Read Hold Back the Night Online

Authors: Abra Taylor

Hold Back the Night

Hold Back the Night
Abra Taylor
Fontana Paperbacks (1983)
A soaring love only the heart can see ... an unforgettable portrait.
Didi Le Basque, daughter of the great artist Le Basque, falls for one of his students, Sander,  who is blinded in an accident for which Didi feels responsible.  
Didi gets pregnant and to get money for the baby, she sells some of drawings which gets sold in her father's name. Her father disowns her out without listening. Meanwhile, Sander rejects her, not wanting to tie her down to a blind man, without knowing about the baby.  She leaves Paris, to start a new life. 
Years later, she meets Sander again in New York. This story follows Didi's growth to maturity and her love and compassion for the embittered blind scupltor.

Hold Back The Night


Abra Taylor

First published in the USA by Pocket Books 1983

First published in Great Britain by Fontana Paperbacks 1983

Copyright © Abra Taylor 1983

Made and printed in Great Britain by William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd, Glasgow

A soaring love only the heart can see ... an unforgettable portrait.

Didi Le Basque, daughter of the great artist Le Basque, falls for one of his students, Sander, who is blinded in an accident for which Didi feels responsible.

Didi gets pregnant and to get money for the baby, she sells some of drawings which gets sold in her father's name. Her father disowns her out without listening. Meanwhile, Sander rejects her, not wanting to tie her down to a blind man, without knowing about the baby. She leaves Paris, to start a new life.

Years later, she meets Sander again in New York. This story follows Didi's growth to maturity and her love and compassion for the embittered blind scupltor.

About The Author

ABRA TAYLOR was born in India of Canadian parents. Her father was a colonel in the Indian Medical Service. She has lived in a great number of places and went to schools in India, Scotland, Ireland and Canada. Modern languages and literature were her main interests at university and she also studied psychology and anthropology at the University of Toronto.

Before turning her hand to writing fiction full time a few years ago, Abra Taylor was a freelance copywriter. She has now written over six best-selling romances.

She lives with her husband and their four children in Toronto.

Chapter 1

It was in the window of a tiny art gallery, not ten blocks from the loft where she lived, that Domini saw the yellow unicorn.

She came to a sudden dead halt, impeding the flow of pedestrians and causing a small collision with a fellow New Yorker, a middle-aged woman who had been hurrying along behind Domini, head bent against the fresh-falling December snow. Several seconds and a hasty apology later, Domini was standing in front of the gallery window, heart pounding erratically and palms clammy inside her wool-lined gloves.

The unicorn was a marvellous creation, not just a piece of wooden sculpture, but a rocking horse meant for a little girl. Its flanks were the flanks of a horse, its tail was the tail of a lion, its legs were the legs of a buck, and its proud pink horn was tossed high in an attitude of pure joy ... almost as though the mythical creature had been modelled on a living, breathing animal. For a magical moment time stood still as Domini closed her snow-frosted lashes and felt her eyelids warming with the honeyed sunlight of a stonewalled courtyard in summer, smelled the clean mountain smells of her childhood in the Pyrenees, heard the murmurous splash of a fountain and the husky gentleness of a woman's voice crooning a sweet, oddly sad song in the Basque tongue of the region.

When Domini opened her eyes again, she saw at once that the unicorn was only a copy. The paint hadn't been worn away where small fingers had once triumphantly clutched the creature's horn, there were no nicks in the wood where small heels had dug in, and the pommel was far less intricately carved than the pommel in Domini's memory. Moreover there were no bold, rounded letters on the saddle where the artist's distinctive signature had been. There were other differences, too, differences of shape and size; in some ways this was almost better than the original. If there were any lingering doubts in Domini's mind ... the past, after all, had been firmly put behind her ... they were laid to rest by the tiny sign nested next to the unicoro's curved base, on a Christmassy bed of crumpled pink foil. A COPY it said in small print, without giving credit to the artist who had conceived the famous original.

