The picture next to it was stranger still, subtler, and therefore more terrifying. Here the woman was crowded up into the corner of the picture, but still filling most of it. Her eyes were huge and catlike, her skin as pure as alabaster, and covered. She wore a cloak of bird wings, that at the same time were a part of her. The short upper feathers surrounded her face like a ruff and the long pinions trailed down her front like arms, covering all but a hint of cleavage. A bit of tail showed from behind, black tipped white feathers. Below her, part of her, though it could never have connected with her human parts in any conventional anatomy, was a single bird’s foot, orange and russet colors shining like jewels, with huge bloody talons. Her front teeth showed in an ingenuous half smile. There was a tiny spot of blood marring the white perfection of her cheek and a thin, double runnel of blood came from the corner of her mouth, disappeared beneath her sharp chin and reappeared to trace its way down her throat, between the hint of her pale breasts and disappear beneath the pinions. The white feathers which were her arms and her cloak were bespotted with blood in thin red circles surrounded by radial spatterings, blood that had struck with force and clung. Behind her was the sea, with a clutch of twisted, surrealistic islands. On one of the islands was a wrecked ship with red sails. No survivors could be seen; she had eaten them all.
The painting was called The Satiated Siren.
Raven tugged me away from the room and out of the museum. Her face was hollow and her mouth tight. She said, “I want to go back to the beach. Now.”
We went. When we reached the beach, she ran ahead of me down the line of hard sand where the water reaches the shore. I caught up, but she waved me away, so I followed twenty feet behind while she walked off her attack of the horrors. Finally she reached the place beneath le Chateau where the beach turns rocky and sat looking out to sea. I sat beside her and took her hand. There were tears in her eyes. She said, “Am I like that?”
“Like those pictures.”
“No. Of course not.”
She just shook her head. Then she began to cry outright, little snuffling sobs that came from way down. I pulled her closer and she collapsed against me with her arms around my waist. We stayed that way for a long time.
# # #
We did not make love that night, nor in the morning. Raven remained withdrawn until the second night, and when she came to me then, there was a tentativeness about her that I had not seen before.
When our lovemaking was finished, and she lay naked next to me, she said, “Take me away from here. Take me to Paris.” And I did. more tomorrow