Without reading the vivid purple script, I knew who the invitation was from. The quality cardstock was drenched in ocean colors, vivid sapphire, turquoise, curling white caps. My heart squeezed.
“…the pleasure of your company at my first showing…”
What felt like a hundred years ago he had described the invitation, while I nestled in his arms, and here it was perfect and diplomatic. He had found forgiveness for me although I had not found it for myself.
He and his partner, Antonio, greet all new arrivals, so charming and charismatic, hugs, European cheek kisses, laughter. I hang back now, debating, for he hasn’t seen me yet, but then his eyes are drawn to me and escaping erodes.
My body stupidly trembles; it’s been six years, but I still react like the child who cannot be placated.
He grins and I respond. He pulls me in for a bear hug while I drown in his familiar scent, Lacoste.
“You came. I didn’t think you would. You look fantastic,” he says.
“So do you,” I say. He’s a man now, broader, the pudge gone from his angular features.
Antonio approaches, frowning, furious red mottling his pretty face. “What’s she doing here?”
“I invited her.”
“You didn’t discuss this with me.” Antonio’s angry whisper is rising, drawing attention. “After what she said to us. To you.”
There is no way I can apply a smile now. “Look. I shouldn’t have come.”
“Please, Tony, I wanted her to share this.”
He grabs my wrist, ending the discussion as he draws me into the gallery. I am hyper-aware of curious glances tossed our way as he leads me around the maze of displays until we come to a wall where the focus rests on seven vibrant nudes of a young woman whose blonde hair drapes around her face in waves, her impossibly wide blue eyes shy, her nipples as pink as her parted lips. She stares outward, at the artist, enrapt, face ethereally transformed by the depths of her love. She’s beautiful, as love captured the sun and cradled it in her body. My fingers want to touch her cheek, offer solace against the sadness she unearthed unwittingly two days later, which turned to vicious, poisonous words on her tongue.
“You made me beautiful.” I am awed that he could find that, could even forgive me enough to recreate it.
“You are beautiful. You will always be beautiful to me.”
“I am sorry for the horrible things I said.”
“I got your email. I know.”
I glance up at him. In those eyes I see the boy I loved grown to a virtuous man, the love still vibrates in me. We hold hands. He squeezes mine then lets go, caresses my cheek and then is gone.
As I leave the gallery, the sky opens up, rain cascades over me. Finally I am released.