A Portrait of Josephine is a soon-to-be published novel by the editor of FaMiss, Allison Frederick.
A classic mentor/apprentice story with female empowerment.
21st century graduate student Abby Archer, and her mentor, Galena Conner, a British milk farmer’s wife from the late 1880s journey through deception to uncover their feminine strength. Based on the spirit of artists Georgia O’Keeffe and Eva Hesse.
Cliffside in Somerhaven, the British Isles Late 1800's
It might sound strange that I knew her immediately. Her body swollen like a sausage, her black hair caked with sand and seaweed. But her eyes were wide open, and those eyes could escape me no more. I would know them anywhere. Galena stopped, pulling a strand of hair from her chapped thin lips. The wind, unruly in its usual way thrust the hair back with haste.
She paused, and took a long, steady breath. Her grey woolen shawl beat in rhythm along with her hair in the wind but the rest of her was unmoved, almost indistinguishable from the fog and lichen stones. With her head held high, more out of habit than any present sense of confidence, she watched the ocean waves loll into Somerhaven.
There are times in life when something happens, something unexpected, and suddenly everything is changed. I still draw and paint, to that I’ll always be true for I could be nothing else. But the rhythm of our lives was brutally interrupted when she washed ashore. It was not just the end for her but also the end of a way of life for the few who knew her: my son Simon, my husband Kellen - Master Ruther.
The ocean waves pulsed with life far below the eroding cliff where Galena sat. The insistent clang of ship bells mingled with the muted voices of men unloading new cargo. Their vitality was lost on Galena. The events in her mind raced and bobbed to the surface for air as if breath would make sense of it all.
Just before a disaster struck, have you ever felt as though you were living in a dream? It is as if you never thought the worst could find its way to your door; as if what was happening before would never change. It was in this way my husband and I built our lives. It was in this way we thought our children would grow, just as we did, without consequence. What difference does knowing make if you are the only one who knows and the knowing changes nothing? I used to be so certain. Certain about what I wanted and what would happen. Certain about my life. But since the day Josephine washed onto the shore, I haven’t wanted to know anything. I am tired. My legs, they don’t want to walk; my arms, they are so heavy they can barely hold my paintbrush.
Galena inhaled sharply. The air, crisp and damp, seemed to awaken her a bit. Ah, the sea, it delivers and it takes away. It is like love, I suppose. It rushes forward, then quickly retreats. Some say the young cannot truly know love, but I’ve seen them. I’ve seen my son and Josephine, I know of their love for each other. They were free. Free from consequence. Free from failure. So free from fear. Foolish, they were. It pains me now. Yes. But they did love.
She looked down at her hands, and felt her mind grow numb; the sounds swirling around her became muffled. She sat that way for some time. So accustomed to the mist and fog skewing her vision, she wasn’t aware her sight was blurred from tears she dare not let fall.Words finally began forming in her mind, words she’d been afraid to let in. Kellen doesn’t say much, but he’s a good man. Sometimes life makes a good man do what he wouldn’t do otherwise. Sometimes justice must be served.
End of Prologue
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