A story about Beatrice Turner. I used real-life facts of her life in this short story.
|Stephanie had just moved into her beautiful Victorian home located in Newport, NJ. She fell in love with these Cliffside homes the minute she saw them; because each home had a different design. She chose a Queen Anne style with towers, turrets, and a wrap-around porch. Standing on the sidewalk admiring her new home, she still couldn't believe it was finally hers. Some of her neighbors stopped to welcome her into the neighborhood, but also warned her about that crazy lady next door. She got other more dire warnings, too, but she shrugged them off; and continued with her moving. When everything was in its rightful place, she promised herself nothing was going to stop her from living here. I mean, how bad could she be anyway?|
When Stephanie finished with the final touches to the living room, she stood back to admire the final effect. She loved how the French Provincial Beige Chenille Sofa & Loveseat looked in her rose-colored living room along with the marble-top coffee table and end tables. Treating herself to a job well done, she decided to take a walk along the pathway that lead out to the cliffs which overlooked the Atlantic Ocean. The view was spectacular! Standing there, staring in awe at all the beauty before her, she became aware of someone watching her. Looking around, she noticed a beautiful woman painting the very scene she was admiring. She walked over, planning on striking up a conversation, but there wasn't any sign of friendship in the woman's demeanor at all. Talking about a cold shoulder, Stephanie decided to walk behind her to see what she had captured on canvas. Stephanie couldn’t help it, she gasped in amazement at what she saw, saying out loud. “You've captured the scene beautifully!” When there was no reply, Stephanie decide the woman wanted to be left alone and continued her walk along the cliffs. She found out later that the beautiful mystery lady was her next-door neighbor, Beatrice Turner.
The next day Stephanie set out to explore her new neighborhood. As she passed by Beatrice’s house, she noticed the woman standing there watching her, so she waved. Miraculously, she waved back. Stunned, Stephanie just stood there gawking.
"Do you want to come inside for a while, so we can become better acquainted?" Beatrice asked.
Stephanie thought... Said the spider to the fly. Accepting the invitation with a smile. "Yes, I have time to visit." She loved looking inside other people’s homes, always curious, so entered the house. ..Wha….? Everywhere she looked, there were self-portraits of Beatrice hanging on the wall, landscapes spilling out from the closet while others were haphazardly standing up or lying down in the Victorian bookcase gathering dust. The beautiful dark Victorian rose sofa was covered with paintings, while the chaise was not. This must be where Beatrice sits.
Stephanie was guided along the many hallways and rooms where more disarray greeted her eyes. She saw a gorgeous French Armoire, pink gold trimmed canopy bed, and the dining room was a gold-trimmed delight. Not noticing Stephanie’s shocked expression, Beatrice was busily waving her arms around showing room after room of lovely furniture, topped with her paintings of all sorts. When the tour was over, Stephanie was invited to stay for tea. Pausing, wondering if there was a way out of this, she was becoming creeped out by what she just saw, but also in awe over the beauty that looked as if discarded and not enjoyed. The people were right, Beatrice was a little off.
When the maid brought in the refreshments, Beatrice sat down on her chalice while Stephanie sat gingerly on the corner of the rosewood sofa. Listening to this beautiful lady talk about her delight in painting, in general, and why she also loves doing landscapes of Cliffside natural beauty. She actually thought these were her best work, but from what Stephanie saw, they were all good.
"Your painting yesterday was just breathtaking!” Stephanie exclaimed, wanting her to know she saw it.
Beatrice gave a small smile as she got up, and picked up the very one they were discussing. She walked back over to Stephanie and handed her the painting. “Keep this one, I would very much like you to have it.”
Taken by surprise, "No, no, I can't accept this." When Stephanie saw herself in the painting, she didn't know what to say… “T-thank you!”
“Yes, I saw you,” Beatrice smiled. “When I saw you walking along the cliffs, your long, blond hair blowing in the wind, it caught my attention and I had to paint you.”
"You weren't painting me when I looked yesterday,” Stephanie said.
“No, but I have a good memory," Beatrice laughed. She went on to explain about her father who wasn't feeling well, "He's up in his room writing poetry, poems about me or to me. He likes to watch me paint and I let him."
Stephanie felt her eyes grow wide, but Beatrice didn’t seem to notice. She revealed bits and pieces of her sheltered life. “Whenever a boy asked me out, I'd always say yes. But my father denied me going on any dates no matter how many times I said yes, my father just wouldn’t let me go. The boys finally stopped asking."
