Still Life

Sometimes Julia wondered if she was at fault. She’d spent that damp, hot summer when she was pregnant two ways. Whale belly floating atop the lukewarm tub water, eyes closed, or at the galleries, grateful for the cool hush, the chance to sit and look at life from a distance while the city steamed, color bled away in the heat.

She hadn’t been allowed that peace when Jane was an infant, squirming, demanding, open mouth and curled fists, going pink to red so quickly, wide brown eyes always seeking … something.

Now Jane saw nothing but her own colors. Prodigy, they called her. Gifted. No more scribble pads for her, oh no. Canvases only, real sable brushes. Crayons were for doctor’s waiting rooms.

Julia gave her juice, supervised the use of turpentine, scrubbed her fingernails at bathtime, read pamphlets from private schools Danny brought her, crowing, pleased.

Worlds out of nothing but paint and dreams. Cityscapes and beaches, monsters and goddesses.

Never a mother, though. Julia watched.

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