Blurb and Chapter 1
A gust of wind swept into the yard, shaking the leaves of the chestnut trees and the rhododendron plants.
“Not again!” Karla exclaimed. She held on to her easel and canvas.The Nordfoehn, a dry northern wind, had been blowing on and off all night. This wind was the only disadvantage in the otherwise ideal environment. Once in a while, it had an invigorating effect on Karla, but most of the time it made her feel irritable, anxious, even depressed, and gave her a headache.
“All right. I guess I wasn’t meant to paint outside this morning,” she muttered, as another blast swept down on her. She gathered her painting tools and put them into her studio. She didn’t feel like finishing the painting inside, so she grabbed her sketch pad, sat down by the window, and thought about what to draw. She made several attempts, but was unable to concentrate.
It wasn’t just the annoying wind. Ever since yesterday, she had been thinking of Andreas, his sculptures, his kiss. It had been more than a kiss between friends and it had stirred up emotions she didn’t care for. After a series of unsuccessful short-term relationships, Karla had decided to stay away from men for a while. And then this fierce, irritating, but oddly endearing guy with his biting humor had to turn up and unsettle her again.
And the thing with Sarah. What was the real reason behind Sarah’s visit? Was it really just to apologize and talk about art?
Sarah and Karla had had an on-and-off friendship for several years. They exchanged ideas about art, went to museums and galleries together, and sometimes critiqued each other’s work. The friendship, however, had cooled when Karla had caught Sarah sleeping with one of her boyfriends.
Was Andreas attracted to Sarah? He had shown concern for her but Karla didn’t think he had more than friendly feelings for her. But then you never knew. And why should I even care? Karla tossed her drawing pad aside.
The wind was blowing fiercely now, howling around the corners of the house and slamming one of the shutters close. When Karla stepped outside to fasten it again, she saw that the sky was a deep clear blue, the wind having wiped away all the clouds.
Karla sat down again and forced herself to get a least one drawing done. She picked up her pad and a piece of charcoal. Almost automatically, she began to sketch Andreas, as she remembered him sitting in front of the stone slab. She realized she was out of practice drawing human figures, having focused mainly on landscapes. After several attempts, she ended up with a sketch she liked. It depicted his muscular body bending over the stone, a strand of hair hanging into his face. She left out the mask and goggles, wanting to show his face in profile.
Perhaps she would give it to him on Saturday. Feeling more at peace again, she was ashamed of her anger at Sarah. She was her friend, after all, and Karla hadn’t even called her to find out how she was feeling after her breakdown at the opening. She picked up the phone and dialed Sarah’s number. It took a while before she answered.
Sarah’s voice sounded tired. “I’m trying to take a nap.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you; I just wanted to know how you were,” Karla said.
Sarah’s distant and cool voice irritated Karla. You make an ass of yourself at my first opening. You could at least apologize. “I heard you went to see Andreas.”
“Yes. I did. I wanted to apologize.”
“Oh, I see. Was that the only reason? You were all over him at the opening.”
“So? What do you care? Are you two an item or something? How did you find out I went to see him?”
Karla felt anger rise in her like bile. “He told me. He’s my boyfriend, Sarah.” Gee, what a lie.
It was quiet for a while at the other end. Karla could hear Sarah’s breathing. Then her voice again, friendlier now. “Karla, look, he’s great. I felt really low the last few days. Just talking to him made me feel better. I have no intention of interfering in your relationship. You’re lucky to have him as a boyfriend.”
Karla started to feel ashamed but she still distrusted Sarah. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
“Oh, Karla, why bring up that old stuff. You weren’t even interested in the guy anymore.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t know that when you jumped in the sack with him.”
“Karla, you know what? You’re so fucking petty.”
“Sarah, let’s not fight.” It was too late. Karla heard the click at the other end.
Why can’t I keep my mouth shut? Karla lowered her head on her arms and sighed. Not only had she lied to Sarah about her relationship with Andreas, she had begrudged her friend the little encouragement he had given her as an artist.
Perhaps Sarah was interested in Andreas. At least she was honest about her feelings. Karla, on the other hand, had appropriated Andreas, although she wasn’t even sure how she felt about him or how he felt about her. He had kissed her, he wanted to meet her again, but that was all. And Karla’s feelings for him? She liked him, she was even attracted to him, but she wasn’t sure she was ready to get involved.
* * *The following morning, it was raining, the Nordfoehn having collapsed the night before. The rain felt soothing after the harsh, dry northern wind and the sky was a lively display of towering dark clouds. The mountain tops were hidden behind layers of white mist. Stormy landscape, Rembrandt, Karla thought as she scanned the horizon. It had cooled off somewhat and the air smelled of burning wood from the neighbor’s oven.
Later that day, Karla made an effort to clean out the storage room, which was overflowing with canvasses of half-finished and finished paintings as well as sketches on paper. She resisted this periodic chore. It forced her to decide which pieces she considered worth keeping and which she wanted to discard or paint over. Not an easy task; it required ruthless honesty and a discerning eye.
Karla kept pulling paintings out of storage, putting them back in, pulling them back out again. In the process, she came across the canvass with the dark woman she had been struggling with. She glanced at it, shook her head, and decided to hang on to it. One day, perhaps, she would be able to finish it.
In the evening, there was a pile of discarded sketches in the recycling bin and several canvasses that could be reused. The clean-up gave Karla a feeling of freedom. She took a deep breath and stepped outside to watch the evening settle in. It had stopped raining and the heavy clouds had thinned. The southern sky was pink with tints of purple and the evening breeze brought a whiff of wet grass.