Things That Are Not ...

A THIRD SEASON ROUND ROBIN STORY


Chapter 5

by T'Mara

 

“Vincent?” Diana felt slightly on edge. She was not easily scared…under normal circumstances. But the past few hours had been rather unsettling. First her illness, then the appearance of yet another painting, this time of Vincent in all his glory, the ensuing discussion about an artist who may or may not have died several years ago, as well as speculations on the possible meaning of the two portraits that had somehow found their way into her loft, the strange dream she had just had, and now Vincent growling? Somehow there had been a few too many unanswered questions for her taste lately.

Cautiously, Diana opened the door to the next room and peeked inside, trying to identify the threat that Vincent must have perceived. But the room was empty…except for her golden-maned friend who was staring at the wall.

“Vincent!” Diana called again, trying to get his attention. “What is it? Is something wrong?”

Vincent made a sudden movement. To Diana it almost seemed as if he were coming out of a trance or waking up from a dream. “I…I don’t know.” Vincent seemed uncertain. “For a moment it seemed as if…I thought that there might be an intruder.”

He closed his eyes, overwhelmed by a strange sense of déjà vu. It was as if he relived a scene from his past. He had been reading the book Catherine had given him, the first edition of Tennyson, the book that had once belonged to Kristopher Gentian. He was not quite sure anymore if at that point he had already known about the fact that Catherine had met the painter, even though he was supposedly dead, or if he had been aware that it had been Gentian who had spied on him and Catherine in the park. But when he had read the man’s name on the book plate, something had felt wrong. As it turned out there had not been an intruder; he had just scared a soaking wet Mouse who had come to ask Vincent for swimming lessons.

Why did he remember that scene now? He had not given it a thought in years. Had the discussion of Gentian and the mysterious paintings triggered the rather vivid memory?

“I’m sorry.” Vincent tried to regain his composure. “I may have reenacted a scene from my past, from the time Catherine and I met this Gentian-person.”

Diana nodded. As weird as this sounded it actually made more sense than some of the other things that had happened that night. “Are you positive?” she asked. “Shouldn’t we just make sure that you were not right and there actually is an intruder in here?”

Since Vincent had no objections, she turned on the light and they both began to systematically search the apartment, looking for traces a possible intruder might have left. Suddenly Diana’s eyes widened. On the kitchen counter lay an open book. It was none of hers, and from the look of it, it most certainly was none of Vincent’s. Her friend did not possess cheap paperback editions, and most certainly he did not…

Diana was still staring at the book, when she heard Vincent gasp behind her. “Who on Earth would treat a book like that?” Vincent sounded shocked. A whole passage on the open page was highlighted with a yellow marker.

And over our heads will float the blue bird, singing of beautiful and impossible things,
of things that are lovely and that never happen, of things that are not and that should be.

Diana read the highlighted passage aloud. “It’s beautiful,” she added. The words stirred something within her. “Who wrote that? And how did this book get here? And why?” She faced Vincent. “You don’t think this has something to do with that mysterious painter… Gentian…do you?” But deep down she knew there had to be a connection. There could not be two different persons, or disembodied spirits, haunting her loft at the same time.

“Oscar Wilde,” Vincent explained. “The Decay of Lying. It is a rather well-known quote.” Then he remembered something. “It might…” he said mysteriously. “Catherine told me that this painter quoted Oscar Wilde to her, though I do not recall if she ever mentioned from which of Wilde’s works. It may or may not have been that same quote. But it seems safe to assume that Kristopher Gentian likes…or should I say liked…Oscar Wilde.”

Diana’s mind reeled. She suddenly saw the connection between the paintings and the quote…and the dreams of her own heart.

Gentian knows, she thought. Whoever or whatever he is, living painter claiming to be dead in order to get a chance to sell his pictures, or spirit of a dead man haunting the living because of some unfinished business of his, he knows. He knew about Catherine and Vincent, too. That’s why he painted them together – as a couple. Vincent and me, on the other hand, he painted separately, but with lots of hints that the two paintings are a set, belonging together. The color green in both pictures, my dress skimpier than I would normally wear, Vincent’s shirt widely open showing off considerably more of his chest than he usually does, my lips wine-stained, while he is holding a chalice…

The longer she thought about it, the more evidence for her theory Diana found.

Green, she thought, remembering that this color also was considered the color of hope and new beginnings. In spring the fields turn green again, and new life springs from the cold, barren earth. Then she looked back at the book, looking for confirmation of her suspicion.

And over our heads will float the blue bird, singing of beautiful and impossible things,
of things that are lovely and that never happen, of things that are not and that should be.

Diana took a deep breath.

Things that are not and that should be.

That was exactly how she felt about her relationship with Vincent, or lack thereof. Something that only existed in her dreams, but that, in her opinion, should be given a chance. Was that what the mysterious occurrences were all about? Was somebody… Gentian, his spirit or maybe even that bookshop owner friend of his…trying to tell them that they at least should give it a try? Everything seemed to point in that direction. But what if she was right? How could she tell Vincent? How would he react if she just confronted him with her own desires regarding his person, claiming that Kristopher Gentian was supporting her?

