Suzanne Lambert Storyteller, Author and Blogger Forgotten Picture
© 2013 - 2019 Suzanne Lambert | All Rights Reserved
The Forgotten Picture It had been long forgotten for many years, nobody knew it was there any more. Abandoned underneath a pile of rubbish that Jacob kept promising he would sort out one day, but Jacob Miller was a busy man these days and so it had lain there for another year gathering even more dust. His small shop on the high street in the village of Milldene was his pride and joy. Above the shop was a modest little flat surrounded with beautiful artefacts he had gathered on his travels around the world. Jacob could have lived at any of the amazing new waterfront properties in the nearby city. He had worked hard, was well known in the art world and was extremely well respected. He had made lots of money and yet something always drew him back to his little shop and every time he placed the key in the door he felt welcomed, at home, warm and comfortable in his surroundings. It was his latest art show that had brought him back to Milldene. During his younger years he never failed to host an art exhibition each spring at some smart city gallery and artists would fight to have their work exhibited, always in the hope of receiving ‘Pride of Place.’ A specially chosen spot in the gallery would be selected each time and Jacob would exhibit his favourite piece. It was a great honour to be chosen by him. People came from miles around to see Jacob, to talk to him, get advice and many times he had been asked to talk to students in colleges and universities. He had lost count of the thousands of paintings he had been asked to look at.  He could spot a fake in seconds everyone said, people as well as paintings they would laugh. Jacob Miller did not suffer fools gladly. He would be seventy years of age this year and he was wondering where the time had gone. His life had been so busy he had never taken time out to fall in love. It was distracting and he couldn’t afford the time. There was just that moment so long ago now but he pushed the thought hastily to the back of his mind. He was always travelling from one country to another until eventually in his late sixties he had come back to the village of Milldene where he had been born, fell in love with it all over again and bought the little shop with a flat above. It was the nearest he had ever come to calling somewhere home. This would be his final exhibition he thought. He was getting too old for this game and he didn’t understand the paintings, the new-fangled way of doing things and honestly the arrogance of some of the artists these days.  Jacob sighed, maybe it’s just me he thought once more. I should never have agreed to do this. Previously he would become extremely excited about who would get ‘Pride of Place’ but this year he was worried. Very worried indeed.  It had to be something special. He always knew on seeing it for the first time what it would be. Never had his instinct failed him in all these years. Whoever the chosen artist for ‘Pride of Place’ had been, they had succeeded. Already the whispers had started many months in advance of the competition as to who might be chosen this year. There was much speculation about a new and upcoming painter who everyone was talking about. They were pushing their thoughts and feelings onto him but Jacob Miller was not one to be pushed. Am I just not getting it, he thought as he worked his way through the photographs and paintings and all the information sent to him by hundreds of hopefuls. Jacob sighed and smiled to himself remembering in past years he would sit himself down with a large glass of whisky and consider each one. Whisky was a no go area now according to his doctor. He was so restless today, so much to do and he was simply wandering round the shop trying to focus on the job in hand. ‘I know’, he said out loud to himself, I will go and have a tidy up in the back. Old Granny Martin, long gone now, always used to tell him that a tidy mind was what lead to success in life. After two hours he was hot, tired and beginning to feel more fed up than he had when he started. ‘What on earth is the matter with me today’ he said out loud as he leaned on a pile of books to stand up?  The books crashed to the ground knocking over several old bits and bobs that should have been thrown out years ago.  It was then he saw it. Very gently he pushed away the rubbish and lifted it up blowing away the dust that was almost as old as the picture itself. Now where did this come from he thought racking his brains. I seem to remember something but it was so long ago. He carried it carefully into the shop, pulled down the blinds and put the closed sign up. He just knew this was important. He placed the picture carefully on the antique sideboard and sat in the comfy armchair and stared at it. He poured himself a small glass of whisky not caring what his doctor would say.  Tears stung his eyes and he had no idea why. It had no monetary value, he could see that. The picture didn’t make sense, there was no obvious theme and yet it moved him more than he could say. It was almost as though the picture was talking and trying to reach out to him.  