“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
An Excerpt From Chapter One . . .
She walks, she talks, she sings a little song.
Krista stood in the terminal lobby, slim and statuesque, mustering all the sophistication she could. She gave a discreet tug at the slit neckline of her hip-belted tunic where it hinted at her cleavage. She could feel him looking at her, his eyes delivering a message as unsettling as a hot breath on the back of her neck. It seemed like there was always some guy ogling her. Usually creeps, but this one was appealing, a business type in dark suit and tie, with briefcase and all, and the kind of thick, reddish-wheat hair that made a Minnesota girl like her think of Vikings.
She’d pretended not to notice him when he emerged from the airport bar and lingered there, standing tall, bullish. Now she watched him from the corner of her eye as he pulled a pack of cigarettes from the inside pocket of his suit jacket and lit one up. He exhaled and resettled his gaze on her. She acted oblivious, with chin up and a soft smile on her lips while trying to appear self-assured even though a fluttery mess inside. She was good at that, at masks, if not the self-assurance, not with men anyway. But acting was her forté. She sang jazz and pop music, after all, and was hoping to make a career of it. She couldn’t do that without a knack for drama.
She was twenty-two, ripened and sweet with readiness in some ways but in other ways feeling as unborn as a cocooned caterpillar. She was beautiful, really beautiful, and knew it, too, but that only made her feel vulnerable, so she donned a cover of confidence and poise as carefully designed as the chic tunic and pants ensemble she wore—and then hoped it worked, whatever that meant.
Still, the girl inside her kept fumbling around. Should she look at him? He was good-looking, and he tripped her heart a few beats for sure. She glanced about, feigning nonchalance as she sought to get hold of what to do. When by chance she met his gaze directly, she froze, startled, and quickly averted her eyes. The way he was looking at her, like a piece of fresh fruit he wanted to peel and devour, rattled her to her core.
Her mother’s voice echoed in her mind: Men! They’re disgusting!
Krista scowled. Shut. Up. So he’s being a guy. So what’s new? She inhaled a slow, deep breath. Relax, she told herself, wanting to check him out more, but then was aware, too, of a lingering queasiness in her stomach. That look . . . .
Noticing her cheeks had grown hot, threatening to crack her mask, she quickly turned her back to him, gripped the strap of her Samsonite cosmetic case and strode across the terminal lobby. When she couldn’t wipe the feeling of his eyes off her body, she slipped out of sight in the gift shop.
Her flight was delayed an hour. She and her mother had said their goodbyes when she’d checked her suitcase with the Negro skycap at the drop-off zone, but their conversation hung on in Krista’s mind, unready to be let go of.
“You’ll be all right waiting by yourself, won’t you Krista?” her mom had said, her eyes begging understanding. “You know how your father will be if I’m gone too long.”
“I’ll be fine, Mom,” Krista answered, boxing up her own disquiet. She could keep a lid on it, hold tight and manage. She always did.
“Just be careful, Krista. And call. Call me when you get to San Francisco.”
They’d both teared up and shared a quick hug, a bit awkward as always. Her mom frowned on shows of physical affection. It never came easily.
Nothing was said about it being Krista’s first time flying, nor about her moving more than a half continent away. About the rest, the whys, the two of them had already thrashed all that to tatters, and she’d resolved to shake off any dangly threads. After all, she couldn’t stay, not now, not after all that happened.
She’d be on her way soon. For now, she busied her mind at the magazine rack, thumbing through Look and Harper’s Bazaar. After skimming an article on the growing acceptance of women wearing pants to work—she adored Yves Saint Laurent’s CityPants collection—she made her way to a tiny artisan gallery at the back of the store and began browsing the artwork: watercolors and pastels, black and white photographs, blown glass animal figurines and colorful ceramics, some macramé plant hangers and metal sculptures.
When her eyes fell on two small, bronze and leaded glass statuettes, she halted, staring at the sculptor’s unique winged Venus. As angelic as it was sensual, her beauty seemed almost transcendent. Krista recognized the young goddess immediately, depicted with the same naked innocence as in that Renaissance painting by Botticelli that she loved so much. But something wasn’t right with this Venus. To Krista, she seemed in pain.
“The one with the broken wing . . . ,” she whispered.
“Did you say something?” a sales clerk standing nearby asked. “Miss?”
“The broken one,” Krista mumbled. “I’ll take it.”
“Oh? Don’t you want the one that isn’t damaged?”
Krista squeezed out a polite smile. “It’s okay,” she said, tucking some loose strands of auburn hair into her paisley-patterned headband scarf. “I—I can mend it.”
“Well, I’ll give you a discount. It’s worth less like this.”
Worth less. Worthless.
Having made her purchase, she hurried off to board her flight, feeling oddly disarranged, shaken. Like a lightning bolt, the wounded, winged representation of the goddess of love had cracked into something hidden deep inside her, something restless, almost feral.
(END OF EXCERPT)
Learn more about The Woman Inside Her plot, characters, and the setting and times in which the story is set, and see an image of the Botticelli painting, The Birth of Venus, which the statuette that Krista finds in the art gallery is modeled on (though in the painting the young goddess is not winged).
Copyright 2018, 2019, 2020 Martta Karol, All Rights Reserved