Tell me your dreams, p.3
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       Tell Me Your Dreams, p.3
 

           Sidney Sheldon
Chapter Three

  In another place, at another time, Alette Peters could have been a successful artist. As far back as she could remember, her senses were tuned to the nuances of color. She could see colors, smell colors and hear colors.

  Her father's voice was blue and sometimes red.

  Her mother's voice was dark brown.

  Her teacher's voice was yellow.

  The grocer's voice was purple.

  The sound of the wind in the trees was green.

  The sound of running water was gray.

  Alette Peters was twenty years old. She could be plain-looking, attractive or stunningly beautiful, depending on her mood or how she was feeling about herself. But she was never simply pretty. Part of her charm was that she was completely unaware of her looks. She was shy and soft-spoken, with a gentleness that was almost an anachronism.

  Alette had been born in Rome, and she had a musical Italian accent. She loved everything about Rome. She had stood at the top of the Spanish Steps and looked over the city and felt that it was hers. When she gazed at the ancient temples and the giant Colosseum, she knew she belonged to that era. She had strolled in the Piazza Navona, listened to the music of the waters in the Fountain of the Four Rivers and walked the Piazza Venezia, with its wedding cake monument to Victor Emanuel. She had spent endless hours at St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museum and the Borghese Gallery, enjoying the timeless works of Raphael and Fra Bartolommeo and Andrea del Sarto and Pontormo. Their talent both transfixed her and frustrated her. She wished she had been born in the sixteenth century and had known them. They were more real to Alette than the passers-by on the streets. She wanted desperately to be an artist.

  She could hear her mother's dark brown voice: "You're wasting paper and paint. You have no talent. "

  The move to California had been unsettling at first. Alette had been concerned as to how she would adjust, but Cupertino had turned out to be a pleasant surprise. She enjoyed the privacy that the small town afforded, and she liked working for Global Computer Graphics Corporation. There were no major art galleries in Cupertino, but on weekends, Alette would drive to San Francisco to visit the galleries there.

  "Why are you interested in that stuff?" Toni Prescott would ask her. "Come on to P. J. Mulligans with me and have some fun. "

  "Don't you care about art?"

  Toni laughed. "Sure. What's his last name?"

  There was only one cloud hanging over Alette Peters' life. She was manic-depressive. She suffered from anomie, a feeling of alienation from others. Her mood swings always caught her unaware, and in an instant, she could go from a blissful euphoria to a desperate misery. She had no control over her emotions.

  Toni was the only one with whom Alette would discuss her problems. Toni had a solution for everything, and it was usually: "Let's go and have some fun!"

  Toni's favorite subject was Ashley Patterson. She was watching Shane Miller talking to Ashley.

  "Look at that tight-assed bitch," Toni said contemptuously. "She's the ice queen. "

  Alette nodded. "She's very serious. Someone should teach her how to laugh. "

  Toni snorted. "Someone should teach her how to fuck. "

  One night a week, Alette would go to the mission for the homeless in San Francisco and help serve dinner. There was one little old woman in particular who looked forward to Alette's visits. She was in a wheelchair, and Alette would help her to a table and bring her hot food.

  The woman said gratefully, "Dear, if I had a daughter, I'd want her to be exactly like you. "

  Alette squeezed her hand. "That's such a great compliment. Thank you. " And her inner voice said. If you had a daughter, she'd look like a pig like you. And Alette was horrified by her thoughts. It was as though someone else inside her was saying those words. It happened constantly.

  She was out shopping with Betty Hardy, a woman who was a member of Alette's church. They stopped in front of a department store. Betty was admiring a dress in the window. "Isn't that beautiful?'"

  "Lovely," Alette said. That's the ugliest dress I've ever seen. Perfect for you.

  One evening, Alette had dinner with Ronald, a sexton at the church. "I really enjoy being with you, Alette. Let's do this more often. "

  She smiled shyly. "I'd like that. " And she thought, Non faccia, lo stupido. Maybe in another lifetime, creep. And again she was horrified. What's wrong with me? And she had no answer.

  The smallest slights, whether intended or not, drove Alette into a rage. Driving to work one morning, a car cut in front of her. She gritted her teeth and thought, I'll kill you, you bastard. The man waved apologetically, and Alette smiled sweetly. But the rage was still there.

  When the black cloud descended, Alette would imagine people on the street having heart attacks or being struck by automobiles or being mugged and killed. She would play the scenes out in her mind, and they were vividly real. Moments later, she would be filled with shame.

  * * *

  On her good days, Alette was a completely different person. She was genuinely kind and sympathetic and enjoyed helping people. The only thing that spoiled her happiness was the knowledge that the darkness would come down on her again, and she would be lost in it.

  Every Sunday morning, Alette went to church. The church had volunteer programs to feed the homeless, to teach after-school art lessons and to tutor students. Alette would lead children's Sunday school classes and help in the nursery. She volunteered for all of the charitable activities and devoted as much time as she could to them. She particularly enjoyed giving painting classes for the young.

  One Sunday, the church had a fair for a fund-raiser, and Alette brought in some of her own paintings for the church to sell. The pastor, Frank Selvaggio, looked at them in amazement.

  "These are - These are brilliant! You should be selling them at a gallery. "

  Alette blushed. "No, not really. I just do them for fun. "

  The fair was crowded. The churchgoers had brought their friends and families, and game booths as well as arts-and-crafts booths had been set up for their enjoyment. There were beautifully decorated cakes, incredible handmade quilts, homemade jams in beautiful jars, carved wooden toys. People were going from booth to booth, sampling the sweets, buying things they would have no use for the next day.

  "But it's in the name of charity," Alette heard one woman explain to her husband.

