The picture of Doreen Grey

Angelina with her clothes on

Angelina with her clothes on

Brian used the paper stump to flick the charcoal into wisps. Hair was always the most difficult bit. It had so many layers and tones. The art was to make the flat paper look alive and natural. The skill was not only to make it look natural, but to make it look like the hair in the photograph. He pulled at the kneadable eraser and scored lighter lines through her hair.

“Do you want tea?”

He had been concentrating so hard he hadn’t noticed Doreen’s stealthy approach on silent slippers.

“No, I’m good,” he said.

“How are you doing?”

“Okay.”

She peered over his shoulder.

“Mm,” she grunted.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“No, tell me.”

“It’s just, well, you think that’s a good likeness?”

Brian flicked his eyes to and fro between the photograph and the picture.

“Yes. Why? What’s wrong with it?”

“Oh, nothing.”

Brian sighed. “Fine. I’ll carry on, then.”

“It’s just….”

“What?”

“You’ve made me look fat.”

Brian bit down the opinion that it was the chocolate and hours spent in front of the TV that had made her look fat. Instead, he took a pencil and laid it across the photo, the point at one ear, and marked the position of her other ear on the pencil with his thumb. Then he laid it across the drawing. The positioning was identical.

“See? It’s just the same.”

“Maybe it’s the photo. You know I never look my best in front of a camera.”

Ah, the great photographic conspiracy. The only occasion cameras lied.

“Couldn’t you, you know, interpret it a bit?” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. Draw the inner me. Capture my spirit, sort of thing.”

“I did that last week, and you complained.”

“That wasn’t me, that was Angelina Jolie.”

“That’s how I see you.”

“And it was pornographic. You drew her naked.”

“It’s art. All artists draw nudes at some point.”

“Anyway, that wasn’t anything like my body.”

“I was drawing from memory.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

I was never any good at history? I have a better imagination than you credit me for? It’s been years since we made love with the light on? Brian suppressed all these comments.

“Well, maybe you could model for me.”

“I am not lounging around for hours in the buff.”

“I could take a photo to work from.”

“And have it mysteriously appear on the Internet? I don’t think so.”

“Well then, this is the best I have to work from.”

He looked at the photo. It was from happier times, on holiday in Spain, a brief respite from the tears and the silences. Though even there he fancied he could see the tears behind her eyes, the silent accusations when younger, prettier women in bikinis walked past, the suspicions when he went down to the bar while she stayed in the room with one of her headaches.

He looked back at the drawing. It was a good one, perhaps his best since he’d taken up the hobby six months ago. The eyes, especially, they were just right. He could almost feel the wetness there. He hadn’t finished her hair, and not even started on her shoulders, but it was still her, both the literal likeness and the inner her.

“What are you going to do with it? When you’ve finished, I mean.”

“Frame it?”

“No. I’m not having it look down at me all the time.”

“Maybe I’ll submit it as part of the coursework.”

“No! I don’t want your teacher, your students, seeing me like that and thinking I’m fat.”

“Then what? It was you said I should take up a hobby. You vetoed naked Twister and wife-swapping. So I’ve found something I’m okay at. Quite good, in fact. You want me to give it up?”

“No.” And there, in her voice, was the doomsday weapon; the nasal quality that warned that the tears were just a wrong word away. “I just don’t want you to show anyone that picture of me. Not the fat me.”

Brian stared down at the charcoal drawing. Doreen stared back. He loved, her, really he did. Why else would he tiptoe around her sensibilities? Why else would he stay? But sometimes he just didn’t have the energy.

“You don’t like this one? Is that it?” His voice was harsher than he intended, but he didn’t care anymore. “Fine. You know what? Neither do I.” He ripped the sheet from the pad, screwed it into a ball and threw it at the waste bin.

Doreen’s face crumpled.

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

4 Responses to The picture of Doreen Grey

  1. The portrait of Dorian Grey is one of my favourite Wilde stories so this made me squeeful before I even read it 🙂 It didn’t disappoint!
    x

  2. foldedflat says:

    Very nice! I like the way they both want something out of the exchange, but they’re not really hearing each other; not really able to understand, they talk past each other.

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