|"Angel Wall" © 1995 by Jacqueline Warren
Glass shattered against the wall to the left
of Larry's head. "All right, I'm out of here," he said, departing as suddenly
as he'd appeared on Tat's doorstep earlier that evening.
She listened to his footsteps in the hall,
and the grind of the lift as it descended to the street. Then she crossed
the loft to mop up fragments of glass and the oily turpentine spill. The
jar she had thrown had held soaking paintbrushes, which now dribbled turp
and paint on the floor. She let out her breath, a long sigh of air that
was half disgust, half embarrassment. Only Larry drove her to tantrums
like this. And then refused to believe she was patient and reasonable
with everyone else.
The phone rang and she reached for it, knowing
exactly who it would be. "Now listen, Tat," Larry said from the phone
box on the corner, a safe distance from flying art implements, "I've booked
us a table at our Italian place. Half past seven. I'll meet you there."
"Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you," Tat said.
"I mean it. I never want to see you again."
"Yeah I know. But you'll feel differently
in an hour, thank god. Half-seven. The Italian place. Okay?"
"No, it's not," she snarled. She hung up
on him, but she knew he was right. She couldn't stay mad, not at anyone
and especially not at Larry Bone. A forgiving nature was a failing, she
thought. Those self-absorbed, vain, demanding kind of women--like the
actress whose bed he had slept in last night--were better at getting whatever
they wanted; while Tat had realized long ago that she'd never have what
she wanted most. Not that having Larry in her own bed again was what she
wanted most, Tat told herself firmly, dropping turp-soaked rags
and shards of glass into the rubbish bin.
Tat looked at the clock. She had an hour
left to work. She crossed to the studio portion of the loft, where the
tables (and the floor, and everything she touched) were covered with spattered
inks and paints. Moon lay sprawled beneath the sink where he'd retreated
when voices were raised. The dog's great head rested on long paws as he
watched her through soft, ink-black eyes. He was huge (part wolfhound
she'd always thought, with fur the silver of a winter moon) and mute;
he'd never spoken once since she'd rescued him from the pound.
Large industrial windows let in the last
of the fading dusty light. The rooftops beyond the glass looked sooty,
a drawing rendered in charcoal. The ceaseless traffic of London was a
sound so familiar it seemed like silence to her. She snapped on an overhead
light, re-tied her carpenter's apron around her waist, then frowned down
at the piece she'd been working on until Larry arrived. The painting was
a wet expanse of printer's inks in subtle tones: the greys of the November
sky, a watery blue from her dreams last night, golds and creams breaking
through like a weak autumn sun through a cover of cloud. She'd brushed,
rolled and splattered the inks onto the surface of a plexiglass plate;
the plate in turn would be run through a press, transferring the image
to paper. She finished loading the plate with thick ink, and then she
began to pare it away, rubbing with rags, with fingertips, scratching
with knives, razors and pins, stripping the imagery down until shapes
emerged, abstract, half-tangible, suggestive of archways and thresholds,
of faded frescoes on crumbling walls.
Tat glanced up at the clock again. Just
enough time to print the plate; she'd only be a little late, and Larry,
of course, would expect that she'd be. Late, breathless, paint on her
hands: that's the way she always came to him; while he would arrive precisely
on time, order a bottle of good red wine, and flirt with all of the waitresses
until Tat finally arrived.
She placed the plate on the bed of her hand
press, covered with wet Fabriano paper. She set the weights, and then
began to pull the wheel that turned the press, pushing ink and paper together.
The wheel was stiff. She fought the rise of panic when it would not move,
betraying the weakness in her body, the inexorable deterioration. She
took a deep breath and hauled on the wheel. The rollers turned, and the
plate passed through. Dizzy with effort, she peeled the print from the
glass and tacked it up to dry.
It was half-seven when she wiped the paint
from her hands, from her hair, and off of her boots; five past eight when
she entered the tiny restaurant where Larry was waiting for her, a San
Gimignano wine open before him, most of it drunk already. His black box
of harmonicas sat on the rush-bottomed seat beside him. He had a gig later
tonight, but blues gigs always started late and they still had time to
A small package rested by her plate, wrapped
in red and gold Renaissance paper. "What's this?"
"Peace offering," he said with that lazy
American drawl that she loved. Inside was the new Rory Block CD. She hadn't
listened to the last one he'd given her yet. "Why don't you come to the
club tonight?" he urged. "It's been ages since you've heard me play."
"I'm just too tired." It wasn't quite true,
but this was an excuse that he wouldn't push. Good blues always made her
want to cry; and Larry was very good.
The food and the wine soon restored peace
between them, smothering the taste of frustration with the piquant flavors
of affection and time. They'd been coming to the restaurant for years,
although neither lived on this street anymore. Larry liked to hang on
to the past: to places filled with memories, to talismans of their history.
His flat was crowded with hoarded mementos--relics enshrining the years
gone by. Fifteen years of life with Tat was contained in old photos, postcards
from Florence, art show announcements, inscribed dog-eared books. She'd
often wondered what the various women he brought home made of all this
evidence of her. Perhaps she was one of the reasons that none of his hot
love affairs ever lasted long; or perhaps this was simply the way he preferred
his affairs--short and sweet, uncomplicated. Tatiana Ludvik was his sole
complication. As Larry Bone was hers.
He ran his thumb over her ink-spattered
nails. "Did you print that piece in the end? Good. I don't know why you
weren't happy with it. Myself, I could happily drown in that blue."
But she shook her head, disagreeing with
him. "Something's not right. Something's gone missing, and for the life
of me I just can't fathom what. The gallery sent my last four prints back,
and I can't even say I was surprised. I force myself to keep painting
these days--and you know how unlike me that is."
"Maybe you need to take a break."
"Yeah, right," she said dryly. "And live
on what? No prints, no sales, no rent, no groceries."
"I'm serious, Tat. Don't worry about the
dosh. You need a break, especially now. Your sister can help, and Maggie,
and your parents. I'll pay your goddamn rent myself. Don't give me that
look. There are times, you know, when independence ceases to be a survival
"And I'd prefer to continue looking after
myself. Especially now," she added with a look calculated to quell another
argument. The waiter brought their bill to the table, and she picked it
up before Larry could. "I think I just need a change, that's all. I need
to get out of London for a while. I'm going to go down to the chapel,
take the phone off the hook, and get some solid work done."
"To Devon? You're kidding. At this time
Tat shrugged. "There's heat in my chapel."
Larry looked glum. He probably thought she
had a lover in the country. She had never chosen to disabuse him of this.
"You could always come down on the train
if you miss me."
"I could," he agreed. They both knew he
Tat took out her keys. "I've got my car
here. Come on, Bone. I'll give you a lift."
He frowned, still glum. "Should you be driving?"
She let out a short, impatient breath. "I
drive better than I walk these days. And I get enough bloody nagging from
my sister. Please, don't you start in too, my dear. That's not what I
need right now."
"Oh no? And what is it you need?" he said
with a fey and narrow-eyed look.
She took his hand as they left the restaurant.
She was tall, but he was taller still, tall and thin as his name implied,
his nose crested like the beak of a bird, his face long, his eyes bright
as fire. "What do I need?" she repeated. "That's easy. Praise, approval,
and utter delight in absolutely everything I do."
He laughed, and squeezed her hand, rather
hard. She'd be damned if she'd tell him that such things hurt now. "I
think maybe I can manage that. How do you want it: time-release approval
at hourly intervals, or praise twice daily in tidy lump sums?"
"Constantly. Always. I wither without it."
Tat smiled, and yet she thought with a certain dismay that this was not
far from the truth. In the country, she'd strip herself down again, rubbing
away the Larry-dependence like she rubbed away at the inks on the plates,
till she reached the core image. Herself. Just herself. The restless mind,
the treacherous body--each with its separate, conflicting demands. The
first hungered loudly for solitude, and was halfway en route to the country
already. The other clung to Larry's warm hand, hungering for things best
left unsaid; tethering her in time, space, to this sidewalk, this night,
this cold, this need. She unlocked the car. "Here, you drive, if it makes
you feel better."
