August 4, 2005
Somewhere between the car and the gymnasium, Violette lost her burnt umber. She’d seen it while packing her supplies that morning, and after going back and forth to the house three times to retrieve other items she’d forgotten, she would have spotted it if it had fallen out there. She wondered if she’d ever be organized enough to keep track of her possessions on a consistent basis. She doubted it.
“Back in a sec,” she called to the art student who was her assistant.
The petite girl nodded and waved, then went back to mixing
tints in paint trays. Violette retraced her steps to the car, making
her way from the back gym door through the parking lot, her eyes
glued to the concrete all the way. A few feet from the passenger door
of her hatchback she found the tube–crushed flat and oozing its
hue onto the blacktop. Only part of her groaned in frustration; the
rest of her had to admit that the swirl of paint looked rather artistic.
With one last look at the abstract mess squished into the pavement,
she turned back to the gym. “Oh well,” she sighed. “A new
task for Callie then.”
“Your cell rang,” Callie called when Violette walked back into
the gym. With a sudden bounce in her step, she made her way to
her backpack and pulled the phone from its pocket. She hadn’t had
it long, and still thought it a bit silly; only three people had the
number, and she was hardly the type who needed to be easily accessible.
But knowing that Christian could call her any time he had a
break in his schedule made it worth it. Sure enough, his number
was listed in the call log, and she hit the speed dial as she rummaged
through her supplies for her roller brush.
“Screening your calls?” he answered, voice teasing.
Violette laughed. “Yeah, this thing just never stops ringing!”
“How’s it going?”
“Not as good as I’d hoped. Haven’t gotten that far, and my
burnt umber took one for the team out in the parking lot.”
“Yeah, but oh well; could be worse. How’s your day been?”
“Depressing. Two couples bent on divorce and a third where
the husband refuses to attend the sessions.”
“Doesn’t sound good.”
“It isn’t. Forget it, though. I’m bringing you guys lunch; what
do you want?”
“You have to ask?”
She could sense his grin through the phone. “I assumed the
usual, but with you I can never be sure. Burger Hut it is. Callie
want cheese on hers?”
“Callie’s leaving at eleven thirty. She has a class.”
“Oh, all right then. Lunch for two. Even better–I’ll have you
all to myself.”
Violette’s stomach tingled, and she felt the smile spread on her
face. “See you in an hour then.”
Phone closed, Violette hummed as she pushed a new cover
onto the paint roller and inspected Callie’s mixing. “Looks good,
girl. Do me a favor and pick up a tube of burnt umber when you
come back this afternoon?”
“No problem. What do we do now?”
Violette shuffled back a few steps and eyed the wall. “Now we
paint a mural.”
Christian was still a new habit to Violette. It hadn’t been that long
since they’d simply been friends, and here they were at the beginning
of a full-fledged relationship. She hadn’t been looking for it–
quite the opposite, in fact. But love did seem to be evolving.
Sometimes she wasn’t sure she even wanted it, but how could she
possibly tell that to Christian?
No, if she was honest, she’d admit she was
happy about it. Not
so long ago she had been convinced she’d be alone for the rest of
her life, and here she was a girlfriend again. No more meals for one,
no more holidays alone–how could that be bad? Christian was
good for her: steady but not inflexible, rational but not boring,
mature but not stodgy. He appreciated her and her art, and the
latter was almost more important to her than the former. She’d
changed a lot in the last few years, but her deep connection to her
craft still remained, and finding someone who understood that
instead of merely tolerating it was easier said than done.
Violette was, at her heart of hearts, at her very core, an artist.
Her love of beauty affected the way she viewed the world, the way
she interacted with people, the way she lived her faith. The way she
manifested her artistic nature had shifted as she’d matured, but
remained integral to her essence. She was no longer the quirky
nonconformist who abandoned herself to every whim that crossed
her mind or who deliberately adopted outrageous habits purely for
the bafflement it caused others, but she hadn’t lost all her sense of
adventure and love of the unusual. It was sewn into the fabric of
her soul. When God had knit her together, he’d used some pretty
funky yarn, the kind that changed colors every few inches and had
little wisps hanging off it.
