Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Angel Connection by Judith Anne Barton: Character Interview and Excerpt

 






CHARACTER INTERVIEWS with Evangeline and Morgan for The Angel Connection

By Judith Anne Barton


EVANGELINE


Author’s note: This interview takes place in the interim before Evangeline begins her passionate affair with Daniel Duvall.


WHERE DO YOU DREAM OF TRAVELING TO AND WHY?


Oh the world is so grand and from my tiny perch in Milltown I dream of experiencing so much more of it. Firstly I dream of returning to Philadelphia, to stroll down Locust Street past the home where I grew up, to visit with my girlhood friends, to dine in fine restaurants, to resume painting classes at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, to shop at John Wanamaker’s department store… from there I would sail to France… to Paris! I would spend my days touring the museums, gazing at the paintings of the Great Masters, analyzing their brushstrokes, their style, their use of form and color. In the evenings I would attend soirées in the salons of brilliant artists and intellectuals of the day… sip absinthe in a sidewalk café… dine at Maxim’s in a gossamer gown with an audacious décolleté! Lastly I would travel from Paris to Giverny, to the colony of the French Impressionist artists. There I would set up my easel on the banks of the river Epte. Perhaps the form of a child at play would be my subject, perhaps a family picnic, perhaps a languorous nude model stretched out on the grass with wildflowers woven into her hair. How quickly I move my brush to keep up with the changing light!


In the evening I would drink wine at the Hotel Baudy with other artists discussing the latest trends in art and books and music. Perhaps I might smoke a cigar. Yes, I would like to participate in that ritual mostly reserved for the male of the species. Am I wicked?


TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAMILY


It seems impossible that Papa is gone… more than a year now… he was a physician at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, very much respected by his colleagues and his patients. I grew up an only child after my dear Maman died giving birth to my baby brother. He died too. Was stillborn. Shortly after that Papa brought Lizzie over from Ireland to be my governess and companion. Truly Lizzie has been like a mother to me. After Maman and the baby died, Papa became distant. He no longer allowed me to climb onto his lap and tweak his mustache. Some said that I reminded him too much of Maman and that it pained him to look at me. But Lizzie loved me fiercely! I was so grateful when my husband agreed to let Lizzie accompany us when we moved to Milltown from Philadelphia. I would have been so lost without my dear Lizzie. and she is such a help with Willie who adores her. Yes! Willie, my son. I saved the best till last! My precious, handsome, smart blue-eyed three-year-old boy. He is my joy and my treasure. William says he is a Mama’s Boy and that I spoil him, but in my heart I know he will grow up to be a fine, fine gentleman. Oh -- William is my husband. He is the minister at the Milltown Christian Church. That’s what brought us here to Milltown. William is charged with rebuilding the faltering congregation and ridding the village of sinners. 


WHAT WAS THE SCARIEST MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE?


When I was six, I heard my mother’s screams of anguish and my father’s muffled sobs as she lay dying with her dead baby on the bed beside her. Later I saw the servants carry blood-soaked sheets from my Maman’s bed down the stairs. They passed right by me as I huddled on the burgundy Persian carpet peering through the balustrade. I fell asleep there on the floor. Fear drew me into a thick darkness -- an oblivion. They were all too grief-stricken to notice.

Recently though there has occurred an event that frightened me to my core. It was a Wednesday evening. I was so passionately in love with sketching the human form that I convinced Lizzie to pose for me in her little bedroom off the kitchen. She looked so lovely in the glow of the lamp with her coal black hair tumbling over her barely exposed breasts. Suddenly we heard a knock on the front door. It was the Ladies Bible Study group! I’d been so distracted by my work that I had completely forgotten it was Wednesday night. Lizzie threw on her clothes and rushed to put on the kettle and rummage in the pantry for the remains of a lemon cake. With heart hammering, I smoothed my hair, unrolled my shirtwaist sleeves and hurried to answer the door. As I passed through the parlor, I unthinkingly laid my portfolio of nude sketches on the secretary. Later when William had joined us for coffee and lemon cake, I suddenly spied the portfolio under the coffee pot. Stricken I moved to hide them. In so doing, I knocked over the silver coffee pitcher, which spilled on Sarah Webster. In the confusion the sketches fell to the floor, splattered with coffee, scattering on the carpet like rectangular speckled white leaves, exposing the charcoal nude drawings for all to see. I fell to my knees as if to cover them with my body, scrambling in futility to protect them from horrified gasps, accusatory glares. It was at William’s feet that I felt my deepest fear and shame. After the ladies left, I felt the full fury of his wrath. My husband forbade me from continuing my art lessons with Mr. Duvall. This struck such fear in my being that I lost my ability to draw breath. William had essentially killed me.


WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?


Oh, painting, drawing, colors, brushes, an empty canvas, a completed canvas, palettes splotched with umbers and vermillions and azureans, palette knives, the smell of turpentine, linseed oil, catching the changing light, dawn, sunset, the fragrance of lilacs and sun-ripened tomatoes on the vine, the dance of trees awakened by a breeze, walking along the Paunnacussing Creek, with Willie’s moist little hand in mine, the cascading water wheel at Aquatong Farm, and my art lessons with Mr. Duvall always made me happy, not just for that hour or day but for a whole week until the next lesson!


But my son, my angel Willie, is my special joy. When I peek into his room each morning, he holds out his arms to me, and a beatific smile wreath his perfect cherub face. “Mama!” he cries, and my heart swells with joy.


MORGAN


WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT THESE DAYS?


I’m producing a documentary about local Pennsylvania Impressionist painters, in particular, two painters who were also lovers: Daniel Duvall and a woman known as “Angel.” It’s been thrilling and a little spooky to uncover their story from a century ago. The craziest coincidence is that this painter Angel actually lived in the house where I’m now living. When I first moved in I found charcoal drawings buried under the floorboards. Then creepy things started to happen in the house -- I thought it was haunted. In a way it is. I’m galvanized by this project, as are my partners Victor Cenzo and my son Chad. The synchronicity of events and places spanning a hundred years has knocked us back on our heels, but we know-I know-that this documentary is the assignment of my life. And speaking of passion --I’m in over my head in love with Victor.


WHAT WOULD WE FIND UNDER YOUR BED?


Tumbleweeds of dust balls. And -- I’m serious, three or four empty glasses with folded papers under them. A friend once told me I should write down what I wanted to happen as if it already had happened, express gratitude to the universe, then fold the letter and put it under my bed with a glass of water on top of it. So there are all these papers and grungy empty glasses from which the water evaporated months ago, with my faded wishes gathering dust until the next time I write a letter to the universe!


There would also be an unmatched sock or two.


IF YOU COULD APOLOGOZE TO SOMEONE IN YOUR PAST WHO WOULD IT BE?


It would be my son Chad. And in fact I’m working on apologizing to him right now, every day. He had a rough childhood. His father was abusive to me. I had to sneak away one night with Chad and a few stuffed trash bags and find refuge in a shelter. After that as my television career expanded, there were a lot of men in and out of our lives. Chad wanted a family and I kept screwing it up, picking the wrong guys. I thought my marriage to Pete Antraeus would make everything perfect. Chad adored Pete. But even Pete turned out to be the “wrong guy” and Chad was left to help me pick up the pieces of betrayal. So he has a lot of resentment and rightly so. I love and cherish my son and seek his forgiveness for all I did that hurt him. The documentary is helping us bridge the gap toward rapprochement. Though there is resentment of my relationship with Victor. Will I ever get it right?


WHAT DO YOU DO TO UNWIND AND RELAX?


Vinyasa flow yoga is my go to for physical, spiritual and emotional renewal. I never felt graceful until I began to practice yoga. I love the ancient rituals of study, chanting, meditation and asana. Deep practice shows me that there is more to us than five senses and this earthly life.