In the bottom left hand corner was a little blue sailing boat with white masts and two people standing with their arms around each other sailing on a calm green sea. In the middle was a  small cottage with a white gate and herb garden which simply melted his heart. Who lives there he wondered. It had to be real and he closed his eyes and waited as he imagined the door opening slowly. He felt somehow he should know who would be there. Jacob thought maybe the whisky had been a bad idea after all yet still he sat and looked. Right in the middle of the picture were the young couple from the boat pushing a pram down a winding country lane that led away from the cottage. Jacob couldn’t see their faces but knew exactly what they looked like, he could feel their hopes and dreams, their joys and challenges. His eyes strayed to bottom of the picture to the same  young couple sitting on a bench and the words ‘the beginning.’ Jacob’s hands were shaking and he was moved beyond words and he had absolutely no idea why. ‘But I should know’, he said to himself, ‘somehow I believe I should know.’  Jacob picked the picture up and carefully carried it into his workshop where he sat for the next two hours lovingly cleaning it. He held it up to the light and smiled.  Its simple beauty took his breath away and he cleared a space in the window of the shop and placed it where everyone could see and enjoy it. What on earth would he tell people he thought?  The picture had no value at all. They would think he was losing his edge. Well maybe I am he thought, but I have been at the top for a long time, I can cope with stepping down a little now. Jacob looked at the picture once more, smiled and turned off the lights in the shop leaving just a dim light on in the shop window so people passing could see his artwork. Laura was in a hurry today.  It was her job to open the library on a Monday morning where she worked as a librarian.  Laura had lived her whole life in Milldene and loved her job very much indeed. Today was simply one of those days when everything seemed to have gone wrong from the moment she woke up. One of Laura’s simple pleasures in life was strolling through the village to work maybe stopping for a chat on the way or looking in shop windows. Today, however, there was no time for dilly dallying or window shopping she was already five minutes late. Laura only glanced at Jacob’s shop window this morning as she passed but then stopped. Something in that window made her catch her breath. Late or not Laura backtracked to the window and stared at the painting. Her heart began to beat fast. Surely not, it couldn’t possibly be, could it?  Laura jumped when Mrs Bell tapped her on the shoulder.  ‘Are you not late for the library Laura’ she asked pointing to the book in her hand.  Mrs Bell was most surprised.  Laura was never ever late.  ‘Are you quite sure you are alright’ she asked with a concerned look. Laura apologised and hurried on knowing that the moment it turned 3pm she would be back to look once more at the painting. Jacob heard the shop bell ringing just after 3 and saw the young girl standing in front of him. He felt as though he should know her, there was just something about her and deep inside him a bubble of emotion began to make its way to the surface. In that moment Jacob had so many emotions racing around inside of him he was hardly able to breath let alone speak.  It was Laura who spoke first.  ‘Hello, it’s just that picture in the window, I need to see it.’ ‘It’s not for sale’, he said quickly not knowing why. Jacob pulled himself together, feeling he had sounded a little rude. ‘Hello to you too.  Sorry I’m a little distracted today. The picture you say, well I’m not sure it’s actually for sale you know.’ Laura knew only too well that whatever pictures were displayed in this shop window were never going to be something she could afford anyway.  ‘Could I please just look she said.’ ‘Of course, take a seat Miss?’ ‘Laura, my name is Laura’ she smiled. Jacob stepped into the window and took the picture down from the stand and placed it in Laura’s outstretched hands. There was no sound except for the ticking of the grandfather clock in the corner of the shop and Jacob watched Laura as her eyes filled with tears. ‘By the way, my name is Jacob.  Jacob Miller.’ Slowly Laura raised her head to look at him as she clutched the painting tightly in her arms.  ‘Oh’ she said, ‘now I understand. Imagine, after all this time.  Jacob, yes I see.’  Jacob continued to simply stare at Laura with a totally bewildered expression on his face. ‘My name’ she said ‘is Laura Dawson. My grandmother was Lillian Grey.’  She waited and watched him.  Jacob looked straight into Laura’s eyes and finally he began to understand and remember. There was a family resemblance, those pale blue eyes, high cheekbones, a simple kindness that radiated from her.  Could it be?  Really could it?  He waited.  He couldn’t find his voice anyway.  