Stephanie shook her head in disbelief as she watched Beatrice’s handshake as she put her teacup on the tray, and looked out the window, deep in thought. She went on, “I have another home in Philadelphia where I grew up. It’s also where I became educated. When I turned sixteen, I studied to become a portrait painter and continued until I was eighteen when my dad forced me to quit. He didn’t approve of me painting nude male models."
Stephanie sensed something was wrong with this father/daughter relationship and now knew it wasn’t normal. She also didn't think anything else could shock her anymore, but she was wrong. This lonely woman was revealing what was wrong with her childhood as if she knew something wasn’t right; but didn’t know how to fix it.
“You are very good, Beatrice and more education would’ve helped. Your dad was way too hard on you and shouldn't have interfered!"
She shook her head in agreement, but then did a turn-about face, "Dad likes how I paint, that's all that matters!" she said abruptly, getting up.
Stephanie tried to apologize as she was shown to the door, but all Beatrice did was vanish into the next room. She decided to go back and get her painting that she left by the chair, then left. She didn’t see Beatrice after this.
Stephanie went about her business by buying a place where she could set up a dress shop. As a dress designer, she was in the midst of creating a whole line of clothing. Smiling to herself as she worked hard and couldn't wait to get this ball rolling.
The grand opening became a success and living in Newport became a joy. Everyone loved her new clothing line and better yet, the women enjoyed wearing her new styles. The only part that made her sad was that Beatrice never showed up.
During hurricane season, Stephanie would walk along the cliff path to watch the huge waves come crashing against the rocks below. The power of it was invigorating to watch!
One day, as Stephanie passed by Beatrice's home on her morning walks, a workman was busy painting the house black. Was Beatrice in one of her bad moods that she wanted all the world to see? She found out later at the dress shop that Beatrice's father had passed away and she wouldn't let anybody in the house near his body. From that day, nobody saw her, because she had completely shut herself off from the public. It was months later that she finally ventured out to attend social activities with her mother.
One day, working in the shop on her newest style of dresses, she saw Beatrice pass by with her mother. Both of them were still dressed in Victorian clothes! Stephanie ran to the door to say hello, but there was no sign of them. Off and on, Stephanie spotted them at social events but didn't intrude.
When Beatrice's mother passed away, she decided to go to the funeral just to see if Beatrice needed her. After the service, Stephanie could see that Beatrice was receiving everyone’s condolences, and she finally got a chance to hug her. She treated Stephanie as if they were old friends which surprised her. Beatrice never showed much emotion, but Stephanie noticed tear streaks down her cheeks. One more hug and Stephanie retreated back into the crowd to watch as Beatrice lay a single rose on her mother's casket. She stood that way for the longest time mumbling something that Stephanie couldn't make out. Watching this emotional side of Beatrice made her break down too, so she decided not to bother her anymore and left.
Afterward, Beatrice once again shut herself off from everyone who was concerned about her. Once, Stephanie spotted her walking too close to the Cliffs and looked as if she wanted to jump but thankfully didn’t. Later, always in the same position, Beatrice could be spotted painting the cliff scene over and over again as if she wanted to get it just right.
Stephanie loved the summer months; and could see the world was changing, so she changed with it. She shut herself away to create a brand new style line for summer wear. She worked hard until finally satisfied before reopening her dress shop. The windows were decked out with her new fabulous look and everybody fell in love with them. Her sales were once again where she wanted them and things were going great. One day, closing up shop early to celebrate her brand new success, she walked over to put the closed sign in the window. There, she noticed Beatrice standing there admiring one of the dresses. She opened the door and invited her in. Surprisingly, she accepted and came in but seemed subdued.
"Do you want to try a dress on?" Stephanie asked her, hoping she would say yes. She was still wearing an old, but a very pretty yellow Victorian dress.
She hesitated, then shook her head no, but did agree to walk home together. Stephanie quickly grabbed her purse off the desk before Beatrice changed her mind and closed the door behind them. As they walked slowly down the street towards their homes, Beatrice seemed deep in thought.
"Is everything alright?" Stephanie finally asked.
