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The Hatfield Venus

“She’s a Venus Anadyomene.”

A Venus Anadyomene?”

She smiled indulgently at my ignorance.

“Venus rising from the waves. An impeccably proper subject, and a popular one – you can see why.”

I flushed slightly. The reasons for the popularity of the subject were prominently on display, but my enjoyment of the view was dampened by her easy cynicism; in some things I expect better of her than that.

I changed the subject hastily by asking what her original interest had been in this particular Venus, and could have kicked myself when the question raised an answering blush.

“It was stolen, a few years ago, from a private collection in Paris.”

The useful neutrality of the passive voice – but I knew she didn’t mean it as an evasion.

“It didn’t seem so bad, you know? The house was closed up forty weeks of the year. He’d never have missed it, and anyway, it was covered by the insurance.”

I couldn’t condone it. The best I could do was accept it, and I know that she saw that I had carefully closed down my expression, because she gave a quirk of a smile and added

“I’m not excusing it. It’s nothing new, anyway, only what you all know. I just wonder, sometimes … ”

She trailed off, but I thought I knew what still bothered her. We’d taken her back, given her a new beginning. Did we expect her soft and pink and newborn, Venus served on a clamshell? Hardly. Soft and pink she might be, at a glance, but she was also the woman who had stolen the Hatfield Venus – twice. I couldn’t answer a question she hadn’t asked, but I could give her some kind of reassurance, if I cloaked it in a cousin’s light-hearted chaff.

“I keep telling you, you should listen to more Wagner.”

She knew me better than to suspect that I’d wandered off at a complete tangent, and I could see I had her attention, masked though it was behind offended scepticism

“In the north they have much more practical notions. You didn’t come to us all soft and pink and naked like Venus from the waves. You came to us armed and armoured, as Brunnhilde sprang from her father’s brow. We kinda like you that way.”

Lot of flash this week, Alex? Well, yeah … a week off work, a lull in larger projects, revision to avoid work around … and a deadline too. This piece was originally intended for the J.A.Mes Press Rebirth Anthology, except that it came up – can you believe this – too short. That was okay, though. It needed some context weaving through it if more than a handful of you were going to understand it, and I’d just about done that when I heard that the anthology has been postponed. It will come out, now, next spring, and I’ve got a few months to come up with a third entry, something quite different, perhaps.

For now, I’ve stripped this back to the story I began with, and posted it just for the handful of you who do know who the narrator is, and why his cousin might be evasive about art theft in Paris. Why? Because I love you all to bits, you know that, right? Even if I don’t know who you are, or that you’re one of that handful, you’re the reason this site is still here, and I hope you enjoyed this snippet.

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