circa 1980’s The Bay Area
After they left, he turned to Rachel’s portrait. He stared at it for several minutes. Those eyes are the same as Rachel Stapleton, yet they at the same time are different. Somehow, I believe Rachel Harrison is behind this . . . Who are you, and who is Rachel Stapleton? He wondered.
At the Golden Cowrie the next morning, Samuel sat sipping his French coffee. He failed to notice a tall man in his late twenties take a chair in front of him.
“Dreaming?” The man prodded with a laugh.
Looking up, Samuel beheld a smiling face, encased in a manicured, black beard. The man’s three-piece heather gray suit added a sophisticated air to him.
“Raymond Pitt, what brought you down here?”
“When did we become so formal, old friend? You do not plan to ask me, how I am?”
“In that case . . . how are you?”
“Just fine . . . I see you are troubled about something, my friend.”
“Being roommates in college has given you a definite advantage in analyzing my moods.”
“Could be . . . I would venture to guess that it has something to do with a woman?”
“Yes, does the name Rachel Stapleton mean anything to you?”
“Rachel Stapleton. Isn’t she too old for you?”
“By that, I assume you know who she is. Could you please tell me?”
“You don’t read the Society Page of my newspaper?”
“The Society Page of the San Francisco Examiner? You cannot be serious, News-Editor Pitt.”
“If you did, you would not have to ask me such questions. Newspapers are printed for information.”
“I promise to buy today’s Examiner if you will tell me about her.”
“It’s a deal. Rachel Stapleton is a pleasant and generous elderly rich lady who some people find eccentric.”
“Eccentric? In what way?”
“She gave twenty thousand dollars to charity last week.”
“What is so eccentric about that?”
“The charity was the Home for French Poodles.”
“You are joking?”
“No, she loves poodles and thought it appropriate.”
“Oh! So you wouldn’t consider her offering me ten thousand dollars for a portrait unusual?”
“Not for Rachel Stapleton. She must be in love with you,” Raymond jokingly stated.
“What? What did you say about love?”
“I was making a joke, Samuel. Is there something else on your mind?’
“Nothing that I wish to talk about.”
“Are you going to sell her the portrait? That’s a dumb question. What I really want to know is, what do you plan to do with the money? If I may make a recommendation, this restaurant of Pitt- Taylor Enterprises could use some improvements.”
“Are you done? No, I assume you are finished. True, we could use the money for our business, but I do not plan to sell.”
“I promised someone that I would not sell it no matter what occurred.”
“What kind of painting is this any way?”
“I see. She made you promise never to sell?”
“You cannot break your promise, but you could always paint another one.”
“True, but it would not capture the same elements of life. It is too valuable to allow it to disappear into some old mansion. I can’t allow that.”
“It’s your decision, old friend.”
“I know, I know . . . ”
Later that morning Charles Jenkins dropped by the Golden Cowrie with an envelope for Samuel. When Samuel opened it, he found a check.
“$25,000,” he gulped in astonishment.
“Miss Rachel is very generous, Sir.”
“I see . . . Why does she want that portrait?” He demanded.
“She told you the reason, Sir.”
“Why does it have that effect on her?”
“I am not liberty to discuss that, but I will say this: it reminds her of someone very dear from the past.”
“Someone from the past? I do not understand that comment.”
“Sir, I cannot be more specific. She has her heart set on it, and it would please her greatly to have it. I implore you, please allow her to have the portrait. I am sure that the young lady in the portrait would tell you to do so out of kindness. She seems like a person who would do such a good deed. I know she is.”
“What do you mean, you know she is?”
“When I saw that portrait, I could not take my eyes off it. I felt drawn to it, and the more I gazed into those emerald eyes, the more I felt that I knew her. Does that make sense, Mr. Taylor?”
“Yes, it does to me. I have the same reaction to it. I would dare say that I am falling in love with it. It seems so real, so alive to me.”
“Why does it hold such a mystical, enchanting quality over us?”
“I wish, I knew, Mr. Jenkins. I wish, I knew.”
“What should I tell Miss Rachel?”
“Tell her, I will bring it to her tomorrow afternoon.”
“She will be happy to hear the good news.”
“I hope so.”
Charles turned and left. Samuel pondered on young Rachel Harrison and old Rachel Stapleton.
To be continued…
G. D. Williams © 2011