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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes

XXXV: Present

The next of Brendon’s customers they visited was an older lady by the name of Emma Holde. Clutter lined her hallways and stacked itself in piles on the coffee table, the bookshelves, the wide windowsills. But it was the careful sort of clutter. The memories one didn’t wish to toss when memories happened to be all that was left.

Orion stared at the picture—rolling river waves, a boat race in the springtime, a man standing at the helm of one Dandelion Roar while three children crawled about the prow and the sun counted another day in lives worth living.

“That’s me standing beside him,” said Emma, voice aged and fine. She gave a sigh and a secret smile for Brendon, wisps of variegated gray tickling her cheeks. “He got the likeness of us all down, even to the way Gina used to twist her knees in when she was little.”

“How long have you had it?” asked Orion. The picture hung over a well-loved sofa. A focal point in the room. A memory welcoming all the others piled up along the walls.

“Three years,” murmured Brendon.

“That’s right,” agreed Emma. “Three years ago. Tommy commissioned it for me and Gina sifted through all the photos to give Brendon what he needed. Tommy even took him for a tour of a boat the like we used to have. Not the Roar, of course. It’s been long since it sailed its last voyage.”

Orion turned from examining the painting, his gaze cutting across the bookshelves, over the trio of cats lounging in the early sunshafts, and settling on Brendon.

“When was the last time you sailed, Ms. Holde?”

“Oh, I don’t boat. No, no. Not anymore. Not since…”

She waved a hand and sat herself down on one of the two sideless chairs she had set up across the room. Her fingers continued to move, in a way that seemed a language of its own with a dollop of something else as a cherry. Maybe early Parkinson’s. Brendon had never asked when Tom Holde had commissioned the painting and he certainly wouldn’t be asking now.

“Not since,” agreed Orion after a moment. “The water meant something to you and him. Still means something.”

“Too lonely without him.”

“But not in here. Not while he’s here with you.”

Emma sighed. Her hands stilled themselves in her lap. “Like the water won’t talk unless he’s there to translate,” she whispered.

“When did you last speak to him?”


Orion nodded toward the painting.

“Speak to him? Every day, of course.” But a cloud settled over Emma’s brow.

Before Orion could ask anything even more personal, Brendon stepped between them, though the entire room separated Emma from the lawyer. “Thank you for obliging Orion. We won’t take any more of your time.”

Emma didn’t look up. “Time waits on no woman. Or man. Thank you again for everything, Brendon. The painting…I call it…When We Were.”

Brendon nodded and stepped past her, angling for the door, but stopped in his tracks when Orion spoke.

“When you were what?”

He turned with a glare, but Orion paid him no heed.

“Just When We Were. The what isn’t important, young man.”


Next Chapter: XXXVI