It did, and he did.
"For heaven's sake, Tatiana," her sister said predictably,
her voice rising in volume up the telephone wires from Kensington. "That
loft of yours is dodgy enough, but the chapel is positively primitive.
You'll be miles away from a hospital. What could you possibly be thinking
of? What if something happens to you, and nobody knows but some farmers
and sheep? You can't just ignore Multiple Sclerosis. You have
to be careful now."
Tat closed her eyes and summoned patience.
Patience was yellow--the yellow of a Turner sky, while calm was as blue
as the sea. She knew, far better than her twin sister did, that one couldn't
just ignore MS; the limp to her walk, the pain in her fingers, the weariness
lodged deep in her bones did not permit such forgetfulness. But to say so
would merely up the pitch of Francesca's concern, already too shrill. To
Franny, MS was high family drama; to Tat, a mundane, tedious fact of life.
And so she sat silent as Francesca scolded, stroking Moon's huge silver
" -- when you sell the chapel, of course,"
Francesca was saying when Tat tuned back in again.
She frowned, piecing the rest of the sentence
together. "But Fran, I'm not planning to sell. I only said that someone
has made me an offer. Some French man who's bought Deercott Farm."
"So sell," her lawyer sister said promptly.
"You'll make a fat profit. I'll handle the deal."
Tat wished she'd never mentioned the offer.
She'd done so only to impress her sister with the sizeable sum the Frenchman
had named. Particularly after Francesca's predictions of disaster when Tat
first found the place: remote, derelict, field mouse infested and blessedly
"I know you're fond of your funny little chapel,
but you must see that it's not practical now. Not anymore, Tatiana,
admit it. Let me call your Estate Agent for you and get the scoop on that
Frenchman, shall I?"
"I'll get the scoop myself when I'm there,"
she said to keep her sister at bay.
"So that's why you're running down
to Devon. Alright, that makes some sense. We're busy at the office
this week or I'd go along, but I'm sure Mother would-- "
"No," Tat said flatly.
Her sister relented. "You always were the
stubborn one. At very least, phone regularly. Is the telephone working?
You should have it tested. And drive carefully for a change, won't
you? The family worries about you, you know."
"I know," Tat assured her dryly.
She hung up the phone and went back to painting,
her silent dog nestled close by her feet. She stared at the paints, running
her hand distractedly through the tufts of her hair. She had cut off all
its white-blonde length; it was just too hard to fuss anymore. No one would
call her beautiful now. She noticed but did not mind beauty's loss. Francesca
was a mirror retaining an image that Tat herself had once shared. She preferred
the image in her mirror now--not a generic Pretty Girl anymore but a stronger
face, less immediately attractive to men, but a face all her own.
If only she wasn't always so goddamn tired, Tat thought as she blended the paints. Fatigue was the grey of a Whistler nocturne, pain was the white of O'Keeffe's sun-bleached bones. She used to be able to work all night long; it had been her best time, the midnight hours. When the clocks would slow, the world would fade, and the muse would come through London rain to Spittalfield's narrow, industrial streets. Once it had been Larry who'd come here by darkness, bringing his soulful harmonica music and bad coffee in Styrofoam cups. Now the muse and Moon were her silent companions, since Larry had long ceased to be. Yet lately her muse had also gone missing. Probably off with some bloody actress as well. Tat rubbed her eyes, gave in to her body, and rested her head on the table top. The inks on the plate slowly dried, ruining the print, as Tatiana slept.
In the morning she put on a warm woolen dress, and
thick woolen socks under sturdy biker boots. Moon watched as she packed
a suitcase, thumping his tail with silent excitement. She filled the back
of her old Morris Minor with paper, inks, groceries and books. The dog took
his place in the passenger seat, and grinned as they left the city behind.
The traffic on the motorway was all London-bound in the opposite lane. Tat
shifted up, flooring the accelerator, pushing eighty-five.
The sky remained grey when they left London's
smog. The late autumn air was damp and cold. The car's old heater sputtered,
spat and coughed hot breath into her face. She slipped a cassette into the
tape deck to mask the heater's death rattle sounds: the women musicians
of Cherish the Ladies on fiddle, pipe and bodhran drum. The music
was colored a deep emerald green, with flashes of red in the drum's steady
pulse. She used to play a mean bodhran herself, back when her traitorous
fingers still worked. She snapped off the tape deck. The heater wheezed
and whined and she snapped it off as well. The rhythm of the road was the
only sound that travelled with them as she headed southwest, a subtle music,
soothing to the soul, as spare and stripped down as her prints.
Four hours later they reached the West Country
and turned south onto a small, winding road. The hedgerows were painted
in rusts and golds, the sky vivid blue, fields green from the rain. The
village of Endicott sat in the distance, resting its back on the rise of
Crows Hill. She drove past the signpost pointing to the village, then past
the sign to Deerworthy Gorge. She turned onto a rutted dirt track half-hidden
by hedges and marked by two oaks. The winding track was lined by stone walls
buried in ivy, holly and briars until it entered a small leafless wood and
the parallel trees of a beech avenue. Beyond these enormous old trees was
a low, crumbling wall and a gate, standing open now. Tat drove through and
followed the track to its end in the yard of Deercott Farm. A smaller track
led on to her chapel. From here she would have to walk.
She parked by the barns, beside a Land Rover.
Perhaps it was the Frenchman's truck. He'd bought Deercott Farm since she'd
been here last--and now he wanted her chapel as well, coveting the same
solitude that she had enjoyed for the last several years while the farmhouse
stood empty, overpriced, windows buckling and roof half-collapsed. She stepped
from the car and looked at the farm in amazement mixed with a certain dismay.
She'd loved the picturesque ruin of it, although, to be fair, the fine old
Devon longhouse hadn't deserved such neglect. In the nearly three months
since she'd been here last the place had been thoroughly transformed--the
windows repaired, the roof re-thatched, a barn wall rebuilt of the local
grey stone. The roses by the kitchen door, thinned back severely, were in
last autumn bloom. Smoke rose from the great chimney, the sound of a drill
rose from the barns. Great, she thought sourly, envisioning workmen coming
and going to finish repairs. So much for the quiet of the country. She whistled
for Moon, and he leapt from the car.
Tat opened the car boot and picked up her
groceries. She'd get the rest of her gear later on. The single box was difficult
to carry, and the rain-softened ground treacherous underfoot as she followed
the path that led past the big stone barn to the chapel behind it. It was
getting harder to manage out here--Francesca had been right about that.
But she had no intention of selling to the Frenchman or any other; she'd
find a way to get by. Last time she'd hired a Deerworthy kid to chop wood
and fetch in her supplies.
Deer Chapel stood among crooked old oaks,
built of grey stone with a mossy tin roof. It was small, not quite two storeys
high, with less floor space than her London loft. A single arched doorway
led into the building, with long, narrow windows on either side. Above the
door was a carving in stone of a woman, a deer and three oak leaves--the
carving so weathered she had not made it out until a neighboring woodsman
explained it. Deer Chapel was older than Deercott Farm, but no one knew
the chapel's age, or who'd built it, or who'd worshipped here. For years
it had housed a couple of cows until Tat bought it off old Bertie and Bill,
the brothers who worked the next farm.
She unlocked the door and switched on the
lights, pleased to find that they still seemed to work. She'd done the renovation
on the chapel herself and the wiring was dodgy at best. Inside, the building
was one large room: kitchen, living space, studio. Mostly studio, with three
long work tables, an industrial sink and her big printing press. The living
space was confined to some old velvet chairs pulled close to the wood-burning
stove, tall bookcases crowded with art texts and two reproductions in antique
frames: Jacqueline Warren's Angel Wall and Botticelli's Annunciation.
