The Painting

The Painting by Nina Schuyler Page A

Book: The Painting by Nina Schuyler Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nina Schuyler
every sail in the horizon .
    Please, Sato.
    He’s quite charming. Your husband. You should let yourself fall in love with him. He picks up the pipe again. She sits in a chair far in the corner. He looks as if he’s holding a baby, the way it’s nestled up against his chest. For the first time, she notices his yellow fingernails.
    He has changed, she thinks, sighing, and so have I.
    Sato, she says again, not certain what to do.
    He burrows farther into the cushions. Proceed with whatever you came in here to do.
    She waits for a while, watching the smoke swirl above his head. Her heartpounds. She pulls out a sheet of paper, glances at him once more. Sato closes his eyes. She retrieves her set of paints from the cupboard. He does what he wants, I’ll do what I want. As she mixes her colors, the room begins to disappear. She pours more water into the paint and red comes alive. In another bowl, she mixes yellow and white.
    Her lover’s hand begins to appear. Then the other. His body, his face, the image is coming fast, as she knew it would.
    The brush blusters along the paper. Sato has fallen asleep on the couch, a gentle smile on his face, his hands folded on his chest, and now he’s snoring.
    Black fire, he said, as he undid her bun. He pressed into her hand a poem. In any season, your black hair unbound, I long to touch it .
    She feels his pulse now, his scent in each pore of her skin. The heat of desire has its own sense of time.
    They went down the hill and swam in the river. Her body floating in warm water under the deepening sky, the stars spilling out from the moon. Looking up, she sees him through the river’s mist. She smiles, but her expression suddenly twists and fades as the current pulls at her, as if a person crept underneath. She screams. It grabs her around the ankles. Her mouth fills with brine water. He rushes over from the side of the river, jumps in, clutches her by the waist, and yanks her to the surface. She spits out water and sobs. But the current seizes her again. She wraps her hands around the back of his neck; he can’t seem to release her. Frozen in this pose, the water gripping her backside, the pull of his body clutching her front. She feels like her insides are ripping apart.
    She sets down her paintbrush and pushes aside the painting. It’s not how it happened. What an awful image and it isn’t even true. Why did he make her paint such a thing? She was pulled to the bottom, and he jumped in, swept her up, and pulled her out of the water. She was so cold. Since that day, she’s always hated the cold.
    A whisper of air stirs behind her. She is suddenly aware of someone else in the room. For a moment she stiffens. Sato puts his hand on her shoulder.
    You’re crying, he says.
    She reaches up and touches her face.
    He stares at her painting. Ayoshi. It’s beautiful.
    She holds herself tighter.
    He looks at the two figures in the painting. The woman is floating in the water. Her long black hair streaming out from her like a fan. Her kimono is falling off, her legs bare, the skin pale white. The man has wrapped himself around her like two large wings. Tall and striking, the man has a strong profile and a full head of hair. He is poised between saving her and falling in.
    Is this him? The man you love?
    She doesn’t say anything.
    Where is he now?
    I don’t know.
    Sato is about to say something.

    S O LIKE HIM , Natalia thinks, finding Pierre in the hallway gazing lovingly at a bronze vase.
    What do you think it’s worth? he asks, his shrewd eyes flashing. He looks squarely at her. Silly me. Why ask you? You don’t even acknowledge the material world.
    How is he doing? she says, glancing discreetly toward Jorgen’s office. Unbuttoning her coat—how steamy this hallway—she’s just come from the hospital, and she won’t admonish Pierre about visiting Edmond, they’ve argued about it enough, and Pierre will only become irascible and refuse to speak to her for

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