Alicia came to visit on the Tuesday after the party. I gave her a glass of wine and we went into the gallery to have a look at the portraits without people standing in the way.
“Well, of course I’m biased, but my favorite is the one of Emil, though I like the one of that red-headed woman, too. Who is she?”
Alicia peered closely at the painting. “Is she for sale?”
I shook my head no.
Alicia shifted her gaze from the portrait to me. “At the right price, everything’s for sale. If it was a commission I’ll buy it and you can paint another one.”
Whew, talk about direct. I was already exhausted from painting all these portraits so fast. The thought of painting another one of the same person right now was… deadly. “I’d have to ask the client.”
The look in Alicia’s eyes said: If you want to show with me, you’ll goddamn well get me this painting. At least that’s the way I interpreted it. “Let’s go out to the studio,” I said brightly. “There’s some stuff to look at out there.”
The portraits of Hillary Clinton were still on my easel. They were painted from before and after photos Victor’s receptionist, Helen, was able to snap of the then-senator. In the first portrait Hillary looks pale and lined, even a little haggard. In the second, her skin has a good deal more color. Her face appears fuller, perhaps from all the lights Victor shone on the senator during her treatment. Lines and wrinkles have disappeared, sag seems to have tightened up, and the complexion is soft and dewy. What a miracle worker that man was! Hilz could certainly use him right now when she’s under such pressure.
Alicia studied the portraits for a moment and laughed. “These could become quite valuable.”
“You mean if she wins.”
“Either way. She’s hot and you’ve caught her. Why did you do two versions?”
I explained about Victor. Alicia nearly choked on her wine. “Hillary went to see Victor?”
“That’s what his receptionist Helen told me. Remember the one with the bright red lipstick who was so gossipy? She made me pinky swear not to tell anyone.”
“Hilarious. Whoops a pun. And you believed her?”
“Sure, why not? I was pissed at the time. My back was really bad and they rescheduled my appointment because Hillary was flying in and the clinic was shut down for the day.”
By now Alicia had settled herself on my studio couch with my little black labradoodle, Vincent, in her lap. “You know, now that I think about it I remember Emil saying something about Victor and Hillary. Kind of went in one ear and out the other at the time.” She threaded her fingers into Vincent’s curls, diamond flashing against the black fur. “I really came here to talk about something else.”
I pulled up a chair across from her and waited.
“It’s something pretty disturbing. I have to know you won’t tell anyone.”
To be continued…