"Everything is fine, I guess. I do wish I could be more like you though. You seem to have so much self-confidence while I cannot seem to escape my life. I was brought up a certain way, and it’s so hard to break that routine. Mum didn’t want me to change, saying, “You’re fine just the way you are.” But I’m not fine! I’m afraid of all these changes that are constantly going on around me. Look at me, I’m still in a Victorian dress!" She looked so lost and bewildered.
Stephanie could see how pale she looked and the dark circles under her eyes made her wonder how well she was sleeping. She tried cheering her, "How about you and I get together more, go for long walks by the cliffs, or go out for coffee at those cute little coffee shops that look so inviting?"
Beatrice smiled, nodding her head, then kept on walking, "I'll have to think about it. I do want to get out more and be with people again. Why is life so hard, Stephanie?"
Stephanie looked at her and wondered once again what her parents did to her. She’s afraid to do anything for herself even though she's free now. It must be hard to still be trapped in the world her parents created for her. What a dilemma!
“Life is what you yourself make of it, Beatrice. It may take a while to get used to the change, but once you do, everything else will fall in line."
They silently walked on, each deep in their own thoughts. Reaching her house, Beatrice paused for a hug. As she walked slowly up her walk, Stephanie watched her, concerned about her health. She watched her climb the steps and disappear inside before continuing on to her home.
As Stephanie walked up her sidewalk, she prayed that all would be fine with Beatrice. Living with her father as long as she did had to have made a huge influence on her life. Now both parents are gone, yet here she was. still stuck with the same morals they made her live by.
The next morning, Stephanie went outside to get the mail. A neighbor saw her and stopped by to tell her Beatrice had died in her sleep, apparently from some type of cancer. As they talked and remembered her, the neighbor mentioned that Beatrice had spent forty years painting her masterpieces. That wasn’t really surprising to Stephanie, art was her whole life. and that was the only time Beatrice really smiled.
During the next three days, Stephanie watched people come and go from Beatrice's home, wondering what would become of her art. She found out when she asked her next-door neighbor, Nathan, who was also a lawyer.
"Did you hear anything about her paintings, what they're going to do with them?" Stephanie cornered him on the sidewalk.
"I'll ask my firm to put feelers out; if there are any relatives that will claim all her belongings."
"Thank you so much," Stephanie said. "I don't want anything to happen to those beautiful paintings!"
No relatives came forward, and Beatrice's house became the city's property. Watching trucks cart away her friends belonging broke Stephanie's heart. She walked over to Nathan's house; and knocked on the door.
"Where are they taking her artwork, Nathan?"
"Hi, Stephanie," Nathan said. "I'm sad to tell you that all of Beatrice's Paintings are being hauled to the dump!
"What? Are you telling me that all those lovely paintings are being trashed?"
Nathan and I looked at each other, then ran to the car. "We can't let them burn those paintings, that would be such a loss! Beatrice was such a great painter, and the world needs to see her work on display." Stephanie cried out.
Reaching the dumpsite, a big bonfire was already burning up all of Beatrice's hard work. All would have been destroyed if Nathan didn't act so quickly and rescued at least seventy of them. Stephanie handled them with kid gloves, laying them tenderly in the back of Nathan's Jeep Cherokee.
We took all the saved paintings to the art curator, Mr. Harold Simms. He studied the paintings and said. "Beatrice was ahead of her time." When Stephanie explained what she knew about the artist, he nodded. "Her being so different, an outcast as you say, that everyone just decided that Beatrice was not a real artist. Well, being her artwork was never really shown at any art shows, I'll take a chance and show it." And good to his words, Mr. Simms set everything into action…
Stephanie went to the art show; and looked at Beatrice's work on display. Listening in on everyone's conversations, she could hear how everyone enjoyed them. Breathing a sigh of relief, sad that Nathan and her couldn't save all Beatrice's work, she wandered through the many familiar pieces. How she lived her life did show in her artwork. When Mr. Simms feels it's the right time, Beatrice's journal will be on display too."
Feeling relieved about how it all turned out, Stephanie left the art gallery. Meeting Nathan by the door, they left together.
"You know, Nathan, wouldn't it be great that Beatrice's journal will be used to help all up-and-coming artists? I mean I looked at it. She wrote down all her ideas on what she painted."
"Well, if that ever happens, Beatrice's memory will live on in the hearts of all artists in the future, Let's hope your dream will come true, Stephanie." The two neighbors walked arm-in-arm out the door together; and walked over to a nearby café to eat dinner.