Even though art was so integral to who she was, Violette
almost hadn’t allowed herself to attempt it. Her mother had been
a celebrated artist in her hippie days, and for years Violette didn’t
even try to create in case she couldn’t live up to her mother’s expectations.
Not that Sara DuMonde had been a pushy mom; she’d
simply assumed Violette had inherited her gift for composition
and saw no reason to leave room for the possibility that she hadn’t.
When Violette finally allowed herself to experiment by taking an
art appreciation class in high school, she felt as if a volcano had
erupted inside her: the images and ideas just kept flowing hot and
liquid from her brain through her hand into the brush, the charcoal,
the pencil. It had been such a relief to discover she could
draw. She’d never forget her mother’s face the day she brought
home her first charcoal rendering: it was the look of happy shock
that comes with finding a possession one thought was gone for
good. Her mother was buried with that picture four years later
when cancer got the best of her.
Being who she was made finding friends who would go with her
flow somewhat difficult. When Violette met Alexine in college, she
likened it to finding a soul mate. She was surrounded by artists–
one expected it at an art school–but few lived and breathed it the
way Violette did. Alexine had the same multicolored, wispy soul
she did, and Violette was sure she saw traces of the sassy spirit she
had so loved in her mother. Alexine became Violette’s roommate,
surrogate sister, confidante, and business partner. Between the two
of them they managed to get the rent covered and the utilities
paid–although noodle cups and grilled cheese sandwiches tended
to be the standard meal fare. They threw themselves into the
starving artist role with abandon, content to skimp on what the
world called necessities in order to fuel their obsession with beauty
and art. Who said you needed new clothes every season? Who said
three place settings weren’t enough for two people? Who said towels
were useless once they were threadbare? As long as they didn’t
freeze (not likely in Southern California) or starve, they could
spend the majority of their money on paint and canvas. Both
agreed it was the best investment.
College was eight years behind them, and still they both lived
the life of the starving artist–although, by this time, the starving
part was by choice. The opening of a gallery, Galleria Bleu, seven
years ago by another of their college friends, Xavier Thomas, proved
to be the defining point in their careers, and for the first time they
could truly claim to make their living off their art. They were no
longer roommates, but their friendship was as strong as ever, tempered
by the trials life randomly throws at people. One best friend
was good enough for Violette.
Of course, now Christian had entered the picture. Significant
others had walked in and out of their lives before, and each time
Violette had to relearn how to share her time. Sometimes the intruder
eased right into their little world with minimal upset; other
times he barged in with all the grace and gentleness of a hippo in
heat. Christian, thankfully, had been one of the easy ones. For one
thing, Alexine adored him, taking pride in the fact that she had
been the one to introduce him to Violette. The feeling was mutual,
although Violette doubted Christian would claim to adore
adore wasn’t the kind of word he threw around the way Alexine
did. Also, by the time Christian appeared, the women were in separate
houses and on separate schedules; their lives didn’t intersect
as much as they once had. Sharing came a little more easily. But
still, just knowing someone else wanted first dibs on her time made
her balk just a little in defense of the other who wanted some of
her too. It was the same part of her that wondered whether she
should be in a committed relationship at all; life was much simpler
when she was a loner.
She was doing her best, though, to open herself up to Christian.
Most of her was on board with the relationship now; having
eased into it with a friendship first made it easier to navigate. But
still one corner of her heart remained guarded, refusing to fall for
Christian entirely. Christian didn’t know–she couldn’t bring herself
to tell him–but if things got any more serious she’d have to
say something. It wasn’t fair to him that he wasn’t getting as much
as he was giving. She still held out hope that something would
change for her, that sh...