A tapestry hung between the wood stove and the low arched door that led
to the stairs. Colored the blue of a midnight sky, it pictured winged deer
in a medieval wood. Her sister had given it to her, once Fran had forgiven
her for buying the place.
The kitchen was built along the back wall.
Or, rather, half-built; she'd not finished it, and now couldn't manage the
tools by herself. A scrubbed farmhouse table sat under arched windows looking
west, through the trees, to the hills of the moor. She put her groceries
down on the table, then picked up the phone to see if it worked. It didn't,
and Tat was rather pleased. She'd take her
sweet time getting it reconnected and savour the quiet, wrapped up in her
At least she hoped it was going to be quiet.
She could still hear the loud, steady whine of the drill. She scowled, looking
out the window to the barn that stood only a stone's throw away. Then she
laughed, spotting Moon madly rolling through the dirt of the farmyard, delighted
to be here. Tat felt the same quick delight as Moon; it always felt so right
to be back. But eventually she'd return to the city with this same sense
of joy and homecoming. Maybe she was more like Larry than she'd realized,
dividing her own life up into separate boxes, labeled Devon and London.
She swept the cobwebs from the corners and
put wood in the stove to heat the place up. Then she got back into the Morris
again and drove up the lanes to Deerworthy, leaving Moon behind in hot pursuit
of his wood shrews and rabbits. Deerworthy was barely a village: a church,
a pub, a post office, some castle ruins overgrown with grass, a few old
houses tucked into the fertile fields by the edge of the moor. The Red Doe,
at the center of the village, was filled with men downing midday pints.
She entered the room at the back where Alice, the publican, chain-smoked
hand-rolled cigarettes, dispensing tall pints of warm local beer, cold cider,
and hot village gossip. The Doe was so old it didn't have a bar, just this
tap room filled with big metal kegs, and the low front room with one long
wood table and benches pulled up to the fire.
"Where's Moon?" said Alice by way of greeting.
"Home chasing his tail, the silly git." Tat
perched on a three-legged stool.
"Bertie told us you'd be back this week. Swears
he's going psychic now."
"What a liar! He rang me up in London--to
tell me the talk is I'm selling my place. Which isn't true, by the
way. Now what's the deal on this bloke who bought Deercott Farm?"
The old woman shrugged and handed Tat her
usual pint. "He keeps to hisself, that one. Sometimes he comes in on music
nights. There's a session Friday next, by the way--three fiddlers.
Including O'Leary. Bring your drum. You haven't been to a session in ages,
and you never used to miss them."
"I'm not playing now," she said briskly. Embarrassed.
She rarely talked about MS.
"So what? Just come. Enjoy yourself."
"Maybe." She took a long swig of beer. "So
Alice. Tell me more about this Frenchman I'm practically living with now."
"Breton, not French. There's a difference,
you know--they're Celtic there. My brother married a Brittany girl. He's
"Your neighbor. Yann Kerjean. Bertie says
he's a big deal up your way."
"In London? I don't recognize the name. But
then, sculpture's not really my field."
"As if we need more artists 'round here,"
Alice grumbled. "Quite enough of you lazy lot. What we need is a butcher,
or a green grocer. Or a vet--now that would be something." Tat ignored
the old woman's teasing, and Alice pointed a finger at her. "Kerjean came
in here asking about you. Dead set on buying that chapel of yours. I don't
know what he needs it for, mind. It's just hisself in that big old house.
His wife and kids still live up in London. He's lookin' for quiet, he says.
"Well too damn bad," Tat said, standing up.
"He knew I was there when he bought the place. Now he's just going to be
stuck with me. Besides, I'm quiet--and god knows Moon is. He's the
one making all the damn noise." She put her glass in the sink, her money
in the till, and gave Alice a smile. "Can you tell that big, strong grandson
of yours that I'd like to hire him again? My phone's turned off."
"No problem, luver." The old woman lit another
cigarette. "Now mind, that session starts half-eight. O'Leary is going to
be chuffed that you're back. I'll tell him you're coming Friday, shall I?"
Tat rolled her eyes. "No more match-making.
I've got a man in London already."
"So you say," the old woman retorted.
"All this time, and he's never come here once. Now, what kind of a boyfriend
"My kind, apparently," Tat replied, retreating
through the pub's low door.
She fetched her mail from the post-office,
and stopped by Bill and Bertie's farm. It was past tea time when she got
back home and whistled for Moon to come inside. She was cooking polenta
puttanesca when Alice's grandson appeared at the door. He hauled her
luggage and split her wood with an ease of which she was fiercely envious,
and then polished off a plate of polenta with an appetite she envied too.
It was dark when he left, and colder outside,
but the chapel was warm and cozy now. Tat sat on the rug by the stove, Moon
dozing in a sprawl nearby. She'd pulled out a pile of old art magazines,
curious about Yann Kerjean, scanning the ads, the reviews, the notices of
London exhibitions. She thought she might find some brief mention of him--instead
what she found was a full-color spread and reviews of his show at the Tate
in St. Ives. She looked at the photographed art carefully. She'd remembered
his art, if not his name: carved granite forms, painstakingly worked, in
natural shapes, roughly figurative. She noted that they had the same dealer
in Rome, and had shown at the same gallery in New York. But Art News wasn't
beating down her door. No wonder he could afford Deercott Farm. The
single photograph of Kerjean showed a man of middle height, middle build
and middle age--unexceptional. But the work had power; she couldn't begrudge
the man his success. Only the chapel, that she'd begrudge him. The
chapel was hers, and she had little enough. The mail she'd fetched from
the post office had included another offer from him, even higher than the
first. She'd ripped it up, with a childish pleasure in the act.
The large barn right next door to her was
apparently Kerjean's workshop now. Her walls were thick, but her windows
were not, and the wind seemed to carry every sound: the high-pitched drill,
the telephone, the tap-tap-tap of a chisel on stone. She knew she had no
right to resent it; the farm had been bound to sell one day. But Tat, who
used to thrive on change, now found all changes harder to bear. Each change
was just another thing gone--like her energy, and her physical strength,
her body collapsing piece by piece. Life was tapping away at her like Kerjean
tapped away at his stones, paring her down without benefit of an artist's
Tat banked the fire, and turned off the lights. She felt a hundred years old tonight, her body aching from the long London drive. She slowly climbed the winding stone stairs that led to the bedroom tucked under the eaves. Nestled into the bed that she'd built, under quilts her mother and granny had sewn, Tat fell fast asleep, Moon at her feet, her breath rising and falling to the rhythm of a chisel, and dreamed of grey stone.
She spent the next day cleaning, sorting,
preparing the studio for work. She stretched it out, filling the hours
with unnecessary industry. Nightfall caught her by surprise. How long
could she procrastinate? Who cared if the corners gathered dust, her bed
was unmade, her windows unwashed? Not the galleries, that was for sure.
No one would look at a print and judge it more kindly because her house
She sat down with a fresh glass plate, clean
wet brushes, a hot cup of tea, disappointed to find she was no more inspired
down here than she'd been in the city. She'd never felt this way before,
emptied out of color and line. She scowled at the plate and scowled at
the paints, hearing the sound of hammering. Kerjean had been working away
for hours, his tap, tap, tap a reproachful sound. Tat sighed. She lined
palette and plate with subtle tones chosen randomly: a light sage green,
a pale gamboge, terra cotta and the brown of weak tea. The sound of the
hammer was red as rowan berries, clashing with the colors she chose. Beneath
the hammer was another sound. His stereo? Playing Cherish the Ladies
on fiddle, pipe and bodhran drum. The music filtered through the night,
through windows rattling in splintering panes, spreading Celtic patterns
of red and green and gold on the chapel walls.
