“You don’t have the money for a doctor, do you?”
“What I have or don’t have is none of your—”
“Answer the question, Miss Stuart. Have you money or haven’t you?” Miranda glared at him, and a muscle knotted in his jaw. “That’s what I thought. All right. I’ll pay.”
Her eyes widened. “What?”
He smiled. “I don’t mean for your services. I’ll take care of the cost of a doctor.”
Her cheeks flushed wildly. “Are you crazy? In the first place, I’m not ill. And in the second place—”
“I give money to charity each year, Miss Stuart.” His nostrils flared as if the scent of something unpleasant were in the air. “Let’s just say that this time you’ll be a direct recipient.”
She stared at him in disbelief, and then, with one quick effort, wrenched free of his hands.
“I do not need your charity,” she said coldly.
“You sure as hell need someone’s.”
People sometimes ask if writers are born with the ability to tell stories or if the talent develops over time. The answer—for me, anyway—is a little of each. I wrote my first story when I was seven years old. One way or another, I’ve been writing ever since. But a writer’s style—what most of us call her “voice”—does change.
I wrote Yesterday and Forever after a trip to Europe where I was fascinated by all the artists I saw sketching copies of famous paintings in museums. One, in particular, made me pause. I knew she was American by the way she spoke. She was also beautiful, very young, and something about her told me she didn’t have much money. A man was standing nearby, supposedly studying a painting but really watching the girl. He was incredibly handsome and well dressed, but there was something a little dangerous about him, and that got the storyteller in me playing “What if?” What if a young woman a long way from home and desperate for money were to meet a gorgeous, fascinating stranger who offered to open her eyes to a new and more exciting world….
Welcome to Amsterdam and Paris, and the passionate love story of Daniel and Miranda.
(You can write to Sandra Marton at P.O. Box 295, Storrs, CT 06268. Please enclose an SASE for a reply.)
Yesterday and Forever
MIRANDA had always thought that the first time she stood naked before a man it would be for love, not money—which only went to show how much she’d changed during the months she’d been in Amsterdam.
A light breeze blew across the Herengracht, ruffling the canal’s dark green water. Miranda felt its damp touch against her skin and she shuddered.
Would Ernst Mueller’s hand be as clammy against her flesh?
Her footsteps faltered, then stopped. Turn back, a little voice inside her whispered, turn back while you can. A swaying tram lumbered by, its warning bell sounding an alarm that seemed meant especially for her.
There was still time. All she had to do was swing around, retrace her steps, and show up for lunch with her friends at the little café near the Rijksmuseum where all the art students gathered because a roast beef sandwich and hot chocolate were just a few guilders.
Yes, she thought, that’s what I’ll do, I’ll turn around and go back. Her heart lifted…
Miranda puffed out her breath. Never mind your heart, she thought grimly. It was her stomach she had to worry about, and she couldn’t fill that when all the money she had in the world was seven guilders.
The tail-end of the tram lurched past and she stepped briskly off the kerb. Thinking about what lay ahead would only make it worse. It was too late to agonise over her decision and, anyway, what choice did she have?
None. None at all.
‘Tell Herr Mueller I accept his offer,’ she’d told Mina, and that had been that.
The truth was, she’d run out of options days ago; it had been sheer stubbornness or maybe just plain stupidity that had kept her from facing reality, but finally she’d had to look her situation squarely in the eye. She was on her own in a strange country, with only a handful of coins standing between her and desperation. Mina had picked up her half of the rent on the room they shared but now she was broke, too, and if past practice meant anything Miranda knew that the next instalment from the scholarship fund wouldn’t reach her for at least another ten days.
What did an hour with Ernst Mueller mean when measured against all that?
The Damrak was even more crowded with strollers and shoppers than usual today. People were laughing and smiling, and Miranda’s heart tightened a little. If it weren’t for what awaited her she’d have been smiling, too. She’d been in Amsterdam through its most bitter winter months.
‘Just wait until spring,’ people had kept saying as they shivered in the cold, and Miranda had done just that, surviving the bleak days and cold nights by imagining the narrow canals free of ice, the skies sunny and bright, the kiss of a warm golden sun overhead.
Now all that had come to pass. The city was transformed, its face gilded by the first blush of spring. The wind blowing in from the North Sea smelled of green growing things. Tulips nodded in shop stalls and peeped from behind stiffly starched white curtains. Amsterdam had become the magical Venice of the north Miranda had always known it would be.
‘It’s beautiful, isn’t it?’ Mina had said a few mornings ago, when she’d awakened to find Miranda kneeling in the window-seat of their room, her elbows on the sill and her chin propped on her hands, gazing enraptured at the scene below. ‘It’s like something Rembrandt might have painted.’
Miranda had flung her arms wide as she had swung around to face her room-mate.
‘Like something he did paint, you mean. Isn’t Amsterdam wonderful?’
Yawning, Mina pushed back the blankets and rose from the bed. ‘Remember those happy words when your tummy starts growling about ten o’clock tonight.’
Miranda laughed as she padded across the pegged board floor. ‘You can’t discourage me this morning,’ she said. ‘Everything’s too perfect.’
Mina made a face. ‘Keep it up and the scholarship committee will hire you to write its next brochure.’
Miranda sank down in the centre of her bed, crossed her legs under her, and put her hand over her heart.
‘“The Harrington Scholarship makes it possible for deserving young artists to develop