The Blue Bath: A Novel

The Blue Bath: A Novel

by Mary Waters-Sayer

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250088215
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 05/03/2016
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 673,044
Product dimensions: 8.40(w) x 5.80(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Mary Waters-Sayer has a B.A. in English from Binghamton University and later studied writing at Stanford University's Continuing Education program. She worked in investor and public relations for ten years. A native of New York, she has also lived in California and spent twelve years as an expatriate in London. She lives outside of Boston with her family.

Marisa Calin is an actress, narrator, and novelist born in England and educated in New York at the American Academy of the Dramatic Arts. An artist with a flair for everything literary, she has written a young adult novel, You & Me, which received a Kirkus Starred Review, and has narrated the audio books Ruby Red and Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier.

Read an Excerpt

The Blue Bath


By Mary Waters-Sayer

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2016 Mary Waters-Sayer
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-08821-5


CHAPTER 1

Sometime after the arrival of the second builder and the ensuing chorus of intermittent hammering, Kat left the house and made her way through Holland Park, glad for the relative peace of its wooded paths. The tops of the trees strained to catch the low, rose-colored sun. It was well into January, with less than eight hours of daylight a day. It seemed impossible to believe that in just a few weeks the daffodils would bloom, nodding their hope-colored heads along the wide paths. It was all there underground, waiting to happen. She pulled her scarf more closely around her neck. In the winter, when it was too cold or wet to run outside, she ran at the gym just on the other side of the park.

Years of distance running had taken its toll on her knees. These days she limited herself to four or five miles several times a week. She kept her time up, running about an eight-minute-mile pace, which meant that it was always over before she wanted it to be. On the days that she ran, she would pass the Greek embassy on her way home. Seated on a folding chair inside his small hut, the security guard would look up from his newspaper and smile at her, out of breath and covered in a combination of sweat and morning moisture, and unfailingly greet her with the same word. "Why?"

Kat found solace in running. In the beginning of her mother's illness, she had made deals with herself. If she ran for an extra mile in the morning, her mother's white-cell count would increase. If she could cut two minutes off her usual time, this week's tests would be negative. The thoughts had come to her unbidden, and she had recognized them as both pointless and childish, but once they had presented themselves, she could not bring herself to dismiss them. It had become a kind of active form of prayer.

She set a challenging pace for herself on the treadmill and was about halfway through her run when she saw his face. He reentered her world just above the drinking fountain and to the left of the Pilates studio. She recognized him immediately. She might have gasped, she could not be certain, but the noise was lost in the din of the gym. His hair was darker and seemed somehow closer to his head, making his face appear larger. He seemed so near — or maybe that was just a result of seeing him on television. He was speaking, but she could not hear him. Stepping unsteadily onto the side of the treadmill, its belt still spinning, she plugged in her headphones and switched the audio channel to the BBC. She missed the question, asked by the reporter, but she caught the pause, always the pause for thought before the answer, which followed, delivered in a steady, unbroken stream.

"I believe in the immediate, visceral reaction to art. Or to anything. I think it's dangerous to subvert that."

His voice was surprisingly clear. Amid the newly unfamiliar surroundings of her daily life, the effect was the opposite of disorienting. She half heard the reporter again, her eyes remaining on his image now frozen in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

"Before this beautiful, haunting collection of work came to light, the name Daniel Blake was little known outside a small corner of the art world. That looks set to change as an exhibition of his works opens to the public this Saturday at London's Penfield Gallery. Blake is also in the running to do a series of paintings for Sir Richard Hawthorne's new Tate Restaurant, a commission widely regarded as among the most prestigious in contemporary art today. The artist is here in London for this, his first solo show."

And then he was gone. Replaced on the screen by the latest sports scores. Looking around, Kat was surprised to find all that remained. Registering her absence, the treadmill had come to a halt.

The artist was here in London.


* * *

Even in this house where she had spent so little time, Kat knew just where to look. On the top shelf in the corner of the second-floor library — lined with three walls of books, and furnished entirely with brown boxes of more books, stacked in various configurations in the room and in the hallway outside. Baudelaire's Les fleurs du mal. It was a French-edition paperback. There was a newer English translation here somewhere as well, but this was the one she was after. Still in her running clothes, she sank down against the wall by the window, letting the book fall open on her lap. She was oddly proud to see that it did not open automatically to the page she was seeking. She did not visit it often.

