The Red-Haired Man

The Red-Haired Man

by Marie Tapia


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781475983739
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 05/06/2013
Pages: 292
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.66(d)

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The Red Haired Man

By Marie Tapia

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2013 Marie Tapia
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4759-8373-9



With my aging hands I place a tattered, tearstained sepia photo close to my heart.

I loved that photo. So did he.

"Are you wearing the hat?" he'd ask.

"Of course." I'd laugh. That round, dark-green felt hat with a black veil heralded a day of freedom.

Freedom—to most a simple word.

For me it was synonymous with air, with life itself. The days I left that house were blue-skied, hope-filled days no matter what the weather.

A couple of hours to look at shops, sit in an outside café were my freedom. There was a particular outside café, my favorite. The green-and-white awning shaded a round table with a crisply-ironed white cloth. A small, clear glass vase held freshly cut flowers of the day. Black wrought-iron chairs graced the tables waiting for customers.

As I sat there, shaded from the midmorning sun, I sipped my coffee without a care in the world. Life was beautiful there, full of surprises.

Anything is possible in my daydream. I slip deep in that reverie. I am an artist with her own studio. People come to me from all over the city to select paintings for their homes.

The studio's anteroom contains highly polished, impeccably crafted wood furnishings similar to those of an upscale Victorian home. Here my clients can view their prospective purchases at leisure.

"Bonjour, Madame," booms a boisterous, red-haired gentleman, jolting me from my daydream. "Lovely hat," he muses.

I look up at him with a nervous smile. He returns a warm glance as he hurries down the street, tipping his top hat in my direction.

I am curious. His red hair, piercing blue eyes, and prominent features tell me he is from another country. Why is he here, looking so out of place in his well-worn, blue-gray suit and slightly scuffed black shoes?

He seems a stranger to the voice of the city, yet he walks with a definite purpose.

As I lean slightly out of my chair, I peer around the people walking down the street. He turns the corner, vanishing in the blink of an eye.

I finish my strong coffee and leave a generous gratuity. Hurriedly turning around the corner, I follow in his direction.

Out of breath, I slow my pace as I make my way down the street, searching for the red-haired man. Stores and apartments line both sides of the street. Perhaps he went farther down, not even stopping on this street.

I keep walking, something inside of me pushing me forward without a care in the world. I scan each doorway and shop window until—there he is.

Inside the window of this store I can see his red hair, back to the window, wildly gesturing toward the rows and rows of prints and paintings that lined the walls.

The customer, a well-dressed, middle-aged woman, is absorbed in conversation with him. Neither of them notice me peering in the recently washed window.

I look above me at the swaying sign. A hand-painted, gold-leafed border accentuates the reddish-maroon, wooden sign. Raised gold letters read:

Goupil & Cie, Editeurs

So this is where he hurried off to—an art gallery. Does he work there? Is he consulting? I've been here before with Andre. Why have I never seen him?

I murmur. "What are you going to say to him? Do you need another print with a glorious gold layered frame? Dozens are hanging in the drawing room." There is something fresh, immediate about this man. I feel a sense of urgency to make his acquaintance, possibly more than a simple introduction.

As I enter the front double doors of Goupil's, my eyes become fixed on him. There he is in his well-worn suit. What gentleness in his manner.

Something inside of me presses, Get to know him. You must get to know him.

All right, I'll buy a print, I decide. How could that hurt? A short introduction, conversation, and voila, it will be done. I will have met the red-haired man. My surprise for the day will be complete.

Walls of prints ... Goupil's is known for them. How do I choose? I stand there decision-less, the red-haired man completing his sale with the middle-aged woman.

"May I help you, Madame?" a man asks, his voice resonating behind me. That's him. His voice is unforgettable. I turn toward him, smiling, shifting my eyes upward. He is a bit taller than me.

"Oui," I answer.

These salesmen have to know what is available in Brussels, Berlin, Amsterdam. They have to know how to handle patrons who come by carriage, in high-fashion clothes, to look for the perfect pieces of art to grace their drawing rooms. It is a strict business. Rules of protocol must be adhered to. Salesmen have to know all they can in order to succeed.

Adolph Goupil has, among his many stores, a printing and engraving shop on rue Chaptil in Paris. He has an eye for what pieces of art will be accepted by the Salon. He transfers his knowledge of art to engage his customers at Goupil's, who come because of the large selection of prints.

"I'm looking for a print for my drawing room," I answer.

"A pastoral view, perhaps?" he suggests.

Taking me by my arm, he escorts me to one of the private showing rooms.

"Make yourself comfortable, Madame. I'll return with prints for you to view momentarily."

I wonder who he is. I cannot get his smile out of my mind. I never will.

I have seen him before. I know I have. Andre and I had taken a trip to Amsterdam. It was autumn. Leaves were on the road as our carriage approached Goupil's Amsterdam gallery. Once inside I stared at the red-haired man, thinking how lovely life would be with such a passionate man. Perhaps it was a youthful passion showing through that brought him to my attention.