Laura began to talk again. ‘Grandma Lily always painted from being a young child and as children we spent many hours with her.  She would tell us stories and take us on walks teaching us all about colour and how to draw and paint.  We loved nothing more than to be with her.  Grandma Lily married but lost her husband in the war and never remarried.  We always believed it was because she loved Grandpa Joe so much but in later years when I had my own children mum told me a story.’ ‘One summer many years ago when grandma was 18 years old she met a boy who she, “walked out with” I believe was the expression,’ she said with a laugh in her voice.   ‘He was the one she told everyone and they would spend many hours together painting. He could paint anything, bring a picture alive. He had taught Lilly to paint and told her one day he would be a famous artist.  He left after the summer to travel to France and study art, he was going to succeed he said. He was going to be the best there was and everyone would know his name.’ And I call the youth of today arrogant Jacob thought with shame.  ‘She heard through the grapevine of his success and believing he would never come back married Grandpa Joe.’ Laura and Jacob sat looking at each other until Jacob found his voice. ‘She could have waited’ ‘You could have written’ Laura replied. I was too busy carried away on the rollercoaster of success which came quickly and the world was beckoning, Jacob thought.  He looked at the picture Laura was still holding tightly in her arms. ‘The picture Laura, what is it? Laura looked at him sadly and replied. ‘The life she never had.  Herself and the boy she loved, sailing on the ocean together, the little cottage with the herb garden that they had talked about and planned together one day when he was successful, their child in the pram, the family they would have and the bench in the park where they first met.   Everyone in the family knew the story of Grandma’s picture and what it looked like but nobody ever knew what had happened to it.  We always believed that it had been mistakenly given away to one of the many charity fete’s we have in this village.  I don’t know how it got to this shop or what made you put it in that window but I recognised it immediately.’  There was no signature Laura knew that but it was there just as she had been told it would be.  A tiny lily painted at the bottom left hand side of the picture.  Later that evening, long after Laura had left the shop, Jacob was still sitting in the chair looking at the picture.  His instinct had been right. No value indeed. It was priceless, completely and utterly priceless. Now he knew exactly what to do. The night of the exhibition had arrived and there was a hum of excitement all around the gallery.  This year nobody could even guess what was behind the drape on the wall. The shining gold plaque on the wall read “Pride of Place”. There was lots of champagne and chatter and Jacob was nervously walking around the room talking to people hearing nothing of their conversation and interested even less. He was too busy counting the minutes, hoping and praying. Laura had said no more that night, just squeezed his hand, smiled and left. Would she come he wondered.  The advertising in the small village must surely have reached her. He ensured leaflets were delivered to the library where he was sure she would see them. The questions were buzzing round Jacob’s head.  Would she come?  It was so important to him. Why on earth had he not said more that afternoon, talked to her longer?  What about Lily, it was a question he was afraid to ask.  It was no good he would just have to wait. Lily had loved him so much and he had loved her too. To have fallen so deeply in love in just one summer and never forget was quite incredible. He knew now why he had never married.  Pretended it didn’t matter after Lily, yet never quite feeling the same towards anyone else and so he had married himself to his work.  People were asking if he was quite well, honestly he must pull himself together. Finally, 8pm the time had come and people were beginning to gather round the painting waiting for Jacob. There was a hush as he stepped forward smiling, completely calm now. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen I give to you all the most priceless painting I have ever had the honour to have in my possession. It tells the story of dreams, hope, loss but most of all love.’  Jacob looked around the room.  It was time.  He removed the drape to a gasp from the people around him. There was complete silence, nobody dared speak. No applause. Stunned looks on the faces of the artists. What on earth was this? Still not a sound until the gentle tapping of a walking stick as she made her way through the crowd and stepped forward. Still so very beautiful, her walking stick taking nothing away from the dignified woman with the pale blue eyes who was standing in front of him now. ‘What is it called’ she asked him smiling. Jacob reached out to take her hand. ‘Eternal Hope my darling Lily.  Eternal Hope.’
