CHRISTINA REISS - THE ART OF ENVY
THE ART OF ENVY
In the corner where Madeline worked, Bridget saw something that made her forget that she had approached only to tell Madeline that she needed to leave her last class early. The larger of the two paintings depicted a morning sky waking over a scattering of rocky outcroppings, the gray and white stone illuminated by a yellow and pink dawn, the water still and shining as the rocks rose up from it. In the smaller painting, a lonely night scene revealed blades of green-gold grass in the foreground with the flickering lights of blurred dwellings receding into the darkness. A foreboding sky shrouded the moon and stars which were barely visible beneath its cloak. Madeline’s enormous talent caught Bridget like an unexpected wave, swelling beneath her, knocking her off balance. When Madeline turned towards her, her eyes blinking and unfocussed like a person coming out of a daze, Bridget began to offer her excuse until Madeline interrupted her.
“I might keep this little one for a while,” she declared, jutting her chin toward the smaller canvas. “I sometimes do that with a minor work until I get sick of it. Then I sell it to the highest bidder.”
Madeline’s cackle turned the heads of the closest students. Bridget felt their eyes on her, wondering what she hoped to gain in Madeline’s corner.
“They are amazing.” Bridget shook her head. “I would give anything to be able to paint like that.”
“These are nothing,” Madeline scoffed. “They will sell, of course. Some fool will buy them no doubt, but they hardly represent my best work.”
In the course of their six-week class, Madeline often spoke of the people and institutions who purchased her paintings as if she had duped them in some way, forcing them to buy what they didn’t need, and pay more than they should. Her attitude was equally scornful of her students, reminding them she did not need the exorbitant fees they had paid for her class, suggesting that she was teaching in a community center’s basement out of the kindness of her heart. While she doubted this motive, Bridget was nonetheless was forced to admit that Madeline gave good value for the money. She decided there was no point in leaving the class early; she needed every minute of it to hone her craft.
For the first hour of every class, Madeline arranged a group of objects in the center of the room which her students were expected to paint. Urging them to “capture” and “subdue” them, Madeline spoke as if the objects were living, breathing beings that could be imprisoned on the canvas. Midway through the class, Madeline rattled a cow bell which meant her students must set aside the day’s work and resume from memory the unfinished paintings from the previous class. In this manner, Madeline told them they would learn to paint from the imagination. Each student soon had several works in progress which made the class thrum with momentum. While her students labored at the task she set for them, Madeline painted in a far corner of the room at two easels, the only visible sign of her work the white flesh stretched over the canvases’ skeletal backs. At least once a class, she strolled around the room, looking over shoulders, offering critiques. Standing next to Bridget, she placed her hand on Bridget’s shoulder and used her free hand to point out what was wrong with Bridget’s work.
“There is nothing of you in there,” Madeline said, tapping a long bony finger at a piece of shiny brown crockery holding three perfectly green apples.
As Madeline hovered close, Bridget detected an odor (sweat, turpentine, something that smelt like fennel) that made her hold her breath.
“You need to sacrifice, put yourself out there,” Madeline told her. “This is not a copying exercise.”
Although Bridget nodded, she did not understand. Prior to Madeline’s visit, she had stolen glimpses of the still lifes on every easel within view and concluded that hers was by far the best. It was the only one that did not stray from the objects in the middle of the room.
While Madeline moved on to another student, Bridget told herself that it was not her fault that her work neared perfection. She had been taught by the nuns to color within the lines, choosing her colors without exaggeration, striving for purity, leaving nothing for the observer to think or feel. When she brought her creations home from school, her parents had lavishly praised them, telling their only child that no one could question the accuracy of her work. It was not until college that Bridget discovered that imitation was not enough, interpretation was required as well. Try as she might, no amount of time and toil could loosen the screws the nuns had tightened with such precision. Bridget had given up, switching her major from art to business, boxing up her art supplies and accepting that another route to her destiny must be found. It was not until she saw the flyer for Madeline’s art class that the flame was reignited.
As the clang of the cow bell announced the end of their last class, Madeline told them to bring their paintings and art supplies out to their cars before returning for her parting words. As they returned empty-handed, Madeline herded them into a circle so that she could remark on their good fortune, likening herself to an astronaut who had taught them to fly a paper airplane. She reminded them she did not need the fees she had earned from their class although no one had questioned her on that point. Assuring them that they had all made at least some progress with her help, she suggested that someday, some of them might actually sell their work as if this were the only goal worth pursuing. She invited each of them to visit her on Martha’s Vineyard, her gray eyes darting around the circle to make sure no one was taking her too seriously. In the course of their class she had described the shingle style home on Menemsha Pond that had been in her late husband’s family for generations, telling them about the sparkling swimming pool that she had installed where she swam daily “rain, sleet, snow, or hail.” “Twenty-three acres,” she said, practically ticking them off on her fingers.