In the gallery, he was looking at me from another room. He was telling a woman why not to buy certain prints. Clearly she didn't understand his theory.

The young man had more interest in art itself than in selling it for a commission, which he surely could have used. I was intrigued hearing his reasons not to purchase the selected prints. He was in love with art. In fact he was in love with life. It showed.

I was intrigued hearing his reasons not to purchase selected prints. He did not want to sell prints merely for the sake of a sale.

His appearance was formal. The stiff white collar was tightly buttoned around his neck. Even though his suit was worn, it was clean, pressed. His polished shoes had the look of having walked miles. His red hair was combed but with a will of its own.

As we shook hands, the warmth of his hand permeated my glove.

That afternoon I learned more about art than I had in my whole lifetime.

Who would have known that beautiful but serious smile was connected to such a generous heart?

There was something I noticed in the gaze of his eyes. Did all men have that wonderful look when first their eyes met yours?

I didn't remember.

Andre took my hand.

"It's time to go. The children are waiting for us, Colette."

"Merci. I appreciate you taking time to explain the latest work. You certainly know art, Monsieur," I added.

"We might return to buy a print." Andre escorted me out of the gallery to a waiting carriage.

Seeing him again, I must know more. Here he is, in Paris. It must be fate. What were the chances we'd ever meet again?

I hear a gentle but firm knock at the door of the viewing room. "Here you are. I thought a lady who wears such a green hat as yours would be interested in these," he quips.

The next hour is spent looking through prints while we speak of art. We speak passionately of the new art movement.

He holds up a Millet, a Rousseau, and a Daubigny. "Look at these. They are incredibly beautiful. Notice the lines, the backgrounds."

I look intently at other paintings he holds up as he continues.

"These Japanese prints. Look at them. The lines. The background."

He motions with a strong gesture to the flow of the paintings.

"Look at this brushstroke. The intensity of light catches your eye. And here," as he shuffles the prints, "a sower in the field. This is Millet."

A tip of his head toward me as he asks, "Do these please you, Madame?"

His eyes stare into my face, searching for an answer. I look at him.

Opening my hands with an air of indecisiveness, I say, "I don't know how to decide. The paintings are so beautiful, so moving."

After a long pause, I whisper in a low tone, "These paintings move me to paint."

His interest is piqued. I continue.

"I have had an interest in art ever since I can remember. The adults never took me seriously when I was a young girl. They gave me art lessons dealing with painting delicate, botanically correct flowers. With much shame I admit to still painting them."

The red-haired man smiles shyly, putting his hand to his mouth to avoid an improper laugh.

"Madame, your view of art is quite different from that of most people who enter these doors. How did this come about? " he asks with great interest in his gaze.

"I was born with it."

He smiles silently, as is the custom of trained personnel when indulging their customers.

We talk the hour away. How excited his voice becomes while explaining the works. His enthusiasm is like a fountain that keeps pouring water, almost to the point of overflowing, to anyone who will listen.

My time at the gallery is at an end.

I choose the Millet print. I know Andre will be happy with it. I certainly am.

The red-haired man takes my gloved hand in his as a courteous gesture. From that moment on I instinctively know we are destined to see more of each other.

"Monsieur, thank you for your time today. I will ponder the concepts you have brought to my attention." Holding my purchase, I say, "Au revoir."

"Till next time, Madame."

During the ride home, his face is all I can think of. I clutch the print, holding it close to me.

"Here we are, Madame," the driver says courteously, opening the carriage door. "Home safe and sound, both you and the print. Pleasant evening to you." He tips his hat.

Gingerly I step out of the carriage, knowing that my day has truly come to an end.

I must go up the front steps and open that door. My world changes the minute I turn that handle.

"Come now," I say to myself. "This is your real life. You know you have responsibilities and commitments here. This is your place now. There is no turning back."

My gloved hand reaches for the carved brass handle. I take a deep breath—yet another.

I enter, opening the heavily carved door. Nothing, no one is about. I rapidly climb the long, carpeted staircase. Why does it seem to take so much time to get to the top?

Safe in the solitude of my room, I remove my gloves.

Stepping to face the large, oval mirror I remove the hatpin, taking off my green hat. His voice echoes in my ears. "Madame, here you are. I thought a lady who wears such a green hat would be interested in these."

I smile silently in the mirror.

These words swirl in my head. Sitting on the end of my bed, I unwrap the brown-paper-covered parcel. I can see his warm smile, his naive genuineness. I look at the receipt. It simply says: "Vendeur—Vincent."

Removing the receipt, rewrapping the print, I hurry downstairs to the library to place it on Andre's desk. It is a gift for him, yet one that will be shared by me every time I view it.

