Ten years. Ten years since Jimmy went to prison. Maybe he got time off for good behaviour. Maybe he was searching for her now. Sarah Downing rested her forehead on the cold glass of the window overlooking the entrance to the art gallery—her window, her office, a lock—the one place in the world she felt safe, two metres by three metres. Some bathrooms, some cells were larger.
And Julia. Julia was eleven now. She had her first birthday the day Sarah arrived in Canada. Familiar tears overflowed; the pain never left, but she could push it down, submerge it below her daily life. Part of her life, the safe part was here, in this small room.
She wrote here, not her private thoughts, but the everyday record of her work-in-progress.
A reproduction of Emily Carr's Totem Walk at Sitka hung over her desk, and another, Red Cedar, opposite. The desk itself, a refugee from a classroom somewhere, its metal top scrapped and gouged by frustrated students, sat where it would receive the most light from the window.
She added a description of the new painting to her journal, by hand, with her fountain pen, before she recorded it in the company database.
Portrait of a Courtesan by Caravaggio
The canvas measures 66 by 53 centimetres. Fillide Melandroni, the subject, a prostitute who modelled many times for the artist, is seated in front of a dark background, light from an unknown source falling on the right side of her face and 3/4 length body. Her dark hair is piled up in an elaborate coiffure. Her head is turned to the left, and she is looking at someone, almost but not quite the viewer, off to the left. Her gaze is challenging. Her right hand is at her bosom, holding a flower, jasmine, the symbol of erotic love according to scholars now. Her dress has a brown bodice with orange embroidery, puffed and pleated white sleeves, the right one drawn back revealing a bracelet of black stones. Pearls drop from her ears.
A challenge, a knowledge of the world, sorrow, something lay behind those dark eyes.
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