Tat concentrated on the colors before her,
ignoring the ones that came from the barn. She scrubbed, scraped, scratched
the paint from the plate, toning her colors down. Paring away. Reaching
for a simple core that continued to elude her. An hour later she realized
she had a plate that was almost empty of paint. She threw her palette
knife down with disgust, annoyed by the music, annoyed with herself. She
used to know how to paint. She'd thought such hard-earned knowledge could
not be lost. She'd always been able to work very hard and to keep her
various dealers supplied. And to earn an honest living, regardless of
what Francesca might think.
She turned and flung open flat file drawers,
pulling out stacks of older prints, trying to remember what shape inspiration
had taken in her life before. These prints were larger than her recent
ones. Looser. Sprawled across the page. She tacked them up on the white
pinboard that covered the whole of the southern wall. Then she stood back
and stared at them, feeling a shock of memory. The colors that covered
the wall were loud and vivid. They overwhelmed her now: ochres, cobalts,
indigo blues, deep woodsy greens and scarlet hues, violets, vermilions,
sun-drenched yellows and leaves of pure beaten gold. She'd fallen in love
with color, light and paint almost twenty years ago; it was pinned up
here, mixed with the deep jewel tones of other things she'd loved: London,
Devon, Tuscany. Good food, hot sex and a hard day's work. A fast bodhran.
Her best friend's poems. Her family and sweet Larry Bone. It was all
right here, a cacophony, a mess, discordant to the eye. An orchestra tuning
all at once, at high volume. A hot and crowded room.
"Bloody hell," she said. Moon looked at
her. Those colors were making her feel faintly ill. Tat grabbed her coat,
and bolted for the door, stepping out into the bracing cold air. The hammering
had finally stopped. The windows of the barn were dark. The night sky
was the black of her confusion, masking other colors.
She walked away from Deercott Farm, a ghostly
Moon gliding nearby. The oak trees opened out onto vast moorland stretching
to the sky. The sky was clear and filled with stars. Sheep drifted on
the heather hills, and the darker shadow shapes of wild ponies moved through
bracken and gorse. In the distance she could make out silhouettes of nine
slim standing stones. She walked, her thoughts cacophonous as her prints,
until she reached them.
They stood in a row on the crest of the
hill, taller than she was and older than time. One had tumbled into the
heather; one stone leaned precariously; seven stones stood straight and
tall, saluting the stars above. Tat sat down on the fallen stone, Moon
leaning against her knee. She could feel the steady beat of his pulse;
and the slower pulse of the granite below. She listened for the song at
the heart of the stone. It was silent tonight.
She ached. She shouldn't have walked so
far, but the stones were old, familiar friends. She wasn't prepared to
lose them yet, although the day when she'd be unable to cross these hills
would inevitably come. Tat lay down, cheek pressed to the stone, feeling
its age and feeling its strength; finding comfort in the knowledge that
it would be here long after she'd gone. She stroked the long, cold length
of it, rough beneath her fingertips, savoring the touch, feeling the pulse
at the core echo the white pain in her limbs. Pain kept insisting on pulling
her back into the tactile world again. The physical self. The animal,
sensual self that she had long ignored--since Larry first left her bed
for another, and grief was a burden as heavy as stone, and every touch
only served to remind her of the touch that she truly craved. She had
tried to subdue the colors of desire and live in cooler, calmer tones.
MS should have made this easier. She'd met other women, ill like her,
who divorced themselves from their disease by rejecting the body, lodging
in the mind, living in soul not flesh. But instead, the pain in her body
kept wrenching her back into the physical world, opening her senses, rooting
her deep in pale skin, brittle bones and hot blood.
Tat shivered now in the rising wind. She
ought to start heading home again. Moon looked at her anxiously, the wind
ruffling his silky fur. In a minute. She'd get up in a minute, she told
herself as she closed her eyes, drifting to the colorless place where
weariness always found her. . . . She woke again to Moon's
musty breath. Her limbs were cold and stiff with pain. She'd no idea how
much time had passed--a few minutes? An hour? Maybe more? Moon pawed her
arm, and she was suddenly alert. A man was standing between the stones,
wary of her enormous silver dog.
He said, "I startled you. I'm sorry. I wanted
to know if you're all right."
Tat scowled at him to cover the flush of
hot embarrassment she felt. "Yes, quite. I just got tired, that's all."
She rose to her feet--and swayed, tired still. She sat again, fast. She
never should have come this far, goddamn it, goddamn it.
"Here, take my arm," Yann Kerjean said,
his voice just slightly accented. "That is, if that beast of yours will
let me help. What do you think?"
Tat flushed again, not wanting his help.
And aware that, in fact, she needed it. He knew that she was sick, no
doubt; village gossip would have seen to that.
"Moon, back off, it's okay," Tat said. But
it wasn't okay. She felt like a fool. She was limping now, arm over the
sculptor's broad shoulders, face tense with effort.
Kerjean talked as she limped along and the
flow of words pulled her over the hills, smoothing the long, uneven path.
His voice was raw sienna, a color like honey or light on Tuscan stone.
"Those standing stones, they brought me here. I saw them and I had to
stay. The Hunters. There are stones very much like them where I was born."
"The Hunters? Is that what they're called?"
"You didn't know that? And you've been here
how long? I'll tell you the story, and when I'm done you'll be home again,
safe and sound."
He told her a tale of a milk white deer
no hunter's arrow could seem to reach; a tale of nine tall brothers determined
to bring the white deer down:
Their sisters begged them not to go.
To follow the deer would bring madness or death--death to the hunter,
death to the family. Never to the bold white doe. The deer led them a
merry chase, through woods and fen and over the moor. Then it stopped,
just beyond arrow's reach, and turned into a white-haired girl--a fairy,
or perhaps an angel, slim as a birch and strong as an oak. "Throw your
weapons down," she said, "and live to hunt another day. Or keep your weapons
upon you, and live to hunt no more." Eight brothers threw their weapons
down, and vowed they'd hunt the deer no more. But the ninth brother had
no love of women or deer or any man; he vowed he would not lose his prey
and then he notched his arrow. The arrow pierced her shoulder bone, and
she became a deer again, blood running down her body, turning it from
white to red. And at that same moment, the brothers turned into stone
upon that very hill, living still, watching over the countryside where
they'll hunt no more.
"They say there are still red deer in
these woods. The ones I've seen are always brown. Bertie's seen them,
over the years." The sculptor paused. "Have you seen them too?"
"Just once," Tat said, remembering. "I think
I did. She was gone so fast. But I've never heard that story before. It's
"But very true. At least if you think
about it, it is. I've been thinking about that story a lot. Now here we
are, at your front door. Safe and sound as I promised."
He shrugged off Tat's awkward gratitude
and said a brusque farewell to Moon. Tat limped inside, Moon trailing
behind, and stoked up the fire until it blazed hot. Soon she heard the
sound of distant hammering begin once again. And Stivell's music for Celtic
harp, another recording she also owned.
She knelt on the rug by the fire, shaking,
chilled to the bone, emptied of strength. She closed her eyes and saw
colors dancing to the rhythm of harp and hammer.
Tat brewed a pot of strong tea, washed sleep from
her eyes, and let Moon out to play. No more procrastination today, Ms. Ludvik,
she told herself firmly. She ignored the dishes, the crumbs on the rug and
went right into her studio, facing those colors by morning light. They shone
on the wall like stained glass.
The difference between her old work and her
recent work was painfully clear. She knew what she'd been striving for:
a minimalist simplicity. Order, restraint, serenity, subtlety--why had she
failed at this? She'd been looking at books of Japanese prints, American
Shaker furniture, Whistler's spare, tonal paintings, and collections of
Maggie Black's poems. But the clarity these artists achieved was a thing
that had eluded her. Her life was not a simple one, it was messy and sprawling
and layered with paints. It was as if she'd been trying to squeeze into
clothes that were the wrong shape and size.