As they filed out of the classroom, Madeline stood by the door, stopping each of them to offer a slightly different version of the same benediction. When it was Bridget’s turn, Madeline grasped her hands.
“Bridget, Bridget, she of the cornflower blue eyes, the strawberry blond ringlets, the dew of youth still fresh on the maiden’s blush.”
As Madeline crooned, Bridget bowed her head.
“I have enjoyed you,” Madeline said, lowering her voice to a whisper and leaning closer. “I hope you will visit me on the Vineyard.”
When Bridget failed to respond, Madeline squeezed Bridget’s hands, a currency passing between them. Looking up, Bridget did not hide her distaste. Her eyes raked Madeline head to toe, starting with Madeline’s silver hair which looked as if it had neither been washed nor brushed for weeks, dwelling without mercy on Madeline’s hawkish features and corn colored teeth, sweeping past her concave chest to her small paunch, before trailing down her bird like legs to her paint spattered shoes. Dropping Bridget’s hands as if she had been scalded, Madeline placed her own hands behind her back as Bridget left the classroom in triumph.
The following spring, Bridget’s neighbor, Monica, invited her to a weekend on Martha’s Vineyard for just the two of them. Because it was off season, Monica said they could stay in the best inns for peanuts. On the appointed weekend, Monica drove them both to the ferry and after they boarded, stood with Bridget on the deck as they headed into a raw wind. The pewter waves parted for the large boat, Bridget thought of Madeline, the way she would capture their frothy spray, each droplet reveling at its escape from the churning waters below. When their ferry approached a harbor town of shuttered storefronts, Bridget turned to Monica with a reproachful look.
“It won’t stay like this,” Monica assured her. “I’ve checked the weather report. We should get at least one really nice day. Then we’ll be glad to have the island to ourselves.”
Walking off the ferry, the wind followed them, carrying the sea with it so that Bridget was freezing by the time they flagged down a taxi. As they bundled into its back seat, Bridget’s body knocked against Monica’s making Bridget uncomfortable. After checking into an inn that Monica praised as if she had built it herself, they spent the remainder of the afternoon in the inn’s library, drinking wine and talking of their jobs and families. That night, they ate dinner in a nearby restaurant as its only guests. When their conversation was exhausted, they drank to fill the silence. By the time they returned to the inn, they were both tipsy. In the inn’s lobby, the innkeeper had thoughtfully set out a tray of liquors from which they could help themselves. Monica announced she would conduct a taste test, pouring a sample from each bottle until she had dirtied almost all of the glasses. Waving off Monica’s invitation to join her, Bridget watched with growing disapproval as Monica became louder and more boisterous with every sip. When Monica announced there would be a second round of competition for the finalists, Bridget stalked to the bottom of the inn’s staircase where she waited impatiently. With an exaggerated sigh, Monica put down the bottle in her hand and joined Bridget at the foot of the staircase, pushing past her as she ascended the stairs first. Halfway up, Monica turned toward Bridget, her hands cupped over her mouth, snorting with laughter.
“What so funny?” Bridget asked.
“I bet that innkeeper thinks we’re on a romantic weekend. He seems to want to liquor us up before we toddle off to bed.”
Bridget shoved Monica playfully, but with enough force to push Monica onto her hands so that she was straddling the staircase like a bridge.
Her bottom in Bridget’s face, Monica threw back her head and laughed, braying and swaying so violently that Bridget feared she would tumble backwards and plunge them both down the staircase.
“Sssshhh,” Bridget chided, holding a finger to her lips.
“Shush yourself, you silly little prude,” Monica replied as she struggled to her feet, her mood darkening with a drunken flip of a switch.
By the time they reached their room, a simmering resentment cooked between them. Undressing in silence, as soon as they were in bed, Bridget turned off the lights. In the darkness, she struggled to fall asleep, serenaded by Monica’s boozy breathing from the other bed. To calm herself, Bridget imagined herself alone on the island painting to her heart’s delight.
