The House of Dreams

The House of Dreams by Kate Lord Brown

Book: The House of Dreams by Kate Lord Brown Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kate Lord Brown
connection to Vita, and he spotted them in an archive among Quimby’s papers.”
    â€œHe stole them, for you?”
    â€œBorrowed, Mr. Lambert,” she says firmly.
    Nonsense, I know those places, you can’t turn a page without a pair of white gloves. As if they’d let this girl bring them halfway around the world. Christ, all this time, these photos have been floating around? “It was just a—well, it was a shock to see Vita’s face again after all this time. I can’t help you.…”
    â€œBut you must!” The color rises in her cheeks, a gorgeous bloom. “I’m going ahead with the story whether you like it or not.”
    â€œNot.”
    â€œPlease, Mr. Lambert.” She tries to control her frustration. “For me it is about family, as much as anything else. You’re the only one who was there with Vita—” She stumbles, realizes what she’s said.
    â€œI’m the only one alive, you mean?”
    â€œI don’t mean to be tactless.” She’s too young to know how to handle this. “It must have been a terrible time for you. Everyone knows…” She chooses her words carefully now. “Everyone has heard how you lost your son, and Vita. I just hoped you’d be able to help me find the truth.”
    I close my eyes for a moment and rub the bridge of my nose. The afternoon sun has burned a vivid red-and-gold corona behind my lids. The truth? I don’t even know what this is anymore. Vita, Vita, Vita … Christ. Days go by now, weeks, even, when I don’t think of that name.
    â€œI can’t help you.”
    â€œCan’t or won’t?”
    Damn, she’s cocky. “Why don’t you just clear off back to the city?”
    Good, I’ve shocked her. “That’s not very nice.”
    â€œNice?” I rail on her, then lower my voice. “Who the hell said artists were supposed to be nice ?” Look at Varian, at everything he did for the artists whose work he loved. How did they repay him? Sure, there was the odd exception—like Lipchitz, he was the best of the lot and a good friend to Varian—but most of them turned their back on him once they didn’t need him. Lipchitz never forgot what Fry did for him, but Chagall wouldn’t even sign the print Varian practically had to beg him to put into the Flight portfolio. After all Varian had done for him. I stare at the girl, and she flinches. Maybe there’s still something in my gaze after all. I’ve rattled her. “Let’s take a walk.”
    I usher her on around the house toward the beach. I follow the trail of pine needles to the lean-to where we stack split logs every autumn and the boys have left the Christmas tree. Her high heels are sinking in the sand, and as she pauses to slip them off, I see their red soles flash like a warning. My chest is tight, and once she’s walked on ahead, I search in my pocket for my inhaler. I’ve left it in the studio. I start to panic, but Annie’s voice comes to me: Easy, Gabe. That’s it, try and relax. Easy now. Breathe. Once my lungs have eased, I catch up with the girl and she turns. “It’s beautiful here,” she says. “I can see why you love it.”
    I hesitate. She can’t sweet-talk me, oh no. “You came out here alone?” What I want to say is: Who knows you’re here?
    â€œI’m a big girl.” She takes a deep breath of cold sea air, guileless, and shrugs off her jacket. “When I heard you had a cottage down here on the beach, I was expecting something…” Her voice trails off, aware that she’s said the wrong thing again.
    â€œSomething grander?”
    â€œI just meant,” she says carefully, “something different, what with your success, and reputation.”
    â€œIt’s not much, but Annie and I built this place ourselves the summer we moved out here, 1951.” I run my

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