I came to Paris in the spring of 1907. There was life, before that. In purely factual terms it started in Rennes in November 1882. But it wasn't until I came to Paris that life started to matter. I was twenty-five then, as we all seemed to be. My father had been sensing my restlessness as friends and his former students started to leave for Paris, as he himself had done in his youth. After a time he understood that I needed to go. And I went.
The highlight of the week for the Paris art crowd is Saturday night at the rue de Fleurus. Nominally the home of Signor Abbiati the real attraction seems to be his wife, Brigitte Abbiati, along with a great collection of contemporary art curated by her younger sister.
Marianne's old friend Claude has brought her along and acted as her inductee to the illustrious but bawdy gathering. The drawing room is packed and Marianne is buffeted by the tides of the crowd. There is electricity, which makes it the most opulent house Marianne has ever been in and several cuts above all the venues earlier in the week.
"Brigitte, this is my friend Marianne Bonheur, newly arrived in Paris and ripe for corruption."
"In good hands, then," Brigitte chides Claude and extends her hand. Marianne shakes it firmly. "A painter, like the rest of these reprobates?"
"Yes," she says.
"Excellent. Very good. But, Bonheur, you said?"
"Yes." She swallows. "My father is an artist."
"He painted Mother's portrait."
"How fascinating. Mother never leaves her room on a Saturday. Too scared she might enjoy herself. But you ought to meet her. I think she would like that. I will tell Héloïse. Enjoy!" and she sallies off into the room.
Claude manoeuvres Marianne on to more introductions and before long her head is swimming.
"And there is Héloïse in the corner." Marianne is directed to a woman stood in a doorway, fiercely observing everyone. "Our sphinx sitting in judgement. Héloïse sees all. She decides whose shows are patronised, what is bought, who is invited, and who is not allowed back." Clearly this is unnerving and she correctly suspects he says it precisely to unnerve her.
There is no introduction though. Perhaps he too is unnerved by this Héloïse. In the few glimpses that Marianne catches of her later, Héloïse remains alone.
Marianne isn't sure where the next few weeks go but the blank canvasses in her room say it's not on painting. The growing collection of wine bottles provide a hint she is ignoring. Paris is intoxicating. The opportunity is intoxicating. The freedom is intoxicating.
Currently however Marianne has become separated from her friends at the rue de Fleurus and there is little to be done about it in the throng of people. Instead she leaves the house and crosses the courtyard to the enormous studio. Inside is similarly packed but she can look at the art and not appear as someone who has misplaced her companions.
It is the first time she has entered and now enormously regrets that delay. There is a huge Cezanne, a few Matisses, many Picassos. Along with Gauguins, Manets, and a hundred other works by lesser known artists, many of whom are currently in the house somewhere. It is far from the family collection she had assumed. She steps closer, drawing alongside someone and it takes a moment before realising it is the stern, serious younger sister.
The response feels deeply disinterested. "And you are Marianne."
"Apparently the introduction is unnecessary." Marianne smiles but there is nothing in return. "I am sorry I have not made one already. There are... a lot of people."
"Yes," Héloïse says and it could almost be the end of the conversation from her tone.
Someone jostles past behind them and Héloïse frowns. Marianne is not going to give up that easily. Or, more to the point, let Héloïse give up that easily. She forges ahead. "My father painted your mother's portrait once."
"Yes, Brigitte told me. She said you ought to meet her. That I ought to make the arrangements."
"I would like that."
"Marianne! Found you at last!" Claude bursts upon them.
Héloïse turns and leaves with a curt nod.
"Next week, then," Marianne says to Héloïse's back.
Claude is laughing. "Damn, nearly caught. Come, we're stealing this champagne and heading out."
"I need to go home to change first."
In the event, Marianne sees Héloïse only a few days later. She is trying to clear her head and induce her brain to think about art rather than all the other distractions and delights Paris has to offer so she takes herself off to the Louvre to intimidate herself into working. Which as soon as she arrives becomes clear is entirely the wrong tactic. She is roaming the galleries almost afraid to stop and look when she comes upon Héloïse deep in contemplation.
Marianne debates approaching but eventually does, making sure to step heavily by way of introduction.
"Hello," Marianne says gently, trying not to cause alarm.
Of course Héloïse isn't alarmed, only appearing put out. At least she replies albeit with a quick, "Hello," in return and turns back to her study of the painting.