At breakfast the following morning, Monica took credit for the change in the weather, drawing Bridget’s attention to the light coming through the inn’s windows as if Monica had ordained it herself. When Monica said she wanted to borrow one of the inn’s bicycles and explore the island, Bridget asked if she could join her, although she had intended to find an excuse to spend the day by herself. As she pedaled behind Monica on the island’s narrow roads, Bridget was pleased to find that their conversation was limited to a few words when they came abreast. Seeing a road sign for Menemsha Pond, Bridget pulled ahead, pointed to the sign, and headed toward the pond without checking to see if Monica was following.
The pavement petered out in a small cove with a dozen empty boat slips and a boarded-up bait shop. Two cars parked in front of a coffee shop were the only signs of life. Monica suggested that they get a cup of coffee before heading back to the inn. By the time Bridget entered the coffee shop, she was determined to get what she had come for. She would see Madeline’s work again if she had to knock on every door on the island to find her.
In the coffee shop, a man and woman sat eating breakfast at the only occupied table. Using the smile she saved for strangers, Bridget approached them and asked if they knew Madeline, describing her as a famous artist who lived in a historic house with a swimming pool overlooking Menemsha Pond. The couple conferred, before the man spoke for both of them, telling Bridget that there was a notorious old crank at this end of the island whose name he could not remember but could well be Madeline. Providing directions to this woman’s house, he disclaimed any responsibility that they would lead to the right person.
Thanking the couple with another smile, Bridget returned to her own table where Monica raised her eyebrows over the rim of her coffee cup. Bridget picked up her own cup and drained it in a single gulp.
After they paid at the counter, Bridget insisted that they ride to Madeline’s house, describing her not only as her art teacher but a cherished friend who would be thrilled by their visit. Monica frowned but did not otherwise object. Following the directions Bridget had been given, they soon found themselves at the bottom of a long sandy driveway that snaked up a small knoll to a gray shingled house. As they rode towards the house, the deep sand made it difficult to gain any traction. Monica fell behind as Bridget forged ahead. Arriving first, Bridget began knocking on the weathered front door before Monica had gotten off her bike. When Monica joined her on the front steps, she took off her helmet, freeing her hair which stood at attention in sweat-slicked spikes. Bridget wanted to pat it down, tidy it for Madeline’s inspection, and was about to suggest Monica tend to it herself when the door opened to Madeline standing in its wedge. As Madeline’s rheumy eyes regarded them warily, settling on Bridget with the greater effort, Bridget took off her helmet, shook out her curls, and smiled.
“It’s Bridget from your art class. You said I should visit you. My friend and I are spending the weekend on the island. We saw the road to Menemsha Pond and we ended up here.”
“Bridget, come in, my dear. What an unexpected surprise.”
They followed Madeline into a room crowded with heavy furniture and illuminated by a single stained-glass lamp on a table in the center of the room. As her eyes adjusted, Bridget saw paintings on every wall. She longed to linger, but Madeline called out from a lighted doorway at the other side of the room.
“How did you find the house?” Madeline asked, her voice prickling with suspicion. “Someone must have given you directions? The driveway is unmarked. I don’t keep a mailbox out here.”
“I found it based on how you described it in class—a house with a swimming pool overlooking Menemsha Pond.”
As soon as the lie was out, Bridget realized it would not withstand scrutiny as neither the pool nor the pond was visible from the driveway. Madeline, however, seemed content with this response because she ushered them into a large kitchen where sunlight streamed in through a bank of windows.
“Of course, the kitchen is not original to the house,” Madeline said as she led them to a table where she told them to sit. “This whole part of the house was a rabbit warren which I re-configured. How my husband’s family bayed like hounds when they saw what I had done.”
As Madeline laughed gleefully, brushing her hands together as if ridding herself of a relative with every swipe, Bridget glanced at Monica and saw her expression harden. Bridget felt a flicker of doubt as she remembered what she, too, had thought of Madeline before she had seen her work. Dismissing Monica’s reaction, Bridget told herself that Monica would not understand that this cracked and ugly vessel contained a precious and beautiful gift, a gift Bridget could obtain for herself if she could just get close enough to see how it was done.
As they sat at the kitchen table, Madeline brought them glasses of water. Looking around the kitchen as she drank, Bridget saw dishes stacked on the counter and piled up in the sink. Used food cartons littered the counter space between the stove and the toaster. The floor looked as if it had never been swept.
“I get slatternly when I am alone,” Madeline admitted with a shrug. She did not appear the least bit contrite. Against her will, Bridget admired her for it.