Flipping to the back pages, she found what she was after. As her eyes fell on the endpaper, she savored the feeling in her chest — at once familiar and surprising — grateful as it took her breath once again. The sketch had been done quickly in pencil. Nothing more than a few lines and curves and some gentle shading defined the face — eyes closed and mouth relaxed, but with the unmistakable hint of a smile. Feeling the ache in the pit of her stomach, she closed her eyes. Not to block out the memories, but to conjure them. It was only in darkness that she could properly call up that time.

Unwilling to postpone the inevitable, she had arrived early for her program in French literature at the Sorbonne. Four months early. There were blossoms on the trees and tourists in the streets. Her first impression of the city had been that it must always have been old. It seemed to have been born in that sweet state of decay. She found it so beautiful, so beguiling, that she had no initial desire to enter its museums, restaurants, galleries, shops. She was content to know it from the outside, to gaze on its face in all its pale pink perfection.

Waking up one April morning in her small flat overlooking the rue Saint-Honoré, she gathered a blanket around herself and opened the shutters on the tall double windows to watch the changing light color the wet rooftops. This morning was uncharacteristically dark. After a moment, she dressed quickly, grabbing her new hat and her camera and leaving the flat quietly, careful not to wake her roommate. She loved walking in the very early mornings before the tourists were out. So quiet and still that it was easy to imagine that there were no other people in the city. She had been in Paris for three weeks.

The Tuileries were mostly empty. The sand crunched under her footsteps. The air was thick with moisture and the wind felt cold on her skin. Impossibly, dawn appeared to be losing ground, as the sky darkened. Unhurried by the weather, she walked slowly through the garden before choosing her spot on the grass beside a pathway. Standing very still, she brought the camera to her eye and scanned the softened landscape. She stood there for a long time, watching the light change within the frame of her lens, feeling the cold air brush her skin and hearing the sound of the traffic increase.

She liked the protection of the camera, which immediately defined her as observer rather than participant. People seldom approached her when she was taking photographs. She was invisible. She relished the ability to examine things up close without being detected. Alone, she savored the cool, smooth feel of the machinery in her hands and the deliberate, metallic blink of the camera.

She had been taking a lot of photographs since arriving in Paris. It was an indulgent, solitary activity that suited her. She found it to be almost a philosophical exercise, allowing her to think about how she looked at the world, to play with light and space and time. This city of sand and stone and water was so beautiful that it was very nearly overwhelming. Photography allowed her to isolate the smallest details. The intricate forms of the gilt-bronze statues on the Pont Alexandre III. The changing palette of light that laid itself across the Seine. The different textures of the sand in the Tuileries.

Passing over the more obvious beauty of the gardens on this damp, dark morning, she rested her lens on a small, hunched man who sat on a bench, his head listing toward his right shoulder. He might have been sleeping, he was so still. Only his arm and hand flickered as he reached into a crumpled paper bag by his side and scattered handfuls of its contents on the ground. She watched him through her lens, examining the creases on the paper bag and the creases on his weathered face. He seemed to take no notice of the increasing number of nervous, gray birds bubbling at his feet. When the bag was empty, he stood immediately to leave, stuffing it into his coat pocket before shuffling through the pigeons, eyes downcast. Such was his familiarity with the garden that he had become blind to it, navigating his way out solely by memory.

Camera still at her eye, she scanned farther into the park, watching the trees change color as the wind blew the leaves upward, exposing their pale undersides. Following the low line of linden trees that led to the river, her lens caught on a tall figure with wide shoulders, standing very still in the middle of a path, hands in his pockets. What little light remained was behind him, having the effect of making him appear in her lens as a dark angular tear in the fabric of the Tuileries. As she brought his face into focus, she was surprised to find that he was looking directly at her. Startled, she quickly removed the camera from her eye. At this distance, without it she could no longer see him clearly, but she could see that he continued to look in her direction. He was about her age, she guessed. The only other thing she had noticed was his black eye.

Her self-consciousness was cut short by the arrival of the rain. As she ran for cover, instinctively tucking her camera under her jacket, she noticed that the raindrops filling the air seemed to be coming not only down, but up. Big drops, like marbles, bouncing off the ground. It was only a short distance to the nearest tree, but she was wet through well before she got there.