Tat recalled how years ago, back at school,
she'd tried on her sister's clothes, hoping Francesca's elegance would magically
rub off on her. The two were nearly identical then, both tall, thin and
fair, and the clothes should have fit. But Tat had looked in the mirror
and seen with despair she would never be Franny. She'd always be
the strange, wild twin. The artistic one, the Ludvik black sheep. Order,
restraint, subtlety--those were all words her sister might use. Francesca
was made of lilac tones, a color Tat never painted with; while she herself
was reds and yellows and blues: the primary colors. When had she started
to tone herself down? When her body began to fail, bit by bit? Or perhaps
the process had begun when she realized Larry would
never change; when hope and desire were colors too painful to bear, and
she stripped them away.
All right, Tat thought, rousing herself from
self-pity, an emotion she thoroughly loathed. She could see where she'd
gone wrong with her art, the hard evidence was before her. But revelation
wasn't inspiration. Her muse remained as silent as Moon. She couldn't just
pick up her brush and be the same painter she'd been before MS. But neither
had illness bestowed her with special grace or Zen-like clarity. Life's
a crapshoot, Larry used to say, and Tat had come to agree with this,
alternately angered and awed by the randomness of the universe. None
of us knows what the future will bring, Francesca had once reminded
her. None of us have a guarantee. Each day that we wake is a gift.
Tat held to that piece of her sister's faith to make up for the holes in
her own, learning to live her life in the present tense and not in the future.
She still sometimes wished she could step
into Franny's clothes; then life might be simple and clear. Fran's world
never held the messes and complications that colored her own. "Get rid of
that Larry Bone," Fran said. "Find a good man and settle down." It had worked
for her sister: the husband, the kids, the beautiful flat, the well-paid
job. It had worked for their four tall brothers, all married with kids now
themselves. She sometimes wished it would work for her too, if only for
her family's sake. But Tat remained Tat, the cuckoo in the nest. And the
world where she functioned best was that part of the spectrum in which Francesca
and the rest of her family was color-blind.
Tat scowled and put her tea cup down. Emotional
procrastination was just as insidious as the physical kind. She was still
avoiding the paints, the colors; still feeling emptied of color inside.
She took dusty tubes of paint from the shelves, lining them up in a moon-shaped
curve, looking for inspiration, hoping the muse was somewhere among them.
Kerjean was already working, of course. She could hear a scraping kind of
sound. He didn't have music on today. The scraping came in fits and starts.
Perhaps she should play some music herself. She had always worked to the
stereo before. Music had once been important to her; she used to live surrounded
by it--by Larry's blues, and Celtic jams, and the glorious medieval music
that her old friend Nigel Vanderlin played. There had been a time when her
world had been formed as much of sound as it was of color; when the standing
stones hummed their deep bass tune, and the stars were a choir in the night
sky, and her breath was a song, a prayer, a glissade of notes floating to
the earth. Tat crossed the room to the stereo, dusted it off, and turned
it on. Music would give her colors to paint until she found her own once
more. She ran her finger down the stack of CDs and chose a recording by
Luka Bloom. His music was made of scarlet passions and Prussian blue intensity.
She opened the case, then heard Luka Bloom's Irish voice drifting from Kerjean's
The synchronicity was odd. The man could hardly be reading her thoughts. She put down the case and picked up her brush; she could paint to his music just as well. And to the tap, tap, tap that started up now to the rhythm of voice and guitar, the rowan red of the hammer flashing in sunbursts against her walls. She pictured Kerjean in his studio, seeking the shape of the music in stone. While the world went by, unconcerned with art; cows were milked, roofs were thatched, tractors repaired, potatoes dug. But to Tat, art was as basic as food and shelter--no less, no more than this. Here, on Deercott Farm, it was color and sound that they were harvesting. Perhaps it wasn't such a bad thing to have another artist next door. Perhaps she should think of the steady tap, tap, tap as encouragement, not reproach. The muse was hovering somewhere nearby; it was clearly visiting Yann Kerjean. And one of these days it would look over its shoulder and remember Tat was here.
Tat worked steadily through the next week.
The days were cold but crystal clear. The vivid colors of wood and field
were ones she brought inside with her, mixing them with the colors of
music, brushing and rolling them onto the plates, reaching for colors
outside her while her own were still smoldering embers. Music poured out
of the barn, rousing her when her energy flagged. Oak brown from Dan Ar
Braz's guitar, Sheila Chandra's vermilion drone, Bob Marley's bursts of
heat and sun, the evening smoke of June Tabor's voice . . . each
one a recording she also owned, and one she would have chosen herself,
as though he shared her moods, her creative process, as well as the land.
Moon was another thing they shared. He often
disappeared into the barn. But Tat was shy of Kerjean himself when she
passed him walking on the hills. She didn't want to break the spell, and
this blessed interval of work. The work wasn't easy, it didn't flow, she
was reaching hard for every line and tone. She was teaching herself to
paint again--but at least she wasn't bored anymore. Her work absorbed
her as it used to do; she was printing in her dreams at night. When Friday
came, Tat finally said enough, and put her paints away.
She changed her skirt to a soft green wool
that moved like wind on pond water. She added an old plaid shawl for warmth,
and buckled on her paint-stained boots. Then she whistled for Moon and
walked to the car, noting that Kerjean's truck was gone. Overhead, the
stars seemed very bright and close, a mere arm's length away. She drove
slowly up the farm's long drive, catching foxes in the car's headlamps,
then accelerated through the narrow lanes, Moon grinning on the seat beside
The single street of Deerworthy was jammed
with cars and trucks tonight. The Red Doe was crowded and thick with smoke.
The music had already begun. She stood in the door looking over the crowd
while Moon dashed through to the pub's back room. She spotted O'Leary
with his shock of Irish red hair hanging in long rasta strings. A schoolteacher
was the second fiddler, the third was a plumber from Exeter-way. Bertie
was there with his accordion, an American lad on Scottish pipes, and some
sweet hippies from Endicott on whistle and mandolins. There was no bodhran
player sitting in tonight, just old Mad Albert in the corner on the bones.
Tat beat out the rhythm with her boot heel on the floor and ached to play.
O'Leary grinned when she entered the room,
and lost the beat of the reel himself. He caught it again by the second
time around. Tat nodded to him and followed her dog. "Good session," she
said to Alice, who smiled broadly and handed her a pint. This was the
first Celtic session she'd been to since she'd become unable to play.
The music moved her as powerfully as ever, even without her drum in her
hand. The music was color. The colors were music. The sound gave her sudden
Tat looked for Moon, and found him in the
tap room nose to groin with his canine friends. Behind him, Yann Kerjean
was talking to a book illustrator Tat also knew: a big, burly man in an
outback coat, scion of the local gentry. Beside him, the sculptor was
dark and slim, dressed in a t-shirt, faded jeans and a wool jacket that
had seen better days; he might have been a builder, a farmer, a thatcher--he
had no aura of fame. Not like Lord Alastair, the illustrator, who always
seemed larger than life; not even like Larry, who made heads turn whenever
he entered a room. Kerjean was pleasant looking and nothing more. He seemed
like a stranger to her again. Which was what he was, Tat reminded herself,
a stranger. And a married man.
Lord Alastair smiled and beckoned to her.
Kerjean turned and watched her cross the room. His greeting was polite
but reserved, or else shy--as she suddenly was of him. Alastair said,
"I was just telling Yann that I'm doing a book on the stones out your
way. A re-telling of the red deer story. I'd like to come and sketch there
if I may."
"That stone row is on public land."
"But I want to draw Deer Chapel too. If
you don't mind me lurking about in your woods."
"Of course not, Alastair. Knock if you want
a cup of tea. I'm usually in."
"She's always in, working away," the other
man said, his eyes meeting hers.
"How do you know I'm working?" said Tat.
"I just know," said Kerjean, holding her
Tat looked away, embarrassed. "So look,
does everyone know this deer story but me?"
"This land is full of deer stories," Alastair
said. "Not just the one about the stones. There have been red deer in
Deerworthy Gorge since anyone can remember. My old Granny was frightened
of them. She said they only appeared before a death--but then, she said
the same thing about owls at the window and crows tapping on the roof.
