Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Commission, II

“Groceries,” Charlotte said, as the car crunched to a stop outside. She pushed herself up, grabbed her coat, and held the door as Hannah bustled in, arms full of bags.

Jack joined Charlotte, ferrying bags from the station wagon into the house, telling Beth to stay put each trip through the dining area.

Jack’s mother brought in the last of the bags, hanging up the keys by the door. She glanced over at the table.

“Any progress?”

“It’s like pulling teeth,” Beth said. “It would have been easier if you took him with you. He keeps vetoing my suggestions.”

“He’s just modest, Beth.”

“Mom, she wanted to submit pink ponies.”

“Ellie would be heartbroken.”

“See?” Jack told Beth. “Can’t use that one.”

“Goodness, how hard did you have to pull to get that picture frame out of his hands?”

Beth smiled. “I have my ways.” She stood up. “At least let me help put some of those away.”

They went into the kitchen, and Jack sat back down at the table, turning pages in his sketchbooks.

“Oh, I think that’s a wonderful idea,” he heard his mother say. He cringed, inwardly. There was no getting out of it now.

* * * * *

Hannah leafed through the stack of pages. “She’s got a good eye,” she said.

Jack turned another page.

“And about that commission of yours….”

Jack looked up. Hannah wasn’t smiling, wasn’t going to make some joke about it. Her expression was serious.


“I have a few ideas. You know that she doesn’t have to be sitting in front of you the whole time, right?”

“How else am I going to draw her?”

Hannah laughed. “Wait here. I have something to show you.” She trotted upstairs, returning a few minutes later with a photo envelope. She handed it to Jack.

“Take a look,” she said.

Jack flipped it open. There were some pictures of Hannah and her friends being goofy. He skipped those. Ellie, the fairy queen, from several angles. Beth in her angel costume.

Jack smiled.

“Keep going,” Hannah said.

Jack looked through a few more pictures of Hannah and her friends. Then he came to one of Beth, sitting on the coffee table, leaning forward, her arm reaching out of the frame of the picture. Her hair was brightly aglow, illuminating her expression.

“This was right after Halloween,” Jack said.

“I took that after Dad brought you back in from the woods. You were out cold.”

“So that’s… me she’s reaching for?”

Hannah nodded.

“She blew out almost all the lights, so we had to light some candles. Take a look a the next few, Jack. I had to distract her, get her out of the way while Mom worked, so I took a few pictures of her at the table.”

Jack tucked the picture to the back of the stack, and stared at the next.

“Hannah, you should do pictures,” he said. “This is…”

Beth sat at the table, leaning a bit forward on her elbows, her hair a golden nimbus. A candle sitting slightly in front of her lit her face from below,the gold in her eyes picking up the candlelight.

In the next picture, Hannah had had Beth stand, the candle cupped in her hands, at waist-level. The effect of her hair and the candlelight was striking, lining her form with layers of light and shadows from above and below.

The next showed Beth looking slightly up towards the camera, the lazy nimbus around her hair gone brighter, the air thick with the glowing particles.

“She sneezed,” Hannah said.

Jack reached the end of the pictures. He looked up at his sister.

“I can’t draw this,” he said.

“What? Why not, Jack?”

He looked down at the pictures, then over at Beth as she stepped into the dining area.

“For something like this, I need paint.”

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