The girl in the painting, p.1
The Girl in the Painting, page 1
Titles in the Rossetti Mysteries series:
Some Veil Did Fall
The Girl in the Painting
The Girl in the Photograph
Copyright © 2016 Kirsty Ferry
Published 2016 by Choc Lit Limited
Penrose House, Crawley Drive, Camberley, Surrey GU15 2AB, UK
The right of Kirsty Ferry to be identified as the Author of this Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher or a licence permitting restricted copying. In the UK such licences are issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, Barnards Inn, 86 Fetter Lane, London EC4A 1EN
EPUB ISBN 978-1-78189-273-2
‘Even so, where Heaven holds breath and hears
The beating heart of Love’s own breast, –
Where round the secret of all spheres
All angels lay their wings to rest. –
How shall my soul stand rapt and aw’d,
When, by the new birth borne abroad
Throughout the music of the suns,
It enters in her soul at once
And knows the silence there for God!’
Extract from The Portrait, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
For my family and friends who have always supported me and my writing.
Thank you for everything, you mean the world to me.
Rossetti Mysteries series
FEBRUARY 11th, 1862
KENSINGTON, LONDON, SPRING
TATE BRITAIN, LONDON
ALMOST NOTTING HILL, LONDON
THE GARDEN SQUARE
ALMOST NOTTING HILL
ALMOST NOTTING HILL
CRANBOURNE ALLEY, LONDON, 1849
TWO YEARS LATER
ONE YEAR LATER
KENSINGTON, JANUARY, 1852
FOUR YEARS LATER
KENSINGTON, APRIL, 1856
TWO MONTHS LATER
SUSSEX, JUNE, 1856
THREE YEARS LATER
BLACKFRIARS, LONDON, 1859
TWO YEARS LATER
BLACKFRIARS, LONDON, APRIL, 1861
KENSINGTON, APRIL, 1861
TEN MONTHS LATER
KENSINGTON, FEBRUARY 11th, 1862
TOLWORTH, LONDON, MAY
THE ASHFORD RESIDENCE, KENSINGTON,
TOLWORTH, LONDON, MAY
TATE BRITAIN, LONDON, JULY
About the Author
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Preview of The Girl in the Photograph by Kirsty Ferry
Thank you so much to the whole team at my lovely publishers, Choc Lit – from the reading panel who actually liked the book enough to go “yes!” (Jo C., Robyn, Izzy, Olivia, Betty and Sharon), to my editor, to my cover designer and to the wider Choc Lit Family who are always there for a rant or a moan or to deliver a confidence boost. Thank you also to my friends who read The Girl in the Painting before I submitted it and who all gave me very valuable feedback. Nobody said it was utter rubbish, which is always a good sign! Thank you also to the readers of my first Choc Lit novel, Some Veil Did Fall, who asked me ‘what happens next – and when is the sequel coming out?’ Here it is – and I hope you like it! The biggest thanks of all, though, must go to my family – to Shaun and James, and to my Mum and Dad – who have, in varying degrees, put up with my endless demands for chocolate and coffee and my ramblings on the Pre-Raphaelites – without whom this novel wouldn’t have worked at all well. Yet I must stress that it’s all made up. It’s fiction. These people existed: Lizzie and Dante and John and all the rest. They were legends and they have their own stories. They might not have done what I have made them do – they might have been quite different personalities to how I have portrayed them. But they are and were wonderful, exciting, fascinating people and I hope they wouldn’t be too upset to see how I’ve written about them. In fact, I hope they would be flattered to have found themselves in a novel. It’s nice to think so, anyway!
FEBRUARY 11th, 1862
He will find me here, in my bed. The room is dark and the patterns on the wallpaper do not show in this February dusk. And I am so, so sorry that he has to find me. He shouts and I hear him thundering up the staircase.
He calls for me: ‘Daisy! Daisy!’ but I cannot move. My body is weak and frail beneath the weight of the blankets. My breathing is shallow.
‘Please, let me sleep,’ I want to tell him. No more pain. Let me sleep, my love, let me sleep … The door into the room slams open. I know it is him, but I cannot bear to open my eyes. I am so tired. So very tired. He calls my name again.
Then he screams ‘No!’ over and over again. Hands seize me; he shakes me, he pulls me out of the bed, hoisting me upwards, calling to me all the time. I flop around like a rag doll, my head lolls to one side. I don
It will be so beautiful.
