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    "What is that painting of in the bathroom?" Dana asked, as she came back into the dining room. She had excused herself when Rheta and Dana had exchanged another set of significant looks but failed to answer her question.

    In the bathroom, Dana felt annoyed that no one she'd encountered since she'd arrive at Little Hog Island Campground had answered her questions. It was like speaking into a black hole that consumed her words and made her feel unimportant and almost invisible. She patted her cheek. It felt real enough. But that didn't reassure her much. She'd dreamed of hitting tables to see if she was dreaming--and they felt just as hard in the dream as they had in waking life.

    She studied her face. She had once considered herself pretty, and had had no shortage of boys and then men interested in her. But now, her face was a little wider and there were lines between her brows and around her eyes. Dark circles and hints of sleepless nights. She wondered why Ross seemed attracted to her, and if in fact he was. She stood back and looked at her body, her slightly thickened middle, her large breasts that were beginning to sag. Why had she allowed and even encouraged Ross to have sex with her? She'd gone so long without it. She'd been doing fine without lovemaking. Just fine.

    "It's from the landing cove on the outer bank of Little Hog Island just after dawn. As you may have noticed, it's almost never that calm. I took a rare photo near dawn on a camping trip and Dorothy painted this for me to give Garrett as a gift. It was for our first wedding anniversary. I wanted something special. It was just up that path in the old 'customs house' where we first became intimate. And where he proposed to me, and where I accepted."

    "I remember that painting well, Rheta, Dorothy really worked hard on it," Ross said.

    "I think I saw the spot where I hid my kayak. I thought there were more rocks."

    "The tide was really high. The rocks don't show. I think it's a little faded after all these years."

    "It was one of Dorothy's early works. One of her first 'commissions.'"

    "Later, I let her borrow it . . . "

    "And she won a prize. She was so pleased."

    "It is a pretty nice painting," Dana said. "Why didn't Garrett take it?"

    "He didn't take anything. He walked out one day with only the shirt on his back. Later, when he knew I was away, he came in and took a few more things. Most of his stuff is still here. I'm saving it for him."

    "How long ago did he leave? Do you think he'll come back for it? Will he want it?

    *

    Links to the Cowbird installments for Little Hog Island serial novel hopeful as published on Cowbird.
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