– What did you want to see me for, Max?
– Well, you see… I have those two paintings and…
Max Blake was Deirdre’s brother-in-law. Her sister Ella had passed away a few years ago. “Since Ella’s death, I have been trying to clean up the house a little bit. I know how those paintings were important to her. It was your parents’ portrait, painted by Paule Leneuf, who was like a second mother for Ella. Would you like to have them?”
“I don’t know what to say. Don’t you want to keep them here?”
“To be honest with you, I have been feeling recently like the end is near for me. I’d like to make sure you have them, that would reassure me.”
That basically finished convincing Deirdre, even if she only accepted one portrait, suggesting that Max should give the other one to his son, Alan.
– And I also have a self-portrait of Paule Leneuf, although it’s not exactly a masterpiece. You can have it as well.
– Erm, Max? Do I have to remind you that I live in a caravan? Can’t you find someone else who’d be interested in that one?
And so Max continued his quest, stopping at Alan and Grace’s place to give them the other portrait.
– Hi Max! We didn’t know you were coming! Alan’s asleep in the living room though. Should I wake him?
– Please don’t. I’ll wait for him to wake up.
Alan was indeed fast asleep in a lounge chair, completely oblivious to his son Xavier babbling at his side.
Max whiled away the time by playing with his grand-son, duly watched by Sonia, the (very stupid) dog of the house.
When Alan woke up, he started as he saw his dad. Max explained the purpose of his visit and unwrapped the portrait. “Oh, erm… thanks ? Any reason why you’re giving us that… painting?” Max remained vague in his answer.
The last portrait was Paule’s self-portrait and the most difficult. He had a kind of idea about whom might be interested in receiving it. But that meant going to the city and meeting with, well… a shady character.
He was therefore a little bit nervous as he pushed open the metal gate leading to Theo Golzine’s house. But after all, Paule was his mother.
He felt the whole time that he was being watched by invisible eyes, which was quite disconcerting. A young man came to answer the door.
The young man seemed cautious. “How can I help you?” He fumbled with his hands around his waist.
But he relaxed after Max explained who he was and why he was there.
– A portrait of my grand-mother then?
– Oh, you are Theo Golzine’s son of course! Can I see your father?
– He’s not at home right now, nor is my mother. But he should be back very soon if you don’t mind to wait.
– I have all my time.
Max couldn’t shake off that impression of being closely monitored. “Maybe I shouldn’t have stayed… I should have left the portrait and gone right away.” Seeing his confusion, Nathaniel tried to put him at ease by asking him a few questions about his grand-mother whom he had never met.
– Oh, she was really close to my wife who was her niece. She practically raised her. She liked painting very much and was quite good at it too. Well, her self-portrait was one of her earliest artworks though.
– I know some of her paintings. My father has them hung upstairs.
– Do you think he will accept yet another painting?
– Oh certainly, especially if it’s his mother.
Nathaniel couldn’t help adding bitterly: “It sometimes seems to me as if she was the only person he really loved.”
Behind the kitchen wall, Theo and Sen were assessing the situation. An old man wasn’t potentially dangerous, but better be safe than sorry.
Once he had identified Max Blake, he made his appearance as if he had been just back.
Max repeated his offer, which Theo accepted with gratitude.
– And so that was Grand-Mother?
– Yes, son. Although I admit it doesn’t look like her at all.
His mission accomplished, Max could go in peace.