The Nowhere Girl

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Chapter 6

Willow

 

Her head aches, she leans back against the cold porcelain of the ancient Victorian bath tub and watches the steam rise upwards obscuring the rest of the room, settling around her like a fog. It’s cold up here in Scotland even on a late summer evening like this one, through the skylight she can see the moon huge and voluminous staring back at her in a dangerously dark sky. It’s three am. She knows that she should be asleep but the adrenaline of the gig is still pounding through her, drum and bass rooted in her blood, and her head does ache so. Willow washes herself with the last small bar of soap bought from the market at home. French soap, it reminds her that it will soon be time to go home and the thought relaxes her, makes her smile and sink further into the hot water.

The perfume of roses mingles in the steam with the perpetual smell of Frankincense that she uses to smudge the flat with. It’s something that her gran always did, as a little girl it used to make her cough when she came home from school and found the house muggy from it. But now she likes it and buys the small hard granules from the Neal’s Yard shop in town, and burns them on charcoal, to remind herself of her home. It’s a way of protecting and sanctifying space, warding off the darkness and the things that lurk out there to get her. She shivers, the water is rapidly chilling and with an annoyed lurch she gets out of the bath and stands swaying on the bath mat, her towel wrapped around her. Lucy is asleep, too many vodka’s and tonics and she has the flat to herself for once. She bundles on a clean T shirt warm from the airing cupboard and walks quickly to her small bedroom under the eaves. They were lucky to find this flat, but it’s the end of their time here, soon it will be final exams, her show and then hopefully London or Paris and the big wide world of Art with its hands open wide to embrace her.

Well that’s a lie for a start; no one is probably going to be the least bit interested in her but in a\ way she doesn’t care. Painting and drawing is the only thing she can do, the only thing she ever wants to do, and the one thing she has always had to do. She jumps into bed and pulls the duvet up around her and for a moment stares at the chilly little room that is empty of anything much other than her canvases stacked against the walls for safety. She closes her eyes and for a while flickering images of the evening come to her. It had been a good night, the band not as cool as she expected the drummer not as tasty. He was a bit of a prat in fact and she’d ended up on her own in a corner watching the proceedings and nursing a glass of wine. She frowns and curls into a foetal ball trying to keep her toes warm, she had met someone, a tall bloke who worked at the place, he’d been on reception when she came in, said he was a photographer and handed her his card. As it happened she needed some shots done for publicity for the program at her upcoming show, so that was handy. He seemed a little odd, but then wasn’t everyone these days. Anyway she had promised to give him a call tomorrow and that’s what she would do.

Her eyelids begin to twitch in REM movement and images come to join her across the bridge between light and dark, consciousness and the collective world of images that she is even more at home with, she dreams.

—– She is small again, so small that no one will ever find her, except Gran. She is in her bedroom at home and can look out over the rocks to the lighthouse and the sea beyond. The sea is calm today, rolling blue, aqua: there is a slight shimmering film of something silver ,what she calls ‘’sea magic’’ on it and she can see a beautiful lady in a white dress with a veil floating just above the top and turvy slapping of the wavelets. . The lady has long dark hair and is carrying a bunch of flowers, it looks like it is her wedding day but then what is she doing floating out here above the waves? All at once Willow is on the edge of the rocks, and the lady is nearer now and talking to her in a language that she doesn’t understand. The words come out of her mouth like stardust, not as sounds but as bright shining globules of fire, they spark up into the darkness and then disappear. Now, the sea has changed to purple and the lady begins to float away from her, laughing and beckoning to her to follow. Willow doesn’t hesitate she jumps in at once, not remembering that she hasn’t learnt to swim yet, but the water is warm and she is light as a feather that floats on top of it. It occurs to her that it might be a lot quicker if she flew and as the thought comes into her mind she is floating up out of the water and towards the lady who takes her hand. Then they are both laughing and Willow feels totally safe and enclosed in a joy that she has never felt before. They  are flying faster and faster  up into the clouds and the sun is a red disk that they are going to reach any moment now, she can feel the heat on her skin, feel the burning splendour of it. But then a thin grey voice from the past is calling her ……..’’Willow Willow come back ………….I need you…..we need you here, it isn’t finished, it isn’t started, it hasn’t begun…’’

She looks behind her and her Gran is there on the rocks, calling her, her grey hair unpinned and wild in the wind her dress flapping, her hands waving and Willow knows that she has to go back, knows that the time to go with the lady isn’t yet, and as she thinks this she lets go of her hand and wakes up. —–

Willow hears the drone of the first aircraft of the morning humming above her head on approach to the airport. It must be around five thirty, the dream is still with her, her limbs deliciously relaxed and she burrows back down into the mattress. She smiles sleepily, the lady of the dream comes to her often, both in her sleep and sometimes she transfigures from a scrap of light into a figure in her paintings. Willow doesn’t know who she is, but one day she will find out, one day soon. She reminds her of someone from a painting she has seen, almost the same but not quite.

The morning brings the slight sickness of a hangover swallowed down with a slice of toast and a strong cup of coffee that nearly makes her gag, but she also slugs back a fizzy vitamin c tablet and everything begins to settle into some semblance of normality. Today is Saturday and she has promised herself a morning in her studio, finishing up the framing of the charcoal drawings for the exhibition. She still has two of the bigger seascape canvases to work she might spend an hour or two painting depending on how she feels when she gets there,., This morning she is going to try to keep her toes on the ground and away from the full fever of painting and this afternoon she’ll meet with the boy / man.

—–What was his name? Ah yes Euan———

She tries to picture him but his face is lost in the fumes and fervour of last night’s gig, he’s tall, gangly, not unattractive but not what you would call drop dead gorgeous. He has a slightly receding hairline, his hair, what’s left of it is dark and short and fine looking. She thinks about him with the detachment of an artist’s eye, and then dismisses him. No, she wouldn’t want to draw him but there is something that draws her to him although she isn’t sure what it is yet. She has the feeling that he is slightly sinister, although she isn’t afraid of him no; he just produces a vague feeling of disquiet in her solar plexus area. She sometimes classifies men into the ‘’dangerous’’ and the ‘’unimportant’’, but this man doesn’t really fit into either category.  By this time she’s walked from the flat to the nearest café and has grabbed a Styrofoam cup of steaming latte and a bacon bap to eat on the bus. Twenty minutes later greasy and queasy but definitely feeling more herself she fumbles with the keys in the lock of the studio, lets herself in and firmly locks the door behind her and then with a large sigh of satisfaction relaxes.

She opens the shutters and puts the most recent canvas onto the easel and begins to mix open and prepare her paints covering her jumper with an old man’s shirt that she’s purloined in the past, probably from the charity shop near the flat.  As soon as she begins to breathe in the scent of oil paint and turpentine it starts. There is a perceptible shift in the light in the room, it magnifies, glitters, begins to pulsate. She feels the same old, same old, tingle that starts in her toes and works upwards in a wealth of warm until her whole body is vibrating. She is trembling like the strings of a harp or violin and that’s when the colours wash around her and she is in the zone.

Willow picks up a brush and starts to paint, the light moves from her room to her fingers to the canvas and within the body of the painting another world opens up and starts to sing its secret song. Seraphic figures float from the bright aqua of the waves to coil in a helix of meaning up into the storm clouds above, Willow laughs out loud to see them fly from her hand to the painting, her wrist is tingling and her hand is moving so fast that she has difficulty seeing it. This is where she lives; this is her world, the world that comes from somewhere where she belongs. Behind her shoulders she feels the light like a cloak of wellbeing and within this space is the benign being that is always with her in these moments, coaxing, guiding, whispering, and imperceptibly moving her hand across the canvas. Once again she feels five years old and is back there where it all began. *

 

*

 

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