"What do you think?"
Marianne is so surprised she has to look over at Héloïse to make sure it was really she that spoke. "What do I think? Um, a bit romantic. For my tastes."
"I'm no art critic."
"I was told you curate your family's collection."
Héloïse shrugs and Marianne is not going to push the matter. Presently Héloïse moves on to the next painting and Marianne, for the lack of anything better to do, follows.
Marianne hasn't even looked yet. "Oh. Um. I think if I were going to storm the barricades I would be wearing more clothes." This is not exactly the kind of intellectualism she was gunning for.
"Liberty is often liberated of her clothes."
"Apart from her cap."
"Symbolism," Héloïse intones.
It's almost playful and Marianne laughs. It echoes around the mostly empty gallery. "Do you think it is silly?"
"What makes you think I find it silly?"
"Just, I suppose, your interests are so modern." And your tone dripping with sarcasm.
"Modernity relies on there being a past. Context. It cannot exist in isolation. Why are you here?"
"To torture myself."
"Ah yes, the tortured artist." Héloïse walks on. "Only you all seem to spend more time on the torture than the art."
"You may very well be right. I am, after all, here torturing myself rather than doing art. I think I was hoping for instruction."
"You should take inspiration rather than instruction. One day Picasso's work will be here. And people will talk about how old-fashioned it is. The future soon becomes the past."
Marianne isn't sure whether to be encouraged or disheartened.
Héloïse stops walking and looks at her. "Come tomorrow to the atelier. You can look at the work there. It might cheer you up. Inspire, even."
Marianne is barely late for her appointment. It takes half an hour to get there from her lodgings on the rue Cardinal Lemoine and she is barely out of breath when she arrives. Héloïse says nothing about either of these circumstances when she opens the door to allow entry.
Through the hall and out into the courtyard Marianne follows Héloïse into the studio.
Without the bustle of people the room is almost a museum. Its walls are even more full: filled from floor to ceiling including in some places dangling over the edges of windows. More are stacked on the floor. With all that space Héloïse deposits herself in an armchair and Marianne feels a nagging disappointment she is not getting a more personal tour. Héloïse is simply waiting this out.
"You chose all these?" She wheels round taking in a more general view.
"Most. Abbiati and Brigitte pick some."
"And it is bankrolled by your brother-in-law? I'm sorry, that's not a very polite question."
Héloïse shrugs. She is, Marianne has certainly noticed, not particularly concerned with being polite. "He has his fortune from business but this - this is to be truly rich."
It makes Marianne smile it is so passionately forthright but delivered without any such emotion.
She begins a more careful circuit. She is very aware that Héloïse is watching her.
On Saturday it had been hard to look past the obvious giants in the room. Now she can take her time with each and every piece. In appreciation of the work itself. But she tries to discern a pattern among them. Some subject matter or theme that might explain why Héloïse chose them. She cannot. She wants to ask but cannot do that either.
She finishes the route of the room. Héloïse is still sat in the armchair, still watching. "Well?"
"It is an extraordinary collection."
"Yes. I think so."
"Not just the works. The collection. The effort that went into this..."
Héloïse only looks at her. Then at her watch. "Are you staying for lunch?"
"Is it lunchtime already?"
"It is one o'clock."
They'd been here for two hours. Héloïse had just been sat there, perfectly patiently. It seemed so at odds with the impatient, fractious Héloïse she had previously seen.
"If you don't mind." She is, in fact, very hungry, having skipped breakfast due to both time and money constraints.
Héloïse simply leads Marianne from the room.
The dining room is a riot. The sideboard is full of platters and bowls and a small army of children dash shouting between it and the table with plates piled high with food supervised by the watchful but under-resourced governess and nanny. Brigitte is holding a small, wriggling specimen and struggling to eat with her other hand.
Abbiati arrives at the same time as Marianne and Héloïse. He takes one look at the scene and leaves the same way he came.
Héloïse gestures for Marianne to help herself which she does, though not as much as the children or as much as she is tempted to. When she turns back to the table Héloïse has relieved Brigitte of the littlest one and Brigitte is eating.
"So, Marianne, what did you think of Héloïse's little collection?"
"I was trying to tell her it is extraordinary," Marianne says, glancing at Héloïse who is resolutely focused on vigorously bouncing the baby.
