In addition, this short story will be posted on the WOSIB (Women of Strength and Inner Beauty) Literary Garden site at the end of June 2004.
by Patricia Lanchester

Ariana opened the door.

Sunlight danced around her face and down the length of her arms. It played with her long soft skirt and sparkled on the tips of her shoes. It invited the world to gaze upon her chocolate form, its curves like water and eyes so bright that heads did turn. She was so eager to meet the day that she hastened her step to a modified skip and made her way down the street. 

A melting pot of people stood as she, waiting for the subway to arrive. They milled about with far away thoughts, eyes cast to the ground, or often unintentionally staring at those who stared at them. It smelled of fish and day old bread with a hint of urine in toe. She didn't mind. She accepted the scent as she did the walls painted in graffiti and the woman who spoke loudly to a picture taped to a pole. It was not unlike the sun that greeted her, bold and honest, disguised as nothing more than what it was… facets of a world.

The subway filled quickly with nowhere to sit. She stood next to a woman about fifty years old. Their eyes met and each smiled. Both were aware of their subtle differences; one in a dark suit that showed little of her soft white skin, the other draped in white, baring arms of color only twenty-one years old.

"I love your hair," Ariana chimed above the sounds of the train on the tracks. The older woman nodded thankfully and replied, "And I think your dress is gorgeous!" They probed for dialogue and found themselves engrossed in heavy conversation.

On a seat in front of them sat a man hidden behind a book held upright and close to his face. The train shook, at which point he lowered the book and glanced, for the first time, at the crowd before him. To the older women, he offered his seat, stumbling to close his attaché case. He stood at Ariana's side.

She thought to speak, as she enjoyed engaging in conversation, but the words wouldn't come. A simple hello was all she needed, or maybe the words that lay stubbornly on her tongue; "I love your hazel eyes and bright smile and your lips make me weak…"

The train jerked again and her body leaned into his. "Excuse me," she said timidly. 

"That's ok," he returned. 

The air became light and her heart fluttered. The sound of his voice, deep and clear, rolled back and forth through her head. "What did you say?" she asked hoping to engage him further.

He turned to her; soft brown curls, eyes so bright, the stature of a god, shoulders strong and broad. "I said, it's not a problem." He paused, just briefly, to watched her blush before turning away. She thought he laughed but it was merely a very long smile.

The train had come to a stop. She straightened her shoulders and tossed her hair, attempting to refocus her thoughts. 

It was time to go. The older woman, still seated, winked as she past. Ariana smiled, assuming it meant good luck. 

She stepped off the train, leaving her random thoughts of liquid eyes and nice firm hips behind. She tossed a dollar into a beggar's can and offered an ear to the voice of reason professed from the mouth of a poor man … "rich in spirit" she thought.

The gallery door, made of finely polished wood, sparkled in the mid-day sun. She rang the buzzer, and a woman graciously showed her in. A pianist sat behind a baby grand staring intently at the movement of his fingers. He played a series of concertos pausing only for a cup of tea. 

Paintings lined the many walls and easels stood in open spaces. There weren't very many people, yet traveling along one particular aisle you'd think it was packed. Many had congregated around something that had captured their attention. Ariana moved closer but could hardly see a thing. Eventually she stood several feet away from the object of their attraction.

Before her stood 'Soliloquy', a self-portrait painted in rich sepias. It smiled back at her, eyes so bright and skin of flawless brown. In the picture, a woman sat on the floor with her head slightly tilted, inviting lookers with her smile and self-possessed demeanor.

"Excuse me," she heard a voice from close behind. He pushed his way forward and then opened his book, quickly jotting notes as he viewed the portrait before him. It was Ariana's turn to smile that wicked smile as she tapped him on his shoulder.

That's ok," she replied. 

When he looked up, their eyes connected and disconnected so quickly that their heads dropped in embarrassment. For each, the air had become slightly warmer and just short of electrified. 

Someone touched Ariana's arm, "Please come with me, Ms. Smithe. Two more of your pieces have arrived, and I'd like to display them on easels, if I may."

The pianist began a selection of Chopin's works. As Ariana moved through the room, he played a Nocturne in E Flat Major, striking cords with such bravado that it seemed befitting her stirring exit. Everyone watched her walk away, amazed at how closely she resembled her self-portrait. The man with the curly brown hair and broad shoulders, the one with the beautiful smile and real deep voice, was plagued by something he could not address. But there were many more galleries and much work to do this day, so he left as quietly as he came.

The next week promised to be a colorful one. School was starting and Ariana had so much planned. First she had to decorate her 2nd grade classroom. As this was her first year teaching, she was nervous as well as excited. She decided to make a head start of it by arriving on Friday.

At days end, the classroom was cluttered with construction paper, glue and cardboard graphics. It was an undertaking that required more hands than she'd thought. As sweat rolled down her face, standing on a ladder with a glue stick in hand, the door opened.

