The Mirror, JCayan
A very special thanks, to JSwrdsmth for her editorial prowess, patience and guidance. And to Xan for assisting and directing me in the proper usage of oil painting techniques, as well as her welcomed comments and advice.
Artwork-Boatman and Child, by Robert Reid
|Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Part I - The Dark Storm
A cold Canadian northern wind swept New York City. Loose debris and fallen leaves caught helplessly in the whirlwinds spun aimlessly in acrobatic displays. The weary commuters walked swiftly to their destinations anxious to reach the promised warmth and shelter of their offices.
The month of March had entered the city with a fury and refused to relinquish its icy hold. It was 1946, and the streets were crowded with the enclave of wounded warriors returning from the European war. They arrived in various forms, some missing limbs and others with blank stares. Each carried the remnants of a harsh war in his eyes. Slowly the country welcomed the lost lambs back into its fold.
It was nine o'clock in the morning, and the high buildings adorning New York City, shielded the streets from the warmth of the morning sun. The tall edifices cast dark brooding shadows along the unclean sidewalks.
The commuters hurried past Kathryn Janson, single-mindedness to their ritual commute, worker drones, going about their business without complex thinking. She was jostled sharply; the tarp-covered canvas slipped from her grasp, and fell to the ground.
Kathryn turned her vision to the man and stared at him menacingly. The man took a tentative step forward to assist her, but was frozen in place by her piercing glare. He tilted his hat in an apologetic gesture, and pulled his coat collar tighter to him and scurried away. Kathryn Janson reached down to retrieve the canvas. Her right hand brushed away the wisp of auburn hair that fell forward, covering her face.
She stood and raised the painting towards her, brushing the dirt that clung possessively to the tarp covering the canvas. She sighed deeply and shook her head back and forth in dismay. Clutching the painting tightly to her side, she continued walking towards the small gallery on 14 Street and 7th avenue.
It was the second week in March and Kathryn Janson was two months in arrears on her rent. The proprietor was no longer being kind and understanding and has threatened to cast her to the unforgiving streets.
A loud grumbling sound emanated from her stomach, a painful reminder that it had been two days since her last meal. The choice of career she pursued came with a price, and currently she was one of many starving artists scraping to earn a living in a cruel and indifferent city. It was new to her, failure, and unsettling at once. An anxious desperation gnawed at her and wounded her pride. The simple piece of canvas held in her hands was her last hope, a frail lifeline to keep from homelessness and starvation.
Kathryn quickened her pace, ignoring the biting wind that nipped at her exposed neck. The high red color to her weather-exposed cheeks served to highlight her soft alabaster complexion. The rich auburn red hair fell past her shoulders and flew wildly as she walked. Her walk was normally proud and graceful, the kind most women of small stature exhibited. But today, she had a haunting look in her eyes, an emptiness, a dark void filled with restlessness and a touch of despair. There was a desperate rhythm to her walk and a dark hunger burned in her penetrating blue gray eyes.
Kathryn crossed the intersection and entered the lobby of the building where the Steinfeld gallery was housed. She waited patiently for the elevator to arrive and stepped in, selecting the seventh floor.
The Steinfeld Gallery was owned and operated by Sarah Steinfeld. Sarah was an older matronly woman with a lean elegant figure, crystal blue eyes and silvered black hair she swept into a bun. Sarah had been born into a wealthy family, the only daughter of a successful steel magnet who doted on her. She exhibited a keen cultured grace that commanded the admiration and respect of all that met her.
Having once had aspirations of becoming an artist herself, Sarah had studied at the Sorbonne in France. At the start of Sarah's third year there, an automobile accident forced her to abandon painting.
The overturned automobile had severed her right hand and left her walking with a cane for the rest of her life. Disheartened at not being able to pursue her first love, Sarah had opened a gallery and discovered she had a keen eye for locating new and gifted artists.
