Celia was kneeling in the courtyard behind Corpus Christi. The winter afternoon was overcast yet slightly luminous. With leather-gloved hands she placed a red rose beneath the stone cross, steeling herself, inhaling the crisp November.
Thirty-three years old, a dancer’s frame, dark hair almost black, but she had the face of a girl – a face much like mum’s had been. Celia frowned and pulled off her gloves. She ran her fingers through the grass on top of the grave. Death was an unglamorous truth. Loss was painfully erudite. She lit a cigarette, reading the etched words again. Alice Gray. Artist. Mother. Friend. Celia smiled, tracing the legends with her fingers.
“I saw the Rembrandt exhibit at the National, took the tube down to Charing Cross. I loved it, the consistency of the light. St Peter looked like he was glowing from the inside, you know? Fuller than life. Righteous, untouched. Never seen so many virgins in one place. Sorry, I’m just being mean. I loved it, mum. I know you loved it too.”
Mum had adored painting. Celia still remembered her profile at the window, the brush in her hand. One day she hoped to be as elegant. She pulled hard on the cigarette and tossed it into the bushes.
“Still a little rough around the edges, I guess.” Celia put her hands on her knees. “I’ve got class tonight. I’m teaching a new bunch, twice a week. Kind of excited. Look in on me, ok? I’ll dazzle them for you.”
She put on her gloves, kissed her mother’s name and climbed to her feet. She didn’t look back as she walked away from the stone cross, winding through the courtyard...
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