In glitter-dusted letters affixed to the glass of the gallery window were several much more legible words: SANTA'S WORKSHOP SHOW - TOYS BY ARTISTS. Domini's eyes returned to the unicorn, homesickness and nostalgia like a great ache of emptiness in her breast. Suddenly she knew she had to have that unicorn ... or rather, Tasey had to have the unicorn, no matter what the cost, no matter if the overlarge toy took up every last spare inch of a loft already crammed to overflowing with Domini's papier-mache constructions. A little girl who had never known a father's love deserved some moments of magic, and before long Tasey would be in kindergarten, too old for toys like that. Besides, Domini wanted this to be a very special Christmas: now that Tasey was in day care where other children talked, it might be the last year her daughter believed in Santa Claus.

'Every little girl needs a unicorn once in her life,' Domini muttered to no one in particular. The decision made, she reached resolutely for the handle of the gallery door, reminding herself firmly that a unicorn, that unicorn, was far more important than the winter coat she'd been eyeing, hoping its price would come down to a manageable level in next month's January sales. Lucky thing she'd been saving for it, though ... even without asking, Domini knew the toy would cost a pretty penny.

Inside the gallery she looked around. This southern part of New York's SoHo district lacked the fluted cast-iron pillars and ornamentation of the converted warehouse where Domini lived; all the same the old building had its charm. On this street it was not old warehouses but narrow old homes that had been restored for use as restaurants, charcuteries, bakeries, and boutiques, all now busy with the traffic of pre-Christmas shoppers. The little gallery was less busy than most.

'I'll be with you in a minute,' said the dark-haired woman minding the gallery. She was tall, too thin, and in her early thirties, about ten years older than Domini. She had tired grey eyes and a quite pretty profile. Her impeccable black wool dress was saleslady chic personified.

While the woman finished with another customer, Domini glanced around the interior, deciding that it wasn't much of a gallery if the art toys on show were any sampling. There wasn't a worthwhile piece in the lot, and most of them were too precious for words. It was easy to see why there were so few 'sold' stickers, and also why the yellow unicorn had earned its place of honour in the window. Domini reflected that it was little wonder she'd always hurried by, scarcely noticing the narrow shopfront although she must have passed it dozens of times over the last few years.

'Isn't that a charming doll?' The saleswoman fixed an over-eager smile on Domini the moment the other customer departed without making a purchase. 'It's by one of our very best young artists. Would you believe it's made out of an empty Chianti bottle? Clever, isn't it, the way he's painted it to ... '

'That isn't exactly what I had in mind,' Domini interjected hastily, forestalling the necessity of passing judgement on the indifferent and impractical objet d'art she had been eyeing during the wait. 'My daughter isn't interested in dolls. She's far too active for that. The yellow unicorn is more her kind of thing.'

Suddenly the saleswoman grinned, endearing her to Domini. 'It was a bit idiotic to make a toy out of glass, wasn't it,' she admitted with wry honesty. 'But over there there's an even sillier toy … push a button and it self-destructs. Can you feature giving that to your kid?'

'No.' Domini laughed, her amethyst eyes dancing with a sunniness that seemed to reflect some of the highlights in her hair. The hair was dark gold, no longer the flyaway cap of trapped sunshine it had once been, but long and worn smoothly twisted into a French knot, partly because Domini thought it changed her appearance and partly for practical purposes: it kept her hair out of things like paste pots and paint and plaster of Paris.

'My daughter can destruct perfectly well without help.' She smiled. 'Why waste money on a button?'

The other woman chuckled and then sobered, as if she had just remembered that her mission in life was to make a sale, not a sally. Her eyes flicked briefly over Domini's boots, slacks, and coat, perhaps assessing her ability to pay. Pride sent Domini's chin a millimetre higher, because she knew perfectly well that the cuffs of the wheat-coloured corduroy coat, badly nap-worn after four winters, had not escaped inspection.

'How much for the unicorn?' she asked, casually unbuttoning her coat so that its toasty nutria lining could be seen. Linings like that didn't wear out, and if the saleswoman had any eye for the niceties of fashion she would know that the featherweight luxury fur was enough to justify not putting the garment in the ragbag.

'Six hundred and fifty.'

'Oh,' said Domini, disappointment rising like a hard ball into her throat.

The woman looked genuinely regretful. 'I'm sorry, but a lot of work went into that copy ... well more than a hundred hours in all. I read in Time that the original went for three hundred thousand at an auction a while ago, so you see it's not really out of line.'