Over the years, Sarah Steinfeld had become the guardian angel for many struggling artists. Sarah's own tragic accident had taught her the importance of pride and self-reliance and ensured that she would never insult anyone by simply giving them a handout. The generous patron of the arts contributed to the upkeep of unknown painters by purchasing the works rejected by other, less reputable, galleries. Moreover, by doing so, she ensured the Artist continued existing until they were capable of supporting themselves. Sarah received an inner satisfaction from assisting them. For many of those Artists', who were lucky and gifted enough, they eventually received the public recognition they desperately sought.
Kathryn entered the small reception area and was immediately greeted by Mrs. Bender's disapproving glare, which she ignored. She ran her hand along the length of her hair, hoping to make herself presentable and tried valiantly to dispel the hunger that consumed her.
Kathryn leaned her painting against the wall and proceeded to unbutton her secondhand overcoat. The dark green coat had been a gift from her mother last year; it was simplistic in style, yet Kathryn revered the gift, for she was painfully aware of the sacrifice her mother had made to give it to her.
Kathryn was the first born of two daughters to a hard working Rhode Island angler and his devoted wife. At an early age, Kathryn had become enamored of the vibrancy of colors, light and shading of the living world around her.
The allure of majestic colors assaulted her senses and kept her prisoner to their beauty. The dark green waters shimmering with a rising or setting sun, glowed in multiple hues of gold, orange, purple and yellow that held her tightly in their spell. She would gaze upon the splendor of the reeds; the juxtaposition of local wildlife, against a backdrop of leafy green vegetation and dark waters mesmerized her. The brooding ocean and beige sand beaches provided a kaleidoscope of colors to draw from. At any given part of the day, Kathryn could be found sitting in complete stillness, admiring a sunset over a calm ocean or sketching a seascape in her pad.
As a student, Kathryn had displayed a strong aptitude in mathematics and science. However, it was the world of drawing and painting that held her in its magnificent power. At the age of eight, her father and mother had presented her with a small wooden case of oil paints. Her father had built an easel for her, and, before anyone realized it, Kathryn had taught herself art and by the age of ten had mastered it completely.
Like everything else Kathryn attempted, she approached art with a strong determination to succeed. At the age of sixteen, she had won a prestigious state award for her entry of a seascape encapsulated by a magnificent sunset, a lone fishing boat sitting majestically in a calm sea. Her mastery of color and light were evidence of her natural gift and abilities.
Kathryn had been invited to attend the Metropolitan Museum of Art School, which she gladly accepted. But she had found herself hundreds of miles from home, a lonely outcast in a city of many. Seven months later, she had been devastated by the grim news that her father had perished at sea. The cod-fishing schooner he had set out in had been caught in a squall and sunk to the bottom of the ocean, taking all seven crewmembers onboard to their watery deaths.
The incident had left Kathryn in despair. Before long she had been unable to maintain her grades and had been expelled from the art school. She had opted to remain in New York City, not wanting to return home after the devastation of her father 's death and determined to make it as an artist despite the obstacles that lay before her.
Now fifteen years later, the wounds from his loss remained deep, as if the event had happened a mere month ago. The fact that his body had been lost at sea denied her the closure she so desperately required to heal. And Kathryn, at the age of 32, was no closer to achieving her dream of being an artist.
But the stubbornness nature of her character refused to allow her to admit defeat. Kathryn accepted various levels of employment, clearing tables and working as a waitress, whenever she could get the work. She preferred the graveyard shift, which left her the mornings free to paint by the natural light of day. The squalid studio she called home had a large front window and skylight in which she was able to paint unmolested until the sun settled and left her in still darkness.
The apartment contained her meager belongings, a small bed with only one set of sheets and a battered pine dresser she had retrieved from the evening trash. The clothing in her amour was old and outdated, but meticulously kept. There was a worn oval carpet adorned with hideous flowers that served to cover the missing planks of her oak wood floor. Along the walls, she hung her paintings in no particular arrangement, their sole purpose being to cover the holes in the walls. The studio was painted in what she lovingly called institutional green, the ancient paint flaking and dingy added a haunting character to the room's appearance
In the southeast corner of the room stood the handmade easel, her father made for her as a child. The rustic pieces of wood shaped with love the only memento she had left of her late father.