"It is, isn't it?" Brigitte is enthused. "She has such an eye."
Now Héloïse looks up, at Brigitte. Who waves off the frown of displeasure. "We're not talking to you, dearest, we're talking about you."
Héloïse rolls her eyes.
"Have you met Mother yet?"
"No," Marianne says, pausing around a mouthful. She's contemplating a second plate. Maybe some in a napkin if she can manage it.
"Héloïse, I said you should organise that."
"You said I should organise it so that I should have to talk to Mother. I am resisting."
"Well for Marianne's sake then, if not your own. She will think us rude."
"If you insist. Here's your progeny back. Don't get too many crumbs on her," and she makes to stand up.
Brigitte hauls her back into place. "You know very well I don't mean now."
Héloïse smirks. "Fine. I will speak to Mother. If Marianne wants anything more to do with this ridiculous family."
Marianne, mouth full, eyes wide, only nods.
There is a knock on the door of Marguerite's sitting room. "Mother." It is Héloïse who enters. "Marianne is here. Marianne Bonheur."
"Yes, of course." It is just possible Marguerite has been drowsing.
Héloïse comes further in, followed by a tall, dark girl. Marguerite beckons to her. "Welcome, Marianne."
"It is good to meet you, Madame de Montfort. Thank you for inviting me."
Marguerite nods. Héloïse is loitering by the doorway, as is her habit. "Thank you, Héloïse."
"Would you like tea?" Héloïse asks as though she is some sort of maid.
"I will ring for Hélène if I do." It comes out harsher than Marguerite intends and Héloïse retreats. Marguerite notices Marianne watching her leave. Afraid to be left with this dragon.
Marguerite turns back to her guest but Marianne is already gazing up at the engagement portrait, having effortlessly picked it out of a crowd paintings of Marguerite and her family.
She thinks that probably Marianne doesn't approve. That it is outmoded and desperately old-fashioned to her.
"It is beautiful." But Marianne's eyes are wide and her tone reverent. "I love to see my father's work."
"I can see much of your father in you."
Marianne colours. "Can you?"
Marguerite nods. The dark hair, the eyes, the hands.
"I am very fond of him," the child says. Though this is unnecessary, Marguerite thinks.
He was an easy man to be fond of. She is sure he is a wonderful father. Indeed, he has set his daughter free. Given her a freedom unimaginable to many young women. A freedom Marguerite had longed for, many years ago. Perhaps the best they could do was bestow that freedom on their children. She has tried so hard to give that to Brigitte and Héloïse. But she is scared for them. Héloïse especially. More freedom means less protection.
Finally she gestures for Marianne to take a seat and sits also. "And what does your father do now?"
"He is mostly retired from professional painting. He likes to walk along the coast and paint watercolours."
That sounded nice. Nicer than the provocation that passed for art nowadays. That her children were obsessed with.
"My mother paints also, though not professionally," Marianne continues. Guileless, she doesn't understand how the mention of a mother shocks Marguerite almost as though she until then believed Marianne sprung fully formed from the earth.
"Lovely," Marguerite says. "Have you brothers and sisters?"
Marianne shakes her head. She appears the same age as Héloïse but her father was several years older than Marguerite. Perhaps there had been no time. Perhaps that is why Marianne is so full of her father. Undiluted.
"Seeing your daughters together makes me miss having a sibling all the more." Marianne says it all in a rush. She is nervous.
Marguerite raises an eyebrow.
"That companionship. Their loyalty to one another."
Ah, yes. Marguerite has suffered for that loyalty many times. She had wanted her girls to be close but sometimes it was decidedly inconvenient. Punishing one had generally meant punishing two, such was their solidarity.
But Marianne is astute. "Though I imagine that did not make your job easy."
"No, indeed." Marguerite remembers them as children. "They looked like angels and behaved like devils." It is an indiscretion but she feels comfortable with Marianne.
Marianne laughs. "I can only imagine. And now you have approximately a dozen grandchildren."
Now Marguerite laughs. "It certainly seems like that sometimes."
"It certainly sounds like that."
Marguerite laughs again and Marianne grins back. An extraordinary child.
As if summoned by this merriment the door opens and Héloïse comes in, frowning prodigiously.
