La Femme Assise

A cool breeze from the street stole down the stairway, replacing the kid’s sweat. She was eight-years old again, waking up in Mamie’s spare room, the lace curtains dancing in the morning breeze. She grinned in anticipation of spending the day at the art museum with her glamorous grandmother who introduced her to Picasso, but preferred Cezanne.

Celeste waited. More silence. She propped herself up and opened her eyes. Blood covered her shirt and pants. A lot of blood. She held her breath and touched the small bloody object on her chest. A feral sound she hadn’t known possible escaped her. But then she’d never lost a body part before, except her appendix when she was ten. Was Van Gogh, clutching his ear, incredulous when he was no longer whole? 

She cradled it gently in her palm and eased her closed left fist under her shirt, pressing it against her stomach. Celeste needed to remember to ask the first person who came by to please run to the deli for ice.  It was difficult sitting up and keeping her eyes open. Her blood dripped down the steps onto the landing, but she hardly noticed.

She regretted missing the exhibition of Picasso’s glorious portraits this time around. Celeste shouldn’t have postponed her visit until the last day of the show, but she was saving it as a special sixtieth birthday treat for herself. 

She rested against the wall a half flight down from the subway entrance, her things scattered above and below her on the steps: a shoe, a wallet, a comb, a jumble of keys, a pair of sunglasses, a paperback. At least, she thought they were hers. It all looked different, repositioned and separate; she was different too. She must look a fright. Someone should be by any second now. 

She’d rather not mention the loss of the ring to Dennis. He could be such a prick over unanticipated expenses. Maybe the kid had a hole in his pocket and the ring fell out onto the sidewalk. He probably wouldn’t realize until later when he was blocks away, trying to catch his breath. It might tumble into the straggly grass along the edge of the sidewalk or into the crevices between the walk and the curb waiting for her to walk by and discover it. It was possible. Celeste liked to think of herself as lucky. She’d search for her ring tomorrow and for the rest of her life. 

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