Kathryn's studio was located on 18th Street and Ninth Avenue, a stone's throw away from the Steinfeld Gallery. Kathryn had met Sarah one day while painting a landscape in Central Park. The historic park a favorite retreat among painters. A place where Kathryn often spent her days painting and enjoying the natural beauty around her.
The elegant older woman had approached Kathryn and admired her work. They had soon fallen into a comfortable conversation and before Kathryn had realized what happened, she was accompanying the enigmatic woman back to her gallery, where Sarah had purchased the artist's freshly completed painting. It was the first real sale Kathryn had ever made in her life and the kind gesture from Sarah had never been forgotten.
From time to time since then, Kathryn had sold her art works to Sarah, who would pay too much money for the pieces. Kathryn was painfully aware of Sarah's intention and was grateful that the woman never made her feel like a charity case. Kathryn had come to respect Sarah, and surprisingly enough, love her as well. Somewhere along the line, Sarah had in some way become her mentor and a treasured friend.
The return of the men from war left Kathryn standing on the unemployment line. The meager job she held given to one of the many returning soldiers. With her limited skills and inability to endure a secretarial existence, she found employment was scarce. Finding time on her hands, she attacked her painting with even more determination, but much to her dismay, the demand for her artwork remained limited.
In due course, she had found herself penniless and behind on her rent. To add further to her woes, Kathryn had been unable to send her mother any financial assistance for the past three months. The death of her father had left the Janson family without a dependable income over the years. And her mother supported herself over by taking in laundry or working in the local factories. During the war, Gertrude Janson was more steadily employed at the local cannery. But with the returning onslaught of men from the war, her term of employment at the cannery ended. And like Kathryn, Gertrude fell victim to hard times. Kathryn had been moved to tears, when she received the green slightly worn overcoat in the mail for her birthday. Now Kathryn was slowly spiraling into depression, incapable of shedding the heavy burden of responsibilities and problems she carried.
The gallery was large and spacious. Pinewood flooring ran throughout and gleamed with a high polish. The rooms were painted in a soft white and accented with pine crown molding woodwork. The ceiling was high and made of a decorative tin; tiny leafs mixed with flowers were expertly stamped into the metal. The reception area was warm and inviting. There were two large overstuffed sofas in soft green and hand carved cherrywood oriental end tables. A large, expensive Persian carpet patterned with flowers lay on the floor and the coffee table sitting in the center held a Waterford crystal vase with fresh cut flowers.
Kathryn rubbed her hands together and blew into them. Her warm breath served to remove the icy numbness caused by the cold. She looked at Mrs. Bender and nodded her head slightly.
Mrs. Bender was a dowdy, stout woman of about fifty, with a round face and dark brooding eyes. She was dressed in her daily uniform, as Kathryn had come to classify it. A dark blue skirt suit that fell well past her knees and black rubber-sole shoes. It was plain to see that Mrs. Bender had had a difficult life once. The evidence was there in her stare, the limp with which she walked, and her weather-beaten complexion. Although she did it unconsciously, she had a habit of ending each reply with a disapproving humph, something Kathryn found annoying.
"Good morning Mrs. Bender. Is Sarah in?"
"Miss Steinfeld is busy at the moment."
"Would you please inform her I am here." It was more of an order than a request.
Mrs. Bender eyed her sarcastically. If it were anyone else, Mrs. Bender would have unceremoniously shown him or her door. She protected Sarah with fierce loyalty and absolutely no one made it past her unannounced. However, there was something about Kathryn's demeanor that kept the receptionist from being as rude with this artist as she was with the rest of Sarah's projects. A certain quality she found endearing and admirable. But Mrs. Bender would never admit it for fear of being taken advantage of.
Mrs. Bender could detect the hunger in Kathryn's eyes. It was a look she had seen a thousand times over the years in countless other faces. She walked to the small alcove to the right of her desk and poured a cup of black coffee into a delicate china cup. She placed a generous slice of Irish soda bread on a separate dish and returned to the reception area.
She placed the cup of coffee and dish on the end table nearest Kathryn, who had settled comfortably into the sofa, lost in her thoughts. Kathryn detected the odor of fresh brewed coffee and returned to the world around her. Kathryn's eyes misted, and she nodded her head in heartfelt thanks. Mrs. Bender responded with a loud humph and turned on her heels, headed in the direction of Sarah's private office.
