The thought of seeing more of Katherine’s paintings was always forefront in Conrad’s mind. His curiosity, and expectation, was now piqued because of one painting.
Barbara was pleased he had readily accepted her invitation for dinner on Saturday evening. He’s the first person I’ve invited for dinner since the funeral, and the prospect of him assessing more of Katherine’s paintings will be interesting. It’s not as though I’m throwing a party.
“I’ve invited a friend for dinner on Saturday. Can we have something special?”
“Sure. Did you have anything in mind?” Sophia asked.
“Not really. Whatever suites you.”
“Can I ask who it is?”
Sophia was relieved to hear his name. With what had taken place within the building she, too, had reservations, especially with entertaining. She did not want strangers visiting.
“When the time comes I’ll help with the vegetables, or anything else you need.”
“If I need any help, I’ll ask.”
Both adults had tried to convince Katherine to ease herself away, temporarily, from the painting, otherwise mental exhaustion could possibly set in. They were aware of the concentration she was exacting on that one painting, and she was looking tired, but the word stop she did not want to hear. She refused to listen.
This is how I express my feelings, but this painting … was never going to be easy.
Two days later Sophia found Katherine sitting on the floor, against the bed, with the painting on her lap.
“What’s wrong? Are you hurt? Did you fall?”
“I’ve finished!” Katherine stated. Tears began their trickle from the inner corners of her eyes, to path over her cheeks, past her nose, to collect on her upper lip. She rubbed the back of her right hand across her top lip and dragged it back, to gather the falling salty fluid.
With her perfectionism a hard taskmaster, it had stood in the way of the painting’s completion. Although, with its completion, came the release of the pressure from her dedication.
As she stared at her work she realised her real talent had finally come to the fore.
Sophia sat near her on the bed and looked down at the painting. Although it was intriguing, she failed to understand what it represented.
There’s something familiar about it, she thought. Because she felt as she did, her eyes continued to stare.
She lifted the painting from Katherine’s lap and placed it on the bed, then, after helping her from the floor, gave her a hugging squeeze.
“Do you have a name for it?”
Katherine looked at the painting, but in a meek tone, replied, “No.”
“I think it’s your best yet, but I don’t understand it.”
Katherine did not respond, but instead, picked up the painting. She walked around her bed and leaned it against the wall near her wardrobe.
“Have we got a spare bedsheet? I want to cover it. No-one else is allowed to see it.”
“Not even your mother? She should see it.” Sophia was puzzled.
“Sometimes I have trouble trying to understand what you’ve painted, but this one … is … captivating. It certainly has a mystery about it. Are you sure, you don’t want your mother to see it? I can guarantee she’ll be disappointed when she finds out.”
Her grandmother’s comment caused her to reconsider.
“Do you want to know what I painted?”
“Yes, but you don’t have to tell me.” She has never asked before, so why now?
Katherine took hold of her hand, sat her on the bed. She then spoke softly into Sophia’s ear.
Sophia listened intently as Katherine’s secret relayed to her. The feeling of her caressing breath also was mesmerizing as it carried short-sentenced words to her ear.
Katherine stopped and glanced at her grandmother.
“I realise now why your mother shouldn’t see it.”
“I want you to do something for me, and it must only be between us, no-one else. You have to promise.”
Sophia just nodded. She was still trying to come to terms with the painting’s description.
Katherine conveyed her request, but Sophia suddenly sat upright, surprised by its audacity. “I can’t do that . . . it’s crazy!” I’ll get caught. It’s pushing too many boundaries.
“Yes, you can. If you think about it, it’s easy.” Katherine said, bluntly, before rising from the bed. “I’m going for a shower.”
Saturday evening saw four people seated around the kitchen table, and all three women were enthralled.
Conrad was at his charismatic best, and they loved him for it. He entwined them with ease, but without malice. He knew about art and its world, but his charm he considered his most valuable asset. That mechanism he implemented that evening. He was hoping Katherine could be enticed into displaying her paintings, but with the knowledge gleaned so far, treading warily was paramount.
With dinner concluded, Barbara suggested they adjourn to the living room, as it was more comfortable.
As the evening progressed, and still enjoying their company, Conrad decided to bring forward the viewing of the paintings. To do so his aim was to apply some of his own ‘home-grown’ psychology. By placing his near-empty wine glass onto the coffee table, he was hoping his action would induce the response he was seeking.
“Can I top up your glass?” Barbara asked, as she rose slowly from her chair.
