Venus’ sandaled foot stepped out of the painting, finding depth and the fullness of three dimensions. Her red cape dragged the floor as she glided through the dark gallery. Each step tossed her hips wide like a dance. She didn’t look back - she never did. This was her one day in life and not art.
“It’s happening!” whispered Thalia to my sister Euphrosyne. “Spring is here!”
See, that was Venus’ role: she woke the earth to springtime. Knocked the chill out of the air and told the sun to hang around more.
Next went Mercury. He didn’t walk, just flew with a zip out of the painting to, well, wherever he went. As the god of travelers, he told the birds to fly back home and the bears to shake off their naps. Maybe he just flew around the planet playing his lyre. I was too far beneath his status to ask.
Zephrus, Cupid, Chloris, and Flora went in a group. I think there are a few love quadrilaterals between the four, but that was Cupid’s trigger happy arrow-play at work.
My sisters would leave together, giggling the entire way. It was a bit shocking that they managed to breathe given how much tittering they did.
I understood what Thalia and Euphrosyne did on their one day outside of the Botticelli. My position was close enough to hear their side-mouth whispers. Any time a round-belly woman entered the Uffizi and stood in front of us, her prim hands resting on her enlarged uterus, they’d said, “We did that” and laugh at the fun of being a fertility goddess. They had keen eyes, spotting pregnancy before the stomach was rotund. I’d wonder if it was obesity and they’d smirk at each other: “Last year was so crazy!”
I was the last to leave. My pale skin glowed and my muslin dress flowed behind me. If anyone saw me, they’d think I was an Uffizi phantom, not a yellow-haired Grace. They'd probably wonder why I chose to wear clothes but also be naked - but only if the person were close.
I wish I left with the confidence of Venus, but I did always look back at the empty, fruit-filled forest we’d return to once the day was over. I wish I had the speed of Mercury, zipping out of the eerie gallery, but I was slow and methodical. One year, I’d tripped on my muslin - a year I was grateful to be the last one out.
My first stop was the garden to see Chloris and Flora’s work. The flowers were in glorious bloom: the azaleas were a bright magenta, the roses a soft pink, snapdragons brought purple, daffodils yellow, and the morning glories took their blue to the sky, climbing the terrace. They were artists and I was drunk on the colors. Zephrus had calmed the north wind and the air smelled of honey and pollen. I sneezed in delight. Spring was wonderful.
Walking along the path, one azalea had not bloomed. A pretty bush of emerald green, covered in tight buds that were not ready for the goddesses’ call.
“Hello there,” I whispered. I stroked one of the buds, humming a tune I’d learned from a bee a few years back. It was about the joys of leaving hibernation and the thrill of finding the right flower.
The emerald bush shook a little, but the flowers remained tight.
“You don’t have to open your flowers if you don’t want to, but I’d love to see what color they are. Are they magenta like your neighbors?”
The flower in my hand bloomed rapidly. It was a deep purple like the end of a sunset.
“Thank you. Your flowers are one of my favorite shades of azaleas.”
The entire bush flowered at my words. I stood up, smiling.
Meandering down the path, I kept one ear to the spiritual realm. I’d touch a bud here, stroke a sprout there. My heart heard the call before my brain and off I went.
It was a very ginger couple. The woman had long, curly, burnt locks held together in a hair ribbon. The man had a ginger beard, about a centimeter in length. They were sitting at a small kitchen table made of oak, in the back of their apartment, and she was crying. She was crying into her hands and her shoulders shook with every sob. The man had a hand on one of these shoulders and kept moving his head down to her level, searching her face, trying to look into her eyes.
When she finally took her hands from her face, she looked towards the window instead of him. It was clearly an act because the curtains were drawn: she was essentially staring at a wall. A few deep sniffs to try and return the mucus to her nose, perhaps more polite than wiping it on her wrist again, and she had steeled her will. “It’s fine.”
Her man crumbled against the back of his chair, taking his hand off of her back. “Cara,” he said with trepidation.
“It is! It’s fine, Sean. If this is what God or the universe wills, then this is how it is going to be.” She pushed off the table, standing up.
He placed his hand on her shoulder pushing her back into the chair. “You know I feel the same,” his voice cracked. “I wish this phase was over. I wish I could give -”
“Don’t say that this is your fault.”