"I'll see what I can do."
Sarah sat behind her cherrywood desk drafting a letter. During the course of her work, her wire-rimmed eyeglasses had drifted to the very end of her nose. Hearing Mrs. Bender's loud humph, Sarah raised her head.
"Yes Joyce, what is it?" Sarah was the only person Mrs. Bender allowed to call her by her first name.
"Your little spitfire is here, and if you ask me, she looks like something the cat dragged in."
"No one asked you, Joyce, and that is very unkind of you to say."
"Well I can tell you it's been several days since she's had a decent meal."
"So you gave her a piece of your soda bread, did you?" Sarah asked as, with great effort, she rose from her chair, automatically reaching with her left hand for the mahogany walking cane with a silver wolf head on the handle. Placing the brunt of her weight on the cane, she walked around her desk and stood eye to eye with Mrs. Bender, a slight curved smile to her lips.
"What if I did? " responded Mrs. Bender, her trailing 'humph' sounding defensive
"You like her, don't you? There is something about Kathryn Janson you admire and respect."
"I like her best when she doesn't visit. "
"Why you old battleaxe, you truly do like her!" Sarah's rich laughter filled the air, as she walked out of her office towards the reception area, leaving Mrs. Bender behind with a false frown on her face.
Sarah found Kathryn consuming the homemade Irish soda bread. A shadow of concern crossed her eyes. She could see the look of despair in Kathryn's profile and for a brief second felt a measure of alarm for her well being.
"Kathryn, what brings you out on such a miserable day?"
Kathryn swallowed the last piece of bread and quickly wiped her mouth as she rose. Her blue-gray eyes smiled for the first time in over a month. She walked to Sarah and embraced her warmly.
"Only you can make me come out in this weather."
The women separated, and Sarah stared intently into Kathryn's eyes. There was no doubt in her mind-Kathryn was slipping away from her. Trying to make light of the situation, she eyed the painting still covered in tarp.
"I see you've been keeping yourself busy. Come on, let's have a look."
Kathryn's face relaxed. Relieved that Sarah would not turn her back on her now, Kathryn felt her eyes mist over once more, and she had to swallow the lump that formed in the back of her throat before responding.
"Yes, yes I have, and I think you will be pleased."
Kathryn quickly crossed to the sofa and retrieved the painting. Her hands shook with a bit of desperation, and she prayed silently that Sarah would find it appealing. She returned to Sarah's side and unwrapped it.
Sarah clasped Kathryn's arm firmly and she leaned into it, leaning her weight on Kathryn for support.
"Well then, let's move closer to the light so that I can see what you have created this time, Kathryn."
Kathryn followed Sarah into the inner salon of the gallery to the large bay window. In the corner sat an easel with a watercolor painting created by the first artist Sarah ever discovered. Kathryn removed it from the stand with care and leaned it gently against the wall. She turned and placed her own painting on the easel.
Kathryn held her breath as Sarah put on the eyeglasses that hung from a delicate gold chain around her neck. Sarah eyed the oil painting critically, examining every aspect of it.
It was a seascape painting of a weather beaten lighthouse, its beacon shinning brightly and cutting through a dark brooding storm. The lone fishing boat was a mixture of dabbing, impasto, and pulling. The schooner was being torn apart by the turbulent storm. The dark clouds had a full range of tones and highlights, mid-tones and dark underbellies cast in shadows. The lone gleam of the beacon light cut through the dark stormy night. Its reflective light mixed in hues of yellow, green, blue, and purple, the lighting and shadows perfectly formed.
As usual, Kathryn had employed all of the proper oil-painting techniques. By applying the opaque and using thick layers of paint with a pallet knife in an impasto, the larger quantities of paint gave the painting surface a three-dimensional aspect around the cutting waves.
Using the pulling technique with brush, she dragged the paint across the surface in a half-covering fashion, making it softer around the brooding waters. The dark clouds had a full range of tones and highlights, mid-tones and dark underbellies cast in shadows.
