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It was a large painting and at first glance appeared to be nothing more than a simple depiction of a beautiful woodsy forest, the trees taking up most the space, the sun peeking over the top of the forest. At second glance, Bette saw what drew Tina to the scene. In the corner, on a small path, the trees welcomed a mother and a small girl, walking towards the woods, leading a dapper brown pony.
The taller figure held a basket, and they were hand in hand, their steps in sync. Their faces weren’t shown, but the cascade of curls down the child’s back was obvious, the taller figure with matching curls, both wearing dark traveling cloaks. Somehow the painter was able to convey a softness to the scene, in the way the light played on the leaves, making the forest seem safe, inviting, the way the child appeared happy on her feet, the mother with her head bent in attention. Like the branches were reaching down to carry the duo away on leaves and twigs, an earthly hug.
“It can’t be… Tee. It can’t be,” Bette whispered, her body still, Shane right behind her.
Reaching for Bette’s hand, Tina held it in both of hers, pressing closer to offer comfort, support, the look on her wife’s face one she would remember for a very long time.
“Remember what you told me, Honey? About the night your mother tucked you in for the last time?”
“We talked about my new pony, about going riding in the morning for a picnic…” The words would not come, a thick lump taking up space in Bette’s throat and she swallowed thickly, trying to process what she was seeing and what it might mean. That night, so long ago, rose in the echoes of her heart like a dream half realized, choking her in a grip that never really went away. The picture enthralled her, she couldn’t look away, new details leaping off the canvas the longer she gazed at it.
Footsteps on the stairs filled the room as the crew arrived, standing ready to report on what they found, needing to know what the next stage was. Stepping to intercede, giving Bette time to compose herself, Shane took inventory of what was found.