"Ms. Smithe, have you seen the review yet?" asked a colleague who held the daily paper under her arm. 

"Oh no! Today is Friday. I completely forgot. Thank you, Trudy." She managed to climb down from the ladder without tripping or showing just how excited she was. With school starting soon, she'd forgotten about the art review, a big step in her career.

"A talented and most auspicious addition to the art community…" she read aloud. "Not since Salvador Dali have we seen such fluid stokes," she chuckled proudly. "…traveling the Green Line into the city … using life experiences to fuel her passion for art…" Where did he find this information, she thought. "I watched her stroll the sidewalks, greeting beggars with change and lending an ear to suffering voices..."

"Oh my God, Trudy! What is this writer talking about?" She flipped the pages and read the name, "Elijah F. Major," and continued reading.

"She's a recent graduate of U C Santa Cruz and currently living in Arlington, Virginia. Her works will remain at the Zenith Gallery until September 10th."

She was shocked, but mostly intrigued by the vivid details of her personal life. An idea came to her that tickled her stomach. Using her cell phone, she dialed information for the Arlington Tribune. When the newspaper's receptionist answered, she asked for a Mr. Elijah Major. 

"He's out for the day, ma'am. May I leave a message or would you rather leave something in his voice mail?" 

"Voice mail, please," she requested. Hearing the voice of Mr. Major would certainly clarify at least one of her dilemmas.

"Mr. Major is not in the office at the moment," a woman's voice spoke. "Leave a message at the tone… " Ariana hung up the phone.

Fridays were her favorite days to eat seafood dinners at the Eastside Inn. And if she arrived between 6 and 7 pm, drinks were on the house. She sauntered in, having changed from the frumpy sweat pants to a casual skirt and playful top that showed her tummy. She waited at the bar until her named was called and was escorted to a table much further back than the usual spot. She didn't mind, remembering that it sported a view of the patio and live band outside. 

Red candles illuminated the tables. She could see their soft glow and not much else. When she arrived at the table, her eyes lit in surprise. 

He stood to greet her. "My name is Elijah. I'd hoped to have met you sooner." He held out his hand and closed it around hers. She allowed herself a moment of abandonment, consumed by the girth of his hands, comforted by the desirous reception. 

"I'll make it simple," he said. "I'm dreaming of you, morning, noon and night…" He began to talk, quickly at first as if he had to get it all out before the magical moment got away or turned out to be only imagined. Without thought, he reached to pull out her chair.

"You were walking on Scott Street the day of the gallery opening. It was funny because you were in such great spirits and I, running late for an assignment, was crazy," he laughed heartily, pausing then to lean across the table. "And you turned… and you smiled. I thought it was for me but I guess it was just for the beautiful day."

Ariana could barely compose herself, wanting to speak but desperate to hear every word he said. 

When the waiter came, Elijah stopped talking and apologized for having monopolized the conversation. He sat back and draped his arms across the back of the booth, watching as she tried to compose a sentence.

"I called you," she said. 

"Did you?" He leaned across the table once again, waiting for her to explain. But words did not come. 

He was more exciting than she'd first thought; kind and boyish. His eyes twinkled, and he had a habit of running a finger across his thin mustache while in thought. It wasn't fair, she thought, to keep him in suspense. So she orchestrated a string of words to flow from her lips.

"I called the newspaper after I read the article," she finally recited. "I was confused…!"

"Well, that's to be expected. It might have looked as if I followed you but we happened to be going in the same direction that day. I credit you for brightening my spirits."

"I wish that I could say that I planned it. But thank you, Elijah." His name felt warm on her tongue. 

"You boarded the same train as I and even went to the same gallery that I was assigned to. But when I looked up and saw the woman in the portrait and you touched my shoulder, I practically lost my mind. It was an out of body experience to say the least. You were my assignment after all."

"And you were mine," she thought. 

They laughed the rest of that evening and many evenings after. Light shone brightly on the woman called Ariana, pleased that her melody was in E Flat Major

Patricia Lanchester was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her childhood was rich in cultural influences like music, art, dance and academics. She enjoys painting and throwing herself into a book of mathematical puzzles. On any given day you’d find her curled up with a cup of dark roasted coffee and a thick scary novel. 

She attended Tulane University as an Architecture major and Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. To date, she has had two careers spawned by a change in the economy. Above all, the education and work experiences have given her a broad perspective of creative consciousness.

Today she lives with her two children in Southern California. They spend a lot of time together doing things such as pitching storylines, drawing and reading. Being creative and recognizing creativity is very important in their household. 

At present, Patricia works for herself as a CAD Designer after spending 20 years in clothing design. Most people would say that the two careers are vastly different. But, she believes that creativity is relative. There’s little difference between designing golf wear attire and designing a cobblestone driveway. They both require an ability to unlock the door to the left side of our brain.  Contact  Patricia.