Nike of Samothrace (aka, The Winged Victory), The Louvre, Paris.

In the library, she headed for the art history section. When she came to the books on sculpture she stopped and lifted out a heavy volume, The Female Form in Western Art. There was Venus de Milo with her arms sawed off just below the shoulders. No thanks. That was going too far. So was Nike of Samothrace. No head, though the rest of her looked terrific. Long body, full but firm, chest high, leaning forward like one of those bowsprits on old sailing ships. She could do this. Crouching Aphrodite from Rhodes was nice--torso turned sideways, hands in her hair. What was she doing? Scrubbing? Did the women who posed for the Greeks have the same skitterish flow of blood she felt just below her skin?

She took the book to the back of the stacks and crouched like Aphrodite, with her feet and arms in the same position as in the photo. She turned the pages slowly and imitated the poses, drew stick figures and labeled them. Here, in marble and bronze, women were fluid, strong, some even defiant. Psyche Abandoned caught her attention. Alarmed and forlorn, about to rise from a bench, Psyche was portrayed at the moment of desertion. "Her flesh palpitates with distress," the commentary said, "and her despair gives her a languid pose not only touching but seductive." She had no idea how to make her flesh palpitate but she still practiced the position. Rodin's The Kiss sucked all the air out of her chest. The pair's tender responsiveness, their intensity. She sank down to the floor and stared, envious of the white stone. After a while she wondered if her position right then would work, would be despairing enough to create a good pose.

On Tuesday morning she took too long in the shower, shaving meticulously, making overlapping passes over each swath of skin, practicing Psyche. She looked down at her stomach and wiggled it with her hands. Vanilla pudding. Maybe she should have chosen an exercise class instead of a sculpting class.