Today's Reading

To draw you must close your eyes and sing. 
—PABLO PICASSO

Hotel Carlton
 58 Boulevard de la Croisette 
Cannes, France 
August 28, 1920

Dear Mademoiselle Duplessi,

When I visited your studio in May to sit for my portrait, I found you most agreeable, so I do hope you will consider my request seriously. According to the process your brother had described to me, I expected to receive a painting depicting my innermost emotions. I wanted to share my deepest feelings with the man I cared about. To share my dreams with him in a special, private way.

Days later, when your brother delivered the portrait to my home, I was appalled. Yes, you depicted what was in my heart but not the adoration that fills it. Instead, you painted a secret not to be shared. Especially with the man I hope to wed. It was to be kept between me and his dear former wife. Whom I loved and cared for. Whom I helped in the end—even if your horrible painting shows me in the one moment when my help looks like anything but.

I refused the portrait, and I paid your brother whatever I could and begged him to destroy the painting.

I'd assumed he did.

Until I had a visit from a friend who saw that same portrait in the Duplessi Gallery in Cannes. So yesterday, I traveled south from Paris to see for myself.

I have just come back from the viewing and am distraught that this scene of the darkest day of my soul is hanging on the wall where hundreds of people can gawk over it and gossip about me.

You portrayed me as a murderess. You turned me into a killer. You exposed only a small part of the story and left out proof of my innocence. My dearest friend was in pain. She wanted to die. To end her suffering and that of her husband, who experienced so much pain watching her.

I helped her, yes, but out of compassion.

Not because I wanted her to pass out of this world.

But you illustrated the scene with a wholly sinister aspect.

And now, because of your brother's callous greed, how many have already been exposed to this lie? And what can I do? Retract their vision of it? I can tell people it's your fantasy. Not my truth. Some might believe me. Others won't.

The man to whom I am betrothed won't.

The damage has been done. My ruination has been set in motion. I fear the authorities will come after me now.

I sit here in my hotel room at a loss. And before I take more drastic steps, I am appealing to your kind nature, begging you to remove the painting from the gallery and keep it from further viewing.

I am afraid I will not be able to withstand the judgment of those I love if they see the painting...if they see this half story before I can tell them its entirety.

I beg you to help me,

Therese Bruis


Chapter 1

Silk lined the blindfold. Deep maroon in color, so dark, like dried blood. Magenta mixed with black if I were to create it on my palette. As I slipped it over my face, I felt the smooth fabric caress my cheeks, cool and delicious.

I recognized a familiar and particular combination of feelings well up in me: expectation, excitement, and the thrill of fear. Guilt that I was peeking in on what was not my right to see and bliss at giving in to the irresistible temptation to look deeper despite a potentially dangerous outcome.

With the blindfold on, I felt more at home in the world than at any other time. Except when Mathieu held me in his arms. But those days were long past, and my life was so different now that I often wondered if my brief time with him was real or imagined.

Adjusting the elastic wrapped around my head, positioning the blindfold just the right way, I saw only darkness. Not a sliver of light invaded its black.


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