Suzanne Lambert Storyteller, Author and Blogger Forgotten Picture
© 2013 - 2019 Suzanne Lambert | All Rights Reserved
The Forgotten Picture It had been long forgotten for many years, nobody knew it was there any more. Abandoned underneath a pile of rubbish that Jacob kept promising he would sort out one day, but Jacob Miller was a busy man these days and so it had lain there for another year gathering even more dust. His small shop on the high street in the village of Milldene was his pride and joy. Above the shop was a modest little flat surrounded with beautiful artefacts he had gathered on his travels around the world. Jacob could have lived at any of the amazing new waterfront properties in the nearby city. He had worked hard, was well known in the art world and was extremely well respected. He had made lots of money and yet something always drew him back to his little shop and every time he placed the key in the door he felt welcomed, at home, warm and comfortable in his surroundings. It was his latest art show that had brought him back to Milldene. During his younger years he never failed to host an art exhibition each spring at some smart city gallery and artists would fight to have their work exhibited, always in the hope of receiving ‘Pride of Place.’ A specially chosen spot in the gallery would be selected each time and Jacob would exhibit his favourite piece. It was a great honour to be chosen by him. People came from miles around to see Jacob, to talk to him, get advice and many times he had been asked to talk to students in colleges and universities. He had lost count of the thousands of paintings he had been asked to look at.  He could spot a fake in seconds everyone said, people as well as paintings they would laugh. Jacob Miller did not suffer fools gladly. He would be seventy years of age this year and he was wondering where the time had gone. His life had been so busy he had never taken time out to fall in love. It was distracting and he couldn’t afford the time. There was just that moment so long ago now but he pushed the thought hastily to the back of his mind. He was always travelling from one country to another until eventually in his late sixties he had come back to the village of Milldene where he had been born, fell in love with it all over again and bought the little shop with a flat above. It was the nearest he had ever come to calling somewhere home. This would be his final exhibition he thought. He was getting too old for this game and he didn’t understand the paintings, the new-fangled way of doing things and honestly the arrogance of some of the artists these days.  Jacob sighed, maybe it’s just me he thought once more. I should never have agreed to do this. Previously he would become extremely excited about who would get ‘Pride of Place’ but this year he was worried. Very worried indeed.  It had to be something special. He always knew on seeing it for the first time what it would be. Never had his instinct failed him in all these years. Whoever the chosen artist for ‘Pride of Place’ had been, they had succeeded. Already the whispers had started many months in advance of the competition as to who might be chosen this year. There was much speculation about a new and upcoming painter who everyone was talking about. They were pushing their thoughts and feelings onto him but Jacob Miller was not one to be pushed. Am I just not getting it, he thought as he worked his way through the photographs and paintings and all the information sent to him by hundreds of hopefuls. Jacob sighed and smiled to himself remembering in past years he would sit himself down with a large glass of whisky and consider each one. Whisky was a no go area now according to his doctor. He was so restless today, so much to do and he was simply wandering round the shop trying to focus on the job in hand. ‘I know’, he said out loud to himself, I will go and have a tidy up in the back. Old Granny Martin, long gone now, always used to tell him that a tidy mind was what lead to success in life. After two hours he was hot, tired and beginning to feel more fed up than he had when he started. ‘What on earth is the matter with me today’ he said out loud as he leaned on a pile of books to stand up?  The books crashed to the ground knocking over several old bits and bobs that should have been thrown out years ago.  It was then he saw it. Very gently he pushed away the rubbish and lifted it up blowing away the dust that was almost as old as the picture itself. Now where did this come from he thought racking his brains. I seem to remember something but it was so long ago. He carried it carefully into the shop, pulled down the blinds and put the closed sign up. He just knew this was important. He placed the picture carefully on the antique sideboard and sat in the comfy armchair and stared at it. He poured himself a small glass of whisky not caring what his doctor would say.  Tears stung his eyes and he had no idea why. It had no monetary value, he could see that. The picture didn’t make sense, there was no obvious theme and yet it moved him more than he could say. It was almost as though the picture was talking and trying to reach out to him.  