And magpies flying in sevens or threes. And half-a-dozen other things."
"I'd rather think of the deer as a fairy
or an angel," Tat said.
"Or the Goddess perhaps?"
"Which is she in your book?"
The big man shrugged. "She has aspects of
all those things. She's magic incarnate. Magic on the hoof."
Kerjean smiled. "To me she's the muse. You
can follow her, but don't hunt her down. Try to claim her, or own her,
and she'll disappear. Or turn you to stone."
Alastair raised one bushy eyebrow. "But
Yann," he said, "you like a good stone."
"To carve, to shape, to let shapes out.
Not to be frozen in place myself."
"Frozen in place, . . ."
Tat said, intrigued. "That's artist's block. When you're stuck and can't
"So what is going to release those nine
stuck brothers?" Kerjean asked them both.
The illustrator frowned. "The story doesn't
say. The fairies' whim? An angel's kiss? The end of the world? I really
don't know." Then he laughed. "But if you find out what it is, my luver,
don't release them yet. I need to draw those stones, you know." He laughed
again, and took their glasses to buy another round.
"Music might release the stones," Tat speculated
to Yann Kerjean, feeling the pull of fiddle, whistle, the pipe's low drone,
the clicking of the bones. The music was loud, imperfect, completely infectious
and sparking bright colors.
"Where I come from," the sculptor said,
"the standing stones move once a year. They walk to the sea and bathe
themselves, and then they dance till morning."
"Yes. Finistere. Where we've as many standing
stones as here. They love music, those old Breton stones. You can almost
hear them singing."
She said, "I can hear the Hunters sing.
Sometimes, that is. On certain nights."
He looked at her. He was serious now. "Yes,"
he said. "I thought you could."
"Yann, Tatiana," came Alastair's voice booming
over the music and the noise. He had claimed a spot on the bench by the
hearth and placed their pints on the table nearby. They eased through
the crowd to the low front room where the music drowned all other sounds.
Wedged in the space between the two men, Tat was grateful to sit down
again and wondered if she'd make it till closing time as she used to do.
Moon appeared and sprawled at her feet, looking distinctly pleased with
himself, resting his rump on Kerjean's boots and his silver head on hers.
She lasted past eleven o'clock--when the
pub was closed to comply with the law but the music continued behind locked
doors. The music threatened to go on all night. Reluctantly, Tat rose
"You can't go yet," Alastair complained.
"We're taking bets on which fiddler fags out first."
"My car turns to a pumpkin at twelve. I'm
knackered and I'm heading home. I'll see you when you come to draw the
stones. I'll cook you dinner."
"Goodnight," said Yann. He actually smiled.
"I can bring your dog. He's not ready to leave."
Tat looked at Moon and saw that the man
was right. Moon hadn't budged.
"The door will be open if I'm asleep. Thanks,"
she said. "See you later, Moon."
Moon looked at her, unconcerned that she
was leaving, the fickle beast.
Outside the night tasted good and sweet
after peatfire and the cigarette smoke. The moon was several days past
full, perched on the old stone church tower. Her breath made smoke in
the cold, clear air; there was frost upon the car's windscreen. Tat climbed
into the Morris, feeling sad suddenly, and alone tonight--no dog for company,
no man waiting up at home or warming her bed. Larry seemed a million miles
away; he existed in another world. She wanted him here, now. She wanted
him close. She just wanted him.
She stopped at the red phone-box at the
village crossroad, half-buried in ivy and briars. She fished change from
her skirt pocket and punched in Larry's number.
He answered on the second ring. "Tat?" he
said. "Where are you now?"
"In Devon," she said. "Where do you think?"
"Your sister called. She's worried about
you. She said your phone isn't working or something."
"Larry, why don't you come down here?" Her
voice sounded high and childlike.
"What?" he said, as if he hadn't heard.
"Never mind." She leaned her head upon the
glass. It was damp and cold against her skin.
"Ummm, listen, kiddo," Larry began while
a woman's voice was calling his name.
"You're busy. I see. Never mind," she said
"Look Ludvik . . . are
"I'm great. I'm wonderful. I'm perfect."
"I could have told you that," said
Larry, his voice low now, like a lover's would be.
Tat closed her eyes. "Thanks, Bone," she
whispered, and she hung up the receiver.
She drove back through the dark to the farm,
hurling the car through familiar lanes. The moon hung low in the beech
avenue. Leaves of gold churned under her tires. She parked the Morris
beside blocks of granite and walked toward the yellow light of her door.
She could hear an owl calling from the woods, and the song of the wind
through brown oak leaves. There were animal tracks in the beaten-down
path that Moon had made between chapel and barn. Tat stepped inside, took
off her coat and tied her painting apron on. She mixed up colors to capture
a smoke filled room and laughter and fiddles and pipes--but loneliness
was a Kathe Kollwitz blue-grey that had muddied her palette.
She was pulling a print from the bed of
the press when she heard the sound of a truck in the yard. A few minutes
later Yann rapped sharply at her door. "It's open," she said.
He stepped inside. "Tat, come quick. I saw
a red deer heading out to the moor. Vite. Elle est tres, tres belle,"
he lapsed into French in his excitement.
She wiped her hands and came, pulling her
long coat over the flapping apron.
"Moon, stay behind us," Yann said to her
dog. Moon obliged, walking at their heels as they followed the path through
ivy-draped oak, through bracken and gorse and onto the moor. "See there?"
Yann pointed. Tat saw only a shadow moving. It might have been a deer.
"I startled her in the beech avenue. She stood so still in the truck's
headlamps. She's red, dark red. A red like dried blood. I was able to
get a good long look. Then she headed this way, right past the chapel
door and out this direction."
"Let's see how close we can get to her."
"Can you walk? Are you going to be all right?"
"I'll try. If I'm not, you go on yourself."
"Take my hand," said Yann. It was warm around
hers, and callused, and strong. A sculptor's hands. She borrowed his strength,
letting him pull her up and over the hills.
The deer ran before them, but never too
far. Now Tat could see its clear silhouette. It stood, head turned, until
they got close, and then it bounded away. It led all the way to the standing
stones, and stood posed against them, its head held high. The moonlight
leached the color from its fur. It was slim, and small, and seemed unafraid.
Tat stumbled, feeling winded and dizzy. The stones were singing, a rich
bass hum, a barritone choir that filled the night sky and echoed through
the dark earth.
"Look Tat, that's far enough," said Yann.
"No, look. She's stopped for us."
The deer stood still and it stared at them,
so close Tat could see its soft, black eyes, as round as Moon's, and its
long, pointed face. Tat gulped in air and swayed on her feet. Yann braced
her, holding her close to him. The hills underfoot seemed to undulate.
The old stones sang, and the stars above, and Moon was howling--a spine-chilling
sound. The red deer spun, hooves striking stone, and Tat saw color sparking
there, every luminous color she'd dreamed there could be. She breathed
it in with lungfuls of cold night air. It filled every hollow inside.
The sparks coalesced in the dark sky above in a shape roughly like a woman's
shape--a woman made up of color and music and stars, trailing long lilac
"An angel," breathed Tat.
"La muse," said Yann.
And then it was just a small deer on the
hill, bounding away, moving faster now and leaping into the darkness.
They did not attempt to follow it. By morning
they'd wonder if it had been real, despite the tracks in the beech avenue
and the delicate prints in the dirt at Tat's door. Moon hung his head.
He was silent once more. The song of the stones was soft and low. Warmth
leaked into Tat's body from Yann's against her, and his breath on her
neck. "Are you all right?" he asked gently. "Can you make it back? I could
"I'll make it. I'm too tall to lift." She
He said, "I work with stone. I lift things
heavier than you every day."
"I believe you. But I don't need to be carried,
I just need a bit of support, that's all."
"I've noticed that. It's what makes you
so intriguing," Yann Kerjean told her.