But despite its technical perfection, the painting lacked the one aspect that would make it unique, the part that lived only within its creator: a soul. All of the paintings of Kathryn's that Sarah had seen over the years lacked this essential element; without it, her work had no life. Sarah was slightly dismayed that Kathryn was unable to tap the inner source of life that was hidden in her. To reach the inner region in her soul that would make her a great artist.
Sarah maintained her warm smile and said lightly, "This is wonderful Kathryn. What will it cost me this time?"
"I don't know Sarah. Do you really like it?"
"It's a good painting Kathryn. You should be proud of it."
"But it isn't great, is it?"
Sarah breathed in deeply not wishing to respond to the question. However, in all of her years acquainted with Kathryn, she was never able to fool the enigmatic woman. And it pained Sarah that she was unable to make Kathryn understand that painting was more than just technique. It was an art inspired by passion and created with the intensity of emotions. The driving pleasure of love, agony and at times even sadness.
"Kathryn, these things take time. When was the last time you rested, took a vacation?"
Kathryn snorted before responding. " Oh, I don't know. When I was ten?"
"I have a small cottage in upstate New York. Why don't you use it? Stay there for a while and gather yourself. There are beautiful mountains and glorious fields. At this time of the year everything is covered in snow, and it's so quiet and peaceful."
"I don't think I have the luxury of taking a vacation Sarah. I have to find a job first."
"Not for a person like me, no. It's not like there is a large demand for mediocre artist. Even waitressing work in a restaurant is difficult to find with all of the returning soldiers."
"Yes, I would imagine it is rather difficult. Still I'm offering you the chance to stay there Kathryn, as my guest."
"Thanks, Sarah, I'll think about it. OK?"
"You do that, dear. As for the painting, I'll give you eighty five dollars and not a penny more."
"You don't have to do this, Sarah. I know it isn't very good."
"Nonsense. I have a house in South Hampton, and this will look excellent hanging over the fireplace. It will fit right in."
"Do you mean that, Sarah?"
"Of course I do. Have you ever known me to say something I don't mean?"
"All right, but only if you think you can really use it."
"Do you want to sell me this painting or not?"
Kathryn chuckled. The anxiety she had felt up until that moment dissipating under Sarah's kind words. Kathryn knew Sarah was offering her double the price the painting was worth. Yet with the money being offered she would be able to pay her rent in full and send money to her mother.
"Very well. Eighty-five dollars it is. You have yourself a Kathryn Janson original."
Sarah laughed at Kathryn's joke and patted her warmly on the shoulder, sensing the lessening of the artist's tension.
"It is signed, isn't' it? I don't want to spend a fortune in the future trying to prove it's one of your early works."
Kathryn laughed loudly for the first time in several months. For a second, she was stunned to hear the sound of her own voice rising in laughter.
"Yes. It's signed in the lower right corner."
"Very well then we have a deal."
"A deal it is."
"Good, I'll have Joyce draft the check."
"Thank you, Sarah. I can't tell you how much this means."
"Nonsense. You're a talented artist, Kathryn, and one day you and everyone else will know that."
"From your mouth to God's ear."
"That's the spirit, my dear, have a little faith. Are you in a hurry or can you join me for lunch?"
"I wish I could Sarah, but I need to get to the post office and run some errands. Then I thought I might take a walk in Central Park afterwards and clear my head. Can I have a rain check?"
"Of course, my dear. With you, lunch is always an adventure I look forward to. I'll let Joyce know. Now go and pour yourself another coffee and please take another piece of her soda bread. It'll save my girlish figure if there is less for me to indulge in."
"Very well, I'll be more than happy to have some more coffee. Thank you, Sarah. I don't know what I would do without you."
"Probably be a secretary working for some overweight boor, I imagine."
The two women laughed as they walked back towards the reception area. Sarah nodded to Mrs. Bender. Who quickly stood and followed her to the back office. Kathryn poured herself another cup of coffee and took a helping of Irish soda bread. The lines of anxiety that circled her eyes were smoother, granting her a younger appearance.
