Lora nervously smooths her skirt and then her hair, and asks to see Mr.Daniel as soon as the butler appears. A small smile ebbs across his face. “Please have a seat,ma’am,” he says gesturing dramatically to a marble living room filled with elegant furniture. He disappears without a sound. Lora walks into the living room her small heels echoing throughout the enormous, empty space.Sunlight glints off the shiny floors and reflects the gilded, mirrored furniture. She takes a seat in a stiff, high-backed upholstered chair, places her portfolio against the chair and then takes a deep breath. After a while of waiting, she takes a few echoing steps towards a set of massive French doors and pulls on one.The door opens with a silent whoosh and walks outside. Her eyes widens. Stunning, she thinks.
Colors immediately overwhelms her visual senses: the home is white, sleek, almost an homage to an ancient Greek structure and it sits against a towering hill lines with cypress and old grape vines. The outdoor patio is a world unto itself; the waterfall, the white clouds and house. She turns back into the room and opens her portfolio. She pulls out the sketchpad and set of soft pastel and begins to paint. For the longest time, the only sounds are the waterfall, her pastel dragging along the paper and two hummingbirds chasing one another around the patio.
“It is beautiful!”
She stops drawing, drops her pastel and reaches out her hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you sir,” she says.
Daniel smiles his famed dimpled smile. He extends his hand and takes a seat. He has a short-sleeved polo shirt and black pants, his dark hair slicked to one side. “ May I?” he asks, reaching out his hands for her sketchbook. He studies for a second, his dimples growing even deeper. “ You are hired. When can you start?” he says handing her back the pad. “ You are a real talent. It is lovely to meet you and let me know when your design plans are finalized and we’ll get started. I am sorry but I have another meeting.” He stands and shakes her hands again before lifting it up into the air. “ I trust your hands with my home,” he says before sauntering away.
Lora watches her beloved pastels roll over the paper, her smile widens across her face.
“What should I paint on the frame?” asks her daughter Summer, shaking her from her memories.
“Up to you,” Lora says into her mic, toggling her wheelchair closer to view what her daughter is sketching: the sun and the clouds. “Pretty.”
“ But it is boring mom, not like your paintings.” Summer says, her face serious as she scans the yard and the horizon.
“Close your eyes, be still. It is in quiet the wonder begins.”
Summer keeps her eyes shut. For a moment, there is complete silence. Suddenly she opens her eyes and watch the lanky,grey bodied, crimson-capped birds head nearby wetlands and the exquisite sunrise. “ I got it !” she says, setting down her pastel and picking up a paint brush. After a few minutes, Summer stops and turns to Lora.
“Is painting what it’s like to be you?”
Lora looks at her little girl and raises her eyebrows. Tears rushed to Lora’s eyes, but she swallows hard to stop their rise. “Yes.” she says, her voice breaking. You are exactly right. It is like I’m stuck in place but my mind is flying and full of wonder. I can do anything in my imagination and be anyone I want in my head, even though I can’t move.”
“That must be an art,” Summer says, nodding her head. Now I understand mom.” She turns her heels and begins to paint again. She holds the frame for her mother to inspect, her posture rigid and a proud look on her face. “What do you think?”
Lora’s eyes widened. On the frame, Summer has painted a birch arching over the window, its bark white. Instead of leaves, she has painted faces: Lora’s, her father Daniel’s’, her brother Don’s and her own. On the right side of the frame, she has painted Family Tree in pink. The thought behind it is very mature and deeply sensitive.
“Beautiful,” she says. “ You are a true artist. I am proud of you. Never give up.”
“ Thank you mom,” she says taking a dramatic bow. Today I will present this best gift to my dad.”
Lora’s husband Daniel died in the last deployment, in Afghanistan although she survived. Lora wipes her tears and looks at her daughter. “ Your father will love this gift.Go get ready to visit dad.”