KENSINGTON, LONDON, SPRING
Cori Keeling had lived in London for five weeks and had yet to visit the Tate Britain. Which was crazy, because visiting the Tate was one of the main things she had intended to do when she moved down to London from Northumberland.
But her house was still a muddle of packing boxes and bits of furniture and she hadn’t yet managed to find the time to leave it all to indulge her inner artist. She was sleeping on a mattress in the lounge because the bedroom had just been re-plastered and the wallpaper was half off the walls in the other rooms, and there were still bare boards in what was going to be her office space on the second floor.
The kitchen needed a good scrub as well – the cupboards wafted that awful smell of old packets of soup and spilt instant coffee whenever you opened them – and there were sticky patches of some unknown substance in the grouting between the tiles.
Cori picked at another strip of paper and a chunk of plaster came off with it. She dropped it on the floor with the rest of the old wall covering and sighed. She didn’t know what she’d been thinking when she decided to take this place on. ‘This property has been owned by the same family for fifty years and is in need of some TLC.’ The brochure hadn’t mentioned the fact that nobody had lived in the place for the last year and, she was willing to bet, the rooftop garden hadn’t been maintained since long before that year.
The front door of the mews house was dodgy and sometimes wouldn’t shut properly without her full weight behind it, and the garage had a distinct odour of damp – but that was fine. It was all fine, because it was her house and her project and it was all just perfect.
Shutting the door on the mess that would eventually be her bedroom, she climbed over a pile of paint, brushes and neatly folded paint-stained dust sheets. The decorators had left it all there yesterday, when they had abandoned the job for the weekend.
But it was depressing. It really was.
‘Stuff Project Mews House,’ she said out loud. ‘I need a coffee.’
One of the many positive things about being in London was that there were plenty of coffee shops near Cori’s new home, so she didn’t even have to fight her way into the obnoxious kitchen to boil the kettle.
Just at the edge of her square she could turn left or right onto Kensington High Street and have a choice of little patisseries and bakeries that dotted the street. She nipped into the first one she came to and ordered a takeaway latte.
It was as she was leaving and sipping the foam through the little hole in the plastic lid of the cup that a taxi pulled up, just beside her.
A young girl with skyscraper heels, a tiny skirt and a very large bag climbed out of the taxi, smiled briefly at Cori and click-clacked her way down the pavement. Cori, momentarily envious of the girl’s purposeful aura and arrow-straight aim towards, she assumed, the designer shop of choice, found herself grabbing the door of the taxi, standing poised on the edge of getting in and going – well, somewhere.
‘Tate Britain, please,’ she heard herself say as she climbed inside. The driver nodded, and indicated, pulling out into the traffic. And Cori couldn’t help but feel a little thrill of excitement.
The taxi stopped just outside the Tate and Cori stared up at the Millbank entrance, looking at the cream-coloured pillars and the architecture of the building.
‘Thanks,’ she said to the taxi driver. He muttered something back to her, but she was already halfway out of the cab and across the forecourt before it registered that he had spoken. She heard the cab pull off and stood for a moment longer, savouring the fact that she was here; she was actually here. After all that talking about it with her granny and all the plans she had made, she was finally here. It was a moment she thought she would probably never forget.
She’d been before; a few years ago when she’d visited the Tate as a student, but she’d had to plan that, had to arrange transport and accommodation. But now she was a grown woman of twenty-nine, living in London and she could visit whenever she wanted to.
Inside that building, she knew, were some of the greatest Pre-Raphaelite paintings in the world. The ones she was most interested in were Millais’ Ophelia, and basically all of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s work, including the ethereal Beata Beatrix and the loose, rough pencil sketches depicting Lizzie Siddal – Rossetti’s wife, lover, muse and, Cori thought, his kryptonite.
Someone, years ago, had commented that Cori was Lizzie’s double and that – as well as the fact that one of her wayward, redheaded relations had apparently had an affair with Rossetti – had sparked her interest in, or some might say her slight obsession with, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood; or the PRB, as most people called them.
Cori shuddered despite the warmth of the early spring day and drained her coffee cup hoping that the paintings she would soon rediscover would take her mind off Evan and the mess that had gone before. She thought his cold eyes and his final few comments to her would never leave her memory and tossed her coffee cup into a nearby rubbish bin as if she could throw away the wasted years with him just as easily. Part of the reason she had moved to London was so that she could forget him.