Mrs. Bender returned and handed Kathryn the check made out for eighty-five dollars. She stood staring at the piece of paper as if it was a gift from heaven. Before Mrs. Bender could protest, Kathryn pulled her into a hug and kissed her soundly on the cheek. Surprised, the elder woman quickly pushed the artist away
"Have you gone completely mad? " Humphing, Mrs. Bender wiped the side of her cheek.
"No, but I couldn't resist. And Mrs. Bender, thank you, for the Irish soda bread; it's just like Mother used to make."
"Yes, well fortunately for me, I'm not your damn mother. "
"Nonetheless, you made my day."
"Yes, well has anyone ever told you, you lead a boring life? "
Chuckling slightly as Mrs. Bender scowled at her, Kathryn retrieved her coat and put it on. She bid Mrs. Bender, who had returned to her station, a good day, and taking hold of her bag, which contained her sketchpad, she headed out on her way to the bank.
After stopping at the bank, Kathryn posted a letter to her mother containing twenty-five dollars, which would go a long way in Rhode Island. Next she stopped at a deli and purchased a ham and cheese sandwich-her first real meal in two days. She headed towards the subway and boarded the number one train to Fifty-ninth Street. Once there, she climbing the exit stairs and headed in the direction of Central Park. Though the day was cold, it was mild compared to some of her winters in Rhode Island.
The park was relatively empty, as she had expected, since only the brave would risk exposure to the cold for a quick stroll, and she welcomed the quietness and solitude. Kathryn walked a quarter of a mile before stopping at a solitary bench. The view was still and quiet, and the trees glistened with icicles, their branches bending slightly under the weight. The snow that had fallen several days earlier lay unmolested on the ground, only the tiny imprints of pigeons offering evidence of life.
As she opened the bag containing her sandwich, the sound of rustling wings cut through the air. A gray and white pigeon landed in front of the bench. It watched her eagerly, cooing and bobbing its head up and down. She tore a piece of bread from the corner of her sandwich and tossed it to her feathery companion, who eyed her warily before pecking at the offered feast.
Leaning comfortably against the bench, she began to consume the first half of her sandwich, Suddenly, she heard the sound of a small child crying. She strained her ears, trying to detect the exact direction. Determining that the sound was coming from her left, she returned her sandwich to the bag on the bench, then stood and headed in the direction of the cries.
Several yards away, she came upon a small girl dressed in an elegant cashmere red coat. The child sat on the ground, her face turned downward and hidden from view by the top of her white fur hat and the long golden tresses that fell past her shoulders.
Being careful not to startle the child, Kathryn approached quietly and, in a soft voice, called out to her. "Hi there are you lost?"
The little girl raised her head tentatively, and Kathryn found herself staring into two icy blue orbs overflowing with hot tears, which ran down her soft white cheeks. Her bottom lip was trembling. She appeared to be about eight years of age.
"N...n...no. I'm not lost. But I lost my other glove, and my mommy is going to be very upset with me."
Kathryn bent down and helped the child to stand. Taking a handkerchief from her coat pocket, Kathryn wiped away the tears. The little girl hiccuped and continued to cry.
"There now, it will be OK. I'm sure you didn't lose it on purpose. Is your mother here?"
Kathryn scanned the area around them, but saw no one else in the vicinity.
"No, but she's going to be very angry with me."
"There now, I'm sure it will be all right. I'll tell you what. Why don't you join me for lunch and afterwards I'll help you look for your glove?"
"I'm not suppose to talk to strangers."
"Very well. Hi, I'm Kathryn Janson, and you are?"
Kathryn held out her hand and the small girl clasped it in return, shaking it firmly.
"I'm Anna, Anna Hansin."
"Well Anna, I guess we aren't strangers anymore. Why don't you share my sandwich with me, and then we'll look for your glove."
"Well...I am hungry."
"Good, then that's settled. Here wipe your nose."
Kathryn handed the child her handkerchief, which Anna took and promptly blew her nose resoundingly in, as they walked together to Kathryn's bench. Kathryn settled Anna next to her and offered her the other half of the sandwich. Placing a comforting arm behind the girl, Kathryn decided to determine why a child so young would be in the park alone.
'Why aren't you in school?"
'We only had a half a day today."
