Winter of Abandon

Claude Monet. The Pond at Montgeron, 1876-7. 173x194cm. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.

That's where it started, with a look across the still pool as I was pretending to fish with a willow branch, resting my hand against a tree trunk. "Lovely," he'd murmured. "You're a wood nymph," and I'd felt so.

When he closed his paintbox, he gave me a brief sweet kiss, on my mouth, a thank-you for posing. It was only because he was exuberant about the painting, I'd told myself. A forgivable indiscretion.

"Both of the things I love, wood nymphs and water," he'd said, his eyes glinting playfully, "and I've never thought to paint them together. You're my muse, Alice!"

And I'd felt that too, rumbling distant and deep, the power of his fantasy tugging me.