The Paint Splatters Gallery, Tribeca Section of New York, New York, Wednesday morning, July 1, 2015
Melodie watched from behind the display panel near the front door. That guy was standing in front of the gallery window again. He stopped at the same time every morning to just look in the window and stare at the large abstract painting she had displayed there. It was her own work, and not for sale. The painting had helped her work through some of the anger she still felt every time she glanced in a mirror. She never really looked. The rest of her pain she kept as private as possible. The guy she had been seeing at the time of the knife attack had bailed when he saw the angry red scar on her face. He wasn’t up to the challenge, it seemed.
By putting the painting in the window of the gallery, she was displaying the only face she was willing to show the public. Someday it would end up on the wall over her mantel, but right now, it was where in needed to be. The puckered scar that ran from her right temple down to her jawline was better than it had been when she first came out of the hospital. Then, it had been horrible. Consequently, she looked in mirrors only when absolutely necessary. Two subsequent surgeries and time had made it smaller and lighter in color, and makeup helped as well. But she was still self-conscious and wore her hair longer on the right side in an asymmetrical cut that screened the scar from most eyes. Dr. Goldman said he wasn’t done with her yet, and was far from ready to give up.
The man standing on the sidewalk was tall and well-built. She hadn’t ever really seen what he looked like, because he usually had a hoodie pulled up like he didn’t want to be recognized. She had just gotten a suggestion of long, dark hair and high cheekbones. He usually dressed in black jeans with a lot of leather, but the clothes looked like they might be designer and expensive. Today he was wearing a black T-shirt and black jeans, but he somehow looked prosperous and well tended to her. What did he find so compelling about the painting? She felt it was her best work, but that might be because it had been so therapeutic for her. The pastel colors blended with the eddies of blood-red pigment depicting the anger that still swirled through her mind.
The police had never gotten the man who had cut her. Her handbag and wallet had been found in a garbage can in an alley several blocks away, minus her cash and credit cards. Even though he was still out there, she refused to live her life in fear. He had probably left the area months or years ago. The city’s homeless were migratory and moved from place to place, shelter to shelter. She forced herself to walk to work every day, although she tried to be home before dark. If she had to stay late to meet a client, she called a cab to take her the few blocks to her brownstone. She had made Jasper Winter the manager of the gallery after the attack, and he had done a great job—even implementing some of his own merchandising ideas while she had been in the hospital or laid up at home. She had another remediation surgery to look forward to this winter.
Ah, he was moving on. She wished she had the nerve to just walk outside and ask him what he thought of the painting. Before the incident, she probably would have done just that, but now she was hesitant when meeting new people. She hated the shocked look when they first saw the scar.
* * * *
Logan Hawk stood outside the gallery, staring at the astounding painting that was bathed in a cone of light. The small signature on the bottom right hand corner of the canvas read “M. Buxton.” He knew that was the name of the woman who had been stabbed on the sidewalk just up the street almost two years ago. He could hardly forget that name. It was etched in his mind. He had been walking toward her when he had seen the stabbing and called 9-1-1. Then he had stayed with her until the ambulance had taken her away.
Melodie Buxton was beautiful. She was tall, but not too slender, with glossy, dark hair and haunting deep blue eyes. The way she moved gave the impression that she might have been a dancer at one time. He had noticed her over two years ago on his morning walk for coffee and the newspaper. The gallery was on his daily route from the loft that contained his apartment and the rehearsal space where the band practiced, and where he did his composing.
That day, her blood had been all over his hands and clothes. It had oozed between his fingers. He would never forget the feeling of desperation he’d felt as he knelt beside her on the pavement. He had tried to stop the bleeding by putting pressure on the wound he’d covered with some napkins from the coffee he had been carrying. They were all he’d had to use. He had never felt the same about Starbucks again. Blood and cappuccino—not a good combination.
Now once in a while, he caught a glimpse of her in the gallery. She never came near the window when he was standing there. One of these days, he was just going to open the door, walk in and ask her how she was doing. After the incident, he’d called the hospital for her condition. He had not been able to get much information, so he’d just gone in and made his way to the intensive care unit. He’d bribed an orderly and had found out that she was in a medically induced coma. After that, he had not wanted to intrude on her family. Months later, when he began seeing her at the gallery occasionally, he noticed that she stayed away from the windows. He had seen her on the street a couple of times, but she kept her head down and turned away from passersby as much as she could. It was clear she was not ready to interact with people—particularly strangers. He figured she had to be scarred. The knife wound had been horrific.