written by Inês Costa
Two days had passed since Jacob had argued with his father. Although he regretted the whole thing, he had begun thinking about what Diana had said to him, about neglecting his friends Bellow. Unexpectedly he begun remembering the good times spent with his many friends, the times when grandfather would get mad because the books were out of order, or when Jacob placed “X-Men” comics, which some of his Helpers would send to the younger children, without Father knowing it of course, between the pages of the book grandfather was currently reading. Unaware of it, he started laughing, which caused his professor to make a remark. Jacob returned to order, paying an extra attention to his class of art history.
A couple of hours later he met Jeff for lunch. Jeff was a little bit hurt with his friend, because he had felt sort of neglected, but he understood it, or at least thought he did. So he preferred to have a nice lunch and catch up with his room buddy.
- So, have you thought about the art show? – He asked, before tasting the nice stake he had in front of him.
Jacob smiled and looked at his friend. He knew that Jeff wouldn’t touch Mary’s subject, and was trying to make a decent conversation about something. Suddenly Jacob felt ashamed of neglecting him so.
- Yes. I mean, it’s an extra credit. And if we all participate it’s best for us. Are you going to do something?
- Man, haven’t you seen the sketches all around my desk?
- Sorry Jeff I’ve been a little off nowadays. I had an argue with …my aunt.
- That’s a shame Jacob. But everything is ok now, isn’t it.
- Yes…I think so. In fact I’m thinking in going there in the weekend for dinner. I mean, asking her out for dinner. Do you want to come?
Jeff felt that Jacob was trying to mend up is behaviour and he was glad that he was trying.
- Off course. You know I like your aunt. I wish mine was like yours! My parents are out of town, for a change, and I’m alone, so…yeah!
- If you want to bring any friends, if you know what I mean…
Jeff smiled. At the corner of his eye, he saw Mary coming in the cafeteria. Jacob noticed his look and turned around to see what it was; then he turned to Jeff again. His friend knew what he was thinking.
- Are you going steady or something?
Jacob smiled and nodded negatively.
- We are just friends. Good friends. Honestly.
- You better! You have half of this school chancing you! You should take advantage of it!
Jacob laughed of his friend’s remark, and suddenly all was right again. He had the best friends in the world; he was in a great college, with a great environment. There was only one thing bothering him: his father and whatever thought he might have about Mary, and how he wished he could share the world Bellow with his new friends. Suddenly he felt Mary’s eyes upon him. Jeff nodded to the girl, has she sat between them.
- So, what’s for lunch today?
- We were talking about the art exhibit.
- Yes? I’ve heard it is a big deal between the NY critics. Every art gallery comes here to look for new values, and we might even end up selling our art! Besides, it is an extra value.
- What were you thinking of doing?
- Well, my painting skills aren’t at my peak, but they’re reasonable. After all, it’s only our first year here, so…and you Jeff?
- Oh, I have some sketches in my room. I’m thinking in doing something abstract. My teacher says that I have some talent in that area. The rest are a little bit fuzzy.
- And you Jacob?
- Well, I was thinking in doing something that would have to do with I want to be- something in the lines of architecture- but then I thought it was too serious for an art exhibit, so I’m also doing something in the lines of painting.
- Have you got something in mind?
- Yes, but I don’t want to tell you. It’s a surprise.
Jacob reached for the phone and dialled Diana’s number. After some tones he heard her picking up.
-Yes, it’s me Diana.
Diana, that had just finished taking a shower, was dripping, but still waited for Jacob’s reply.
-I’m … well, I’m sorry that I burst out on you like that, the other day.
-You don’t have to apologize. You were upset about your father…it’s perfectly normal.
-Yes, but let me “bury the hatchet”. Dinner, Friday night? Me, you and Jeff?
-Oh, Jeff is coming? Good! I always had a good laugh with that young man. But tell me, isn’t Mary coming? I would like to meet her!
There was a short pause on the other end of the line, like Jacob was measuring what to say next.