“You act like it is your fault. Am I not allowed to act like it is my fault? It takes two parties to make this happen and maybe it is me.”
She took his hand. “No, no. I’m sure it’s not.”
One tear he’d vowed wouldn’t fall slipped down his cheek. “I wish we had a baby, too.”
She started crying again; he gave into his tears. This time they held each other, the snot and the mucus getting in one another’s hair, their arms tight around each other.
I walked up to the table and they didn’t notice me. It wasn’t the emotion of the moment, they simply can’t. I stroked Cara’s hair, used to a light layer of snot in moments like these. I tickled Sean’s beard to see what it felt like: prickly, but not as bad a five o’clock shadow. Bending down, I kissed each one on their foreheads. My dry lips barely felt the pressure of their skin.
The next place was a house party full of middle aged women. One stood on a table, in gym shorts and a flannel shirt, speaking to the masses like she was readying them for battle.
“First and foremost: thank all of you for signing up for Austin Roller Derby League. We need all of the extra bodies to ensure the sport will survive despite the injuries.”
A woman with an arm in a cast shouted, “Here, here!”
“Now, normally, I’d hate all of y’all who were not part of the Holy Rollers” - she took her finger and pointed through the crowd - “but tonight is a celebration of the sport - a chance for fun before the spring-training starts! So mingle, drink beer, and have fun!” The crowd hollered in agreement.
Sarah stood on the edge of the crowd, holding a Solo cup with a finger of vodka. Her friend elbowed her, “You heard her right: mingle?”
“It is time for you to get over her, Sarah. No more college girls - a real relationship. If I see you with another teeny bopper, I’m going to bop you.”
“I hear you.”
“Pick out a real woman. I’m going to go play beer pong.”
Sarah scanned the room, her eyes lingering on a few legs, but she shook her head and finished her vodka. She went to the kitchen and I followed her.
There were two women, leaning on the island and the sink respectively, arguing over the best female superhero.
Donna was shocked at what her friend had said. “You’re just saying that because you think Brie Larson is hot. We all know Wonder Woman is the best.”
“You don’t think Gal Gadot is hot?”
Donna waved her hand, “I have watched all of these movies hundreds of times. As a mother of three kids, I am chest deep in superhero movies, OK? I can tell you the time theory of Endgame and recite every Spider-Man movie in chronological order.”
Sarah stood at the edge of the kitchen, eyeing the vodka bottle on the counter where Donna was leaning. Donna looked a little tipsy, waving her arms back and forth: “My children love anything with a cape. Dominique's favorite is Batman, Lauren likes Cloak and Dagger, Simon likes just about everything…”
I only had one night out of the painting and this was brainless. Gathering energy from the party, I pulled it into my core. I expelled this force, pushing Sarah into Donna.
They collided and fell to the ground. Sarah on top of Donna, her hair forming a curtain for their faces. She was blushing and Donna had a sheepish grin.
“Hi, I’m Sarah.”
It was time to get back. We all arrived at once. Thalia was heady with fun of dancing and her muslin smelled of beer. Euphrosyne winked when she saw me, leaning in to whisper, “Manchester United won.” Venus gave a Mona-Lisa smile and stepped back into her center spot.
The rest of us bumped elbows and knees, climbing our way back into the dimensional two. The emerald forest was happy to see us and to taste the world on our clothes. I gathered to my sisters and stilled in place.
Without moving, I danced with my sisters, our fingers intertwined as Botticelli wished. I listened to their joy at the pregnant woman entering the gallery. I cooed to their recreations of her fertility. Mortals’ eyes looked over us, admiring the brush strokes. We waited for spring.
One day, a ginger haired woman entered the gallery. Her hair was flying around her, a chaos halo. She was cursing under her breath, pushing and pulling a stroller towards the arguably best painting in the Uffizi. The Itailians looked at the stroller like one would look at a defecating dog: disgust and strongly averting their eyes.
A ginger-bearded man came running in, holding a pacifier above his head like it was the baton of a relay runner. “Cara, he dropped it in the Filippo Lippi hall! I found it in no time.”
The docent shushed him.
The stroller made it to us. A sleeping six month old was curled up inside. He had a mop of black hair and a tan complexion. His lips pursed and unpursed as he reached for something in his dreams. He garbled some nonsense noises.
A large smile plastered over my face. I turned to my sisters.
“I did that.”