When I See Your Face, Part 31
She pictured Aunt Grindle and Michael, the handsome man’s face more deeply lined than ever while pouring out his story, the old landlady shocked and at the same time trusting and trying to console him. Vividly, she could imagine Mark and Michael as boys and young men, the former always more forward, calculating and successful than the latter. She might have mistaken Michael for her husband in that first instant, but hadn’t she noticed those small differences afterward?
The longer she had known him, the less she had been reminded of Mark. Surely she had fallen in love with him not because of his looks but because of the way he had treated her. After running away, every action of his seemed to confirm what Mark had spit out that day. She had been certain that Michael had deliberately concocted a story to associate with her, planning to wiggle his way back into the family or profit from the fortune he thought she would end up with after the divorce.
In the weeks following her hasty departure, she had slowly begun to doubt. People could be wrong about first impressions and generalizing and accepting half-truths, couldn’t they? Hadn’t she taken Mark for granted too many times and ruined her life with it? How was she to know whether he had spoken the truth?
Now, Aunt Grindle’s letter fuelled all those doubts and her inner readiness to take Michael’s side. Yes, he had made a huge mistake those days by involving himself in such business. However, he repented, and mistakes were human. Yes, he had made another huge mistake by hiding his identity from her. Then again, had he told her, she wouldn’t have given him a single chance, would she?
Biting her lip and setting the letter down, she let out a deep sigh.
She couldn’t get his face out of her thoughts, dreams and wishes. Maybe he had acted so guiltily before her running away precisely because he knew he had been wrong and wished so much that it were otherwise? Maybe that was what separated him most from his brother, that one thought he was always right and deserved the best and the other thought he didn’t deserve the best and was doomed to be connected with what he had done wrong? Maybe he had renamed himself Newland because on the one hand it was closely related to Nolan and on the other hand it signified him stepping onto new land? Maybe she was ready for the relationship now that she was standing on her own feet and didn’t feel like she depended on his help or that her new life was inseparably tied to him? Maybe…
She picked up the folded piece of paper that had been in the envelope and unfolded it to its considerable size. What she saw made her breath stop.
The paper was a poster advertising an art exhibition, in the very city where she now lived and by no other than Michael Newland. The exhibition was titled When I See Your Face and the poster displayed about ten different works as well as the date. What drew her eyes more than the splashes of color depicting flowers in the top row were the many pencil sketches that took up the most space on the poster. One was the hillside on the outskirts of the village. Right next to that was what looked like a fairy dancing through fields of flowers. It sent a jolt through her, remembering that afternoon walk where they had made future plans and kissed, remembering the bliss she had felt despite all the forebodings and doubts.
The rest of the drawings all showed the same person. Herself. She stared at the playing-card-sized prints. Her face laughing, next to a sun shining exuberantly. Her face all scrunched up in concentration. Her face half hidden behind a veil of hair, contemplative. A full-body portray of her leaning on a spade with tussled hair, dirt-streaked clothes and a tentative smile. One of a woman, who must also be her, crouching in the corner of a room with a shadowy man raised threateningly above her as if to strike out. The likeness was uncanny, the skill so much more than what she would have expected from the art she had seen with her own eyes.
Her heart beating on overdrive, Cathy took a decision.
(To be continued tomorrow.)
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