|"What do you think, Mum?" Meryl asked, removing the cover from her latest piece.
"Oh ... um, brilliant darling." The piece was dark, very dark. Jane looked at her daughter's face; she was smiling but ...
Looking around the studio Jane was surrounded by seascapes and cornfields. This new work was worrying. What did the skeletons represent? Was that blood or flames?
"Coffee?" Meryl seemed to be her normal self. Whilst she was out of the room Jane searched for clues. No medication, no alcohol, no razor blades; maybe she was worrying for nothing.
Jane peered again at the offending painting. There was no doubt it was a fine representation, but why this subject matter? What was happening in Meryl's life to make her work so gloomy?
The doorbell rang and Jane heard scurrying feet in the hallway. Words were said in whispered tones and then the doorway was filled by this vision in black.
"Mum, this is Joy," Meryl introduced the interloper. The name did not fit with this dour young lady. White faced, with dark circles around her eyes, she looked the image of the skeletons in the painting. "Coffee?" Joy barely grunted. She hovered in the middle of the room examining her feet. Jane didn't know what to say to this strange creature.
"You can sit down," Meryl said as she came in with a tray laden with coffee and biscuits. The girl looked from one seat to another and chose the floor. Molly, the dog, crept over and placed her head in the girl's lap. She immediately responded with cuddles and tickles. So she was human Jane decided.
"It's finished," Meryl informed Joy. "Come and have a look." The girl rose slowly and crossed to the easel. Her head moved from side to side as she examined the piece. Then her hand reached out and began to feel her way around the work like a blind person might. Still there was no smile. "Happy?" Meryl questioned.
"Whatever." The girl reached into the bag hanging across her shoulder and pulled out a brown envelope. Meryl took the envelope, glimpsed inside, then placed it on the piano. Bubble wrap and tape soon surrounded the painting. The girl could not get away quick enough.
"Thank God that's gone." Meryl said.
"The girl or the painting?"
"Both; but for three hundred quid ... whatever."