Sally Gorgon entered the room through a brick archway. She carried
the portfolio the young man had given her servant. She tossed the folder
onto a wooden table. Loose pages from within spilled out, revealing
sheet after sheet of charcoal drawings and watercolor paintings.
“Those are beautiful,” Sally said. “Now, what is your business here.”
The young man watched carefully as Sally positioned herself
so that the heavy table was between him and her. In the Mediterranean sun
the colors of the watercolor paintings washed out to white.
But when the young man’s shadow fell on the paintings, the colors
came to life in sensitive, muted harmonies. The young man smiled.
“I want to paint you,” he said. Sally started to speak. He interrupted.
“The painting would be a payment. A fee. For a service.”
Sally laughed. She said, “You’re playing some game. But, since you didn’t
offer me money, I’ll play along. At least for a moment. What possible service
could I offer a deMontoya? What possible service could I offer a young man
that dozens of village girls couldn’t provide better? And more cheaply?”
“You know what I am,” the young man said. It wasn’t a question.
“I know who you are,” Sally said. She watched the young man’s face.
“That’s not what I said,” he continued. “I said, you know what I am. And I know
what you are. But let me tell you that tomorrow is my sixteenth birthday.
Tomorrow night is the full moon. Ever year, for the last five years,
I’ve dreaded this time of year. Because I know what I am, too. For years
I’ve been spared. But I know what will happen tomorrow night. This year
it’s been in my dreams. And my body. My body has been, well, making
itself ready. See?”
The young man held up his hand. In the sunlight,
his flesh seemed pure white. As the light shimmered, his fingers
seemed to pulse, then change, becoming first thinner, then wide,
then seeming to flex and come together, but not as a hand, as something
stronger, something sharper. Something bestial. But the young man
tugged his hand back to his side and rubbed his fist against his hip.
After a moment, he put both hands on the table. Both hands were normal.
“I will not do it,” he said. “Look at my paintings. Girls from the village.
Shopkeepers. Cottages with gardens that grow flowers and herbs.
The waterwheel by the stream. Now, before my birthday, before this full moon,
I can see all this beauty. I can be part of this beauty. I can recognize it and,
with my paintings, give glory in some small way to the God who created it.
But after tomorrow—” The young man broke off. He stared at his paintings.
When he spoke again, his voice trembled. “After tomorrow all these places,
all these people, will be like this to me—” He broke off again, picked up
one of his paintings, crumpled it and crushed the paper in his hands.
Sally started to move around the table to stop him, but she caught herself.
She stopped, her eyes fixed intently on the young man’s face.
“What do you think I can do for you?” Sally asked.
“Do you mean, what could you do that the blacksmith couldn’t do?
What can you do that the police chief couldn’t do? The priests?
Would I bring down the wrath of my father on any of them?
On this village? Would they help me knowing the price they’d pay?”
“But you’d have me deal with your father? And the consequence
for the village certainly would be the same.”
The young man shook his head. “What is the wrath of my father to you?
Of my whole family? And what of the village? I will not see them die
like cattle, like sheep. I will not see them butchered. But they understand you.
Maybe not with their heads. Maybe not with their hearts. But
with their souls. They understand you in their souls. For you, they’d fight.
If they die fighting, they die human beings. Not being butchered.”
“Death is death,” Sally said.
The young man shook his head. “No. You know that’s not true.”
Sally put her palm against her forehead. She exhaled deeply.
“Yes,” she said. “I guess I do know that.”
“There’s something else,” the young man said.
“What else could there possibly be?” Sally asked.
“I don’t want to die a boy,” the young man said.
For a flickering instant in the bright white light of the sun
the corners of Sally’s mouth started up into a smile.
Then, just as quickly, her lips hardened into a tight, straight line.
For many breaths, Sally said nothing, staring at the young man.
He remained silent with her. Finally, Sally ran her fingers
through her hair and tugged at the long strands. “Come on,” Sally said.
“First, I must speak with my servants. Then you can paint me in the garden.”