Kira put on her running shoes, her shorts and a loose fitting t-shirt with a little Velcro strip sewn to the inside. It was where she kept her small spray bottle of mace. She loved to jog around the French Quarter, but still one couldn’t be too careful these days. To top off her ensemble, she wore a Saints baseball cap with her hair in a ponytail stuck through the hole in the back. Her last necessity was the stretchy phone-cord style bracelet with the house key on it around her wrist. After donning that she stepped out on the front porch and began to stretch her legs.
While she stretched, she considered her last experience while painting. As much as anything else she couldn’t decide if her altered memory scared her or not, but regardless: she knew running would clear her mind and get her back in the mood to paint again.
The painting was coming along great, but she was a little puzzled about the direction it seemed to be taking. She was producing elements she hadn’t pictured in her mind before she began to paint, so how was she painting them? Once again, it was a riddle that wasn’t going to get solved. She crossed the little courtyard, went out the front gate and settled into an easy jog down the cobblestones of the French Quarter.
In just a few steps, she was churning away in an easy comfortable stride and relishing the sensation of exercising a well trained body. Jackson Square was just moments away. She crossed Decatur and headed out on the Moonwalk. The Moonwalk; it was a funny name and only the locals knew this little walking trail was named after Mayor Moon Landrieu who had championed the redevelopment and preservation of the Old French Market district.
The day was still early and the foot traffic heavy; between that and her mace, she felt plenty safe jogging this way. For the hundredth time, Kira considered how wonderful it was to be able to run here, along the Mississippi River. With any luck she might see and hear one of the riverboats plying the waters of the mighty old river.
Crossing Jackson Square, she couldn’t help but sense the looks she was getting. It was a familiar situation she absolutely hated. Her long tan muscular legs attracted plenty of attention by themselves, particularly in the shorts she was wearing. Even though she did her best to diffuse attention by wearing an ugly baggy shirt, no makeup and her hair sticking out of the baseball cap (which also served to obscure her face a bit) it still didn’t really work. And worse, she couldn’t dress that way all the time.
There were occasions when she was out running errands during which people would still recognize her from a magazine cover or a billboard she’d done. She didn’t look forward to those incidents. Early on, she’d come to understand fame wasn’t as wondrous as those who didn’t have it seemed to think it was. To Kira, it was more the price she paid for what she had done in her life, rather than the reward. At first it seemed neat to be “recognized” when she went somewhere, but all too quickly she understood that others saw that recognition as a right to introduce themselves. They took any opportunity to say ‘hi’, interrupt what she was doing, or who she was talking to and ask for an autograph, say how much they loved her work, or tell how beautiful she was. Mostly it was very innocent and there was no easy answer for it. She couldn’t be rude, well, she could, but it merely gave the impression of the arrogance people already expected and didn’t change anything anyway. So Kira got in the habit of wearing big sunglasses and baseball caps even when she went to the grocery store. Sometimes the simple act of attempting the disguise brought the attention she was trying to avoid.
She only got one whistle as she crossed the square and the street by Café Du Monde, and turned left and down onto the Moonwalk. By careful habit, she glanced casually back over her shoulder. No one was following. It was a good habit and a sad necessity, Kira thought, but as she’d learned in her self-defense classes years ago, observation and awareness were the first and best line of defense.
The air was warm and sticky, but there was a nice breeze coming off the water and much to Kira’s delight there was a riverboat chugging its way down the river towards her. The nostalgic sight made her think of the history of the Mississippi and the vast water traffic that the mighty old river used to carry. The days of the fabulous riverboats were actually making a bit of a comeback in the lower Mississippi as entrepreneurs had discovered the pervasive desire for a bit of adventure, glory and opulence mingled with the flavor of history.
The rhythmic motion of running left Kira’s mind free to float back to the painting again. It was shaping up so much differently from the way she’d envisioned it. She’d researched numbers of photos and paintings from the Civil War to give her a reference for what she was doing. From that, she framed the scene in her mind, but there was something about the changes which were happening that felt so, right. She couldn’t explain it. She still didn’t know why the man’s face in the picture looked so sad. He was sitting in kind of an awkward position with one leg up and one leg out. His arms were down and his whole posture suggested he was holding something, but what? She hadn’t a clue what might go there. Also, there was that horse. Certainly, she’d seen plenty of paintings which included horses, but she hadn’t intended to add one, yet there it was.
Sweating profusely now, her body was being taxed enough to drag her thoughts away from anything but the sensations of her exertions. Smiling, she focused on her stride.
The horses were feeling frisky, and Sean felt guilty for not working with them, but cleaning out his dad’s room had somehow unnerved him, and he couldn’t concentrate. He didn’t want to concentrate. He just wanted to work and forget. So he went to the back of the barn to his toolbox and got out the tape measure. At least he could start on those stalls. As a matter of habit, he always kept a little spare lumber in the barn and it would suffice for his purposes today.
The next order of business was to measure and mark the corners of the stalls. And two hours later he was hot, sweaty, and had hay dust stuck all over him. He’d made a good start. The main posts were in place and attached and he had the crosspieces installed on one side. That done, he decided it was a good place to stop for the day. The slight guilt of knowing he could’ve gotten further was offset by the excitement growing in his mind about leaving the ranch for a while. He was anxious to clean up and pounce on the computer. There was still the destination decision to be made and other plans to make after that.
Walking back to the house, he tried to decide whether cleaning out his dad’s room felt liberating, chilling, or both. There was a vague inescapable sensation of dread about going in that room which surely promoted his procrastination, but now cleaning it definitely felt like a step in the right direction. He glanced briefly at the urn on the kitchen counter as he continued upstairs. Hmmph, he thought. What a nuisance. Guilt and annoyance filled him as he marched to the shower.
Refreshed from his shower, Sean put on some sweats, went downstairs to make a bologna sandwich with some chips and tea, then back upstairs and planted himself in front of his computer. Excitement was ballooning inside him. He couldn’t believe it. The thought of taking a little vacation seemed like a full-blown adventure. Damn, he thought ruefully, I must really be bored.
Wandering around several sites for a while, he looked at beaches and tropical places. Somehow, they seemed too romantic to visit alone. Alone. Boy was he tired of alone. Filling up his life with work was only a replacement for loneliness, he thought. He punched up TheSingleScene. com again and began looking at the faces. There were a few profiles he stopped to read, but mainly he just looked at the pictures. Mustering up any serious interest required more patience than he currently possessed. He managed to kill almost another hour before he remembered a face he really did want to see again..
After another brief search, he found it: The Canvas of Life. Kira’s face. She looked to him like a vision from a dream and her eyes seemed to peer directly into his heart. She had long darkish hair, thick and full. It was only a headshot, though, and he couldn’t help but wonder if her figure was as lovely as her face.
She was probably stuck-up or dim-witted. He smiled. Sour grapes, he thought. The address was only a PO Box, but it was in New Orleans. Hmmm, he’d never been to the French Quarter. Hell, he’d never been anywhere. Sean had already finished his food but sipped thoughtfully on his tea, looking at her photo. Compared to that vision, the whole Julia experience seemed but a distant nightmare. It had no more impact on him now than stubbing your toe might encourage you not to walk. Looking again at her photo, he wondered, how did you come to be in this line of work, Kira? Painting from ashes? Ashes. Like his Dad’s. Maybe this could be an excuse to meet her and solve his own problem with his dad’s remains. He could even see the French Quarter too. Now that sounded like a vacation. The idea rapidly blossomed in his mind and ignited his imagination. He’d call her in the morning and make an appointment.