Claire gingerly sat on the edge of her velvet-covered horsehair loveseat, trying to be patient. Forcing calmness, she sipped mint tea from the scalloped edge of her fine china cup and admired its delicately hand-painted rose motif. A curator from the art gallery had been expected thirty minutes ago. Either he’d been detained by big city traffic, or he’d deemed her work unworthy of display and was hesitant to confront her.
The interior of Claire’s American house had become one large canvas, and her framed artistry stared from every side as the grandfather clock’s metronome-like tick-tock, tick-tock joined the din of everyday downtown traffic noise. While her tea seemed soothing, a vague restlessness kept her taut and anxious.
“Le odeur fumees d’echappement,” Claire muttered with a scratchy French accent as she placed the rose-painted teacup on the coffee table. She stood abruptly, shook her arthritic fingers like dangling human fringe, and hurried to close the windows on the street side to shut out the traffic’s exhaust fumes.
She tenderly pulled her beloved gossamer curtains over the panes. “There. A person needs … a little privacy … now and then,” she said in broken English to no one in particular, while tracing the paisley stitching on the curtains with a gnarled pointer finger.
After many years of reclusive living, Claire’s artwork had recently been exposed. “Your name means ‘light,’ and your work reflects your name. It needs to be seen,” her friend had said when asking for permission to share samples with the curator of the art gallery. Today that curator was scheduled to visit and discuss the possibility of displaying Claire’s exquisite nature scenes, especially those featuring inspiring wildflowers in full bloom as they basked in God’s loving provision of summer sun.
The antique grandfather clock, with its faded floral face, continued ticking. It had been forty-five minutes since the appointed hour. Do I really want my work shown in public? Claire asked herself while sweeping a renegade strand of gray hair from her face and tucking it into its bun. Maybe not. I paint for myself, and for my Lord. That is enough.
Finally there was a rap at the door. She walked across the creaky oak floor and peered through the peephole. Apparently the curator had arrived.
She unlatched the chain lock and opened the door. “Yes?”
“Hello Madame, I apologize for my tardiness – are you still available?” A smartly dressed gentleman in his mid-40’s swept a jaunty hat from his balding head and bowed at the waist in a way that reminded Claire of her stately father.
“Yes, please come in. Would you like a cup of tea?” She stood submissively to one side, but with palms open to reinforce the invitation.
“How lovely. Yes. Of course.”
As he slung his coat over the back of the sofa, Claire emerged from the kitchen with a steamy, aromatic cup. “Voila. Make yourself … at home, monsieur.” His receptive hands seemed large and strong, and her face softened as she watched him caress the tiny cup.
“Beautiful china,” he said, beholding the cup and turning it side-to-side.
“Thank you. It is Meissin … hand painted in Germany. It is … tres magnifique.” She smiled in a way that shed an inner light through her eyes. “But the china is another story, monsieur. I understand we’ve come together today … to discuss my artwork.”
He looked down at the cup. “Yes, and more.”
This comment took her off guard. “More?”
He looked up. “Your artwork, and your new position, Madame.” He cleared his throat. “You have been designated as Artist of the Year, and are thus entitled to prime display space in the gallery for the next twelve months.” He paused to give her time to assimilate this information. “Next week a newspaper reporter will interview you. Congratulations on this recognition. You deserve it.”
Claire stared, wide-eyed, into his rich brown eyes that shared the intensity of her own clear blue ones. She softly mumbled, “Merci, monsieur.”
Was it true? Had she suddenly passed from anonymity to fame in the autumn of her life? It was almost too much to grasp.
“You’re welcome,” he said respectfully, while opening his appointment calendar. “Now, let’s see. Could we meet again Thursday? At two o’clock? I’d like a committee to join us in deciding which of your paintings will be shown each month.”
Next Thursday. Two o’clock. It was the appointed time for her light to shine.*
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