Today though, she thought, pushing the unpleasant memories to the back of her mind, was the first day of the rest of her life and Evan didn’t factor in her future at all.
Not like Ophelia and Lizzie. They could now be a huge part of it, with nobody judging her. With these thoughts, she took her first step as a local towards the gallery entrance.
TATE BRITAIN, LONDON
The Tate Britain was cool inside the huge, airy foyer. A staircase led up to the treasures above and Cori headed towards it, the soles of her Converse trainers squeaking on the tiled floor.
She knew that the Millais Gallery and the Pre-Raphaelite collection were on the first floor and she determined to go straight there. So resolute was she that she didn’t see a man in the corridor coming straight towards her until they almost collided.
The man was tall, about six foot, and Cori found herself looking up at him. He had fair hair that was a little too long, and haunted, navy blue eyes that widened slightly as he saw her. He was clutching a clipboard.
The man smiled and the darkness lifted out of his eyes briefly. ‘Sorry, my fault,’ he said and stepped to one side to let her pass, throwing his arms out and gesturing her past with his clipboard. His voice was warm and polite and his accent definitely sounded as if he belonged in the south of the country as opposed to the north. She assumed he might work at the gallery.
‘No, it’s mine. I’m not looking where I’m going,’ said Cori, with a smile. And then, because she wanted to hear his voice again, she asked: ‘The Pre-Raphaelites are along here, aren’t they?’
‘They are,’ said the man. ‘Straight along.’
‘Thanks,’ said Cori. The man nodded and she put her head down and hurried away, feeling a little blush creep up on her cheeks.
Seeing him had been quite a nice way of eradicating Evan’s face from her mind; full marks to the Tate so far, she thought.
Simon Daniels stood in the corridor and didn’t move for a few minutes.
Instead, he watched the girl hurry along the corridor, her long, red corkscrew curls flying out behind her almost to her waist. An image of Rossetti’s sketch of Lizzie Siddal plaiting her hair came into his mind. If the girl who had just spoken to him brushed her hair out of the curls into loose waves, it would almost be as if Lizzie had stepped out of a painting and come to life. Transport Lizzie Siddal into the twenty-first century and dress her in a pair of skinny jeans and a sloppy jumper that hung off one shoulder and exposed the strap of a back vest top, and she’d be there.
There had been a smear of white emulsion paint on her leg as well, he had noticed, and a blob of it on her trainers too. Simon was an artist – he no
Simon turned and headed in the opposite direction. He was heading to the coffee shop to informally meet one of the curators, along with a Rossetti expert they’d brought in. There was a new Rossetti painting due to arrive at the Tate and the idea was that it would be the centrepiece of a new exhibition. As the resident Pre-Raphaelite expert – unofficially so, anyway – Simon had been asked to share some of his ideas.
On the clipboard in front of him was a photograph of the new painting but as he glanced down at it, all he could focus on was the girl with the flame-red hair who had just disappeared into the crowds along the corridor.
‘There you are,’ said Cori under her breath as she walked into the Millais Gallery and saw the painting of Ophelia straight in front of her.
It was as beautiful as she had remembered. She felt that flutter of excitement again as she saw Lizzie Siddal drifting down the river to certain doom, clutching a pathetic little posy of flowers.
There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.
The words came to Cori from the depths of English lessons at school. Hamlet had been sickeningly fascinating due to the fact that the stage had been littered with bodies at the end – but for all of Hamlet’s madness, feigned or otherwise, it was Ophelia Cori remembered best. Get thee to a nunnery indeed. Cori smiled.
Theories abounded over why Ophelia was such a popular subject for the Pre-Raphaelites. Cori liked to think that she was a tragic, romantic heroine who had captured their imaginations – nobody could do tragedy and beauty and madness quite like Ophelia. And did Ophelia really understand she was committing suicide while she sang so innocently to herself? Who would ever know?
Cori was desperate to reach out and touch the painting, but shoved her hands into her pockets instead. She tilted her head to the side, looking at it, trying to spot all the symbolism Millais had added, looking for the faint outline of where she knew a water vole had been painted but later erased, paddling alongside Lizzie.
by Kirsty Ferry have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes