Mary started painting again when she retired to a small village on the coast. She joined a local art group who met in an old chapel. She never saw herself as talented, despite three years at Art College in her youth, but she enjoyed the way the brush moved on the paper, leaving a trail of colour in its wake. Her husband had died the year before and she was now free to express herself in ways that would have previously been viewed as frivolous.
They never had children. In latter years Marcus thought more of his garden than her, treating the lawn with studied care, cherishing his chrysanthemums with the same tenderness of touch she had once enjoyed.
“That’s very good Mary?”
The voice of the instructor made her start. Mary hadn’t been thinking about what she was painting, but on the paper in front of her was the face of a young man, one she recognised even though the nose was a peculiar shade of blue.
“It looks like Peter.”
Mary didn’t know who Peter was. The face before her had been stored in her memory for fifty years. It was David, a boy she had dated and fallen in love with when she was sixteen years old. He moved away with his parents when his father was offered a promotion. For a few months they had exchanged letters, but the interval between each communication grew longer. He never replied to her last letter in which she had enclosed a pressed flower, a silly gesture.
Curiosity drew others to her painting. Mary wanted to cover it with her hands, but let them rest on the table.
“It does look like Peter,” said a woman she thought was called Anne. “You must have met him?”
“It’s just a face,” Mary said.
All agreed that it was an astonishing likeness and someone said that she must show it to David.
“David?” She repeated. Her throat contracted.
“He owns the Three Ducks, Peter is his son. He works there at weekends. You must have seen him.”
Mary hadn’t been in the village inn. She had no objection to alcohol and enjoyed a glass of wine, but Marcus had not been one for socialising.
“Oh I couldn’t show it to him. I don’t even know him.”
“Join me,” Anne said, I often pop in after class.
Mary wasn’t sure, but accepted the invitation.
She wondered where David’s life had taken him. Would they even have stayed together had he not moved away?
“But don’t mention Peter’s mother, she left when he was ten.”
“I wasn’t going to interrogate him.”
When they entered the Three Ducks, the barman had his back to them. Grey hair suggested it wasn’t Peter. He turned and indeed it wasn’t the boy she had drawn, but the man he had become. Behind his shoulder, propped on a shelf, was a small frame holding a dried flower. Many years had passed, but it had somehow retained its colour.