In the bottom left hand corner was a little blue sailing boat with white masts and two people standing with their arms around each other sailing on a calm green sea. In the middle was a  small cottage with a white gate and herb garden which simply melted his heart. Who lives there he wondered. It had to be real and he closed his eyes and waited as he imagined the door opening slowly. He felt somehow he should know who would be there. Jacob thought maybe the whisky had been a bad idea after all yet still he sat and looked. Right in the middle of the picture were the young couple from the boat pushing a pram down a winding country lane that led away from the cottage. Jacob couldn’t see their faces but knew exactly what they looked like, he could feel their hopes and dreams, their joys and challenges. His eyes strayed to bottom of the picture to the same  young couple sitting on a bench and the words the beginning.’ Jacob’s hands were shaking and he was moved beyond words and he had absolutely no idea why. ‘But I should know’, he said to himself, ‘somehow I believe I should know.’  Jacob picked the picture up and carefully carried it into his workshop where he sat for the next two hours lovingly cleaning it. He held it up to the light and smiled.  Its simple beauty took his breath away and he cleared a space in the window of the shop and placed it where everyone could see and enjoy it. What on earth would he tell people he thought?  The picture had no value at all. They would think he was losing his edge. Well maybe I am he thought, but I have been at the top for a long time, I can cope with stepping down a little now. Jacob looked at the picture once more, smiled and turned off the lights in the shop leaving just a dim light on in the shop window so people passing could see his artwork. Laura was in a hurry today.  It was her job to open the library on a Monday morning where she worked as a librarian.  Laura had lived her whole life in Milldene and loved her job very much indeed. Today was simply one of those days when everything seemed to have gone wrong from the moment she woke up. One of Laura’s simple pleasures in life was strolling through the village to work maybe stopping for a chat on the way or looking in shop windows. Today, however, there was no time for dilly dallying or window shopping she was already five minutes late. Laura only glanced at Jacob’s shop window this morning as she passed but then stopped. Something in that window made her catch her breath. Late or not Laura backtracked to the window and stared at the painting. Her heart began to beat fast. Surely not, it couldn’t possibly be, could it?  Laura jumped when Mrs Bell tapped her on the shoulder.  ‘Are you not late for the library Laura’ she asked pointing to the book in her hand.  Mrs Bell was most surprised.  Laura was never ever late.  ‘Are you quite sure you are alright’ she asked with a concerned look. Laura apologised and hurried on knowing that the moment it turned 3pm she would be back to look once more at the painting. Jacob heard the shop bell ringing just after 3 and saw the young girl standing in front of him. He felt as though he should know her, there was just something about her and deep inside him a bubble of emotion began to make its way to the surface. In that moment Jacob had so many emotions racing around inside of him he was hardly able to breath let alone speak.  It was Laura who spoke first.  ‘Hello, it’s just that picture in the window, I need to see it.’ ‘It’s not for sale’, he said quickly not knowing why. Jacob pulled himself together, feeling he had sounded a little rude. ‘Hello to you too.  Sorry I’m a little distracted today. The picture you say, well I’m not sure it’s actually for sale you know.’ Laura knew only too well that whatever pictures were displayed in this shop window were never going to be something she could afford anyway.  ‘Could I please just look she said.’ ‘Of course, take a seat Miss?’ ‘Laura, my name is Laura’ she smiled. Jacob stepped into the window and took the picture down from the stand and placed it in Laura’s outstretched hands. There was no sound except for the ticking of the grandfather clock in the corner of the shop and Jacob watched Laura as her eyes filled with tears. ‘By the way, my name is Jacob.  Jacob Miller.’ Slowly Laura raised her head to look at him as she clutched the painting tightly in her arms.  ‘Oh’ she said, ‘now I understand. Imagine, after all this time.  Jacob, yes I see.’  Jacob continued to simply stare at Laura with a totally bewildered expression on his face. ‘My name’ she said ‘is Laura Dawson. My grandmother was Lillian Grey.’  She waited and watched him.  Jacob looked straight into Laura’s eyes and finally he began to understand and remember. There was a family resemblance, those pale blue eyes, high cheekbones, a simple kindness that radiated from her.  Could it be?  Really could it?  He waited.  He couldn’t find his voice anyway.  