  Alette looked at the paintings that she had placed around the booth, most of them landscapes in bright, vivid colors that leaped from the canvas. She was filled with misgivings. "You're wasting good money on paint, child. "

  A man came up to the booth. "Hi, there. Did you paint these?"

  His voice was a deep blue.

  No, stupid. Michelangelo dropped by and painted them.

  "You're very talented. "

  "Thank you. " What do you know about talent?

  A young couple stopped at Alette's booth. "Look at those colors! I have to have that one. You're really good. "

  And all afternoon people came to her booth to buy her paintings and to tell her how much talent she had. And Alette wanted to believe them, but each time the black curtain came down and she thought. They're all being cheated.

  An art dealer came by. "These are really lovely. You should merchandise your talent. "

  "I'm just an amateur," Alette insisted. And she refused to discuss it any further.

  At the end of the day, Alette had sold every one of her paintings. She gathered the money that people had paid her, put it in an envelope and handed it to Pastor Frank Selvaggio.

  He took it and said, "Thank you, Alette. You have a great gift, bringing so much beauty into people's lives. "

  Did you hear that, Mother?

  When Alette was in San Francisco, she spent hours visiting the Museum of Modem Art, and she haunted the De Young Museum to study their collection of American art.

  Several young artists wer
e copying some of the paintings on the museum's walls. One young man in particular caught Alette's eye. He was in his late twenties, slim and blond, with a strong, intelligent face. He was copying Georgia O'Keeffe's Petunias, and his work was remarkably good. The artist noticed Alette watching him. "Hi. "

  His voice was a warm yellow.

  "Hello," Alette said shyly.

  The artist nodded toward the painting he was working on. "What do you think?"

  "Bellissimo. I think it's wonderful. " And she waited for her inner voice to say. For a stupid amateur. But it didn't happen. She was surprised. "It's really wonderful. "

  He smiled. "Thank you. My name is Richard, Richard Melton. "

  "Alette Peters. "

  "Do you come here often?" Richard asked.

  "Si. As often as I can. I don't live in San Francisco. "

  "Where do you live?"

  "In Cupertino. " Not - "It's none of your damn business" or "Wouldn't you like to know?" but - "In Cupertino. " What is happening to me?

  "That's a nice little town. "

  "I like it. " Not - "What the hell makes you think it's a nice little town?" or "What do you know about nice little towns?" but - "I like it. "

  He was finished with the painting. "I'm hungry. Can I buy you lunch? Cafe De Young has pretty good food. "

  Alette hesitated only a moment. "Va bene. I'd like that. " Not - "You look stupid" or "I don't have lunch with strangers," but - "I'd like that. " It was a new, exhilarating experience for Alette.

  The lunch was extremely enjoyable and not once did negative thoughts come into Alette's mind. They talked about some of the great artists, and Alette told Richard about growing up in Rome.

  "I've never been to Rome," he said. "Maybe one day. "

  And Alette thought, It would be fun to go to Rome with you.

  As they were finishing their lunch, Richard saw his roommate across the room and called him over to the table. "Gary, I didn't know you were going to be here. I'd like you to meet someone. This is Alette Peters. Gary King. "

  Gary was in his late twenties, with bright blue eyes and hair down to his shoulders.

  "It's nice to meet you, Gary. "

  "Gary's been my best friend since high school, Alette. "

  "Yeah. I have ten years of dirt on Richard, so if you're looking for any good stories - "

  "Gary, don't you have somewhere to go?"

  "Right. " He turned to Alette. "But don't forget my offer. I'll see you two around. "

  They watched Gary leave. Richard said, "Alette. . . "

  "Yes?"

  "May I see you again?"

  "I would like that. " Very much.

  Monday morning, Alette told Toni about her experience. "Don't get involved with an artist," Toni warned. "You'll be living on the fruit he paints. Are you going to see him again?"

  Alette smiled. "Yes. I think he likes me. And I like him. I really like him. "

  It started as a small disagreement and ended up as a ferocious argument Pastor Frank was retiring after forty years of service. He had been a very good and caring pastor, and the congregation was sorry to see him leave. There were secret meetings held to decide what to give him as a going-away present A watch. . . money. . . a vacation. . . a painting. . . He loved art.

  "Why don't we have someone do a portrait of him, with the church in the background?" They turned to Alette. "Will you do it?"

  "Of course," she said happily.

  Walter Manning was one of the senior members of the church and one of its biggest contributors. He was a very successful businessman, but he seemed to resent everyone else's success. He said, "My daughter is a fine painter. Perhaps she should do it. "

  Someone suggested, "Why not have them both do it, and we'll vote on which one to give Pastor Frank?"

  Alette went to work. The painting took her five days, and it was a masterpiece, glowing with the compassion and goodness of her subject. The following Sunday, the group met to look at the paintings. There were exclamations of appreciation over Alette's painting.

  "It's so real, he could almost walk off the canvas. . . . "

  "Oh, he's going to love that. . . . "

  "That should be in a museum, Alette. . . . "

  Walter Manning unwrapped the canvas painted by his daughter. It was a competent painting, but it lacked the fire of Alette's portrait.

  "That's very nice," one of the members of the congregation said tactfully, "but I think Alette's is - "

  "I agree. . . . "

  "Alette's portrait is the one. . . . "

  Walter Manning spoke up. "This has to be a unanimous decision. My daughter's a professional artist" - he looked at Alette - "not a dilettante. She did this as a favor. We can't turn her down. "

  "But, Walter - "

  "No, sir. This has to be unanimous. We're either giving him my daughter's painting or we don't give him anything at all. "

  Alette said, "I like her painting very much. Let's give it to the pastor. "

  Walter Manning smiled smugly and said, "He's going to be very pleased with this. "

  On his way home that evening, Walter Manning was killed by a hit-and-run driver.

  When Alette heard the news, she was stunned.

 
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