There remained one more thing she wanted to do before she departed. She had failed to visit the most important room in the house, Grandma Debose’s art studio.
“Thought you’d already left,” said Zeke, as she appeared on the upstairs landing.
“I forgot something important.”
Thinking there might be a problem, Zeke’s son and grandson stopped working.
“Problem?” asked Harold in his booming deep-toned voice.
“Forgot to check out the attic,” said Hope, opening the stairwell door.
“We weren’t supposed to do anything up there, were we?” asked Zeke.
“No, sir. I just wanted to see it.”
“It’s your castle. Have at it.”
She had forgotten how badly the steps squeaked. Her grandmother used to say she was thankful for those creaky stairs. “That way nobody can sneak up on me whilst I’m painting,” she said.
Opening the studio door was like stepping into a time capsule. She was twelve-years-old again, looking in wonder as Grandma Debose created a masterpiece.
Above Hope’s head was Henrietta’s pride and joy, her skylight, perfectly situated for northern light. Hope didn’t ask, but she bet that Zeke had something to do with the installation of that great window in the roof.
Her grandmother was a perfectionist. Everything had its place. Like always, her brushes were protected and properly stored. Her palette was clean, and her paints were stowed in the tiny drawers of a sideboard cabinet.
Henrietta pinched pennies but never with her art supplies. Only the best would do. “If you’re going to paint like a pro,” she would say, “you must work like a pro. Never skimp on your art materials and treat them with love and care.”
Hope stood at a window overlooking the front yard. She gazed across the street to what was once the home of the McDougals. They took such pride in their home. The lawn of the white Cape Cod house was a showplace, always perfectly manicured. Mrs. McDougal’s colorful flower garden was a frequent source of inspiration for Grandma Debose’s paintings. But all those gorgeous roses, peonies, and hydrangeas were gone now, replaced by a parking area for the customers of the Cup Cake Cottage.
At the opposite end of the attic studio was a closet in which Henrietta stored her paintings. If any of her grandmother’s finished work remained, Hope planned to display them in her gallery. Not for sale but as a tribute.
After swiping her hand through several unpleasant spider webs, Hope found more treasures than she could have imagined. Dozens of paintings by Henrietta Debose. But there were also some surprises. Her grandmother had kept all of Hope’s paintings. On each, Henrietta had stamped the completion date.
It was good for Hope to have a chronological representation of her growth as an artist. In recent years, she believed her work had become stagnant, uninspired, and not on par with what she used to do during her summers on Cherry Blossom Lane. Happily, she was wrong. She had improved substantially since her teens. The stress of life had blinded her to reality.
The art books were still there, in serious need of some dusting, but otherwise in excellent condition. She grabbed one her old favorites, featuring the works of Anders Zorn. Dusted it off and slipped it under her arm.
Briefly, she sat down at her grandmother’s easel and reminisced. Except for a few cobwebs, everything was in its place, just as it was thirty years ago. Even the old necklace with the golden heart pendant remained hanging from the adjustment knob on the easel. Grandma Debose had declared the trinket off limits but had never given a reason for the prohibition. The one and only time her grandmother had ever reprimanded her was when she borrowed the necklace to play dress- up.
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