Safely under the tree, Kat wiped the water from her face and looked out through the wall of rain at the barely visible figures clustered under the neighboring trees. Rainwater swam and pooled around her feet. The garden was transformed. What had been near was now far, as the trees became individual islands of refuge in the storm. She brought the camera to her eye to capture the curtain of rain hissing at the edge of the tree, then opened the aperture and set a faster shutter speed to freeze the different shapes of the raindrops. Falling fast, they hit the ground hard, the force of the impact sending them back up, and then, unbelievably, at the apex of their trajectory, they seemed almost to hesitate — caught between gravity and flight, between inevitability and will — before succumbing to their fate. With each click of the shutter she imagined what the image might look like. The drops, elongated as they fell to the ground and then flatter, rounder as they bounced up.

"You're missing it."

The voice made no apologies for interrupting her. Startled, she turned around, dropping the camera from her eye. Standing five feet behind her under her tree, slick and dark from the rain, he stared directly at her, his face matching the rough tone of his voice. In the silence that marked the absence of her reply, he continued.

"The moment. You're missing it. If all we remember is what we feel, then all that you'll remember is what it felt like to take a picture."

She was so surprised to be addressed in English that it took her a moment to notice the British accent. This time he waited until she found her voice.

"I'm not missing it. I'm saving it."

"What for?"

"To save it. Because it's beautiful, I guess."

"What are you going to do with it?"

"What? I don't know. Look at it. See what the camera captured. Sometimes you can't see everything in the moment."

The rain danced in the brief pause before his response. Under any other circumstances it would have been rude to stare at his injury, but the fact that it was at his eye made it necessary. The dark purple bruising surrounding it made his eye look even paler than it was. His face was wet with rain, which made the colors seem liquid, as if she could have wiped them away with the corner of her sleeve.

"If you look at anything long enough, you'll see all sorts of things that you didn't notice at first. That doesn't make them real."

Kat frowned and shook her head. "No, but, just because you don't see something in the moment doesn't mean it isn't real. There's always more to things than what we see."

They were still standing about five feet apart, isolated in silence under the tree. He made no move to approach her. He wasn't as scruffy as he had seemed from a distance. Another student, she guessed. She had a strong urge to put the camera to her eye at that moment and photograph him, but she couldn't seem to break eye contact with him long enough to do so. His hands hung at his sides. It seemed a conscious effort for him to keep them there. His stillness was a contrast to the urgency of the rain. The silence stretched out between them.

After what must have been a long moment, he spoke again.

"You're a photographer?"

She glanced down, momentarily surprised by the camera in her hand. "Maybe. I don't know yet."

A flicker of amusement crossed his face.

"Is there a problem with that?"

"If you don't know, then I doubt that you are."

She looked down at the wet ground.

"You're offended."

"I'm not."

"You are."

"What are you doing here?" She wasn't sure if she meant under her tree or in Paris.

"Just looking."

The silence that followed seemed louder than it had before, and she realized that the rain had stopped as suddenly as it had begun. Looking out from under the tree, she found that the garden had become two gardens with the reflection in the water puddled on the ground.

She turned back to him.

"I guess the moment is gone."

He held her gaze and then shrugged.

"If you say so."

He turned away from her and walked out from under the tree, hands tucked back into his pockets. His steps left faint traces in the thin layer of rainwater that hadn't yet drained into the ground. Suddenly feeling the weight of her camera in her hand, she brought it to her eye, found his receding shape through the lens, and snapped one photo before lowering the camera and watching him until he was out of the garden and lost to the city streets.

And then she was alone under the tree. Rain had soaked through her clothes and found its way onto her skin and the air was cold. Her hand holding the camera was shaking. She walked home quickly, treading lightly on the new world beneath her feet.

CHAPTER 2

The party had started late, but was definitely still going when Kat had arrived. The face in front of her leaned in close. Too close. The room was very loud, but she wasn't entirely sure that was the reason. It was becoming increasingly obvious to her that the French had different ideas about personal space than Americans had. The double cheek kissing was unnerving enough, but was it possible that three inches between faces was the norm for polite social conversation?

The flat belonged to Jean-Paul, a popular Parisian in the program who had quickly established himself as the epicenter of the social scene. With its tall shuttered windows and smooth herringbone floors, it was almost a caricature of classic Paris chic. The furniture was certainly not what would be expected in a student flat. An elegant, eclectic mix of contemporary and antique. Kat remembered her roommate, Elizabeth, telling her that Jean-Paul's mother was an interior designer.

