Pencil on paper, lines on white, the picture begins. With broad sweeps, most of which won't make the final artwork.
The news tonight shows fire, destruction, death, and other glimpses of what she probably should have expected. And all she can think about is Angel, if he's out there, if he's safe. She shouldn't care – it's against the rules. Breaking up means breaking all connections, every one. Unfortunately her feelings don't seem to get that yet.
Pencil on paper, the best lines stay. The others are ignored – she used to erase them, but now she just pretends they're not there, and eventually they start fading into the background.
Maybe she should have taken the plane tickets. Gone away to where the tv wouldn't have cared about a few buildings being levelled. Where she wouldn't have to wonder if he was levelled with them.
Amanda sits on the arm of her chair. "What are you drawing, Aunt Nina?"
"It's a beach, look. Here are the palm trees."
Wrinkled nose, doubtful face. "It doesn't look like a beach."
"It's not done yet."
Pencil on paper, for moments, just moments at a time. Her best work isn't done all at once – she gets her first thoughts down, then turns to something else, sometimes for days before she can come back and look at the picture, see what needs to happen next. (Her very best work was done in one mad rush, in just an hour of frantic scribbling. But she tries not to remember that.)
The weekend paper has a special edition fold-out showing exactly what the damage was.
Strangely enough, it's taken her this long to remember her cage, that it's gone – and while Jill is gasping over the death toll, all she can do is think logistics. She never realised she was this callous before.
Pencil on paper, lines on lines, shades on shades. Amanda can see the palm trees, now.
Jill finds the box in her bedroom, while cleaning – or maybe snooping. "Nina, what are these?"
"They're chains. For an art project."
She's sceptical. "What… kind of art project?" With is-there-something-kinky-going-on-should-I-send-Amanda-upstairs radiating from every line.
There's this whole explanation she's got prepared, about the bondage of modern capitalism and expressive symbols in modern art… but she just repeats "They're for an art project."
They'll have to know eventually.
Pencil on paper, delicately sketching out traces of the picture she's seen since it was just three strokes.
Out the window one morning, Fred is standing on the sidewalk opposite the house. They lock eyes for a moment, then Fred nods and turns away.
A different person would run out the front door, hug her, demand answers. A different person wouldn't freeze up. And that's when she remembers it can't be Fred at all.
Guess they're both different, then.
Pencil on paper, as the drawing becomes a drawing instead of something else. Lines become trees, sea, sand, shells, and two people in each other's arms.
She should have arranged some kind of signal with him. Something like a postcard in the mail, even if all it said was "I'm fine". Just… something.
To stop her wondering.
Jill and Amanda admire her picture. "That's beautiful, Aunt Nina."
"They look… sort of wistful."
She calls it A Boy And His Dog, and she frames it.