By: Mark Kodama
Our new neighbors Bill and Charlotte had a son Nathan’s age and we were eager to find a playmate for our three-year-old son. My wife and I had met them at an open house. He was a lawyer too. So they invited us to their townhouse for a cup of coffee and pastries. I could see Bill’s lips move under his bushy brown mustache and hear his voice as I bit into my Madeleine cookie. But my eyes kept returning to the naked oil painting of the woman behind his head in their living room. The lady in the portrait lay reclined on her side on an ornate Turkish couch. Her head was crowned with a white polished gold, ruby-studded diadem and neck bedecked with a yellow gold rope-chain necklace. The slightly plump woman, about 20 years old, had pale skin, erect pink nipples and a fluff of auburn hair rising from her mons pubis. I wondered if Bill and Charlotte felt as awkward as I did. My wife must have noticed my distraction. She stepped on my foot to warn me to stop staring. Suddenly, I realized the portrait was a younger Charlotte.