After her husband of thirty years left her droopy old self for some perky thing half her age, Kristal Kraft faced the empty space that stretched before her the way many do: She filled it with the old dream dredged from the recesses of freedom she abandoned when she married that jerk.
She would finally find her talent.
She would become an artist.
She googled “artist hideaway retreat three months availability someplace secluded,” and on the second page of listings she found what she was looking for: a small, simple studio cabin near the plaza of Santa Maria, El Selvadora.
She subleased her home for the winter to a visiting professor, and by mid-January, she found herself in the tropics, walking the path to her cabin.
It hit her then that she was alone, in a town where she knew no one and barely spoke the language.
The cabin was simple, but, as advertised, well-appointed for the visual artist, with a fancy tea-maker, three easels, and stacks of canvases. She’d brought her own brushes and oils, but the agency provided the Turpenoid in 2 liter bottles and a can of linseed oil.
The light felt like cream and the shadows like velvet. She chose a larger canvas and set it on the easel on the porch.
The cabin stood in a small clearing, with the jungle pressing in around it. Her thoughts felt like this, tangled, confused, one wrapping around the other, choking off its growth. The softness was there, the cream and velvet, but it only draped the pain and hint of terror underneath.
She truly was alone.
There had been an afternoon, when she was eighteen, during a summer spent at her grandparents’ cabin in the rain forest in the Pacific Northwest. The grandparents had gone into the city for some reason, and she’d stayed behind to paint. She painted the forest, with ferns and huckleberries, lichens, moss, and cedar. The painting had felt like this one, overcrowded, without a focal point, a jumble of shape and texture, lacking contrast. But she had liked it. It showed how she felt inside.
This one did, too.
OK. She was a mess, she admitted it. It was OK to be a mess after your husband becomes your ex. It’s OK to be angry, sad, lost, confused, afraid, and also, maybe a little bit excited. Maybe a little determined. Maybe a lot stubborn.
Maybe it was OK to pull out those pieces that had been forgotten about for decades, to look at them in their jumbled mess, and to begin to consider where each piece might rightfully belong, to slowly put the fragments back together again.
Author’s note: It’s a new bonus short! Eight chapters, an artist finding herself at last, and lots of pretty jungle pictures! 🙂