And yes, the clacking of my keyboard; I was writing again, after a torturously long drought. She had rekindled my mind, and words were spilling forth almost faster than I could type them. Everything seemed filled with poetry, and every minute that I wasn’t with Liana, I was immersed in story. Submitting my work was almost an afterthought - April pressed me to do it. I just wanted to crack myself open and let the stories out.
And the deeper I got with Liana, the deeper I got into that headspace. Almost a trance state. Until I was tearing things out of myself that I hadn’t known existed.
My stories sold. They were nominated for awards, and won some. There was some poetry. There was a burgeoning novel.
Between falling in love with Liana and falling headfirst into my writing, it took me a while to realize that something was wrong. I was tired all the time, and I started to stiffen up faster than I should have, but it all seemed like small stuff, creeping up on me a little bit at a time.
And Liana let me in.
Her studio was suffused with light and overflowing. Her art was brilliant - she gave a self-deprecating laugh when I said so. She refused to consider showing it at the local gallery, showing it to anyone at all.
Beyond her shadowboxes and sculptures… she worked with mannequins. Blank mannequins lined the back wall, finished ones against the side walls, every one radically different from the next. The one nearest the door was covered completely with labels from one of those old-fashioned label-makers, words and phrases that she'd found particularly appropriate. I could picture her making it - hair tied into a messy knot, teeth denting pretty lower lip, intently peeling and applying label after label. She was quiet, intense - a perfectionist. Every mannequin attested to it. Guitar-string tendons and torn sheet music for clothes. Film-strip eyes. Shining gears forming a tumbling brass nervous system.
The center of her studio was full of tables, and the tables were full of ingredients. Elements. Little bowls of beads and milagros and twisted metal and broken glass, twigs and herbs, slim silver needles and tissue-paper hearts.
She wouldn't let me watch her work. It drove me a little nuts. She set up a shoji screen so I could watch her from my vantage point on the red velvet sofa, but could not see the mannequin she was working on. Slim and incandescent, and every movement graceful, every flick of paintbrush or turn for more supplies. The elements rustled and tinkled in their little bowls when she dipped slim fingers in to select them, cupped in glass, in ceramic, in copper, in leather. She would flick her eyes up to me as she chose the perfect bead or gear, with that secret smile. I took to working on her sofa rather than in my studio. I liked the company, and the rows of little bowls, and the soft velvet. Sometimes I’d fall asleep there and wake up with her sari-silk robe draped over me.