Henri created so many portraits of me. When I was forty-one, he stopped. His efforts drained us both. His last painting depicted me as a pale woman. I did 100 sittings (two a day) for that final one. That maniac. My eyes were black holes with no pupils. He, who flirted with color, made me a ghost. Cool shades of blue (not warm iris like your eyes) surrounded me so I looked otherworldly. I seemed vacant inside, not sensuous or loved. What an ungrateful, horrific way for Henri to capture me. All the while, between sittings, I tended to his affairs—ordered paints and canvases, paid his bills, and minded Marguerite and the boys. I tell you, I felt empty. I missed my walks with Henri, his tasty kisses. And the special meals I made. My favorite was Jugged Hare, a rabbit that I stewed in a boozy sauce thickened with its own blood.
My husband dreamed only of his work. He craved young bodies that were more supple and lovely than mine. Call me vain. Go ahead. Did I become jealous of the women he painted? Yes. Oh, the models. There were so many— students, actresses, harlots. Women who dressed as odalisques in harem pants and ankle bracelets. And there was Olga, one of Henri’s students. Lovely and needy. They were all needy. Olga painted quite a picture of Henri. My husband stretched out in a green corduroy suit on a red-checked bed. The warm rust in his beard glowed. He seemed playful. I felt a thick gray shadow enwrap me as I stared at Olga’s painting. Did Olga kiss him into a happy submission, did she sleep with him? Or was I a wicked deluded wife with silly fantasies?
Excerpt from a completed story