Bold Strokes

During the Art League’s plein air paint out on the boardwalk, Lyn saw Michael whose portrait she had painted the previous summer walking in her direction. Because she did not want him to see her with surgical dressing taped across her nose, she pulled down the brim of her straw hat and tried to hide behind her canvas and tripod. Last week she had had a basal cell incised from the tip of her nose and it was still swollen and pulpish looking. With or without a bulbous nose, she particularly did not want to meet the svelte thirty-something who was half his age clinging to his arm. Dressed in linen from her head to her toe with a mauve straw hat covering her shoulder length hair, she glided in the cool breeze by his side. “Damn it,” Lyn thought, they are veering right towards me.

With a wide grin of recognition, he said, “Well, if it isn’t my favorite portrait artist.”

He doesn’t even remember my name, Lyn thought, as once again she felt a tingle at the nape of her neck as he sidled up next to her canvas. In his presence she felt like a gawky adolescent.

“Well, if it isn’t my world traveler who didn’t even spring for a postcard from New Zealand,” she countered with forced aplomb.

“Your painting shouts summer, so full of light and color.” His companion agreed, “As colorful as a carousel.” He took his companion by the arm, “Bea, this is Jen. Jen, Bea.”

“My name is Lyn, not Jen,” Lyn said, aching to stab him with the tip of her brush.

“Mea culpa, my short term memory seems to be going the way of all flesh,” he said. Flesh would have been a perfect lead in to her nose but fortunately he either missed it or he was being kind by ignoring it.

“I met Lyn at a car show a few years ago with her husband,” he explained. “Last year we ran into each other again on the boardwalk; she asked to paint my portrait. I sat for it. Not too patiently, I might add.”

Because Lyn hadn’t known when he was supposed to return from New Zealand, she had weathered the two mile boardwalk trek everyday hoping to run into him, even on days when the north wind had cut through her like a whetted knife.

“Oh, I’d love to see it,” Bea said, in what sounded like an Australian accent.

“Could she, we, stop by some afternoon to see it?” he asked. Hell, no, Lyn wanted to say but instead she smiled and said, “Of course… sometime.”

“When?” he said, trying to nail her down.

“Don’t know, can’t really think about anything right now except my painting. I really hope to win a prize this year.”

“Sorry for breaking your concentration,” he said. “They should hang signs around your neck.” He gestured towards the line of artists entertaining tourists on the boardwalk as they studied their works in progress, “Do not disturb artists when working.”

“Yes,” Lyn said, “they should,” trying to keep the stiletto of sarcasm out of her voice. After they left her and headed north, she lost energy for her work but she continued to struggle with the shadow cast by “The Star of the Sea,” a stark structure, on the bathers and umbrellas on the beach. Although she considered the ten story building out of step with the architecture of the town, she loved its name, a title in the litany of Mary, “Star of the Sea, pray for us.” She toyed with the idea of making it the title of her watercolor. She had to admit she was delighted Michael was back in town but she also had to admit she was jealous of his young woman. “Stella Maris, ora pro nobis,” she whispered to herself.

The day the Art League announced her second place watercolor prize in the Coast Press, he left a message on her machine, “Congratulations, I’m not surprised. Will call again.”

Lyn walked over to his portrait still sitting on the mantle, “Did I ever tell you I adore the timbre of your voice?” Then she felt her husband’s eyes peering at her from the photo in the silver frame in her bookcase. Arms folded across his chest, he was leaning against his prized ‘53 Corvette. “Forgive my wayward heart, darling, you know you were the love of my life.” Taken from her so suddenly, she could hardly believe he had been dead three years.

Two weeks passed and Michael hadn’t called back. In the sunny alcove of her cottage, Lyn munched on croutons from the Caesar salad she had tossed together for her guest, her teacher who had taught classes at the Art League in the Spring. “Tell me more about Romania, Serge ” she said as she refilled his glass with Shiraz.

“My country is mountainous, mysterious. Everyone is well educated but there are few jobs so the young leave.” A certain wistfulness filled his plum colored eyes as he twisted the stem of his glass in his fingers.

“I guess that’s why we have so many Romanian students here in the summer time; they add an international flavor. How long are you staying?” Lyn offered him more salad.

“As long as I can, I love the ocean. I have a few shows coming up, one in Hagerstown and another in Frederick. Americans buy my paintings; they are very generous.”