Laura began to talk again. ‘Grandma Lily always painted from being a young child and as children we spent many hours with her.  She would tell us stories and take us on walks teaching us all about colour and how to draw and paint.  We loved nothing more than to be with her.  Grandma Lily married but lost her husband in the war and never remarried.  We always believed it was because she loved Grandpa Joe so much but in later years when I had my own children mum told me a story.’ ‘One summer many years ago when grandma was 18 years old she met a boy who she, “walked out with” I believe was the expression,’ she said with a laugh in her voice.   ‘He was the one she told everyone and they would spend many hours together painting. He could paint anything, bring a picture alive. He had taught Lilly to paint and told her one day he would be a famous artist.  He left after the summer to travel to France and study art, he was going to succeed he said. He was going to be the best there was and everyone would know his name.’ And I call the youth of today arrogant Jacob thought with shame.  ‘She heard through the grapevine of his success and believing he would never come back married Grandpa Joe.’ Laura and Jacob sat looking at each other until Jacob found his voice. ‘She could have waited’ ‘You could have written’ Laura replied. I was too busy carried away on the rollercoaster of success which came quickly and the world was beckoning, Jacob thought.  He looked at the picture Laura was still holding tightly in her arms. ‘The picture Laura, what is it? Laura looked at him sadly and replied. ‘The life she never had.  Herself and the boy she loved, sailing on the ocean together, the little cottage with the herb garden that they had talked about and planned together one day when he was successful, their child in the pram, the family they would have and the bench in the park where they first met.   Everyone in the family knew the story of Grandma’s picture and what it looked like but nobody ever knew what had happened to it.  We always believed that it had been mistakenly given away to one of the many charity fete’s we have in this village.  I don’t know how it got to this shop or what made you put it in that window but I recognised it immediately.’  There was no signature Laura knew that but it was there just as she had been told it would be.  A tiny lily painted at the bottom left hand side of the picture.  Later that evening, long after Laura had left the shop, Jacob was still sitting in the chair looking at the picture.  His instinct had been right. No value indeed. It was priceless, completely and utterly priceless. Now he knew exactly what to do. The night of the exhibition had arrived and there was a hum of excitement all around the gallery.  This year nobody could even guess what was behind the drape on the wall. The shining gold plaque on the wall read “Pride of Place”. There was lots of champagne and chatter and Jacob was nervously walking around the room talking to people hearing nothing of their conversation and interested even less. He was too busy counting the minutes, hoping and praying. Laura had said no more that night, just squeezed his hand, smiled and left. Would she come he wondered.  The advertising in the small village must surely have reached her. He ensured leaflets were delivered to the library where he was sure she would see them. The questions were buzzing round Jacob’s head.  Would she come?  It was so important to him. Why on earth had he not said more that afternoon, talked to her longer?  What about Lily, it was a question he was afraid to ask.  It was no good he would just have to wait. Lily had loved him so much and he had loved her too. To have fallen so deeply in love in just one summer and never forget was quite incredible. He knew now why he had never married.  Pretended it didn’t matter after Lily, yet never quite feeling the same towards anyone else and so he had married himself to his work.  People were asking if he was quite well, honestly he must pull himself together. Finally, 8pm the time had come and people were beginning to gather round the painting waiting for Jacob. There was a hush as he stepped forward smiling, completely calm now. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen I give to you all the most priceless painting I have ever had the honour to have in my possession. It tells the story of dreams, hope, loss but most of all love.’  Jacob looked around the room.  It was time.  He removed the drape to a gasp from the people around him. There was complete silence, nobody dared speak. No applause. Stunned looks on the faces of the artists. What on earth was this? Still not a sound until the gentle tapping of a walking stick as she made her way through the crowd and stepped forward. Still so very beautiful, her walking stick taking nothing away from the dignified woman with the pale blue eyes who was standing in front of him now. ‘What is it called’ she asked him smiling. Jacob reached out to take her hand. ‘Eternal Hope my darling Lily.  Eternal Hope.’