The Girl in the Painting
The NightHawk Series
While her husband Gideon is recording a new album with his band NightHawk, Abi Hawk is busy getting her own career as a portrait painter back on track.
Following the death of her father, which coincides with the opening night of her first exhibition in London, Abi and her daughter come across an old painting in his attic that sets them on a journey of discovery to Paris. They uncover an astonishing and unexpected love story, one that has repercussions to the present day.
Meanwhile Gideon, in America to promote the new album, ignores Abi’s warnings and manages to put himself in a vulnerable situation that threatens to rock the stability of their marriage. Separated from Abi by nearly five thousand miles, and unable to speak to her, will he be able to resolve the situation before any real damage is done?
After a moment Abi heard a sharp intake of breath. “What is it, Tash? What have you found?”
Natasha wriggled back out holding a canvas pressed against her chest. Her eyes were wide. “Mum? Is this you?” she asked, her tone strangled. Slowly she turned the painting around and presented it to her mother.
Abi crawled forward and stared at the large dark, dusty canvas. She caught her breath. It showed a girl of about seventeen or eighteen, her back turned to the artist. She was looking over her shoulder and her very long auburn hair hung around her otherwise naked body. Her bright blue eyes shone out from the canvas with a bold expression, and a small smile played about her lips.
“Mum,” repeated Natasha, “Is it you?”
Abi shook her head violently. “Of course it’s not me!” she exclaimed indignantly. “I’ve never been that fat, and anyway it’s quite obviously far too old a painting to be me. Just because she has auburn hair… Honestly, Tash!”
“Oh, right, so you’re annoyed I thought it was you because she’s too fat, not because she’s naked? Really, Mother, I despair of you sometimes.” Natasha shook her head. “So, if it’s not you, then who is it? She looks a lot like you. You must be related.” She peered more closely at the painting. “D’you think it’s Joan or Pauline?”
Abi shook her head. “No…apart from the fact that I think we pretty much know their story now, this is even older than that. They didn’t have red hair, anyway. Let’s see… Does it have a date, or a signature anywhere?” She reached forward, gently took the large canvas out of her daughter’s hands, and carried it over to the single light bulb, suspended from a beam in the centre of the attic. Carefully brushing off the thick layer of dust that covered the painting, Abi searched the lower half of the work for any sign of a signature. She frowned and rubbed gently at the bottom right-hand corner.
“What is it? Have you found something?” Natasha leaned over Abi’s shoulder, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “Is it valuable?”
“You really have to stop thinking of things in monetary terms,” Abi murmured, “but in this case you may be right.” She moved the painting even nearer to the inadequate light and sucked in her breath. She glanced over her shoulder at Natasha. “Look, see here?” She pointed to a barely discernable squiggle in the bottom corner. “That’s a signature. And unless I’m very much mistaken, it’s the signature of Andrew Devereaux, which means, yes, it certainly is valuable.”
Natasha scrambled round and peered closely at the painting. “Wow,” she said. “So who’s this Andrew…thingywhatsit, then? And why is one of his paintings in your parents’ attic? And who’s the girl?”
Gently Abi laid the painting down. “Andrew Devereaux was probably the most brilliant portrait artist around in the twentieth century. He was American, but he did his most famous work in Paris. He was part of the artistic community at Montparnasse in the years between the wars.” She smiled at Natasha, “He would have known Picasso, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and…ooh, loads of people you won’t even have heard of! It would have been the most exciting time to live in Paris. We learnt all about him in art college, and to be honest, Andrew Devereaux was my biggest influence.”