Tat stumbled home, Yann's arm bracing her.
She didn't mind her weariness now. She was filled with color, with sound,
with stars. She wanted to paint forever.
He paused when they reached the chapel door.
"Why don't you come to the barn instead? It's warmer there. I'll make
some tea. I've also got single malt."
"Warmth and scotch sound good," said Tat,
rubbing the blood back into her hands. She followed Yann past the corner
of the barn, past blocks of stone and machinery and into a workshop filled
with carvings in various states of completion.
"It is warm here."
"Central heating," he said, a little abashed
by the luxury. "I put it in here instead of the house. Come sit. You must
But Tat was wandering through the barn,
forgetting all about tiredness now. The stones drew her, and the shapes
that Yann made of them, smooth as silk to the touch. They hummed under
her fingertips like the standing stones out on the hill. "These are beautiful,"
she said to him.
His smile was pleased. "Are they?" he asked.
As if the critics hadn't already established this; as if it mattered what
Tat Ludvik thought. She could feel the colors within each stone. She knew
what music had shaped each one. They moved her, stirred the colors within
her. They were filled with color themselves, and song. They frightened
her, for they made her feel things that she hadn't intended to feel.
Moon sprawled beneath a large wooden desk,
looking quite at home in the sculptor's space. The wall above held a large
pinboard where sketches and detailed plans were tacked. On another wall
was a pegboard loaded down with mallets and other tools. The barn was
dimly lit but for an arc of gold from a hanging lamp. Cobwebs and shadows
clung to the roof beams, a powdery dust lay thick on the floor. Chris
Isaaks played on the stereo now, his voice as midnight blue as the sky
through tall windows looking out on the hills. Placed nearby was an upright
stone so lovely it needed no artist's hand. Above the stone hung a single
large print, gold streaks embedded in rich earth tones. Loose, abstract,
textural, it had been inspired by the moor and the stones. Tat had painted
it here when the gorse and the heather were in their bloom.
"Where on earth did you get that?"
"In New York, five or six years ago. We've
got the same gallery there, you know. You were in a show that opened after
mine. I'd never even been to Devon then, but I fell in love with it all
the same. It reminded me of Brittany. Perhaps it brought me here."
"So you know my work."
"Not enough of it. That show, and one other.
I'd like to see more."
Tat sat down in the chair he offered, took
off her scarf and unbuttoned her coat. Yann handed her a glass of Talisker
and poured one for himself.
"I don't understand," she said to him, ignoring
her shyness, desiring the truth. "If you knew my work, even liked some
of it, why be so determined to get rid of me?"
"Get rid of you?"
"You know what I mean. You wanted to buy
the chapel from me."
He shrugged. "I thought it was only fair.
You'd been used to quiet and privacy here--and suddenly there's a man
next door with machines going and trucks delivering stone and the stereo
playing at all hours . . . I thought I should offer
you fair value for your place, in case you wanted out."
"Just in case I wanted it?"
"Well, yes. Of course. I don't need more
space than this. I admit I'm attached to my own privacy--but you're not
exactly a difficult neighbor to have. And I'm madly in love with your
dog, you know. If you decide to leave now, I want visitation rights."
"I wasn't planning on leaving, Yann. I rebuilt
that chapel with my own hands, every floorboard, pipe and wire of it."
"Well good. I can't imagine you anywhere
else. Not even in London."
She raised her glass and took a sip. The
scotch felt good sliding down her throat. "London," she said, "is home
to me too. I'm a city girl, born and raised to it."
Yann's eyes narrowed. "So I've been told.
You have family there, yes? And a man as well."
Tat flushed. "You've been talking to Alice,
"Bertie and Bill, as a matter of fact. Worse
gossips than Alice is, those two."
Tat laughed and she set down her glass.
"Don't you have family in the city too?"
"My children, yes. And my wife. Ex-wife."
"Well, not entirely 'ex'. It's complicated,"
Yann said carefully.
"What isn't?" said Tat. "The man in London . . . Larry
Bone. That's rather complicated too."
"He's not here with you," Yann commented.
It was not quite a question, but she answered it.
"We're not together that way anymore. Not
in the usual way, except . . . we're not exactly split
up either," she finished awkwardly. Honestly.
Yann sighed. "I could say the same about
my wife. Martina. There's still love there. But she fell in love with
someone else--another woman--some years ago. It finally feels all right
to us both. We're friends; we have two children to raise; we're still
a family because of the kids. It's complicated. It's not ideal. But it
all seems to work out somehow."
Tat smiled again. "Tell my sister that.
She doesn't approve of complicated lives."
"So she wants you to marry and settle down?"
"You got it. That's precisely what she wants."
"And you?" he said. "What do you want?"
Tat sat back and she thought about this.
"I want my strength. My independence. And to keep on making art," she
said, although it was not the first thing that had leapt to mind at the
question. It wasn't Larry she wanted most. It was to be held, to be kissed . . . to
be touched by someone besides doctors for a change. Could one actually
starve from lack of touch? Was that why she got thinner by the month?
She wanted Larry's imperfect love, and she also wanted much more than
that. If these were things she couldn't say to Yann, at least she could
say them to herself.
She held out her glass and he poured more
scotch. "So what are the odds on that?" he asked.
It took her a moment to realize he meant
the odds on making art, not love. "Right now," she answered with rare
frankness, "I manage. It's going to get harder with time; MS is a degenerative
disease. Already there are simple things I can't do. Lift large plates.
Open cans of ink. Play the drum, or meet tight deadlines. And that's just
the beginning. Yet I know I'll always find ways to make art, as long as
I'm still drawing breath. If not prints, then it will be something else."
She looked at him steadily as she spoke. She was warning him. And daring
him to find self-pity in that assessment.
"Did you have MS when you made this print?"
he asked, looking at the one on the wall. The colors moved in joyous motion,
dancing across the page.
"Yes. But I didn't know it yet. That print
was a windy day on the moor. Moon and I were dancing among the stones
and the wind was very strong. I thought the wind would carry me up and
away. . . . I used to love to dance."
Yann put down his glass. "So do I," he said.
"Come dance with me now," and he offered his hand. Chris Isaaks' sensual
music was a deep violet glow in the dark of the barn.
Tat shook her head. "I'm too clumsy. My
feet don't always work anymore."
"Who's to know? Come dance among my stones,"
the sculptor urged her.
He took her hand and pulled her up. She
felt graceless, awkward on her feet. But he drew her close and Tat moved
with him, and the rhythm moved and carried her along. She could feel Yann's
warmth through the thin t-shirt. She could smell wood smoke upon his skin.
The music spread violet shadows around them. The dust of stones made clouds
underfoot. Colors were dancing slowly inside her, her own colors, and
Yann's as well. Beneath her touch, beneath his calm and his quiet, he
glowed a deep rowan red. Also a clear, sweet Turner yellow. And the vivid
blue of a late autumn sky. He too was made of primary colors. She could
feel a shimmer of white at his core. His touch and his breath were deeply
familiar, as if they'd been dancing all their lives.
In the morning, there was a phone message
left for her on Yann's answering machine. "Tat Ludvik's family rang,"
said the woman from the tiny Deerworthy post office. "They say that her
phone is off the hook. Please ask her to ring them back right away."
Tat fumed all the way into Deerworthy. Francesca
was such a royal pain. Tat had been planning to have her phone reconnected
on Monday. What was the big deal? You'd think she'd been incommunicado
for months, instead of--she counted on her fingers--instead of barely
two bloody weeks. The day outside was grey and foul. Rain drowned the
colors of wood and field and the jewel tones of joy that had filled her
last night. They were still there, pulsing deep inside her, warming her
against November's chill. But annoyance was a bolder shade, claiming her
She went to the phone box and slammed in
two pounds and some change. Francesca's phone rang and rang. Just before
she hung up, someone finally answered. Her youngest brother, not Fran.