- I’m asking you once Diana. Did my father ask you to do this?
It was Diana’s turn to be undecided. What was she to do? Lie? She couldn’t risk Jacob fighting with Vincent again. Things could get ugly.
- No, no! Come on Jacob! I’m just curious, that’s all!
There was a long break on the other side and finally Jacob spoke.
- Ok, it’s normal that you want to meet her. I’m sorry.
- And Jacob…I think that you should talk to your father. I know that he doesn’t show his feelings, but I know that he is sad about you not visiting your friends Bellow. Your grandfather is missing you terribly.
- I was planning on passing the weekend Bellow.
- I’m sure they’ll be delighted.
It was Friday night. Diana had phoned Jacob and ended up doing the dinner in her loft. At 8 p.m the three students were coming up by elevator. Mary was beautiful, in her own casual way. Jacob couldn’t help noticing that she had dressed herself with more care, and she was wearing even some make up, that brought out the colour of those beautiful green eyes of hers. Jeff was always nice, whatever he putted on. After Jacob he was one of the most handsome men…at least several fresh year girls were always after him…no wonder he had a lot of girlfriends, a condition that had brought some arguments between him and his father. Jacob wondered if it was about that particular issue that Vincent was afraid of. The elevator stopped and the three of them came into Diana’s loft.
-HI Jacob, come on in!
Diana was busy stirring something in the kitchen. She came out with a cloth in her hands, drying them out. She kissed Jacob on the cheek and Jeff as well. Then she looked at Mary. She stopped drying her hands and her mouth almost open in wonder. The girl was beautiful, but there was something more that made Diana freeze. Mary’s eyes were so…so spectacular, but so familiar at the same time. Her hair was as golden as Vincent’s and came down on her straight, but with volume.
- I’m sorry! I’m not used to seeing such a beautiful young woman! You must be Mary.
The girl smiled and kissed Diana on the cheek.
- I’m very pleased to meet you! Jacob as told so much about you! Only good things, off course, she said smiling.
- I’m sure of it! But please, call me Diana, ok?
The dinner was light and humorous. Jeff and Jacob told Diana about the many teachers and the latest developments at school.
- An art exhibit?
- Yes, and if we want we can participate with works and projects.
- Are you three going to participate?
- Yes, mostly with paintings.
- And when is it going to be?
- Next week.
- Jacob, have you done your painting already?
- I’m doing it this weekend.
Diana knew that he was going Bellow to seek inspiration for his painting.
- And you Jeff?
- Oh! I’ve already done it, but unfortunately I’ve left it back at campus. It’s a nude.
Both Diana and Mary started laughing.
- I wonder how many models have you needed to make those paintings Jeff, said Diana.
- Oh! I’m pretty sure that he could manage all of them, said Jacob, while Mary kept laughing.
- Well, ladies, don’t get up, me and Jacob will take care of the dishes.
- Great way to divert the conversation, Jeff!-said Mary.
- Come on! - said Jacob, picking up his plate.
Diana told Mary if she would like to see the view from above, in the terrace. Mary replied almost immediately, and so Diana guided her to the terrace. After Mary showed her amazement about the view and all the lights, and also after some circumstance talk about other subjects, Diana felt at ease to talk about some other things that could help her know about that girl that troubled Vincent’s soul.
- So you came from Montana, all alone?
- Yes. I thought it was about time I got out of my mother’s “protective wing”. It was time to see things by myself.
- It’s your first time in NY?
- It’s my first time out of my city in Montana! Said Mary smiling.
- You’re kidding! Your mother never wanted you to see other places?
Mary held her woollen jacket close to her body and rubbed her arms. Diana asked her if she would like to go inside, but Mary said that she didn’t. She preferred staying there and adore the lights. At some point she turned to Diana, with an almost helpless look.
- You’re a police investigator aren’t you?