The pungent smell of rosemary-roasted meat and freshly baked bread brings me back to reality.

Marie, our cook, has never missed the timing of a meal. She has dinner waiting at precisely six thirty every evening.

Marie is a round, jolly person with open arms, ready to embrace anyone in time of happiness or solace. She lives in the mansion with us. Her love extends far beyond the capacity of her duties. She knows the worries and concerns of my children before I do.

My children are orphans in the midst of lavish wealth. They have done nothing wrong. They simply want a father who will spend time with them.

I hear the sound of my children's voices coming down the stairs, anxious to hear about my day.

Wide-eyed, they listen to me tell of the surprises that the gallery held. "There are walls and walls of framed prints and paintings." I gesture. "So many beautiful works as far as the eye could see, by artists I want to know."

Their eyes sparkle as I tell them of paintings depicting angels, pastoral scenes, beings from the underworld, and forests where playful creatures exist.

We have so much fun imagining what that forest holds. As we eat our meal, each of the children tells his rendition. In Eric's painting, a magician in a deep-purple, satin robe is stirring a magic potion in a vial in front of a cottage in the forest. Blue and gray smoke swirls up and away into the sky. The smoke is seen for miles. A glow from our dining room fireplace lights the room, showing his surprise as he cries an incantation fit for his magician, "Et hoc mixcla."

"My turn," shouts Julie. "I wander into the forest, deep into the darkest part. A glimmer of light from a campfire calls to me. Slowly I come upon it, discovering forest beasties in shimmering green and blue dancing round it."

We turn our bodies in our chairs facing Julie as she lowers her voice to continue.

"Sparks fly. Shouting out, the beasties throw something from their leather pouches into the flames. The fire grows brighter, taking on a life of its own."

Lowering her voice again, she whispers to her brothers. "I should be scared, even terrified, yet I move closer and closer to that eerie fire as if in an hypnotic state. All the while the beasties are chanting.

"YANK!" she yells.

We gasp. She has us in the palm of her hand.

"One of the forest beasties has my foot, pulling me into the circle with them. We dance around the fire till our legs can hold us no more. The deep stillness of the black night surrounds us, eventually covering us like a blanket. Each of us drops to the ground, asleep."

A hush has fallen over the dinner table as we place ourselves with those inimitable beasties.

Our cook and our maid, drawn to the stories, move to the table, taking chairs to sit and listen. Our bodies bend closer to hear more as Julie tells the rest of her tale.

"POW!" shouts Jon as he slaps his hand on the table.

We jump from our chairs.

"I am in the forest too. I bring my wagon. I have supplies with me." Jon, my youngest, puts his finger to his chin, contemplating his next strategy. "My wagon holds the sun in a clear glass box for a rainy day and a handkerchief to wash away the tears because I am far away from home. Lastly, my wagon holds a sword to fight off dragons that might want me for a snack."

Julie and Eric can't help but laugh at Jon's seriousness.

He reaches into his pocket pulling out a small cake he had saved from dessert. "I have a piece of cake for when I am tired fighting dragons." Instinctively he rubs his tummy.

"I pull my wagon around the trees' trunks, which are so tall I can't see their tops or even a speck of the sky. As I look up, I fall backward into a thicket of branches. Something hard hits my back as I fall. Reaching under myself, I pull out an oddly shaped gold box. Strange words are engraved on it."

He pauses, looking around the dining room table. We wait anxiously.

"I try to open it. It slips from my hands, rolling to the ground. I chase after it. Grabbing it," he says as he mimics grabbing the air with his hands. "I see it has landed by a giant's foot . I tremble and shake, not able to move. I am like a stone."

Jon's voice quivers. "Slowly I back up, hoping the giant doesn't look down and find me."

We are enraptured, caught up in the tale of this eight-year-old boy. This marvelous giant and my wonderful small son, in a forest with nothing more than a wagon of treasures, has captured our attention.

Slapping the table with his hand, he yells, "CRACK! I step on a twig."

At that moment the front door slams. It's Andre. The children and I hear Rose greet him.

The story fades, dropping to the carpet like specks of a sparkler ready to extinguish itself.

"Hurry, darlings, hurry," I softly coax. "Your father is home. You should have been in bed ages ago. Rose will help you, Jon."

The children carry their plates to the kitchen before their father arrives in the dining room.

"Off with you now," I say as I lovingly kiss them good night.

My darlings scamper up the stairs as Marie clears the rest of the dinner dishes. I straighten my clothes and brush the crumbs off the table, readying it for Andre.

He walks into the dining room, which is now impeccable, and prepared for his dinner. No one could tell children had tramped through a forest during their dinner.

Excerpted from The Red Haired Man by Marie Tapia. Copyright © 2013 Marie Tapia. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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The Red-Haired Man 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I found myself visualizing the characters through the descriptive writing! I was swept away by this very engrossing and touching book!