Sitting down next to them, Madeline told them about the paintings she had sold since Bridget’s class, providing only a brief description of the painting itself before launching into a lengthy discussion of the negotiations for its sale and the ridiculous commissions she had to pay in order for it to change hands. When Madeline got up to refill their glasses, Monica signaled with her head that it was time to go. Bridget pretended not to see her, prompting Monica to point to the front door with a jabbing finger emerging from her balled fist so that it looked like she was shooting her way out of the house. Turning around in time to catch this gesture, Madeline set down their glasses in front of them with a smile that did not reach her eyes.
“Would you like to see my studio?” she asked Bridget.
As she nodded, Bridget knew it was why she had come, not only to Madeline’s house, but to the island itself. She had to see Madeline’s work again, not when she and Madeline were student and teacher, but when she was neither supplicant nor subordinate. Madeline’s talent had daunted her, crippled her in fact. She could not square it with what she judged to be Madeline’s character. It had seemed so unjust, Madeline so undeserving, that Bridget had half-convinced herself that she had been seduced by Madeline’s tales of fame and fortune and that Madeline’s work was nowhere near as good as it had seemed.
Leading them outside past a murky swimming pool thick with leaves, Madeline resumed her commentary, explaining what the yard had looked like before she worked her magic. When they entered her studio, a large two-story building set apart from the house, she flicked on the lights from a panel of switches to reveal a spacious room with a soaring post and beam ceiling. In the middle of the room, easels clustered around a table covered with tubes of paint, trowels, and tin cups with soaking brushes. Walking up to one of the easels, Bridget stood before a canvas covered by a wide expanse of choppy water. From a distance, the water had seemed uniform in color but a closer inspection revealed a vast array of gray, blue, and purple pigments. Rolling toward each other, the waves faced off, not in harmony, but in conflict; she could almost feel them pushing together, pulling apart. She was still trying to understand how Madeline had set them in motion when Madeline called out, demanding that they watch as she demonstrated the use of a remote control to open and close the window blinds. When Bridget asked about the painting, Madeline put down the remote control and waved her hand dismissively.
“That one will only sell for about twenty thousand. Buyers want a little action. Maybe I’ll add a pair of seagulls hovering above the waves.”
Joining Bridget in front of the easel, Monica studied the unfinished painting, taking a step forward and peering at before stepping back and tilting her head.
“Two seagulls, just above the waves, their wing tips almost touching. It’s just what it needs,” she advised solemnly.
Behind Monica’s back, Bridget glanced at Madeline who met Bridget’s smirk with a malicious grin of her own. Coming between her guests, Madeline took Bridget’s hand and led her away without a word of explanation. When they were out of earshot, she leaned close and spoke in a hissing whisper.
“I want you to come here again, in the summer, when the weather will be glorious.”
Bridget nodded, still under the sway of the painting she had just seen.
“Come by yourself,” Madeline warned her.
Walking over to her painting table from which she retrieved a pad of graph paper, Madeline ripped off a piece, the sound loud in the silent studio. Writing down her phone number, she pressed the piece of paper into Bridget’s hand and closed Bridget’s fingers over it.
As Bridget and Monica biked back to the inn, Bridget said nothing of Madeline’s offer. It grew between them, however, so from that point on, they were no longer on the same trip. For the remainder of the weekend, Bridget kept to herself. Although Monica tried to repair the rupture between them, Bridget would not let her. At their final breakfast at the inn, they scarcely spoke. On the ferry back to the mainland, they sat rows apart so that Monica could listen to music on her headphones without bothering Bridget. When Monica offered her a ride home, Bridget told her that she had called her husband to pick her up. Leaving Bridget at the ferry dock, Monica did not hide her relief.
In a series of phone calls, Bridget arranged to visit Madeline during the summer. Although Bridget sought to keep her visit to a couple of weeks, Madeline insisted on a full month, telling her there was no sense in coming at all when Bridget resisted.
Bridget kept her plans a secret, springing them on her husband at the last minute, telling him the invitation would be bestowed elsewhere if she did not accept it immediately. With equally short notice, she told her employer that she needed to take time off to care for an elderly relative. Although both her husband and her employer had protested, Bridget gave them no choice.
On the first day of August, Bridget boarded the ferry to the Vineyard where Madeline was waiting when she disembarked. As Madeline drove them to Menemsha, Bridget listened with growing excitement as Madeline promised what their time together would do for her art. Upon their arrival at the house, Madeline led Bridget to an upstairs guest bedroom where she escorted her to the window.
