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His Lover's Little Secret Andrea Laurence 2022/8/3 13:54:32

Sabine glanced over her shoulder and found Jared out cold in his new car seat. “I think he likes it,” she said. She glanced at her watch. It was a little after seven. It was earlier than Jared usually went to bed, and he’d probably beat the sun to rise, but that was okay. If she could get him upstairs, change his Pull-Up and take off his shoes without waking him up, she’d consider it a victory.

They got out of the car. Sabine walked around to the other side, but Gavin had already scooped up the sleepy toddler in his arms. Without waking, Jared put his head on Gavin’s shoulder and clung to his neck. Gavin gently ran his palm over the child’s head, brushing back the baby-soft strands of his dark hair and resting his hand on Jared’s back to keep him steady.

Sabine watched with a touch of tears distorting her vision. It was sweet watching the two of them, like carbon copies of one another. It was only their second day together and already she could see Jared warming up to Gavin.

Gavin carried Jared through the building and into her apartment after she unlocked the door. Sabine led the way down the hall to the bedroom. Flipping on the lights, they were greeted with calming mint-green walls, cream wainscoting and a mural of Winnie the Pooh characters she’d painted above the crib. Her double bed was an afterthought on the opposite wall.

She slipped off Jared’s shoes. His soft cotton pants and T-shirt would be fine to sleep in. She gestured for Gavin to lay him on the crib mattress and made quick work of changing him.

Jared immediately curled into a ball, reaching out for his stuffed dinosaur and pulling it to his chest. Sabine covered him with his blanket. They slipped out quietly, the night-light kicking on as the overhead light went out.

Sabine pulled the door closed gently and made her way back into the living room. She expected Gavin to make noises about leaving, but instead he loitered, his eyes focused on a painting on the wall over the dining room table.

“I remember this one,” Gavin said, his fists in his pants pockets.

Sabine looked up at the canvas and smiled. “You should. I was painting that one while we were dating.”

The background of the painting was intricately layered with a muted palette of white, cream, ivory, off-white and ecru. The design was extremely structured and orderly. The variations of the pattern were really quite remarkable if you could differentiate the subtle color differences.

It was Gavin on canvas. And across it, splatters of purple, black and green paint. Disorder. Chaos. Color. That was Sabine. It was a striking juxtaposition. One that when it was complete, was the perfect illustration of why as a couple they made good art, but not good sense.

“You weren’t finished with it when I saw it last. Some of this is new, like the blue crosses. What did you end up calling it?”

The pale blue crosses were actually plus signs. The final addition to the work after seeing her own unexpected plus sign on a pregnancy test. “Conception,” she said.

Gavin looked back at the painting and turned his head to look at it from a new angle. “It’s very nice. I like the colors. It’s a much-needed pop against the beige.”

Sabine smiled. He didn’t see the symbolism of their relationship in it at all and that was okay. Art was only half about what she created. The other half was how others perceived and experienced her work.

He turned back to her, his face serious. “You are a really talented artist, Sabine.”

The compliment made her squirm a little. She was always uncomfortable with praise. Frankly, she wasn’t used to it after growing up with parents who didn’t understand why their daughter danced to a different drummer. “It’s okay,” she said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “Not my best work.”

Gavin frowned and closed the gap between them. He clasped her hand in his and pulled it to the red silk of his tie. “No,” he insisted. “It’s not just okay. You’re not just okay.”

Sabine tried to pull away, but he wasn’t having it. He bent his knees until he was at her eye level and she couldn’t avoid his gaze.

“You are a gifted painter,” he insisted. “You were then and you certainly are now. I was always amazed at how you could create such wonderful and imaginative things from just a blank canvas. You have a great deal of skill, Sabine, whether you think so or not. I hope our son has the same eye for the beautiful things in life.”

The words were hard enough to hear when they were about her, but knowing he wished the same for their son was too much for her to take. Her parents hadn’t wanted her to be a painter. It was frivolous. They’d wanted her to stay home and work on the farm, grow up and marry a farmer, and then raise a brood of tiny farmers. She was absolutely nothing like they wanted. And the day she left for New York, they said as much.