"Don't scowl so, Héloïse," Marguerite instructs. "Marianne and I are enjoying ourselves."
Héloïse looks back and forth between them, uncomprehending. She has come to investigate and disapprove. Marguerite wishes her daughter were less serious but then, who taught her to be so?
Marianne rises from her chair and nods to Marguerite to take her leave. "It was lovely to meet you," she says and Marguerite believes her.
Marguerite stands and takes Marianne's hands. There is only the slightest flinch from the girl. "Remember me to your father," she says. "Perhaps if he ever visits you here in Paris he and your mother could dine with us. And please, come to speak with me again soon." She is aware of Héloïse's barely concealed incredulity.
"I will," Marianne smiles. Marguerite squeezes her hands and releases her.
The guest of honour the next Saturday is Picasso's newly completed portrait of Brigitte. Even amongst the circle at the rue de Fleurus it is looked on with a good deal of confusion. And amongst the wider community the talk is of how Picasso had managed to take the most beautiful woman in Paris and make this mangled portrait of her.
"I sat for him at least eighty or ninety times." Brigitte is regaling the crowd.
"That is a wild exaggeration," Héloïse says but no one takes much notice.
The man himself is doleful. Marianne only watches from the other side of the room, not daring to approach.
By this point she just about dares to approach Héloïse, who is talking with one of the few other women in the room. Héloïse makes way for her with either grace or well-concealed aggravation - Marianne's nerves make her suspect the latter. "Marianne, this is Sophie. Sophie, Marianne." This appears to be the conclusion of the introductions.
Luckily Sophie puts out her hand. "Sophie Nafisi. Have you heard of The Rogue? The arts magazine?"
"Yes, of course." She shakes Sophie's hand. "You work there?"
Héloïse glances at Marianne for a moment before returning her gaze to the room.
"I own it."
Marianne tries to make some sort of apology but Sophie moves on. "Héloïse's defence of the portrait is dazzling. I published it immediately."
"No," Héloïse says.
"You wrote about it?"
"Here..." Sophie is fishing in her satchel.
"No," Héloïse repeats, ineffectively. "How many do you have in there? It must weigh a tonne."
Marianne takes the magazine from Sophie and is shown the page.
"Don't read it now."
"She is embarrassed." Sophie nudges Héloïse.
"I am not. I only... Very well." Héloïse resigns herself.
But Marianne is already reading. When she looks up she realises Héloïse has been watching. She smiles. "I distinctly remember you telling me you weren't an art critic."
"I'm a critic of the idea women must only be - can only be - passive and beautiful."
"These are powerful words."
Praise slips off Héloïse like water off a duck's back. "I'm going to check on the wine." And she leaves.
"Good night, Sophie, I hope you have a good evening. Thank you, Héloïse, you too!" Sophie calls after her, raising her glass in the direction of Héloïse's retreat. "You'll get used to it," she tells Marianne.
"Will I?" In what sense, exactly, is what Marianne wants to know.
"When you've been around a bit longer."
"I get the distinct impression Héloïse doesn't want me around at all, never mind longer."
"That's what I mean. You'll get used to her."
"Have you known her long?"
"A few years. That's all you're getting from me though. You'll have to discover the rest yourself. It's more fun that way. And now if you'll excuse me I need to corner Pablo into giving me a quote." She barrels her way to the other side of the room without any difficulty even as Marianne, who is sure she is at least twice Sophie's size, is nearly knocked over by someone behind her.
"Good night to you too," Marianne mumbles after her.
She sips her wine and wanders with the flow of the crowd. Most of which is towards the portrait with a momentary pause before going past shaking their heads. Further along she spots Héloïse again, watching the crowd as much as she is looking at the picture.
Marianne sidles up to her. She can tell she is noticed. There's a slight downwards look as if Héloïse is identifying her by her shoes.
"What do you like about it? Your article doesn't say."
"It says what you think is significant about it. Not what you like. Or even if you do."
"Do you like it?"
"Yes. It provokes a response in me. If I did not know your sister it would make me want to know her. And even though I don't know her well I recognise something of her self in it."
Héloïse nods. She still hasn't taken her eyes off the picture and the crowd.
Until Marianne says, "Do you ever pose?"
Now Héloïse looks at her. The look is enough of an answer.
"You wrote very eloquently about the power there can be," Marianne offers as a defence for daring to wonder.