“I have this same view of the pond from my bedroom. The sun comes up right there over there,” Madeline said, pointing to a square of the window pane.
While Bridget praised the view, Madeline placed her hand in the small of Bridget’s back. Although Bridget arched instinctively away from it, Madeline did not remove her hand. As they continued to look out the window, Madeline described how the light on the pond would change in the course of the day, reflecting both water and sky until they merged into the darkness. Telling Bridget that she wanted to show her the studio where she could work during her visit, Madeline led Bridget downstairs to a small room where an easel had been set up. Picking up the paints and brushes she had purchased for Bridget’s visit, Madeline told her what each item cost and where she had obtained it. Thanking her, Bridget allowed her blush to acknowledge that everything came at a price.
For the first few days of her visit, Bridget struggled to manage the freedom to paint all day unencumbered by responsibilities at home and at work. She found she could paint for two or three hours at a time, but not for the eight to twelve hours during which Madeline worked without complaint. Trying her hand at landscapes in what she considered Madeline’s style, she discovered the work was more difficult than it seemed. Bridget’s sea was one-dimensional, there was no potency to it. The still lifes Bridget attempted were equally uninspiring, little more than random collections of household items that no one would look at twice. Venturing into a territory that she believed Madeline had not staked out, she decided to paint Madeline’s portrait and present it to her as a gift at the end of her visit.
Bridget sketched Madeline standing in front of a blank canvas, her paint brush held aloft like a conductor’s baton. Tracing the sketched outline with a cloying acid green, Bridget filled in Madeline’s skin with a mixture of grays, yellows, and whites which she applied in blotches. She dressed Madeline in a filthy painter’s smock which she left open to reveal Madeline’s sagging breasts as she bent toward the canvas. If Madeline questioned Bridget’s choice of poses, she would tell that her she wanted to show her coming naked to her art with nothing between her and the canvas.
Bridget found that she could work on the portrait without interruption for several hours after a coffee break when Madeline would be eager to get back to her own work. The coffee breaks were themselves something of a surprise as Bridget discovered that she was expected to anticipate when Madeline might need one and have a cup of coffee waiting for her, fixed the way she liked. Madeline explained it was too dangerous for her to drink while she worked because more than once she had mistakenly taken a swallow from one of her painting cups. When she suggested Bridget might encounter this same problem, Bridget was forced to confess that she had never reached that rapturous state. As Madeline smiled, Bridget wished she could recant, never telling Madeline another thing about herself.
Although Bridget was not allowed in Madeline’s studio, at least once a day Madeline wandered into the studio where Bridget worked. Scratching at any loose paint with a dirty fingernail, she told Bridget her work was still too tame, too sterile.
“You don’t get it; you can draw but you can’t paint. If someone wanted a photograph, they’d buy one. You’re missing the whole point. There needs to be blood on the canvas. Gallons of it.”
“I don’t want to create something no one recognizes.”
“Oh, they’ll recognize it alright,” Madeline laughed.
Bridget turned away so that Madeline could not see her hurt, her confusion.
“Please leave the door to the studio open,” Madeline said as she left the room. “I don’t want it to be stuffy for me if I have to work in here again.”
As Madeline’s distinctive odor permeated the small windowless room, Bridget did not trust herself to reply.
By the second week of her visit, Bridget and Madeline had settled into a routine where they painted all day. After dinner, they would sit in Madeline’s library as the early evening light shaded into dusk. After several glasses of sherry, Madeline would reach for Bridget’s hand, caressing it as she spoke about her life and her work. She told Bridget that in art school she had used her youth and talent to attract a wealthy patron to support her career, stealing him away from his wife and children, promising to give him more children, playing him along until it was too late. Every year she sold more paintings at higher prices for a market that seemed insatiable for her work. It was not long before she did not need her husband’s money to survive but she took it anyway. At this point in her life, Madeline confided, she needed something different. It was why she taught classes. She was looking for an assistant would understand the simplicity of island life; someone who would not ask for too much. This person need not be a gifted artist herself, in fact, it was better if she was not, however, she must worship at Art’s altar, kneel and pray to its heathen gods. Smiling at the flamboyance of her description, Madeline’s eyes remained deadly serious.