 
The Angel Connection tells the mystical tale of two women born a century apart, but whose destinies are mysteriously linked by long held secrets. In the vein of "The French Lieutenant’s Woman" and "Outlander," this compelling novel straddles historical and contemporary fiction. "The Angel Connection" is a timeless love story told by two female protagonists who transcend the boundaries of time and space and are hurtled toward their inevitable collision.



In 1996, newly divorced TV journalist Morgan Reed finds herself at a personal and professional low, and escapes to pastoral Bucks County. There she discovers her new home is birthplace to the Pennsylvania Impressionist movement. Morgan impulsively buys an old haunted church rectory and is drawn into creating a documentary about the local painters of that era. She also gets pulled into an unsettling love affair with her fellow filmmaker, which raises the ire of her adult son. In 1895, in the same Bucks County Church Rectory, Evangeline Laury, the beautiful and restless wife of a zealot preacher is torn between her role as obedient wife and her birth as a talented painter in the hands of a charismatic local Impressionist who soon becomes her lover and soul mate. Evangeline struggles with her duties, but the desire for her lover and her art come at a cost, and an unspeakable tragedy makes her a virtual prisoner of the rectory. Bound together as they try to martial universal forces beyond their control, Morgan in 1996 and Evangeline in 1895 both struggle to fulfill their needs for creative expression, true love and familial duty. As Morgan uncovers the drama that unfolded in the old house 100 years earlier, the two women’s pasts meld into the present, igniting karmic embers and bringing a shuddering retribution. Where does one story end and the other begin?
 
 



