~Brenda


  3. Hi KATHE:
    I am really glad you liked it. Love is quite a powerful thing to write about. It transported me a bit.

    Hi HELEN:
    Sometimes we just need a happy ending. There are so many sad stories in the news and such. It made me feel bettter to write this!

    Hi BRENDA:
    It’s true. We are often caught up in the day to day routine or convince ourselves someone doesn’t care for us. I am really delighted you enjoyed it ๐Ÿ˜€


  4. ‘A woman with a haircut like a comma’ is too funny for words – I love it and despite the initial tone, the whole story is full of humourous descriptions. Reminded me of PG Wodehouse for some reason. I love the way you completely shift the tone from hopeless to peaceful, not so much in the plot but the descriptions you use such as the wet and muddy cemetary. I was wondering is there a reason you italicise your speech in your stories?


  5. I wanted to not like Alain. I wanted to pin “burden” on him. Maybe he was; but in the end, he gave her the most beautiful, unfettered gift. Bittersweet. Full of layers. Great story Selma.


  6. So he sold the abstracts and hid the colour and beauty of his reality from and for her. You went to the same school, Selma, leading us on then giving us a gift of sadness. Just love your writing.


  7. I really like the conciseness of your stories. Brief and compelling sentences.
    I knew what Viola would find in 64 Nightingale Lane once I had read that Alain never painted flowers or birds, or rivers. I knew he had these for her. I wouldnโ€™t blame her for leaving though. Love can be destructive sometimes. Everyone deserves to live a full life, whether they are outstanding artists or just muses…


  8. Glad that I stopped by to read your fantastic offering Selma. I enjoyed the happy ending. But then again would Viola eventually begin to second guess herself–for not realizing Alain’s love for her while he was living so that it could be shared and made deeper?

    Or maybe that is just the way I rationalize.

    Thanks for making me think–credit to an excellent writer.


    I like how you put it – full of flight – thank you for describing it that way.

    Hi JINGLE:
    I guess it was a happy ending of sorts. I’m so glad you liked it!

    WOW. That means a lot to me because I am a huge PG Wodehouse fan. That has made my day. I italicise the speech because an editor friend of mine does it and I quite like the way it looks. Apparently, it is an acceptable substitute for quotation marks, although it is not very widely used. Some publishing houses actually have it in their style guides now.

    It’s funny how things turn out because initially I didn’t want to like him, either. I changed my mind about him half way through the story. It was an unexpected development – seemed to happen of its own accord.

    Awww. Thank you so much. It is very kind of you to say so.


  10. Hi CARMEN:
    I guess Viola learning that he had loved her all along was the happy ending she needed. I wanted a kind of bittersweet ending to highlight that the only way he could truly express himself was through his art. He was never able to tell her with words how he really felt. Thanks so much for visiting.

    Hi SHIONA:
    I can’t blame her for leaving. People need to know they are loved. It’s important. Thank you for your lovely feedback.

    Thank you so much and lovely to meet you!

    Awww. That is so kind of you to say so!

    Oh, I think they’re there. Sometimes we just don’t see them. So many men are full of surprises. I am really glad you liked it!

    Hi DENISE:
    I will come over shortly. Sorry for the delay, my internet has been playing up since a bad storm a few days ago. Thank you.

    I like the way you think. It is a real gift to me that my story made you consider other possibilities. I am really honoured.

    At first I wasn’t sure about the humour considering I open with a funeral but I am pleased it seemed to work. Thank you so much!

    Hi WILLOW:
    I think about Ophelia a lot. I don’t know why. I think I am a bit obsessed with her. For me, she is the ultimate tragic heroine – endlessly fascinating.


  11. I was thinking of Anne Tyler’s descriptions when I read your wonderful story Selma. Quirky, irreverent but full of feeling. Beautiful as always.


    I do like to inject the quirks when I can. I feel it is more true to life that way. I am so glad you enjoyed it!


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