Her brother began to talk very quickly. Tat listened, her fingers tight
on the phone. Franny. An accident. Brakes failing. A car skidding in London
rain. Tat told her brother she'd be there at once. She hung up the phone
and she stared at it. She was calm and clear, and that shocked her more
than anything that her brother had said. His words were unreal. She couldn't
picture Francesca lying in a hospital bed, her lungs collapsed, her collar
bone snapped, her perfect white skin badly cut by the glass. They'd operated
on her during the night. "They weren't sure that she'd make it then,"
her brother had said, his voice crisp with fear. "But Franny has a guardian
angel, doesn't she, Tat?" And she had agreed. Tat shut her eyes, and saw
colors, and stars, and wings made of lilac light.
She got back into her Morris Minor. She
was calm, but her hands were shaking as she drove very fast through the
slick, narrow lanes. She'd pack. Get on the motorway. She'd manage to
drive into London somehow. She took the track to the farm too fast, skidding
on mud and wet leaves in the yard. An unfamiliar car was parked there.
A rental car, spattered with mud. She climbed from the Morris and saw
a man talking to Yann. He was thin and very tall. Tat knew what she had
to do--she should eat, she should pack. Put one foot before the other.
She was calm. Until Larry Bone crossed the mud of the yard and put his
arms around her.
He thought she was crying. She wasn't crying;
it was rain sliding down her bloodless cheeks. She stood shivering, holding
him. And then she wiped her face on her sleeve.
"Honey, just throw some clothes in a bag,"
Larry said. "We've got it all worked out. Yann will look after Moon, okay?
You can't take Moon to the hospital. And he's offered to drop the rental
car off. We'll take your car to London with us. Don't worry now. Everything's
"Don't coddle me, Bone. It isn't all right.
But I'm so damn glad you're here all the same. I want to leave right away.
The sculptor had left the drizzling yard.
She found him in the barn, with Moon. "I'll take good care of your boy,"
he said. "'Till you come back. You will come back?"
She stood dripping puddles onto his floor.
"Yann. . . ." She didn't know what to say.
"Just go. It's good that your friend is
here. Just remember I'm thinking about you too."
Tat nodded. Everything she could think of
to say, he probably knew.
She went to the chapel and found her wallet,
some gloves, a warm sweater that Franny had made. Larry looked the place
over while Tat searched everywhere for the bloody spare keys. She found
them underneath the press, turned off the lights, and locked the front
door. She handed the keys to Yann and held him tightly, while Larry looked
They were on the motorway twenty minutes
later. The rain was pouring harder now. Larry's dear, familiar face looked
drawn. He was running on sugar and caffeine. He'd left the city at five
a.m. when the call had come from the hospital. Her parents had known that
if anyone could reach Tat, it would be Larry.
"Maggie is flying in from L.A. tomorrow.
I'll pick her up at Heathrow."
"Maggie is coming here? To London?"
"Of course. She's your best friend, isn't
she? And Maggie loves Francesca too. You'll both do better with Maggie
"That's true," Tat said quietly, deeply
They reached the city shortly after noon
and went straight to the hospital. Francesca was still in Intensive Care,
looking pale and small through the door's window glass. Tat busied herself
fetching coffee for Fran's wan husband, and holding her mother's cold
hand. The rest of the day went by in a blur of color as muted as London
rain. Larry stayed close, and Tat was grateful. She was unnerved by how
calm she remained. Soon reality would surely hit her; perhaps comprehension
would come then too. She was the lousy driver, not Franny. She
was the one bad things happened to. Not to Francesca, the golden twin,
with her long white hair and her French perfume, her perfect marriage
and her perfect life. Franny was out of danger, the doctors had told them.
She was going to be all right. She'd need plastic surgery, physical therapy.
Patience, and care, and time.
It was late when Larry drove her home. The
loft was cold, empty without Moon. Larry hung up his leather jacket and
kicked off his Mexican cowboy boots. "Shall I cook something? Are you
hungry, Tat? Do you want some tea? Or maybe a drink?"
"For heavens sake, you're exhausted, Bone.
Go home," she said to him fondly.
He looked at her over the kitchen counter.
"I'd rather stay. If that's all right."
Tat swallowed. Then she shook her head.
"Don't stay because you feel sorry for me."
"What better reason is there, Tat? I feel
sorry for you. I feel sorry for Fran. I even feel sorry for myself. You
shouldn't be alone tonight. And I don't want to be anywhere else."
He said, "It's Yann Kerjean, isn't it? Your
lover down there."
"Yes," Tat said, surprising herself, for
they weren't lovers. Not yet anyway. She knew they would be, in the same
certain way that she knew Yann was in the barn working right now. He probably
had Estampie on the stereo. That's what she would play.
Larry sighed, rubbing his tired faced with
his hands. Then he tried to smile. "I'd better be good about this, huh,
"That's right, Bone." Tat reached for his
hand. She needed this. He needed this. She wasn't going to question it
now. Maybe it was for all the wrong reasons. Maybe he was just
lonely tonight. Or Yann Kerjean had made him nervous. But warmth and love
were precious things--in whose life were they ever over-abundant? Not
in hers. She'd take all the love being offered. It might not be wise,
or clear, or safe. It might just create even more complications. But she
held the long blue length of him, those watery blues of which he was made,
and in his arms she lived in the present tense, with apologies to Franny.
Tat woke as dawn colored the sky. She couldn't remember
just where she was. Larry was curled beside her, bringing memory both cruel
and sweet. She ran her hand down his bony cheek, savoring that soft caress,
and then she rose and carefully closed the door to the bedroom behind her.
She crossed to the other end of the loft,
and turned on the lights of her studio. She picked up the phone and dialed
Yann's number. She knew he was up though she didn't know how. He answered
on the second ring. He was in the barn; he'd been working all night. Estampie
played on the stereo, and the CD was Fran's favorite one: French music,
13th century. Colored lilac, like the rising dawn.
"My sister's going to be okay. With time."
"I'm very glad for that." He was silent a
moment. "Are you okay?"
"Francesca's going to need me here. I don't
know when I'll make it back."
I figured that." His voice was gentle as always,
brown as the winter woods. "Larry will take good care of you, I hope?"
"But Yann, I will be back. I wanted
to tell you that. It's just . . ."
"It's complicated," he suggested.
"It's complicated," Tat agreed. "Yann . . . you
said these things work out somehow.
He paused. Tat held her breath. "They do,"
he said to her finally. "And I'll still be here, whenever you come. Moon
misses you. And so do I, no doubt much more than I should."
"No more than I'm missing you," she said frankly.
And then she slowly hung up the phone. Still feeling calm. Still full of
color. Still rooted deep in her body once more. Yann's voice had brought
back the scent of wood smoke, the colors of hedgerows, woodland and moor.
She put Estampie on her own stereo, and hoped that it wouldn't wake Larry.
Tat got out brushes, rollers and inks; she put printing paper in the bath to soak. She had to paint. It was the only way Tat had ever made sense of anything. The colors she chose were Francesca's lilacs, complimenting her own brighter tones. She'd had these colors building inside her ever since that moment out on the hills. Her sister's colors, and Yann's, and Bone's. The color of angels. The music of stones. She had to push them out of her fingers, onto the plate, onto the page. She worked quickly, instinctively, eagerly, present only in the moment now. Another morning rose over the rooftops--another gift, Francesca would say. Tat painted, and the muse guided her hands, showing her the way.
About the Author:
Terri Windling is a writer, artist, editor, and founder of the Endicott Studio. For more information, please visit her Endicott bio page.
"For Jacqueline Warren, whose luminous artwork was a formative influence on Tat Ludvik's."— T.W.
Copyright © 1997 by Terri Windling. This story first appeared in The Horns of Elfland, edited by Ellen Kushner, Donald Keller, and Delia Sherman (ROC Books, 1997). It may not be reproduced in any form without the author's express written permission.
Copyright © 1997-2004 by The Endicott Studio|