The face belonged to another student. It was particularly angular in that specific European way. All jutting cheekbones and chin and an aquiline nose that shone with a faint sheen clearly visible at such close proximity. Since hearing her American accent, it had regarded her with an oddly impatient hostility, as if merely waiting for her to demonstrate all that it already knew to be true about her.

A clutch of young women stood on the threshold of the dining room. Their backs to her, they seemed to be waiting for something as well. Peering between them, she could make out Jean-Paul and Christopher Hastings in conversation within the room. Christopher was tall and handsome with manners that could charm snakes. A Fulbright scholar from a prominent East Coast family, he was in Paris studying international relations. His political ambitions were already widely known.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Blue Bath by Mary Waters-Sayer. Copyright © 2016 Mary Waters-Sayer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Blue Bath 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Kaydub23 More than 1 year ago
Highly recommend! If you like elegant literary writing and you also want a juicy page-turning story, The Blue Bath is for you. The Paris and London settings are beautifully and thoughtfully wrought, so you'll be drawn into Kat's life in the present day, and in her distant past when she was the muse of The Artist who returns in a surprising way. ...
gromine49 More than 1 year ago
This is a beautiful, well-written story with descriptions of people and places that will involve you in the story from the start. It is hard to describe the story and how it makes the reader feel. It is one of those one of a kind stories.
MusicInPrint More than 1 year ago
This wonderful writer led the reader to become a part of her characters. First love, tragic decisions, and the past does come back to haunt. Kat Lind travels to Paris to study and explore the world. During a rain storm and a chance meeting under the canopy of a tree Kat meets Daniel. Daniel is a struggling artist Kat and Daniel become close and ignore the world for the most part. Turn the clock forward twenty years and the story finds Kat married to Jonathan and with a son Will. Attending an art show Kat discovers that Daniel has on display pictures of her and their summer together. Read this in one day. Narrative catches the reader from the start till the finish. Mary Waters-Sayer shows us amazing characters that become a part of our soul. Just a great book as a stand alone. Copy supplied by Netgalley for an honest review!
CatmomJD More than 1 year ago
A brilliant story full of passion and emotion. While Kat Lind's husband is away on a business trip, she hears about a new art exhibit in town. The name Daniel Blake takes Kat back to her college days where they lived together in his tiny studio in Paris. When it was time for Kat to go back home, the affair ended. Kat had no idea Daniel continued to paint pictures of her during the twenty years since she last saw him. Daniel's art exhibit was filled with paintings of a mysterious red head girl that people had come to admire. Kat wanted it to remain a secret that the girl in the paintings was her. Shortly after the exhibit, Kat and Daniel reunite and become involved in a full blown affair. She is torn between her love for Daniel and the life she has built with her husband and son. Kat faces the tough decision of which man she wants to spend her future with. But fate has a way of making that decision on its own. What happens in the end, no one expects. I was fully involved in this book. It started out a little slow but picked up pretty quick. It's one of those stories that will stick with you long after you finish it. It left me thinking of lost loves and what might have happened if given a second chance.
sandrabrazier More than 1 year ago
Kat, a married American woman with a small son, is living in London. When she attends an opening of an art gallery, she is shocked to see the walls covered with paintings of a younger version of herself! The artist, Daniel Blake, had been her lover twenty years before, during the year that she studied in Paris. It had been an intimate relationship in which he had painted her constantly. Now, she finds herself standing among those same paintings and even more. Each is an intimate study of her! Will she be recognized? Her husband is involved in touchy business mergers, and image is all-important. This book is beautifully written with vivid and memorable passages. Little-by-little, the reader learns the story of Kat and Daniel in flashbacks of their life in Paris. Full of surprises and beautiful settings, this is story that is not to be missed.
Fredreeca2001 More than 1 year ago
Daniel is a not-so-famous artist, UNTIL.....he shows the portraits of a long lost love affair. Kat and her husband attend the opening at an art gallery. She is amazed to see parts of herself on the walls. This novel reminds me of Bridges of Madison County. It is very well written and the prose keeps you reading however, it is a bunch of fluff. I stayed mad at Kat most of the time. I was very dissappointed in her character as a person..and yes I am being a little judgemental. To me, she makes some very bad choices for no reason whatsoever. To me, Daniel and Kat are profoundly selfish. I guess any book which can elicit such a strong feeling from the reader is not all that bad! Plus, The ending was surprising. It made the whole story worth reading. I received this novel from Netgalley for a honest review.