"Look at them." Héloïse indicates the group currently in front of the portrait with confusion all over their faces. "It baffles them. Brigitte is beautiful and a mother and this portrait shows none of that. So what else is there? I know what there is. There is a girl who was promenaded around balls the moment she became of marriageable age. There is a girl leered at on the street. There is a woman who loves to pose because it is on her terms. Not because of vanity. Because she can teach artists how to look. How to respect. To make it easier for every model after. Without her none of this would exist. And they reduce her to some object."
There's nothing Marianne can say to it. Héloïse looks away - away from the picture and the crowd and Marianne. She chews at her lip. Marianne is afraid she is about to disappear again.
Then, a saviour. Brigitte herself arrives, all good humour and laughter.
"Marianne! How did you enjoy your talk with Mother?"
"They were thick as thieves." It is as close to an accusation as possible from Héloïse.
"Good!" At least Brigitte seems pleased.
Héloïse is still pondering. "How did you manage to so thoroughly charm my mother?"
On reflection Marianne thinks most of the job had been completed a few decades before. "Perhaps I am just charming."
Marianne ignores this and turns to Brigitte. "We were just discussing your portrait."
"Yes! Isn't it wonderful?" Brigitte beams at it. "Poor Pablo is rather glum about the reception."
"If his subject is happy..."
"Precisely! But quickly, before you get Héloïse into a debate about who art is for I must leave you. Enjoy your evening, my darlings!"
Marianne looks at Héloïse. Who raises an eyebrow in a challenge. Or an offer. Marianne accepts.
It seemed, during those months, that I could not avoid meeting Héloïse de Montfort. Everywhere I turned there she was. At the salon, the museums, shops, and exhibitions. So that along with my weekly visits to the rue de Fleurus on Saturdays and the occasional arranged visit I ended up seeing her two or three times a week.
Héloïse de Montfort was a plain creature, too quiet and serious for the society she found herself in. A soft chin, faded eyes, hair neither as sunnily blonde as her sister's nor as luxuriously brown and thick as my own. My dark hair that sat above arresting eyebrows, eyes of mysterious depth, a fine nose and immaculate lips...
There is an exhibition being held at one of the new shops along the river specialising in the modern arts and though Marianne and her friends can barely afford food never mind paintings they all visit. It is research, they tell themselves. And there might be hors d'oeuvres.
Marianne is not surprised to see someone who certainly can afford to buy. She watches Héloïse being very intently shepherded around by the proprietor. She watches Héloïse growing increasingly infuriated by this. She's beginning to enjoy herself imagining how this might resolve when Héloïse turns her head in one sharp movement and looks straight at her.
Héloïse waves off her eager chaperone and approaches, negotiating other patrons, other freeloaders, tables, and easels.
"Do you have any recommendations?" Héloïse asks, as though they were already mid-conversation. "My friend over there recommends everything."
"I am not in a buying position."
"No, you are here for the hospitality and the torturing."
Marianne smiles. "That is precisely it."
"Do not torture yourself too much. There's no reason to think your work will not be bought and sold someday. Though I cannot properly judge, having never seen any."
"Would you like to see my work?"
"I see everyone's work, eventually." It seems to Marianne to be phrased expressly so that it does not provoke any hope in her. And indeed it hits its mark.
Yet she perseveres. "Come on Wednesday then. I... don't have a card."
Héloïse pulls her own out and Marianne scratches her address on the back in pencil.
"Very well," Héloïse says.
The landlady is knocking on the door and calling to Marianne. She swears she's only been asleep ten minutes. "Please," she appeals.
"Lady here to see you. I'll let her in?"
"Not today, thank you," Marianne mumbles, ready to roll over and go back to sleep again until she remembers that today is today and today is when she invited Héloïse.
The door is opening and she stumbles through her bedsheets to throw her whole weight behind it. "One moment!"
She hears Héloïse murmuring something to the landlady then footsteps on the stairs.
"In your own time," Héloïse prompts.
Marianne leaps into action.
Empty wine bottles, under the bed. Full wine bottles, under the bed. Scarves and jackets draped over paintings, under the bed. Trousers, under the bed. Skirt from the floor, on. Blouse out from under the bed, on. Hair in the mirror... nothing to be done about that.
