The last owner said, “Keep her.”
“Her.” Not “it.” I didn’t give the word much thought at the time. But now, standing in the house with nothing but my boxes and furnishings, it hits me. They didn’t leave anything. If a piece of furniture wasn’t nailed down, it was gone. From where I stand near the door I can see a few appliances in the kitchen, but the cavernous entryway is eerily quiet and completely empty. So why didn’t they want the painting? And why did they call it a ‘her?’
Yes, the painting is of a girl, sort of. An almost girl. A doll, really, but it has so much detail it could be real. I find myself staring at her—I shake my head. At it. I find myself staring at it: Blonde curls, blue-grey eyes, a light daffodil yellow dress decorated with bows and lace, a string of pearls around her neck. The ornate golden frame and murky dark background accentuate the warm colors and her features. She’s exquisite. Truly a sight to behold. I can’t stop myself from reaching a finger to brush against her porcelain—no, her painted skin. But the paint feels like porcelain beneath my fingertips. It is—smooth. So smooth. Like she is real, or as real as a doll can be.
My fingers drift to the satin dress, the feathery lace, it’s all real. Why did I ever think it wasn’t? Gemma is real and always has been. Gemma. The name rolls off my tongue as if I am referring to a friend. A family member. Someone I have known all my life.
There’s a twinkle in her silvery blue eyes.
One week later I drop the old set of keys into a younger woman’s hand. I have successfully removed all my things from the house. She catches me on my way out the mansion’s looming front door for the final time.
“Um, excuse me, miss? Don’t you want the painting?” She asks kindly, her eyes drifting in Gemma’s direction before looking back at me. I simply shake my head.