- Oh no! I’ve retired from that! Now I write columns to a NY newspaper and sometimes, just sometimes I help a friend solving some cases, but I never get into action…I basically do research.
Diana sensed some awkwardness or shame in Mary’s attitude.
- Whatever you want to ask me, ask it! Don’t be afraid.
- It’s …well, Jacob tells me so much about you, is almost like I fell I can trust you. Without my mother here, Jacob as been my only true friend…but there are things that I can’t tell even to my closest friends…you need to tell a person that can actually help you. For real.
Diana was becoming more curious about what Mary was talking about.
- Do you have any problems?
Mary turned to the balcony and seemed nervous. Finally she took a long breath and started talking.
- My mother, Laura. Well, she suffers from some form of amnesia.
- Amnesia? How long has she got this?
- Since I was born. The only thing she remembers is lying in her bed, at the hospital and the nurse bringing me into her arms.
- So, how can I help you?
- Since you’re work was finding missing people…well…I was hoping that you could help my mother. You see, sometimes I think that I might even have a dad, a family, brothers and sisters. And all because the stubbornness of my mother…
- She’s afraid to remember. That’s what’s wrong, because she has blocked any attempt to remember.
- Well, there’s very little from where I can start on…anything you whish to had?
- Yes…every month or so we receive money. Sometimes it is a lot of cash. Someone puts it in the mailbox, and although I’ve tried to find who is sending it, I fail. All I got is a blank envelope and the mailman swears that he isn’t the one doing it. The money my mother earns is enough for us to live by, but if it wasn’t for that money we receive mysteriously, I couldn’t go to college.
- I see. You’ve got a tricky situation there. Someone certainly knows who your mother is, since someone is sending her money. Have you got a picture of your mother?
- No, sorry. I have one at campus, maybe next time we meet I can give it to you.- It’s a deal Mary. Next week, I’ll go see your art exhibit and then you can deliver me the info I kneed.
Mary’s eyes were filled with tears. Diana felt so much compassion for that young girl, that she couldn’t resist hugging her close to her chest.
- There, don’t cry! I told you I would help!
- Thank you very much. You don’t know how it has been to me all those years with no one to count on! You see, I truly feel the absence of a father, and only imagining that there’s someone out there that can be my dad…I don’t know!
Mary started crying, but Diana quickly dried off her tears. The case intrigued her and somewhere inside of her she knew that she was meant to help Mary reveal her mother’s past.
- Please don’t cry! Jacob will think that I’ve said something wrong. I can hear them coming up.
Mary sobbed and dried the tears against her sweater.
- We’ve made some coffee. Who’s up for some?
- Mary, is anything wrong?-said Jacob looking at her wet eyes, and quickly looking at Diana.
- Nothing’s wrong Jacob. I just caught something in my eye, that’s all. How about that coffee?
It was almost 2:00 a.m.
Jeff and Mary had gone home some time ago. Diana had offered to drive them there and she knew when she returned that Jacob would be no longer there.
A strange sensation overcame Jacob as soon as he saw some of the most familiar parts of the corridors and rock tunnels that would led him inside the world, Bellow. Suddenly he started running like a little kid again, jumping on and off the stones and pipes that he knew for such a long time. As his legs gained a stunning velocity, he started laughing, felling free. Yes, Bellow was his heaven, his refuge. The perfect place to be painted.
He rapidly reached the chamber of echoes and looked around, gasping in his own breath.
“No, not here.”
He continued running until he reached the Mirror lake. The view so many times shared by his father and mother was a perfect set. Jacob sat down and marvelled at his view. He reached for his portfolio and removed a small canvas. From his back pack he took out the brushes and the oil paints. With a small piece of raw coal, he started doing the first lines, to guide him in the painting.