"I see. Do you live far from here?"
"No, just a few blocks away."
"Your parents let you come to the park alone?"
"Promise you won't tell?"
"You have my word."
"I'm not supposed to be here. But, it's so beautiful when the snow covers the ground and the trees are filled with icicles."
"It is beautiful. Still, don't you think your parents would be upset? You should be home from school by now. I bet they're worried."
"They don't care, They never care about me."
"Well, I'm sure they care about you."
"They only care that I do good in school and that everything is perfect. That's why I'm in so much trouble for losing my glove."
"I'm sure it isn't that bad. How old are you anyway?"
"I'm seven and three quarters."
"I see, three quarters. Hmmm, that is old."
"How old are you?"
"A lot older than seven."
"Why aren't you at work? Don't you have a job?"
Kathryn laughed at the sheer honesty of the child, not caring that it was the truth. The child had a sharp wit to her.
"I'm an artist."
"You are? Like Leonardo da Vinci."
"No, not quite that famous."
"I see. Aren't you any good?"
"Well, that's disputable."
"I bet you're good. Did you know he was a genius? I am a genius, but the other kids make fun of me. They call me mean names, because I'm smart, would you paint me?"
Anna rushed her words one after another, barely taking a breath in between. Kathryn was mesmerized by the enigmatic young girl and much to her surprise, found herself smiling warmly and feeling light of heart.
"It isn't that easy. Portraits take time. You just don't paint them overnight. Sometimes it can take several months."
"I see. Well, I don't have that long."
"You don't? Why not?"
Anna stopped chewing her sandwich and stared into Kathryn's eyes. The intensity of the girl's stare shook Kathryn to her core. There was something haunting about those icy blue eyes, which belonged to an older being.
"I can't tell you. It's a secret," she whispered
Kathryn studied Anna's face looking for the answer to an unknown question. Anna's eyes remained locked on Kathryn's until the woman tore her gaze away. There was something almost frightening about Anna's stare, as if it bore directly into Kathryn's inner being.
"I see, well secrets are important sometimes and should be kept."
"I promise to tell you one day, Kathryn, but I can't now."
"Very well, Anna, you can tell me when the time is right. Now why don't we see if we can find that glove? Where exactly were you when you last had it?"
"I was over there, and then I saw a squirrel and I started chasing him, because I wanted to give him some of my peanuts. But, he ran away and when I came back, I noticed I didn't have my glove. I can't go home without my glove, my mommy will be very angry with me. Please help me, Kathryn, please."
The tears began to cascade down Anna's cheeks again, and Kathryn immediately began to wipe them.
"There, there Anna, we'll find it. Why I bet you probably dropped it when you went to give the squirrel your peanuts. Where did you have your glove?"
"In my pocket."
"And the peanuts?"
"In my pocket, too. Oh Kathryn, you are so smart! Why didn't I think about that? I must have dropped my glove then."
Anna jumped up and wrapped her arms around Kathryn's neck, hugging her warmly.
"Come on, let's go look for your glove."
Kathryn removed the child's arms; then, taking her gently by the hand, headed towards the area of trees Anna had pointed to.
They came upon a small patch of trees and overgrown bushes. The white blanket of snow bore the imprints of Anna's small shoes. Kathryn released Anna's hand and ducking slightly, stepped into the overgrowth.
"You stay here, and I'll see if I can find your glove."
Kathryn ventured in further, brushing aside the long sweeping bushes. Twenty yards in she located the small red leather glove that matched Anna's coat. Retrieving the glove, she headed back in the direction she had come from.
There was no response; she felt her heart quicken. Looking around for the girl, she noticed the footprints they had made on the way towards the trees and bushes. However, she could not locate any of Anna footprints leaving the area. It was as if the child, vanished into thin air.
Kathryn remained an hour longer but Anna didn't return nor did Kathryn find any trace of the girl. Placing the small glove in her pocket, she headed back to the bench where they sat earlier and shared a lunch. Collecting the bag containing her sketchpad, Kathryn left the park. The haunting image of the enigmatic Anna Hansin remained in her thoughts as she journeyed home.
Continued on part II