“No, thank you. I must be going . . . it is getting late. I’m sure you ladies want to go to bed.” He was prepared to gamble it was the last thing on their minds.
“Katherine? Show Conrad one of your paintings before he leaves. I’m sure he’d love to see one.”
Her mother’s request sent Katherine’s mind into a sudden whirlwind.
Sophia’s glance shot to Katherine. Knowing of her granddaughter’s feelings about strangers viewing her paintings, Sophia was curious to see what her response would be. What’s Barbara playing at? Why would she betray Katherine’s trust? Thank God, she’s not aware of what happened here.
Katherine stared in disbelief at her mother, but remained silent. She was trying to unravel her mother’s motive.
I like him, but that doesn’t mean I want to show him my paintings! Why does mom want him to see one?
“Okay.” Although she agreed, she was still reluctant.
Katherine looked in her grandmother’s direction. “Do you want to help me pick one?”
“Can I come, too?” Conrad asked, as he began to rise from the couch.
“No!” Katherine waved her hand at him, as a sign of dismissal.
Katherine shut the door on entering the bedroom, then swiftly turned to her Sophia. “What’s mom doing? She knows no-one sees my paintings except you and her.”
Sensing her granddaughter’s confusion, Sophia said, “I have an idea. Pick out what you think is your worst painting and I’ll show him. You can stay here. I’ll say you’re not feeling well. What do you think?”
Not knowing what direction to take with her decision, she replied, “I’ll show him one and that’s all.” She searched through her amassed works before selecting one, although not her latest endeavour, nor the one of her late father.
“I’m ready, let’s go!” she said, defiantly.
Katherine handed Conrad the painting and, as he studied it, the three females waited in silence.
She is a fantastic artist. I need to see more. “This is good. You certainly have talent.” He returned the painting, but restraining his excitement was proving difficult.
“Thanks for inviting me to dinner, Barbara. And, to you two ladies, thank you for being exceptional hostesses.”
“I’ll see you out,” Barbara said, as she neared the living room door.
“Sophia, and Katherine, tonight’s been a pleasure. I hope I’m invited back again.”
“Bye,” both said in unison.
As they stood in the vestibule, Barbara rested her back against the closed front door.
“What did you think of the painting?”
“It’s impressive, and she’s gifted. They will sell easily, but the two I have seen are unsigned. She needs to sign them. If I’m invite again she may feel a little more at ease with me.”
“I’ll talk to her. If I think she’ll be okay with it, I’ll call you.”
“That’s fine by me, and thanks for the Chicken Kiev. It’s one of my favourites.” He kissed her cheek.
“I can’t take credit for the dinner, Sophia cooked it.”
“Please give her my compliments.”
Barbara opened the front door, and the cold night enveloped him.
“I don’t know whether to be angry at mom or not,” Katherine said, as she helped Sophia with cleaning the dishes,
Sophia didn’t answer, but thought, I wouldn’t blame you if you were. I would be.
Immediately on Barbara’s return, Katherine decided to take a nonchalant attitude toward her mother.
“That went well,” Barbara stated, as she tried to gauge their response.
Sophia remained silent while wiping the dishes, whereas Katherine, not wanting to be involved in a discussion, went to her bedroom.
Barbara could feel the tension in the air, so retreated to the couch to give some thought to Conrad’s remarks. She continued to dwell on his comments. I nope her gift will be recognised by others, and in the end it’ll make her happy. I don’t want to upset her, but sooner or later she has to come out of hibernation.
The establishing of a private trust Barbara was considering would guarantee Katherine never having to work. She could follow her dream. Barbara was of the opinion those who receive compliments thrive, while those who do not, shrivel. She was determined to see her flower grow. She has to bloom. If it means my actions will temporarily upset her, then so be it!
Sophia walked into the living room having finished in the kitchen “Barbara, do have a moment?”
“Sure. Is it about tonight?”
“Yes. I think Katherine is upset about having to show her painting. You know she’s almost secretive when it concerns them … it might be a good idea to talk to her.”
“I have dreams for my daughter, as I suspect you have. With Conrad well respected in the art world, and being a friend, I showed him Katherine’s painting. He’s convinced she’s talented. That opinion led to this evening’s dinner. I was hoping it would be of a benefit to Katherine. Unless I make the first move, she will never know if her paintings will sell. She cannot lock herself away forever; she needs the stimulation of others. Only then will her paintings be her source of nourishment.”
“Because, she lives and breathes painting. It’s about the only thing keeping her alive, figuratively speaking.”
Sophia thought, she makes some valid points, but telling that to Katherine isn’t going to be easy.