After that drawing another followed, an oil painting of the chamber of winds, another from the great hall where they held Winterfest. It was almost 10 in the morning when Vincent found his son, sleeping against a cavity in the rock, where he had niched his backpack. His hands, clothes and face were covered in paint. Vincent’s swift eye quickly noticed the paintings, drying on top of a flat rock. He marvelled at the work of his son. The places were so well captured, and more! It was like they were part of a dream, with sort of a haze surrounding the objects. The colours were magnificently disposed, and the chamber of winds was pictured with an aggressive colour, like the nightmares Jacob so vividly described about that place.
- Do you like them father?
Vincent turned around and so a triuphant Jacob standing. He could tell he was proud of his work.
- It’s splendid Jacob. I never doubted that you had a true gift for it.
- It’s for an art exhibit at college. I thought you wouldn’t mind. I’ll make sure the people don’t find out were I searched my “inspiration”. I’ll tell them it was in some corner of my mind or something. I’ll figure it out.
Vincent contemplated the paintings once more. And then, reaching for his son, he held him in an embrace, and all was well again.
The art exhibit was filled with people. Diana looked around at all those persons, men and women, all wearing high fashion clothes and she felt awkward in her sober black dress. Finally she saw a known figure waving at her. It was Jeff.
- Jeff! Thank God, I was almost giving up!
- Yes, there are too many people.
- Where are the others?
- Oh, this way!
Jeff guided her between the over dressed figures that kept looking at paintings and commenting on what they were seeing. Someone broke out a terrible laugh and Diana was getting tired of the cigarette smoke.
- I feel like I kneed one right now! Jacob!
- Hi Aunt Di.
- So how is it going? Show me the paintings! I’ve been dying to see them! Where is Mary?
- She’s over there, by her painting. We’ll get there soon. Come look at ours!
Jeff pushed Diana by one arm, and positioned her in front of his drawing. The drawing was grandiose and showed, as Jeff had told, a nude. But it was very raw and very simple. The woman seemed emerged in sheets and it hided parts of her body. Diana was amazed.
- Really Jeff, it’s amazing! I never thought you had such a talent.
- Thank you Diana. And the best part is… it already has a buyer!
- Really? Congratulations!
Jeff was the vision of happiness.
- Later I would like you to meet my parents. They’ll arrive in an hour or so.
- Of course, I’ll be glad to. Now let’s see yours, Jacob.
Jacob led them up to the wall where his four paintings were hanging. It was unnecessary to Diana to ask him what those pictures were about. She kissed his Godson on the cheek, and nodded in agreement. The title was “Visions of a dream”, and it had already attracted a number of possible buyers and critics. At some point Diana was introduced to a teacher of Jacob, which politely asked them if Jacob could be excused. Diana agreed and told the young men she was going to see Mary’s painting. Jacob told her were she could find her and Diana followed Jacob’s indications, while Jeff was called somewhere else.
Diana slided between the groups of people, until she saw Mary and waved at her. Mary smiled and greeted her.
- I’ve came to see your painting.
- Have you seen Jeff’s painting? Isn’t it great? I never thought that Jeff could paint like that.
- Have you seen Jacob’s?
- No, unfortunately. I went there, but there was too many people surrounding them. He told me that he would personally show them to me, and explain all. He’ll come later. Do you like to see mine?
- Yes, I would!
Mary guided Diana to a canvas exposed in one of the walls. The painting was very naïf, but showed a rare simplicity and that was what made it great.At least from at far that was what Diana could say about it. But when she got closer, she started noticing the singularities: the scene was a woman, sitting at a table, with her back to the viewer. A mirror was in front of her, reflecting her face. Around the woman was a country scene, like she was outside, but the mirror reflected the darkness of an empty room. But those details were things that Diana would remember only later. Right now she was concentrated in only one thing. She could still hear Mary in the background, very far away.
- Doesn’t she look beautiful? It’s my mother Diana. That’s my mother.
Diana’s heart was pounding very, very fast. She swallowed dry air and shivered. She couldn’t believe her eyes.
The woman in the painting was Catherine.
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART IV
"REUNITED" belongs to Inês Costa Any distribution, copy, shoul be made under her consent. Thanks