Jack and Isabel found a rhythm together those first few weeks. Their friendship grew a little more each day. When he wasn’t working he would bring the book over and lay in the hammock at the Lodge and she would paint outside in the fresh air. Maya would curl up on the ground next to her, sniffing the air contentedly. He loved looking up from his book to find Isabel lost in her latest piece, brush poised midair. She always started a painting that way and then disappeared into a world only she knew intimately. It was beautiful to watch. She was an artist at heart, but she painted only for herself. It was the way she was able to string words together that had enabled her to live her life freely wandering from place to place. She could write anywhere, and that she did.
She added a final stroke to the canvas before her and then carefully set her brush in the little glass jar filled with walnut oil. She looked up from her work and studied his face across the yard. He could always feel when she did that, and he looked up from his chapter, removing his glasses and shooting her a quizzical look before crossing his eyes and making her burst out in laughter. How she’d grown to love his sense of humor. She was deeply serious by nature, and he was utterly and delightfully her opposite. It was a gift she knew she’d always treasure. His ability to laugh even after all he’d been through, often caused her to do the same. She hadn’t laughed so much in years.
Isabel turned back to the canvas in front of her. She waved her hand gently in front of her nose, though she had grown used to the paint fumes by now. Oil was her medium, but she hated chemical paint thinners and preferred to clean her brushes with natural oils, as messy as they were. She loved the way her paints would separate from the oil in the jar. Throughout the process she’d hold the glass up into the light and smile softly to herself, as the level grew lower and lower and her painting came closer to its completion.
This canvas was very special to her. It would be a gift for Jack and despite the fact that he’d often sit with her while she worked on it, he had not yet seen it. She had positioned her workspace at an angle away from the hammock so that it faced that illustrious view and didn’t block his, but it did obstruct his view of her work. She never allowed anyone to see a piece before it was finished. He often teased a sneak preview, but she slapped him away, waving her brush at him with a warning that unless he preferred she actually paint him, he best step away from the canvas immediately. Clutching his heart, he’d back away with a grin, and her luminous smile would beam at him in answer. It was a game they had both come to love.
Isabel sighed. She would draw on the memory of this particular day many times in the following years. It was the very smallest of moments that were the biggest treasures of her heart.