Excerpt: 'Matters of the Heart'

Hope lit candles around the room and left the lights in the loft dim. Coming home to this room always soothed her. She slept on a little platform, up a ladder, on a spare narrow bed, and loved looking down at the room and the feeling of flying as she fell asleep. The loft was completely different from anywhere she had ever lived, and she loved that about it too. Because she had always feared it so much, this time she had embraced change. There was something powerful about accepting what frightened her most. Her private nemeses were loss and change, and rather than running from them, she had learned to face them with dignity and strength.

There was a small black granite kitchen at the back of the loft. She knew she had to eat, so eventually she wound up there, and heated up a can of soup. Most of the time, she was too lazy to make much of a meal. She lived on soups and salads and eggs. On the rare occasions when she wanted a real meal, she went to some simple restaurant alone and ate quickly, to get it over with. She had never been much of a cook, and made no pretense of it. It had always seemed like a waste of time to her, there were so many other things that interested her more—previously, her family, and now, her work. In the past three years, her work had become her life. She put her whole soul into it and it showed.

Hope was eating her soup, watching the snow fall outside, when her cell phone rang, and she set the soup down, and dug the phone out of her camera bag. She wasn't expecting any calls, and smiled when she heard the familiar voice of her agent, Mark Webber. She hadn't heard from him in a while.

"Okay, so where are you now? And what time zone are you in? Am I waking you up?" She laughed in response, and sat back against the couch with a smile. He had represented her for the last ten years, when she went back to work. He usually tried to push her to do commercial jobs, but he also had a deep respect for her more serious artistic endeavors. He always said that one day she would be one of the most important American photographers of her generation, and in many ways she already was, and was deeply respected by both curators and her peers.

"I'm in New York," she said, smiling. "And you're not waking me up."

"I'm disappointed. I figured you were in Nepal, or Vietnam, or someplace scary and disgusting. I'm surprised you're here." He knew how much she hated holidays, and all the reasons why. She had good reason. But she was a remarkable woman—a survivor—and a dear friend. He liked and admired her enormously.

"I figured I'd stick around for a while. I was sitting here watching the snow. It's pretty. I might go out and shoot for a bit later. Some nice old-fashioned stuff."

"It's freezing out," he warned her. "Don't catch cold." He was one of the few people who worried about her, and she was touched by his concern. She had moved around too much in recent years to stay in contact with her old friends. She had lived in Boston since college, but when she got back from India, she decided to move to New York. Hope had always been a solitary person, and was even more so now. It concerned him, but she seemed content with her life as it was.

"I just got in," she reassured him, "and I was having some chicken soup."

"My grandmother would approve," he said, smiling again. "So what do you have planned at the moment?" He knew she hadn't taken any assignments, since nothing had come through him.

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