CHAPTER ONE

1996 THREE YEARS EARLIER
April in Paris.
The Musée d’Orsay sweeps up and up. Inside you can feel the ghostly space of the old train terminus, but now it’s high-tech, and I’m disappointed to learn that the exhibit is way up on the top level, because I’ve been known to cry over heights.
But that’s where the Impressionists are, so up we go, skipping past the Manets, Degases, and Matisses. My legs are wobbling, and I do not look down. Heights always remind me of my mother.
“Just because I’m afraid of heights, I don’t want you to be,” she used to say. This as I watched the sweat beads pop out on her ashen face whenever we crossed the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.
“I’m okay as long as I don’t look down,” she’d say, keeping a distance from the windows when we visited Daddy at his sixteenth- floor office on Broad Street. Through osmosis, I grew up leery of floor to ceiling windows, balconies, cliffs, tall buildings, fire escapes, and climbing to the tops of places like the Statue of Liberty or the lookout tower in Valley Forge Park. My mother, also claustrophobic and agoraphobic, refused to set foot on an airplane, never traveling farther than Florida, a three-day drive in the Cadillac.
When I was fifteen, my father cheerfully and determinedly booked me a plane ticket for the short hop from Philadelphia to Washington, DC. His wife’s fears may have cheated her out of a full life, but he was damned if it as going to happen to his daughter. He wanted me to experience the thrill and adventure of flying. That first plane trip inspired me to travel the world, even if it meant risking the inevitable high place.
So here I am, climbing the steps of the Musée d’Orsay, rubber-legged and sweating, but determined to get to the top.
Initially I hadn’t wanted to come. Hadn’t felt like getting out of bed, really. And it wasn’t jet lag. It was more like life lag.
After Kate and I had cut a deal that I would get up and get showered while she went out for pains au chocolat, I’d pulled the scratchy wool blanket up over my shoulders, trying to deep-breathe bad thoughts away. It’s funny, because that reminded me of my mother, too. Here you are in Paris, I said to myself, and you don’t even want to get out of bed. My mother never got out of bed before one in the afternoon. She’d stay up late every night drinking highballs and then Schmidt’s beer until Jack Paar ended, then the late movie ended, then they played “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and the TV screen went to snow.
In the mornings, my dad woke me up before he left for work. Mom never got out of bed to make me breakfast. I’d go into her room to bring her a glass of milk and kiss her good-bye. Her breath was sour-sweet, and she’d look at me through half-opened lids, say she loved me, and tell me I looked nice. Later, sometimes at school, I’d realize my slip showed or my socks didn’t match.
But mostly it was a growling stomach I had to deal with. By ten o’clock I was famished, and even if we had early lunch, it was still an hour and a half away.
I told my first lie in fifth grade, when my stomach was growling. We were studying nutrition, and everyone in the room was supposed to tell what they had eaten for breakfast. One by one, kids stood at their desks and said, “Oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar!” or “Pancakes and sausages.” As the teacher got closer to me, my heart thudded, and my brain raced. What would I say? I hadn’t eaten breakfast, I never ate breakfast, my stomach was painfully, roilingly empty, and I was about to be humiliated in front of the whole fifth grade!
I decided to lie. For me, this was an original concept. When Miss Bury said, “What about you, Morgan?” I said, “Two pieces of French toast with maple syrup, and four slices of bacon, and a glass of orange juice.” It was the best breakfast I could think of. French toast.
Now here I was in France and so depressed I didn’t want to get out of bed. Maybe I should go on an antidepressant. I thought about my mother again. Back in the fifties, shock treatments were the antidepressants of the day. She endured them, dozens of them. One day, home from school with a cold, I rode in the backseat of our neighbor’s Plymouth, while she drove Mom to the hospital for her shock treatment. I waited in the car for about an hour. When my mother reappeared, walking slowly toward the car in her gray gabardine coat, she looked bleached. White skin, white hair, even her coat looked white to me as I pressed my face against the window, willing her to feel better, to be happy, to be like other mothers.
Earlier this morning, gazing up through the casement window, I could just make out a slice of pale lemon Parisian sky. I heard the swish-swish of the street cleaners and pictured them sweeping the pavement across the square of Rue Vavin, the grass green of their overalls like thick flower stems bending this way and that. It occurred to me that in Paris even the street cleaners are chicly attired.
Then the downstairs double door rattled and slammed shut; Kate’s feet thumped up the steps. I threw back the covers, and headed into the shower as her key turned in the latch.
Within a half an hour, we were on the Metro and heading to the Museé d’Orsay to see an art exhibition called The Angel Collection.
And now I’ve made it up to the top floor, where dozens of other ticket holders are slowly making their way into the gallery.
My mouth feels dry as I scan the artists’ biographies carefully mounted on the wall at the main entrance to the exhibit. I’m thinking it’s the vertigo that’s caused the cotton tongue and scratchy throat. I wish I’d thought to bring a bottle of water.
As I focus on the biographies, my heart inexplicably begins to race.
Daniel Duvall, born Paterson, New Jersey 1859. Died, Giverny, 1936.
Angel, born Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1872. Died, Giverny, 1952.
Daniel Duvall was a painter and teacher, whose style has been described as “American Impressionism.” Inspired by the French Impressionists, Duvall developed his own naturalistic technique, building a reputation in both Europe and in America, where he taught in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and at his Pennsylvania studio. Duvall soon became known as one of the finest of the New Hope Impressionists, dividing his time between Paris and his Bucks County farm, “Aquatong,” where he worked and taught six months out of the year, focusing on the lush river landscapes and colorful portraits of his neighboring villagers.
 
