Long Cold Winter: Chapter Thirty-Six

Late afternoon found Matt sitting cuddled up with Amanda. He had made sure to return with something special from Spago for both her and Egypt. That ‘something special’ had also included a little dessert. Now, he was enjoying the pleasures of holding his beloved Amanda as they cuddled together under a cover. It had been a long time since he had enjoyed something as rewarding as this. Too long.

The doorbell roused them, but Sandra motioned that they remain where they were. “I’ll get it.” She vanished through the door to the hall for a few minutes, then reappeared. “Where do you want the papers from work put?”

He looked up. “Just set them on my desk, please. Thank you.”

She smiled. “You’re welcome.” She refrained from calling him ‘dad’. She didn’t want to offend anyone. Besides. It wouldn’t seem right until the rest saw the results from the test. She vanished again.

Moments later, the doorbell rang again. This time, she returned with the envelope. He looked up at her expectantly. “They’re here?”

She nodded. “Yep.” She handed the envelope to him and he opened it. A smile spread upon his face.

He looked up. “Welcome to the family.”

Amanda smiled. “Yes. Welcome to the family.”

He looked down at Amanda in surprise. “How’d you know?”

She looked up and smiled. “Matt, she looks like Egypt did at her age.” She looked over at Sandra. “You’re what, Twenty?”

Sandra smiled. “I am nineteen.”

Amanda nodded. “It is hard to mistake a scion of the House Of Morrow. They all look pretty much alike. Or similar. But they all look like a Morrow.” She gazed at Sandra. “Wait until you meet them all. You’ll see what I mean.”

Matt laughed.”So the test was unneeded?”

Amanda grinned. “Where I was concerned, yes. But your sisters and brothers are a matter all to themselves. They might not be so easy to convince through visual similarities and such. They are awful protective of you. Egypt, I think, has already accepted Sandy as her sister. Otherwise, she would have already been ‘all up in her face’ and all, to quote E.”

Matt nodded. “True. Too bad she didn’t get to meet Thomas. But Sol should be home in a day or so. At least that was his plan. Tawny and Lynne were coming as well. but not Tariq. He is still in the foreign exchange program and won’t be home until after graduation. Unless he decides upon staying and going through one of the Universities over there.”

Amanda looked up at him. “Where is he?”

Matt smiled proudly. “He’s in Paris.”

Amanda and Sandra gasped at the same time. “They have a wonderful university over there!”

Matt nodded. “He got his mother’s artistic talent.”

Amanda smiled up at him. “You’ll have to indulge us. I would love to see his work.”

Sandra looked at her father. “I would too.”

He looked at his daughter then at his new love. “How would you two like to help me with something?”

Amanda sat up. “Like what?”

Matt swallowed, then began hesitantly. “I have decided to open a museum gallery of sorts memorializing my late wife. To share her art with the world. Most of what I have are sketches. I have to call her brother and parents to see if she ever left any paintings or other artistic media. If so, we will also be setting those up for display.

“I need your help to pull the boxes containing the sketch pads out of storage in the attic. While we are doing so, I will be able to show you some of Tariq’s works. Even much of what he did before he was in middle school.”

Amanda got up eagerly. “What are we waiting for?”

Sandra rose as well.”Sure!”

He rose. “Then, let’s get cracking.”

He led them out of the living room and up the grand staircase to a door that had been locked. digging his keys out of his pocket, he unlocked the door and opened it. Amanda flipped on the light and led the way up into the attic. Sandra followed her up the stairs, and Matt brought up the rear. At the top, the women halted and waited for him.

He went over to the paintings leaning on the far wall. “These are Tariq’s works. Some are not as good as others, but they show his progress as he became comfortable with brushes, easel, and oils.” He returned to a midway point. “And here are his earliest works. I collected them all and kept them as memories of how wonderful he was.” He pulled out a box. “Take this down first. We’ll return for the paintings after we get the boxes containing Juanita’s sketch pads.”

For the rest of the afternoon, they pulled boxes out of the attic. It amazed both women that Juanita had been such a prolific artist. Every box was full of sketch pads, but they had only expected a few. The darkest and most disturbing sketches were those made nearer to the end of her life. It was almost as if she had recorded all her pain. All her nightmares.

But Tariq’s painting were all beautiful. Even the flawed ones were of greater quality than some they had seen in books and museums. He had an eye for beauty and perfection. Even in the imperfect.

Both women felt honored, privileged, to have been allowed to see the art. For Amanda, it gave her a sense of why Matt’s pain and sorrow ran so deep. She had been a beautiful person with a beautiful soul. Amanda could only hope to live up to that someday.

By dinner time, they were thoroughly exhausted. It had been a long day. A new member had officially been added to the family, Matt had found his way back into living again, and The world would soon be witness to some of the most amazing art it had ever seen.

Egypt had dinner waiting for them in the dining room. Indian cuisine. Curries. Couscous. Date-based desserts. The smells made Matt think he had died and gone to heaven.

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