Diana smiled inwardly. She knew the answer to that. He would withdraw from her completely, locking his innermost thoughts away deep within himself. This was a sensitive topic with him. Even though she and Vincent had become considerably closer over the past three years, Diana knew that he still felt honor-bound to Catherine. Would he ever be able to move on and be ready for a new relationship? Diana hoped he would one day, but she had her doubts. Vincent was the type of man that would feel compelled to remain faithful even beyond the grave and to not even consider a new commitment.

Diana glanced at Vincent. How did he take that quote from Oscar Wilde? Had it made him think as well? Was he, too, beginning to realize the connection between the blue bird passage and the paintings? If so, what was his opinion?

Vincent’s face was unreadable. He seemed lost in thought, remembering the time when he had met Gentian, when Catherine had still been alive. When he and Catherine had been in a similar situation as he and Diana were now.

Diana suddenly felt more confident, as she realized that Catherine must have felt pretty much the same way about her relationship with Vincent as she herself did now. Just like me, Catherine wanted more, Diana thought. But Vincent always held back. He loved her and she knew that, but… he was hesitant of taking the next step. Maybe Kristopher knew that as well. Maybe he is particularly intuitive and perceptive, or if it is true that he is dead, then maybe spirits of the departed have that kind of insight, but he must have known that something was amiss in their relationship. That’s why he quoted those lines to Catherine; for I am sure now that those are the same lines he quoted to her, and that’s why he painted them together. To show them something that was not and that should be. And now he has painted Vincent and me in a set of matching portraits to make us aware of something else that is not yet, but could and should be.”

Diana looked up. “If this is the same quote Gentian mentioned to Catherine,” she began cautiously, “which it may or may not be, but assuming it is; do you have an idea why he did it? Use that particular quote, I mean? Do you think it was just something that came to mind at that particular moment, by coincidence, or did he have an ulterior motive for quoting those lines to her?”

Vincent thought about it for a moment. “He seemed fond of literature,” he then admitted. “Oscar Wilde may have been a personal favorite of his. Also, he was trying to convince Catherine to pose for him, and he probably had gotten more than a glimpse of me when he followed her to the park and overheard our conversation at the tunnel entrance. He later tried to get more information about me out of her. Maybe that’s what he was alluding to. His hopes that she would agree to be his model and that she would tell him more about me. Maybe that’s what he meant with things that were not, but should be. Her sitting for him and telling him about me.”

Diana bit her lip. She could not believe her ears. How boneheaded was that man that he could ignore the blatantly obvious like that? Was he truly not seeing it, or…had he come to the same conclusions she had reached and was ignoring them on purpose? Did he not want to acknowledge the messages conveyed by the objects that continued showing up in her apartment? If so, then there was no point in pressing the question any further; at least not for the moment. She had to do what she always did: wait patiently for Vincent to finally embrace the truth. For deep down she knew that he had feelings for her as well; feelings that so far he was unwilling to acknowledge, that he might never be willing to act upon. Feelings that she hoped they would one day be able to explore together. Not now, though, and apparently not anytime soon, but she would wait for that moment, if need be a whole lifetime.

“Yeah, that may explain it,” Diana vaguely commented on Vincent’s theory that Kristopher might have alluded to Catherine posing for him or telling him more about Vincent. “I just don’t understand…” Her voice trailed. “I mean, this was years ago, was it not? And you have not seen Gentian again since then, or have you?”

When Vincent shook his head, she continued.  “Have you heard anything about him since then? Anything at all or has he completely disappeared after that showing of his paintings you mentioned?”

Vincent gave her a quizzical look. “What do you mean?” he asked. “I told you he is dead. Had been dead for two years even back then. How often do you hear about dead people?”

Diana sighed. She had the distinct feeling that there was some element she was still missing. Why now? Why had Gentian, his spirit, or whoever else was behind all this then and obviously again now, why had this person chosen this particular point in time to get involved again?

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “There must be something. He obviously has not gone on to live happily ever after in the afterlife. He would not be painting us and highlighting quotes in books if he had done just that. Therefore, I assume that he must have been around for the past couple of years as well. And in that case he must have left traces. Something. Maybe some more of his paintings have been discovered somewhere, maybe Catherine was right and he is alive after all, in which case he must be living somewhere.”

Diana felt exhausted. She had only just recovered from a bad fever and did not quite feel up to the situation. Dealing with a man unwilling to acknowledge his own feelings was one thing, but figuring out the motives of a disembodied spirit seemed quite a different cup of tea.

Suddenly she had an idea. “Jenny Aronson,” she whispered. “She organized that showing back then. I bet that she would know if there had been any news on Gentian in the meantime.” She checked her wrist watch. “Too early,” she commented then. “In another two or three hours I can call her. In the meantime…” She yawned. “I guess I would like to try and go back to sleep.”

 

contact the author - tmara(at)operamail(dot)com

 

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