Kate had ultimately lured me out from under my cocoon of self-pitying bedcovers by cheerfully announcing that this exhibition had its roots in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where I’d recently, impulsively, decided to settle after the second marriage that left me with a bruised heart and a depleted bank account.
The erstwhile husband had been a well-known chef around town, even had his own local cooking show. We met when I was a television reporter assigned to do a feature story on him for the early news. His name was Pete Antraeus. He was charming, successful, sexy as all get out, and he and my son, Chad, became great pals. Chad started busing tables at Pete’s restaurant while he was in film school at Temple and later, when he turned twenty-one, became a waiter. When Pete and I married, Chad took Pete’s name, becoming Chad Antraeus. My son finally, gratefully believed that he was part of a real family.
Pete’s restaurant, Antraeus, had been the place to wine and dine for most of the eighties, but then came the Philadelphia Restaurant Renaissance, as it was called. Dozens of trendy new spots with hot young chefs began to draw clientele away from Antraeus.
We’d only been married for a few months when Pete asked me for thirty thousand dollars to invest in some renovations, plus hiring a new chef and a publicist.
He said he was burned out from the years of being on his feet in the kitchen and wanted to us to finally be able to spend our evenings together, snuggling in front of the fireplace in our recently purchased farmhouse in the suburbs. That sounded great to me. I had long ago grown disenchanted with hanging out at the bar at Antraeus after work, waiting for my husband to finish up in the kitchen. I was only half joking when I told him that I was afraid I’d turn into an alcoholic like my mother.
In addition to my substantial salary as a reporter, I had a moderate inheritance from my father, so money wasn’t an issue. I handed over a check for thirty thousand dollars.
The search for a new chef and a new publicist didn’t take long. Still, Pete continued spending long hours at the restaurant training his replacement, overseeing the construction, and meeting with the publicist.
Several weeks elapsed. When I asked Pete when the transition phase would be over, he was vague, said the renovations weren’t going as well as he’d hoped and that some contractors had screwed him over. Then he asked for ten thousand dollars more. I balked, and he flew into a rage, shouting that all he wanted to do was ensure our financial security so that we could grow old together comfortably. A new image for Antraeus would guarantee that. How could I deny him this commitment to our future?
I relented, gave him the money, and continued spending my after work hours watching reruns of Seinfeld with a tray of takeout Chinese or Italian on my lap.
It was a Thursday night when Pete phoned from his cell to say he’d be later than usual. He claimed he had evidence that his bartender was stealing from the register and needed to go through piles of receipts. Don’t wait up, he said.
Around four in the morning, the call came from the Atlantic City police. My husband, Peter Antraeus, had been involved in an automobile accident near the Aladdin Casino. He and his (female) companion had been taken to Sibley Memorial Hospital where he was being treated for a dislocated shoulder and broken ribs. The lady had been discharged earlier, but Mr. Antraeus needed a ride home. I told the officer to tell Mr. Antraeus to go fuck himself.
“I can’t do that, Ma’am,” he said.
Pete had gambled away my forty thousand dollars in the high-roller back rooms of Atlantic City. His “female companion” had been the new publicist that I’d paid for.
After the embarrassment and recriminations, my contract at the television station wasn’t renewed. “Budget cutbacks,” they told me. But I maintain to this day that the scandal of my embezzling husband cost me my career as a reporter. It was delectable fodder for gossip columns in all the Philadelphia papers. It was even picked up by the infamous Page Six in New York. My son was mortified. My own humiliation was complete.
So, after endless legalities, when the divorce was finally final, I’d followed the foggy whim of a broken heart and meandered to a place nobody every heard of at what seemed like the end of the world. I, who had always sought the spotlight, now only wanted anonymity. Especially after that rag, Center City Philly, had published a serialized article about Pete and me. People whose loyalty I had never questioned offered up the most mundane and mortifying details of my relationship with my husband. As Judy Holliday said, “With fronds like these, who needs anemones?” I didn’t know who my friends were anymore.
Some inner compass led me down a sloping country road into a sleepy little country village in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The first house I looked at was a registered historic landmark. It had been the rectory for the Milltown Christian Church. For two hundred years it had housed the ministers of the church and their families. As I stepped cross the threshold, the house just spoke to me, and it was as if I had no choice. I was pulled through the front door as if an invisible hand reached out and grabbed me. And then, wandering through those rooms, it was like my blood turned carbonated. I felt fizzy and light-headed. It didn’t matter that there was only one full bathroom upstairs, with little more than a WC next to the little room off the kitchen. It didn’t matter that there was no dishwasher, no pool for swimming my laps, or that there was a cemetery just on the other side of the church next door. It didn’t matter that the barn was practically falling down or that the asking price was fifty thousand more than I’d planned on spending. I offered full price on the spot, and six weeks later, my mother’s Seth Thomas clock was on the mantel over the fireplace, my books were on the shelves, my Villeroy & Boch china was in the cabinets, and I had my own post office box at the quaint General Store.
Within days of unpacking, I was struck by a crippling case of buyer’s remorse, wondering what the hell I was going to do with myself: out in the country, miles from nowhere, clanking around in a creaky old house next door to a creepy cemetery.
I booked a flight, packed a suitcase, and bolted. Leaving town has always been my antidote to crisis. This time it was to Paris and my old TV cohort, Kate, an expat now living on the Left Bank.
But these post-divorce blues have been hard to shake. I’m scared to go home to a place that doesn’t really feel that homey. And I’m still caught between heartbreak and humiliation, which is a kind of homelessness in itself. At least here in Paris nobody knows my pathetic story.
With a sigh, I return to reading the artists’ biographies:
The painter known only as “Angel” was brought to Paris from Ireland in 1897 by the French art patron and manager, Paul Durand-Ruel. Introduced to her early work by Daniel Duvall, Durand-Ruel ultimately arranged Angel’s first exhibition. That series of paintings, “Irish Country life,” established Angel as an artist in her own right.
 
