This is a republish of the short story I wrote in 2016 and won an award with. We realized I had never posted it on our own website, so here it is.
I blinked, trying to see in the dimmer light inside the – where was I? Oh yes, the restaurant. A multi-faceted crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling, drawing my eye. I turned around, looking at the décor, and caught a glimpse of a server drawing a curtain over a painting.
“Oh wow,” I murmured under my breath. I could recognize the swirls in the painting anywhere. “Hey!” I raised my voice slightly. “Is that another painting in Van Gogh’s Starry Night series?” I squinted, trying to see through the dim foyer, while moving towards the painting.
He hurriedly finished drawing the curtain, blocking my view.
Disappointed, I stepped back. Something about the painting was not quite right. Before I could concentrate on what, I heard my name.
“Sophie! You finally made it!”
I spun, stepping into my husband’s arms. “George!” My eyes unexpectedly filled with tears. “Sorry I’m late.”
“Nothing to cry about, darling.” He brushed his fingers under my eyes to wipe away the tears. “We’ve only just been called to our table.”
I smiled shakily up at him. The light refracted through my tears, making his blond hair glow.
We followed the maître-d’ into the dining room. The various aromas tickled my nose, the combination making my stomach churn a bit. The tables were teardrop shaped, tucked into rounded booths that provided privacy to the diners. There was a surprising amount of room inside each section. On the walls were exquisite paintings; Monet, Rembrandt, Picasso, and Da Vinci.
I tugged on George’s arm as we navigated our way through the maze of tables. “Can we look at the art after dinner? You know how much I like Van Gogh.”
“Of course, sweetheart,” he replied.
The maître-d’ stopped at a table with two other couples and pulled out a chair. “Madame?” He gestured for me to sit, and placed George at my side.
“This is different,” I said, smiling at the other guests after sitting in my chair. “Sophie,” I introduced myself. “And my husband George.”
“Daphne and John,” replied the redheaded woman to my right. “We just got married three days ago!”
“Congratulations!” I exclaimed.
“Andrea and Felix,” said the blonde across from me. She had thin, angular features. “How far along are you?”
Startled at the question, I looked down at my slightly protruding belly and gave it a tiny rub. “Just past twelve weeks,” I said. “I’m not used to people noticing. It depends on what shirt I wear.”
“Humans have such an interesting gestation period,” said John.
“I’d rather the nine months than the elephant’s two years!” I said, and we all laughed.
“Do you know the gender?” asked Daphne.
“Oh, no, not yet,” I smiled ruefully. “I don’t get to find that out until sometime around week twenty.”
A waiter appeared between George and Felix. “Something to drink, Madame?” he asked me.
“Just water, please,” I replied. A painting on the wall across from us caught my eye, and I pointed it out to George. “Look at that Monet! It looks so vivid, I could almost jump into the river.”
George laughed. “Such an imagination!” He kissed my hand.
The waiter brought me a glass, and I left it in front of me without taking a sip.
“Not thirsty?” asked Andrea.
“No, not really.” I paused. “Actually, I feel rather full at the moment.” I frowned, confused. “Did I eat before coming here?” I didn’t think I had, but I couldn’t remember.
“You probably just need to visit the ladies room,” interjected George. He ran a soft hand over my belly. “You are pregnant, after all.”
My thoughts cleared. “You’re probably right. Where is the washroom?”
Fortunately, it was within sight of the table, so I would be able to find my way back on my own, as the paths between the booths were as twisted as a maze.
As I sat on the toilet, I examined the painting on the back of the door and considered the other art in the restaurant. “Van Gogh,” I murmured. “I haven’t seen any other Van Gogh here. That’s weird. And the one in the front lobby was one I’ve never seen before.” I thought about the part of the painting that I caught a quick glimpse of. “There was a large full moon, over a meadow.” I shook my head and got up to wash my hands. “I wonder what the name might be.”
I headed back to the table, but didn’t sit down. When George stood up to let me by, I said, “I’m really not hungry yet. Can we look at the paintings now?”
George gave a sigh and smirked at our tablemates. “Whatever you want, darling.” He took me by the hand and we started walking from painting to painting, admiring how realistic the paintings looked.
“These look so perfect!” I exclaimed, astonished. “Surely they can’t all be originals?”
A waiter passing behind us overheard me, and interjected, “Oh yes, Madame. All the art pieces in our restaurant are originals. The ones in the Hu-“
George coughed sharply.
“Museums are just copies,” smoothly continued the waiter.
“Wow!” I stared around, wide-eyed. There were at least fifty paintings within my sight, and I knew there were more beyond that. “Those are some impeccable forgeries in the museums, but I can definitely see how these paintings are more…” I searched for the right word. “Full. Three-dimensional, almost. Are there any other paintings by Van Gogh?”
“Other?” asked the waiter, swallowing hard. “We don’t have any paintings by Van Gogh. The quality of his work wasn’t enough to stand with the masters.”
I stared. “Are we talking about the same painter? The genius who died not knowing the brilliance of his work? I definitely saw a painting by him at the entrance.”
“You must have been mistaken, dear,” laughed George, his hand tightening on mine. “If the waiter says there are no Van Gogh paintings here, he would know.”
“I know what I saw.” My chin jutted out stubbornly, and I tried to let go of my husband’s hand. “I’ve never seen that particular painting, but the style was obviously by Van Gogh. It was of the same feel as his Starry Night series, except in this particular painting, the moon dominated the scene, over a meadow. Don’t you remember, George? You were there too.” When George shook his head, I sighed impatiently. “It was beautiful! I wonder what he named that painting. Moonlight over Meadows, perhaps? Or Moonlight over the Moor? Or ooh!” I wiggled in excitement. “We’re in Ireland! Maybe it’s Moonlight over Faerie!”
A piercing alarm went off.
Part 2 will come out next week!