Mimi Cook

    They could have been any two strangers in the Seattle Museum of Modern Art. They introduced themselves by first and last name and shook hands. It could have been any chance meeting...except for the firmness with which they spoke, the slight hesitation in the handshake. Except for the way they seemed to hold themselves lightly, move gently, breathe softly as if any sudden movement might cause the moment to shatter into thousands of jagged, angry pieces.

    She was older, wore her hair up now, and applied too much lipstick. His hair had gone white and he stooped slightly. Only his hands were the same, grasping the top of his cane as if it were a paintbrush. She almost expected to see the wood charred and ashy under his grip. They longed to find a quiet room where they could undress each other and see what changes the years had wrought on the other's body. But she couldn't stand the purple gaze of the girl in the portrait on the wall, the girl holding a red dove in her blue hands, her green hair streaming down her shoulders like seaweed.

    He watched her walk away, the points of her high heels clicking on the polished marble, and he wondered why she had come. The girl in the portrait stirred, lifted a hand to tuck her hair behind her ear, and looked at him with soft violet eyes.

    "Come," she said, stepping out of her frame and extending ultramarine fingers. "Let us walk down to the harbor and eat ice cream cones. Then we will go back to your hotel room and I will hold you the way I once did."

    The artist nodded and took a firm hold on the girl's arm, wobbling a bit now that he could no longer hear the click-clack of high heels.