Bottles and boxes were strewn about. The packing case she used as a settee suddenly seemed very silly. Apparently she had never emptied, cleaned and refilled a water jar since she moved here. They were perched on every even slightly level surface. She vaguely recalled the intention to tidy up as having occurred last night. Just before Claude sent word of where to meet. And then, as she got dressed to go, the intention not to stay out too long and to rise early to tidy. A ready image supplied itself: something based on Dante, the road to hell strewn with wine bottles and jars of brown-grey water.
Marianne opens the door triumphantly though Héloïse is less than impressed. "I am so sorry," Marianne says brightly. "Do come in."
Her room is large for bedroom but entirely too small as a bedroom-living-room-art-studio. This has proved little problem as Marianne is rarely in her room. Her extended welcome has taken her all over town. The restaurants, the bars, the homes and studios of other artists, the many and varied dens of iniquity.
Héloïse's eyes dart around the room and Marianne begins to fully comprehend what a terrible idea this was. A truly terrible idea. She distracts herself by working through a list of synonyms for 'terrible' to see if any others take her fancy.
Héloïse's lips are pursed and her brow is furrowed as she flips through the stack of canvasses. "No portraits?"
"Because of your father's legacy?"
The easiest answer to that question - the answer Héloïse is already assuming - is, "Yes." So that is what Marianne says and Héloïse is content with it.
Héloïse returns to her silent inspection. A few more canvasses and she still isn't saying anything. Marianne dares to glance. Héloïse gives no indication she knows Marianne is watching her. Presently she says, "Is this it?"
Marianne blinks. "What does that mean?"
"How long have you been here?"
"Nearly three months."
"I suppose I expected more."
"Quantity? You think output is some indicator?"
Héloïse is completely unconcerned with Marianne's outrage. "Just more."
"I thought you were no art critic."
Héloïse is amused. She thinks this is funny. There is a twitching in her lower lip, Marianne sees. "Indeed I am not."
"But you sit in judgement?"
"You think I am judging you?"
Marianne produces a frustrated affirmative gesture that has Héloïse raising her eyebrows. "And why do you never answer a question?"
"Do I not?"
The gesticulation Marianne has in mind now runs more along the lines of a strangulation. She resists.
"You charm my mother but you can't bring yourself to talk to Pablo. You understood what I wrote about portraits but you don't paint any yourself. You can look at a piece for hours but you are too afraid to work on your own for more than thirty minutes. Where is this complexity in your work?"
Marianne feels cold. "You don't know me. You don't understand me."
"I do understand you."
"You don't and you don't understand my work."
"What is there to understand here?"
"Just because it doesn't match up to your ideas of what art should be? We've left that behind. There are no rules. No conventions."
"There is still discipline and hard work." Héloïse toes a wine bottle out from its not very effective hiding place under the bed and allows it to roll gently into the room, damning Marianne excruciatingly slowly.
"It's experience," Marianne says when it finally stops moving. "It's what artists ought to do."
"That is not the only form of experience." Héloïse softens a fraction. "Pleasure and enjoyment is important. The risk is being crushed by it. We have lost too much promise to that."
"You're talking about genius. That's irrelevant here, as you said yourself."
"I did not."
Marianne is angry. She's not entirely sure who with. "I cannot paint like them."
"Good," Héloïse says with a vehemence so forceful it knocks Marianne back. "We already have them. We need you."
In her present state of hangover, with Héloïse there in her apartment for the first time, throwing concepts like this about, Marianne is overwhelmed. "Thank you for coming," she says stonily.
Héloïse nods like she expected nothing else - possibly she is used to crushing people on a daily basis. Marianne thinks that sounds plausible.
In the doorway, Héloïse stops and says, "We will see you on Saturday." It is not, in any sense, a question.
Marianne says nothing but she listens to Héloïse's footsteps all the way down the stairs and the sound of the front door. She turns back to her paintings, her betrayers. She flips through them. To comfort herself. Except now all she can see is what they lack. All she can see is what someone who lives among Cezannes and Matisses and Picassos must see. And yet who insists that is not what she wants. Marianne swings, knocks the lot from the easel and the others from where they lean against the wall. Grinds her foot into them lying helpless on the floor. Turns away and collapses onto the bed.
