I step quietly into the cool interior of the barn. I have been coming here daily since the accident. It is my refuge, my place of rest and quiet. My connection with Meg and the world as it was before.
I press my back against the wall feeling the cool stone rough through the damp of my sweat stained shirt. It is a scorcher outside, a real Northern Cape summer day. The air smells faintly of turpentine and dust. Shafts of light stream down through the skylights and clerestory windows, illuminating the south wall of the barn. As it has done every day for the past eight months, the sight takes my breath away.
From floor to ceiling, the barn wall is covered with scenes of breathtaking beauty. Meg’s paintings. Desert dunes in the silver light of the moon; a swathe of orange daisies under a deep blue sky, the craggy peaks of the Richtersveld desert landscape glowing like polished chrome in the soft early morning light. All so familiar, so comforting, so known and walked and experienced and seen. Our land, our place, our love. Meg had a gift for bringing life and joy with brush and paint and canvas.
All the months she had lain in hospital I had come in here daily. Somehow, being here with her paintings, here in the old barn that was her studio, made me feel that I was still with her, still connected to who she was, to the joy and the love and the life that was Meg. And now that she is finally home, I find it difficult to stay away. I come here each day. I still need that precious connection to the life back then.
The peace of the moment is broken as the barn door swings abruptly open. Tyres squish softly over the rough concrete floor.
What is she doing in here?
I watch silently as she wheels across the floor towards the paint splattered easel that stands in the far corner. She reaches out and touches it, caressing the rough wood, feeling it as if it is something new and unexplored. Then, to my surprise she wheels over to the trestle table. A stack of blank canvases is stacked on its surface, prepared months ago, before the accident. Pots of paint and brushes lie next to the stack.
Meg pulls a canvas from the stack, wheels over to the easel and carefully balances it on the easel frame, her fingers tracing its edges with a soft touch. She brushes the palm of her hand gently over the surface of the canvas as if appraising its slightly rough texture, then turns and wheels back to the table.
Now she her hands reach for a pot of paint and a wide brush and she wheels back to the easel. She removes the lid from the pot and places it carefully on the floor next to the wheelchair, then dips the brush into the paint and begins to trace broad strokes across the canvas. She hums softly as she works, oblivious of my presence.
A heaviness descends into my heart, and I feel my eyes welling with tears. I brush them away and as I glance up again, I notice a couple of canvases leaning against the leg of the trestle. I had not noticed them before. Each one is covered in big bold brush strokes of a single colour – magenta red, bright yellow and one with bold splashes of orange. I step forward for a closer look and as I do, Meg turns in the wheelchair.
“Is that you Dan?”
“Yes.” My response is abrupt, my voice raw with emotion.
“You’ve been watching me secretly you naughty boy,” she teases.
She swings the wheelchair fully round and wheels towards me, smiling and raising the brush in a wave of greeting. Her dark hair falls softly around her face. As she crosses the barn the light illuminates a streak of bright paint on her cheek. For a moment it diverts my attention from the angry red scars that crisscross her forehead and the left side of her face. She lifts her face to me, sightless eyes somehow searching for mine, then gestures toward the easel with the paint brush.
“What colour have I got today, Dan?”
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