Suddenly, inexplicably, something lifts in me, and I feel a glimmer of hope, a kind of artistic communion. I make a silent pledge: I will recover. I will return to the house in Bucks County and really settle in. I’ll write a novel, maybe, or buy some oils and canvases and paint the mysterious images that swirl and dive behind my eyes—maybe even get funding for a documentary! I’ll take long walks along the Delaware River, and poke around in flea markets, and maybe even meet the real love of my life instead of another poseur.
I look up to see that Kate has hooked her purse over her shoulder and is heading into the gallery.
I hesitate, momentarily feeling a slight loss of balance and a sudden urge to go to the ladies’ room. Too much thinking, I tell myself. Or maybe I’m still clammy from the dizzying climb. But there’s no way I’m retracing my steps and subjecting myself so soon again to the heart-stopping heights. My thighs still feel as if they could faint on their own.
I breathe deeply and move toward the gallery. But as I pass under the arched entrance and into the room, my feet feel weighted, like I’m slogging through mud. Once more, I hesitate, momentarily surrounded by a group of boisterous students. They disperse, and suddenly I’m in a pulsing kaleidoscope of color: vibrant, lush, living. I pause, taking in the sweep of paintings by “Angel.” There must be thirty of them, many life-size. The first grouping depicts various scenes from rural Ireland at the end of the nineteenth century. Robust men and black-eyed women, tousle-haired laughing children, rolling in the lush green grass, coaxing a cow into the barn, splashing one another with water from the pump. There’s one painting of a gentle-looking woman hanging the wash, while a baby sleeps in a basket at her feet. Looking at them, a clot forms in my throat. I am stirred by some unspecified yearning, a kind of homesickness. Then suddenly it’s as if twin bees sting my eyes. Tears spring out, hot and fresh.
I circle the room slowly, dabbing my eyes, feeling silly. I force myself to pause for a long time in front of each painting, measuring my response and realizing that I have an odd, intense desire to climb into each frame, to touch the people. To say, “I’m here! I’m here!”
After some time, and with a kind of confused reluctance, I move into the next room and am galvanized by the paintings of Daniel Duvall that he called “The Angel Collection.”
The light and radiance of the first paintings that I see create a new burning in my eyes. At the same time, I have the sinking sensation that I am crossing a threshold into a scary place. And then, yes, out of my peripheral vision, I sense paintings that are dark, very dark. Warily, and with a drumbeat in my chest, I begin to circle the room, daring to raise my eyes to the paintings. As I connect with the images, small explosions of emotion ricochet from my throat to my groin.
A luminescent portrait of the woman called Angel, painted by Duvall. Her long arms are outstretched, as if in benediction. There is a dazzling radiance about her, an aura. He painted her as if she truly were an angel.
Gazing at her, something warm and viscous floods my insides, pooling and thickening between my legs. I feel the blood rise to my cheeks and am somehow vulnerable, exposed. I squeeze my thighs together, self-consciously reworking the knot of my scarf. I cast a surreptitious look around to see if anyone is looking askance at me.
