Joselyn Jimenez is a novice writer and college student in Florida. In her free time, she creates pastries as a chef for a small bakery. Jimenez loves gothic fiction, horror, and all things occult.
Pops was always going on about his youth, stuttering profanities with his twisted tongue until finally, pause, and that blank sullen look would sweep across his face. He’d shift in his favorite armchair with the burgundy and gold embroidery, his eyes darting across the floor, huffing softly as I imagine he scoured his brain for his train of thought. Mom said it was apart of his dementia. A disease only cured by summers spent at the family cabin in Olympia. Far away from the bustling of city streets outside of our condo, no doubt where my friends were having the time of their lives.
We’d spend the better part of the past four years going to and from in an attempt to ease grandpa’s sickness. Most days he was content to spend his days in that chair, the fabric fraying around the wounds Bella would inflict in an attempt to quell her huntress spirit. On his off days, he'd fly into a violent flurry, screeching obscenities about how we were all out to get him. I hated him the most on these days, the days where my mother would stand by the kitchen sink stifling sobs as my father escorted the 93-year-old child to bed.
“Ana, you mustn’t hold animosity for your grandfather. He’s provided well for this family, we wouldn’t be able to live the way we do without him,” she would always say.
Except for tonight. Tonight pops sat in his favorite chair, Bella sprawled out across his lap as he muttered soft incoherent words. Bella's soft purrs filled the room, a sense of warmth washing over as the aroma of braised chicken wafted into the sitting room from the kitchen. My stomach groaned and grumbled as I sat at the bay window, furiously punching away at the keyboard on the screen of my phone.
“Ana, you cannot possibly hope to spend the entire holiday texting your friends back home,” my father said as he came over to kneel beside me. He held out a short glass cup, beads of sweat dripping off the sides as the faint scent of amaretto swirled around my nose.
"Just imagine if we were back home, I could be hanging out with my friends instead of texting them."
“One of these days, Ana, you are going to look back and miss all of the opportunities you had to bond with your grandfather. You never know when he might not be around any longer,” he said before ruffling my hair around and heading back into the kitchen.
I sat up, lightly patting down the hair at the crown of my head, careful not to disturb my loose honey curls, the painting above the mantle catching my eye. A scene of turbulent waves flooded the canvas, people struggling to hold onto whipping sails in the wind. The waves lifted the boat but most of its passengers seemed less than bothered, a ray of sunshine peaking beyond the clouds, a symbol of better days to come. I got up from my seat walking over to the painting to get a better look at the greys, blues, and yellows that comprised the scene, staring in awe.
“Pops,” I said, “Who painted this?”
A rustling could be heard as he reached for his glasses, fixing them onto his nose. I stepped out of his way, watching him squint as he studied the painting, his hands shaking as his head softly bobbed.
“Ah yes that piece is by Rembrandt, his only seascape ever painted and it’s ours,” he said.
“Who is Rembrandt?” I asked.
“A very famous artist,” he said.
In awe, I lifted my phone to the painting, snapping a picture to brag to my friends about. A quick flash of light flooded through the living room window, the sputter of car engines ceasing as doors softly slammed outside. Boots stamped along the front porch in an attempt to shake the soil from soles, three deep knocks echoing from the foyer throughout the halls of the house. My mother shuffled across the floor in her blue slippers, the front door creaking as she opened it. Muffled voices could be heard overlapping with hers and before long she had led them over into the great room.
A group of four men and one woman wearing white gloves stood in the archway between the rooms, all tidy and put together in their navy and black suits. Bella took her leave, white fur floating into the air as she jumped off of my grandfather’s lap.
“Dad, there are some people here to see you,” she said as she hovered over my grandfather.
“Miss, we are going to have to question him at the station and we are also going to be taking that painting with us," he said as he pointed to the painting above the fireplace. My mother steadied herself against the chair as the gentleman furnished a piece of paper and a glittering gold badge from his inner coat pocket, prompting the white-gloved woman and one of the men to confiscate the piece from its resting place. My grandfather got up, slowly inching his way towards the officer, the man offering his help in steadying pops as they walked out the door. I sat back in my chair, confused by the events that had just unfolded, reaching for my phone to Google the famous painting.
It was there on the first page where the image of the painting that had graced my family’s home stood, the caption “Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft” plastered beneath it.