Marianne stews and is still stewing by evening when she was supposed to be meeting friends. She is tempted to go and harangue the lot of them, Claude in particular - that this is all his doing. It would be well justified, she thinks. Not entirely justified. No, she is intent on staying in her self pity. But why? She wasn't going to paint. She might never paint again. If she couldn't paint she could at least enjoy herself and live a little. She hauls her clothes out from under the bed.
Brigitte is taking the scenic route home along the Seine, as is her well-deserved right to any amount of peace and quiet she can find in the day. It's almost dinner but still bright as she walks along the river. The late May evening is warm with promises of a heady summer to come.
Couples walk together, children play their games, the booksellers begin to pack up, a youth lies on the grass with an arm flung over his face and cigarette dangling from his mouth. Except not. Brigitte approaches.
"Ah, Marianne." Brigitte peers down at her. "Are you beginning your evening or is this the end of a day that started earlier this week?"
This is clearly too much of a question and Marianne remains prostrate. "That would depend on what day it is," comes the muffled reply.
"Never a good sign," Brigitte observes.
Marianne manages to get her head all of four inches off the floor. "Please don't tell Héloïse." The poor thing.
"Where would I start? Anyway, it might work in your favour if I did." Brigitte laughs. A man walks past and looks at them - at her.
"She thinks I am a lightweight. That I don't take my art seriously."
"I cannot imagine why she might think that. Come, people give more credibility to one's arguments when one is vertical." She extends a hand to help. Marianne sways for a moment. "The river is that way. I've been vomited on enough today."
"I'm fine," Marianne lies, but is not sick.
"Héloïse is strict with you. That's because she likes you and believes in you."
"Does she?" Marianne is dusting her trousers off. Brigitte turns her around and knocks grass from the back of her jacket.
When Marianne faces her once more Brigitte looks her up and down. Yes, Héloïse liked her and it wasn't at all hard to understand why. Marianne was gentle - embarrassed right now in a charming dishevelled way - but clearly not immune to taking risks and making the most of life.
"I think you could be good for her. And she for you, if you will let her." She puts out her arm and lets Marianne escort her home. She allows Marianne an escape at the end of the street, with promises to see her tomorrow.
Marianne attempts to keep her distance on Saturday but a balance must be struck with not appearing intimidated. She allows herself to linger in Héloïse's peripheral vision but will not get any closer. This is the resolution. This does not hold.
Sophie seizes upon her and drags her over to where Héloïse and Brigitte are talking. "Found her! Héloïse said you had some insight on our subject matter."
Marianne allows herself a glance at Héloïse who looks only vaguely encouraging, which is more than vaguely unsettling.
"Marianne and I were talking about artistic conventions earlier this week."
Indeed they were and recovering from it has taken Marianne from then until this morning. If it could be said she is recovered now. Which she suspects she is not as she has something of a headache. Also, Brigitte is looking at her with far too much amusement.
"All the old ways are being torn up," Brigitte says. "Which is immensely liberating."
"But..." Héloïse turns to Marianne, prompting, because of course she knows the prevarication.
Which Marianne has been thinking about. Just a little, over the last days. "It's hard. To find a direction then. For my father, for instance, there is a correctness to art. A level of objectivity. That those rules and conventions have to be obeyed. There is a structure to work within."
"Embrace the limitations," bursts forth Sophie. "I want to be new but I still have to use the alphabet and there's nothing so conventional as having to use the same twenty-six letters as most everyone in the Latinised world."
"Art is different," comes the rebuttal from the unexpected source of Héloïse. "Words are a barrier to understanding. An abstract hurdle."
"That's your writer's block talking," Sophie accuses her.
Héloïse waves it off. "There are some rules and conventions so deeply ingrained in our culture we see them just as human nature."
"Such as?" Marianne asks.
"How we behave, how we dress..."
"How we dress, fascinating," Brigitte says and Marianne ignores her harder.
"And if we abandon the convention of entering a house by the door to come by the window instead?"
Héloïse smiles, as Marianne had intended. "The window is the convention of the lover," she points out and that is not what Marianne had intended at all.
"She's blushing," Sophie notes helpfully.
Héloïse takes mercy, "But yes, that is precisely what I mean," and Marianne is grateful. The conversation turns and Marianne gets very much behind discussing the upcoming shows and exhibitions. By the end of the evening it is not so much that she has forgiven Héloïse as she realises she was, of course, right.