Marie throws herself into dance and is soon modelling in the studio of Edgar Degas, where her image will forever be immortalized as Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. There she meets a wealthy male patron of the ballet, but might the assistance he offers come with strings attached? Meanwhile Antoinette, derailed by her love for the dangerous Émile Abadie, must choose between honest labour and the more profitable avenues open to a young woman of the Parisian demimonde.
Set at a moment of profound artistic, cultural and societal change, The Painted Girls is a tale of two remarkable sisters rendered uniquely vulnerable to the darker impulses of 'civilized society'. In the end, each will come to realize that her salvation, if not survival, lies with the other.
'A dark valentine to Belle Époque Paris' Vogue
'Buchanan does more than just write about what she knows; that same verisimilitude wends through the whole book: the grinding poverty in which the sisters live, the interaction between them, the daily life of a Parisian all come to life in her capable hands' Huffington Post
'Will hold you enthralled as it spools out the vivid story of young sisters in late 19th century Paris struggling to transcend their lives of poverty through the magic of dance. I guarantee, you will never look at Edgar Degas's immortal sculpture of the Little Dancer in quite the same way again' Kate Alcott, author of The Dressmaker
'Cathy Marie Buchanan paints the girls who spring from the page as vibrantly as a dancer's leap across a stage . . . The Painted Girls is a captivating story of fate, tarnished ambition and the ultimate triumph of sister-love' The Washington Post
Publisher: Blackfriars (6 Jun 2013) Format: Kindle Edition. Amazon UK
Now we have a great short story written by Cathy Marie Buchanan - Enjoy! :)
The Absinthe Drinker
Cathy Marie Buchanan
I am lingering, pasty mouthed from the night before, outside the carriage maker on Montmartre, when a boy I put at eighteen winks a saucy wink. He is not much to look at, no, not with that scrub-brushy hair of his creeping low on his forehead and his black eyes sinking too deep beneath the ridge of his brow. He leans in, putting his face close enough that I smell his smoky breath. “Got time for a glass?”
“Can’t. Got folks waiting.”
“Won’t keep you long.” He takes a pull on his home roll, lets the smoke drift up from his parted lips. “Just a glass and a few laughs.”
The tavern we enter is musty smelling with yellowed tiles covering the walls. We slide along one of the straight-backed benches, so that we are sitting side by side behind a long table that could stand the touch of a rag. For me he orders cassis and water and for himself, a glass of red wine. The drinks come fast, and I gulp mine down, thinking a bit of bolstering can’t do harm. He lights up, makes a little smirk on seeing my glass close to drained and says, “I’ll be getting you something a little stronger next time around.”
“A glass of red,” I say, “since you’re such a bossy boy.”
By the time he gets around to asking about my family, my third glass is ordered and drained, and I feel a growing warmth toward a boy—Émile, he told me—so accustomed to enjoying himself. I tell him about Papa coughing until he couldn’t go to the porcelain factory no more and taking his last breath with me kissing his hair and then his mattress getting spoiled because it was more than three days before I could bear the idea of our lodging room alone. Émile says about his own father, how he was gone even before he was born. He says it is something I should think about when I feel down about Papa. And it is true, I remember him bouncing me on his knee and plucking a button from behind my ear and singing good and loud before Maman up and left. Émile got none of that, only a string of no-goods. One pawned his slingshot. Another busted his clavicle. He undoes two of his shirt buttons, showing me the lump left behind. I put two fingers on the lump, the black hairs creeping high on his brawny chest.
We drink up, and I keep talking and dreading leaving that musty tavern where the bristle hairs of his forearm are tickling the skin of my own and thinking I should have better spaced out my sips. “Come on, let me buy you another,” he says. “We’re having such a lovely time.”
He orders more wine, also mussels in parsley sauce and a plate of radishes. He puts the mussels into my mouth with his fingers, and bites into radishes and slides the leftover half onto my tongue. We stay late into the afternoon, laughing and licking wine from our lips, his hand resting on my thigh.
Only a woman sitting slumped across the tavern stays as long as we do, always gazing down, just past the glass of absinthe she cannot muster the will to take. It breaks my heart, the loneliness in the face of that woman, the fellow sitting beside her, gazing off, smoking his pipe without so much as a moment’s notice given over to her, and here is what I imagine brought her to this place: She spent the evening before at the Élysée Montmartre, watching all those ladies with black stockings and ruffled petticoats kicking up their legs but mostly lifting a glass and mingling and flirting and seeking out a way not to be so lonesome any more. After the dance hall, it was off to the Rat-Mort for her and more laughing and carrying on before putting down her head in a tiny room no different from my own. Half past eleven in the morning, she got up and found herself without so much as the throat clearing of another living soul. She tied the soiled petticoat from the night before around her waist and put on that drab cloak and slunk her way to the tavern, counting on a glass of absinthe to take the sting out of another day. But now, sitting here, she finds herself not wishing in the least to start the rigmarole—the seeking—all over again.
I whisper some of this to Émile, letting his scrub-brushy hair prickle my nose, letting my bottom lip dampen the lobe of his ear. He shuts his eyes, tilts his head back, leaning it against the yellowed tiles. “Let’s go. Let’s get out of here.”
He steers me out of the tavern, hanging onto my arm, me stumbling and bumping the table of that lonely lady as we go. She looks up from her knocked-over glass, and I see her hopeful, her sagging cheeks lifting to round. But we don’t strike up a conversation. No, Émile only reaches into his pocket and tosses her two francs, enough so that he don’t owe her a moment of his day.
Then we are behind the tavern. I have my back against the wall, and Émile’s hand is on my neck, tender, but then he is pressing up against me, not so gentle any more. Against my hip, I feel what I done to him, the hardness there, and I open my mouth to his rooting tongue. My head swirling, his hands pawing at the drawstring of my blouse, I wonder about calling him off. Then my heart pounds, because I doubt him listening even if I did. Is this moment the cost of wine and mussels in parley sauce and bristle hairs tickling my arm? His fingers grope and poke, and I think about putting my hands upon his shoulders and giving him a mighty shove. Maybe he would stagger back. Maybe I could coax my trembling fingers into tugging up my blouse. Maybe he would say, “You make me crazy, is all,” and put his lips, soft, on the little hollow at
the bottom of my neck. But, no. Standing back, his dark eyes upon me—a girl so unaccustomed to another’s touch—he would see in me all I saw in the absinthe drinker.
He would turn away.