The days proved easier to endure as Madeline made good on her promise to find an assistant. Telling Bridget she expected her to buy their groceries and prepare their meals, the money Madeline provided for this purpose was never enough for the farm fresh ingredients she insisted upon. Rather than supplement the grocery budget from her own pocket, Bridget bought everything at the Stop n’ Shop, taking it out of its packaging and stuffing it into Madeline’s burlap bags, watching with pleasure as Madeline marveled at its freshness.
When Bridget’s responsibilities expanded to include cleaning the dusty, cluttered rooms of Madeline’s house, she found she could spend hours in the front room where she and Monica had first entered. On the room’s walls hung not only Madeline’s signature landscapes, but portraits of young children flushed with good health, peering out from the canvas with trusting innocence. Had Madeline’s distinctive signature not been scratched in their corners, Bridget would have doubted she was capable of producing them. There was also a large portrait of a tall, spare man which, based on her description, appeared to be Madeline’s late husband. As he stared sternly from the frame’s gilded cage, Bridget noticed a weakness in his chin, a subtle foolishness, as if he had been snared by Madeline’s trap, lured in by the same bait Bridget had found irresistible.
Bridget’s favorite painting reflected Madeline’s attempt to copy a more famous artist’s style. An enormous cream-colored flower took up the entire canvas. In its center, a golden stamen thrust stiff and erect from the bloom’s delicate pink crotch. In Madeline’s rendition, the flower was obscene. Bridget delighted in witnessing that Madeline’s talents could fail her.
When she was not completing her assigned tasks, Bridget worked on Madeline’s portrait which seemed to have taken on a life of its own. It looked enough like Madeline that there was no mistaking its subject but it captured her character as well. When it was not safe to work on the portrait because Madeline might see it, Bridget propped it against a wall and covered it with a sweat-stained smock.
During the final week of her visit, Bridget avoided Madeline during the day but remained less fortunate at night. The evenings continued to be dominated by Madeline’s taking Bridget’s hand to talk, making it seem like she was doing Bridget a favor, bestowing upon her a great gift.
After dinner on their last evening together, Bridget announced she would have to forego their evening ritual because she needed to wake early to catch her ferry. As she walked to the staircase, Madeline, moving swifter than Bridget would have given her credit for, blocked her passage. Reaching out, she took Bridget’s face in her hands, standing so close that Bridget could smell the sherry on Madeline’s breath mingling with the goat cheese she had eaten at dinner.
“Why don’t you stay here?” Madeline pleaded. “You could live with me. Be my assistant.”
“I have a husband,” Bridget replied firmly although her legs trembled beneath her. “He needs me. My employer needs me. I have a life of my own.”
In that moment, Bridget realized that under the sway of Madeline’s corrupting influence, she had scarcely given a second thought to her husband or her job.
“I need you. I need you,” Madeline cried, gripping Bridget’s face more tightly.
Bridget removed Madeline’s hands from her face. Grabbing Madeline’s wrists, she held them like handcuffs, her nails biting into the fragile skin. As she tried to pull away, Madeline looked so pathetic, so defenseless that Bridget felt a stabbing pity that only made her more furious.
“For the love of God, that’s enough!” she shouted. “You only want to use me. You think you are entitled to because you are an artist. It doesn’t work that way. Art isn’t the only thing.”
There was silence between them until Madeline spoke softly, almost inaudibly.
“For me, it is.”
The following morning broke with a driving rain. Leaving behind the paintings she had worked on during her visit, Bridget propped Madeline’s portrait on the easel where Madeline would see it first before closing the door to the studio behind her. Madeline made no mention of the previous night’s scene as she drove Bridget to the ferry. Nonetheless, Bridget could not escape the hungry, wounded look in her eyes. At the ferry dock, Madeline told Bridget she was welcome to visit her again and complimented her on the progress she had made during her stay. Bridget smiled into the empty words and vowed never to see Madeline again.
As Bridget’s ferry made its way to the mainland, she stood on the deck in a drenching rain, longing for a boiling hot shower in her own home where she could lather and scrub away Madeline’s smell and taste. Closing her eyes, she reminded herself that she had shared nothing of herself, given nothing up. That was the problem, of course, it was why her art would never work. When this thought became too painful, Bridget thought instead of Menemsha Pond, the light mellowing as the day wore on until it burst into flames before twilight snuffed it out. She imagined how Madeline might capture it, rendering it more real than life. Opening her eyes and facing the mainland, Bridget realized that she would not paint it, it was Madeline’s hand in which had placed the brush.