If you are new to this story series, please begin with chapter 1, in flight, chapter 1, revisited
Lydia was not going to Atlanta for business. Lydia worked from home, selling retail ads for a Maryland newspaper, and while she occasionally visited her local customers and occasionally went into the office, there was no business to tend to in Atlanta. Her husband, Mark, was going away on business and when he did, Lydia liked to leave town as well, to try on a new city, she would tell him. She had been to Atlanta before but it had been some time since she last visited and there were a few sights in the city that intrigued her. When asked questions by fellow travelers as to where she was going or what she was going to do in her destination city, Lydia always told the “business” story—it was easy to recite and left everything to one’s imagination, including her own. Mark didn’t object to these trips—Lydia’s adventures intrigued him, her mind excited him, and he believed her when she told him he was her only man.
Lydia was staying at a midtown hotel that she liked very much—mostly because it was close to The High Museum of Art. Museums were places for Lydia to imagine, to wander into the lives of the one dimensional, to reinvent their pleasure, pain and beauty and make it her own. The High was home to a Joseph DeCamp painting that Lydia studied several times, The Blue Mandarin Coat. The painting was a portrait of a redhead, not a particularly beautiful woman, but a woman wearing a particularly beautiful coat. Her pose was impressive, confident, almost haughty, one hand on her hip, her head and neck turned to the side. But Lydia thought her eyes were the most compelling feature of the painting. The eyes were a beautiful blue, lined with the pink, pale skin of a redhead, eyes that looked like they were always wet, eyes that belied the confident pose. Perhaps the woman, the model, was just uncomfortable, too hot under that large coat which really is more of a robe, thought Lydia. Or maybe she has a sick child. Or maybe she had a fight with her husband about the nature of her relationship with Mr. DeCamp. Imagination was imperative when trying on something new.
The soft light and cool museum air held her for hours. She bought gifts there, lunched there, and hoped that the other diners would glance her way and find her mysterious. Lydia prickled at the heat outside of the museum doors, walking and sightseeing just a little more, posing a bit at large glass windows and doors, watching herself in the mirror as she slid into the bar stool at the hotel for some much needed liquid relief. The man from the plane took the stool next to her.
“Ah, we meet again,” he said. Again, the boyish smile.
Wow, another bad line. She sighed, smiled back, it was okay, I can do this, she thought. “I’m Lesley,” she said extending her hand.
“Lovely name,” he replied. “I’ve never known a Lesley. I’m John.” And he shook her hand and there was that shift again. And Lydia, aka Lesley, crossed her leg and settled back into the bar stool, striking another pose while catching the bartender’s eye and motioning for more confidence and ice.
artwork: Joseph DeCamp The Blue Mandarin Coat