He’d dismissed it then. And, for the record, for public consumption, he’d dismiss it now. But privately, in the deep green peace, he began to wonder.
Ahead he could see Gamache, swaying on his creature. A map of Paris sticking out of the saddlebag.
“Are we at the Louvre yet?” Jean-Guy asked.
“Be quiet, you silly man,” said Gamache, no longer bothering to turn around. “You know damn well we passed it a while back. We’re looking for la Tour Eiffel and beyond that, the 15th arrondissement.”
“Oui, oui, zut alors,” said Beauvoir, giving an exaggerated French nasal laugh. Hor, hor.
Ahead of him he heard the Chief grunting in laughter.
“There it is.” The Chief pointed, and in that moment Beauvoir knew exactly what this reminded him of. A drawing of Don Quixote he’d seen in a book.
Gamache was pointing toward a rude cabin in the woods, with a ruder man inside. Or it might have been a giant.
“Should we tilt at it?” Beauvoir asked, and heard the soft rumble of unmistakable laughter from the Chief.
“Come, Sancho,” he said. “The world needs our immediate presence.”
And Jean-Guy Beauvoir followed.
* * *
Professor Massey listened, not interrupting, not reacting. Simply nodding now and then as Clara told him about Peter. About his career, his art, their life together.
And finally there was nothing left to say.
The professor inhaled, a breath that seemed to go on forever. He held it for a moment, his eyes never leaving the woman in front of him. And then he exhaled.
“Peter’s a lucky man,” he said. “Except in one respect. He doesn’t seem to know how lucky he is.”
Myrna sat down then, on the stool by his easel. He was right. It was what she’d long known about Peter Morrow. In a life filled with great good fortune, of health, of creativity, of friends. Living in safety and privilege. With a loving partner. There was just one bit of misfortune in his life, and that was that Peter Morrow seemed to have no idea how very fortunate he was.
Professor Massey reached out and Clara put her large hands in his larger ones.
“I’m hopeful,” he said. “You know why?”
Clara shook her head. Myrna shook her head. Mesmerized by the soft, sure voice.
“He married you. He could have chosen any of the bright, attractive, successful students here.” Professor Massey turned to Myrna. “Peter was clearly a star. A deeply talented student. Art college isn’t just about art, as it turns out. It’s also about attitude. The place is full of scowling kids in black. Including Peter. The only exception was…”
He jerked his head dramatically toward Clara, who was blotting beer off her jeans.
“As I remember it, Peter did his share of dating,” said Massey. “But in the end he was attracted not to the talented girls with attitude, but to the apparently talentless, marginal girl.”
“I feel there’s an insult in there,” said Clara with a laugh. She also turned to Myrna. “You didn’t know him then. He was spectacular. Tall with all this long, curly hair. Like a Greek sculpture come alive.”
“So how’d you win him over?” Myrna asked. “Your feminine wiles?”
Clara laughed and fluffed her imaginary bouffant. “Yes, I was quite the vixen. He didn’t stand a chance.”
“No, really,” said Myrna, getting up from the stool and wandering over. “How did you two get together?”
“I honestly have no idea,” said Clara.
“I do,” said Professor Massey. “Attitude is tiring after a while. And boring. Predictable. You were fresh, different.”
“Happy,” said Myrna.
She’d walked past the sitting area, and into the back of the studio, examining the canvases on the walls.
“Yours?” she asked, and Massey nodded.
They were good. Very good. And one, near the back, was exceptional. Professor Massey followed her with his eyes. No matter the age, thought Myrna, an artist is always slightly insecure.
“So we know what Peter found attractive in you,” said Myrna. “What did you like about him? Beyond the physical. Or was that it?”
“At first, for sure,” said Clara, thinking. “I remember now.” She laughed. “It sounds so small, but it was huge back then. When my work was displayed in the Salon des Refusés, instead of treating me like a leper, Peter actually came and stood beside me.” She ran her hands through her hair, so that it stood almost straight out from her head. “I was an outcast, a joke. The weird kid who did all these crazy installations. And not crazy in a Van Gogh, artistic, cool way. My stuff was considered superficial. Silly. And so was I.”