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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Art (01/18/07)

TITLE: In the South of France
By Carla Feagans


Every time I saw it, it stopped me short. This time was no exception.

We hadnt been art collectors. I dont think wed visited an art museum together in all those years. And yet, this painting. It was absolutely mesmerizing.

I could hear the kids running up and down the hallway, revisiting their old bedrooms. I heard them calling excitedly to each other. Look, its Andys room! Wheres his bed? Julie called. At four, she still didnt quite understand the concept of moving, or why our old house was still sitting empty.

I knew I should go check on them, but I couldnt tear my gaze away. I never had been able to. Ever since we first saw it in that Hawaiian gallery.

Wed had an hour to kill between dinner and the show, so wed meandered through the shops.

Wed never agreed on anything, not right away. Sometimes wed come to an agreement quickly, but usually like the sixteen hours spent shopping for a sofa it took us a bit longer.

Were not looking for a painting, Id said.

Oh, lets just look around. Hed walked in, leaving me to follow.

Id followed my husband as he moved from piece to piece. I hadnt expected to see anything of much interest. Wed turned a corner, and there it was. I was transported to another world. No longer in the tropical paradise of Maui, I was suddenly sitting at an outdoor caf in the south of France.

Did you see this? Hed grabbed my arm, gaping, under the same spell.

Its amazing, Id agreed. But were not looking for a painting. Id laughed wryly.

The gallery owner had noticed our gawking. Oh, you must see it under the proper lighting, hed gushed. Youll be amazed.

We already are, its beautiful, wed told him. Wed allowed ourselves to be swept up in the fantasy, no longer the young couple on a discount vacation package. We were art aficionados, seriously contemplating the next find in our imagined collection.

The painting had glowed in all its gloriousness in those gallery lights. We couldnt look away. The scene before us transcended space and time. Wow. One word, uttered in unison.

We hadnt bought it that night. Wed gone on to the show, laughing at the absurdity of it. The next evening, wed decided to come clean, let the owner know we werent serious. Were not, right? Steve had asked. Of course not! Id assured him.

Wed walked into the gallery, strong in our resolve. Moments later we were completing the transaction. We were so proud, and slightly stunned, the day we hung our new painting over the two-story fireplace in our brand new home.

Id stared at that painting every night. Id nursed my children while gazing upon the south of France. It had been there, silently beckoning us to another world, through it all. Presiding over the hopes and dreams of the home wed built together. It had been there during our childrens first steps, first words, first days of school. Through our joys and sorrows, and when the arguing began to escalate. Id sought its comfort and escape during my darkest moments of desperation and hopelessness, wishing myself away from the pain. Wishing I could catapult through that portal rather than staying to face my reality of struggling to find forgiveness in the depths of my heart. It was there unnoticed during that final day, when all hell broke loose. When Steve had chased me around the room, pulling the phone out from the wall when Id tried frantically to call the police. When the children ran and hid, their cries and screams drowned by my own. When wed packed up our belongings and gone our separate ways, leaving behind a sole reminder of our lives together. The painting was too large to fit into our now much smaller homes.

Id tried to avoid looking at it, or returning to the house once wed left it to the realtor to sell. Id already said my final goodbyes, staying strong, not succumbing to my grief. But my lawyer had called, asking me to make sure Steve had removed the last of his things. Id managed to keep my focus elsewhere before. Today, it was all I could see.

The kids were still playing upstairs. I should go up there, I thought again. But I was still in the south of France. I dropped to my knees, and the dam burst. Finally, I cried.

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This article has been read 679 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Marilee Alvey01/26/07
Wow! Fantastic! I got a little confused at first: were they in an art gallery or in an empty house? You need to put in some type of a transition so that we know which is a past scene and which is the one they are in, currently. Other than that, I found this a very imaginative, thought provoking, moving story. Great job!
Marilyn Schnepp 01/27/07
Although I was mixed up in the first couple of paragraphs as to where this was taking place - An Art Museum or a dormitory for kids - it then flowed smoothly along; nice story but I (the Reader) wanted some sort of description of this mesmerizing picture...something to make me want to see it in person. Good take on topic, however, and well written.
Laurie Glass 01/28/07
I didn't have any trouble following the beginning. I enjoyed this piece and it made me wish I had a picture of my own that I could focus on when I needed to just like this woman did.
Sharlyn Guthrie01/28/07
This story touched my heart. It is sad, yet it fit the topic so well. The painting was symbolic of so much more than what was painted, and you did a great job of communicating that.
Joanne Sher 01/28/07
I also would have loved to see the painting itself more clearly - but otherwise this was a wonderfully engaging and moving story. Love the end.
Betty Castleberry01/28/07
This is poignant. You've done a good of capturing emotions. Nicely done.
Jan Ackerson 01/29/07
Very powerful story. If you edit it one more time, consider eliminating the "had" helping verbs and writing in a simple past tense for a smoother read. Thanks for sharing this.