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At last

The opening of Isabel’s show was packed with people. There were reporters covering it and a news team from a local cable station. Collectors and writers, other artists, Raymond and Christopher, the gallery staff … such a crush of attention on Isabel that by an hour into the show her head was whirling and she had lost all sense of time. And in the midst of this vortex of activity, suddenly Alva was at her side, squeezing her arm to get her attention and whispering in her ear, “Look over there, honey.”

Lita stood at the edge of the crowd, dressed simply in black pants and a sweater, holding the arm of a tall young man who was talking with some of the other people. Isabel’s heart began to pound and, for a moment, she had the crazy thought that she was hallucinating and that Lita was not really standing there across the room.

“Come on over,” Alva whispered to her. “I know she wants to see her mama.”

An amazing thing about Alva was that she seemed to know exactly what to say and how to say it no matter what the circumstances or who she was talking to. At this moment, she seemed to Isabel the only solid thing in the gallery, reassuring, palpable, steady. Isabel leaned on her physically as Alva began to steer her through the crowd and the noise and the bright lights reflecting from her paintings.

“Mamita,” Lita said as soon as they were close enough to hear each other. Raising her arms wide she embraced Isabel and hugged her for a long time. “I’m sorry, Mamita. So sorry I worried you so much. Sorry I ran away. Sorry, so very sorry.”

Isabel’s head was spinning. Was this the same girl who had been so hateful to her just a few short weeks ago? She let Lita hug her, but she was in a kind of daze. Finally they let go of each other and she studied Lita’s face closely, while from across the room Amanda was trying to get Isabel’s attention.

“I’m fine, Mamita, really,” said Lita. “And I know it’s a bad time, I mean so busy with so many people and your opening and everything else, but I do want you to meet . . . ” she motioned to the young man, tugging at his arm.

“Isabel,” Amanda was at her side, “a very important collector is interested in talking with you.”

She led Isabel away but as they moved to the other end of the space where an impeccably dressed man and an attractive woman wearing a stylish wool suit were examining the blue painting with white specks, Isabel briefly turned back to Lita and said, “Don’t leave, Lita.”

Lita smiled at her and the young man kissed her on the forehead.

Isabel Part 2, Episode Thirty-One

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