The next painting is of a mother and child resting in a meadow near a manger where lambs nuzzle and play. At first I am charmed by the idyllic scene, then a shadow, like some lowering, fast-moving cloud settles over me. My fists clench involuntarily, and oddly, so do my teeth. It’s as if I am girding myself. And then my heart picks up its racing, and the clot in my throat thickens, blocking the oxygen. The scarf is strangling me, and I yank it off.
Mother. Child. This is a reminder that I do not need.
Another reason for my recent depression: my own son, my Chad, is lost to me.
Hello, little man.
How are you today?
You are my darling boy.
And I love you so.
Our own silly little song.
Gazing at the painting of the mother and child, thoughts I’ve barricaded come flooding in.
You stole my childhood, Mom!
Chad, no.
You destroyed our family! Twice! I don’t even have a fucking name anymore!
You know I could never have stayed with Pete after what he did! And your real father hit me back then! You remember it. I had to leave to protect you!
Yeah, you have real talent for picking men! And me always in the middle. All that “you’re the man of the house” crap.
I never meant to burden you.
You forced me to be your surrogate spouse! I’m always running around, trying to pick up the pieces of your life.
Oh! The pain of those accusations! I’ve stubbornly told myself it’s the damn therapist who put these ideas in his head. The therapist that I’m paying for. Am I too defensive? Really, though, where else would he come up with a term like “surrogate spouse”?
We’d been inordinately close. For so long it was just the two of us. He always sensed when I was upset about something. He’d cuddle me and tell me everything would be all right. “I love you, Mommy. Don’t worry, I’ll always love you.” Single mother and her only child, we were each other’s world. How was that wrong? Okay, maybe I made mistakes, but doesn’t every parent?
I make a conscious effort to stop the monkey mind, staunch the panic. Resolve to take up meditation. Or shock treatments. Only kidding.
I turn from the mother and child scene in the meadow. It’s too much. I look around and find myself confronting a painting that utterly resonates with darkness. Gone the idyllic meadow, the gamboling lambs; gone the lovely young mother caressing her golden-haired toddler.
I see:
The thunderclouds. The waterwheel. The pond. The inky water, just deep enough.
My insides begin to scatter. I am biting my tongue to keep from shrieking. The room topples sideways, and dazzling points of light strobe my eyes. I stagger toward the exit sign, fighting nausea. Out on the landing, I brace myself, leaning into the wall, not looking down. Under my feet the floor seems to give way; my body is spinning out, disintegrating. I feel myself falling down, down. Then everything goes black.



Judith Anne Barton is an author, actress, playwright and award-winning television journalist. The Angel Connection is her first novel. After a successful career in broadcast journalism in Philadelphia that spanned over a decade, Barton moved to Bucks County, PA where she worked with her mentor, the late JP Miller, author of the classic The Days of Wine and Roses. Her first play Opening Night received its world premiere at Philadelphia’s Lantern Theatre Company, and was named a finalist in the Sundance Film Lab competition. She is the co-author of The Best Letter Book Ever and is also a published poet. Barton now resides in Los Angeles where she also pursues an acting career in film and television. Her sons, William Wheeler (The Reluctant Fundamentalist) and Thomas Wheeler (Puss in Boots, Puss in Boots II) are successful screenwriters.


www.judithannebarton.blogspot.com



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