'What?' asked Domini faintly.

'Wild, isn't it? But it's the only piece of sculpture Le Basque ever made, and he's far too old now for that sort of thing, so I doubt he'll ever make another.'

'I didn't . . . even know it had been . . . sold,' Domini managed, her voice choked with a knot of painful feelings that the saleslady had misinterpreted as astonishment over the price. How could Papa have sold the unicorn? Did he still hate her so much?

'Three hundred thousand is a bit outrageous, isn't it?' agreed the woman dryly. 'But if you're at all familiar with the price of a genuine Le Basque nowadays . . . and then, of course, the unicorn was the subject of his most famous painting. Surely you're familiar with
Didi and Unicorn
?'

The woman crossed to a sales desk and extracted a flimsy book-sized reproduction from a neat pile of papers and magazines. Even before it was thrust in front of Domini's eyes, she knew what she would see.

'The original's hanging in the Louvre,' the woman chatted on, not remarking Domini's sudden extreme paleness because her eyes were turned to the picture in her hands. It was of a small girl in a flagged courtyard, laughter lighting her amethyst eyes and wind tossing a short halo of hair the colour of spun sunlight. She was triumphantly astride the unicorn, one hand clutching the single horn and one raised victoriously in the air like a small fearless conqueror, a joyous young creature as magical as the yellow unicorn whose back she rode.

'Isn't she wonderful?' the woman remarked, fortunately expecting no answer. She returned the picture to her desk. 'Of course, you must have seen it before ... copies, I mean. You can hardly pick up a book on contemporary art without finding a reproduction.'

'I... yes,' Domini returned with some difficulty.

'I expect that's why a private collector paid so much for the unicorn, even though it's actually only a toy Le Basque made for his daughter.' She turned towards the unicorn in the window. 'Ours isn't an exact copy but it's close enough. It's wonderful, isn't it? Whimsical yet totally practical. If I had a daughter, I'd want her to have a toy like that. How old is your little girl?'

'Tasey's three,' Domini said, her voice still strangled with hurt. How could Papa have sold the unicorn? Her unicorn? Had he so thoroughly written her out of his heart?

'Tasey?' the saleswoman queried.

'Short for Stasy,' Domini responded automatically, although Tasey's real name was Anastasia. To hide her distraction, she turned away from the saleslady and stared at the unicorn. Despite everything that had happened four years before, she had always clung to the belief that her father must still care for her somewhere deep in his innermost self. He might have disowned her, scourged her with his tongue, and heaped her with his scorn, but love that had once been strong shouldn't evaporate as if it had never existed. And if he loved her at all he would not have sold the unicorn.

'They say I am a man of change,' he had said once in an interview, 'because I change my palette or my style, because I experiment with cubism or surrealism, because I change my subject matter or my mood. But in my heart I never change. I am a simple man. The truth is in my heart, and the truth never changes.'

And yet he had sold the unicorn.

The saleswoman sighed imperceptibly, interpreting Domini's strained expression as a negative sign. She turned away from the window, still hopeful of a sale. 'There's something a little more reasonable over here ... did you see the abacus? It's quite sturdy, and it's only seventy-five dollars. That may sound expensive for an abacus but it is a work of art.'

Domini shook her head in a negative motion, remembrance of things past still too strong to permit easy words.

'I can let you have it for sixty-five,' offered the saleswoman. 'I can't change the artist's price, but I can cut the gallery commission. It's really quite a decent piece. One of my favourites, in fact.'

Domini swallowed the lump in her throat and turned to face the woman, putting painful thoughts aside for the moment. There was Tasey's Christmas to think about, and all the hurt of all the happenings that had been could not change the fact that for Domini the unicorn symbolized a father's love, the one thing she could never give her daughter, not if she had all the money in the world. Domini was no longer the impulsive young girl she had once been, but she knew with every fibre of her being that she had to have the rocking horse for Tasey. Not any rocking horse, but that rocking horse. The cost wasn't important.

'I hate to ask, but would you consider cutting your commission on the unicorn? Six fifty is a bit much.' Domini didn't add that she had nothing even close to that amount; there was no point prejudicing the woman against striking a bargain of some kind.

The woman pulled a regretful face. 'No, I can't, because I'm not taking a commission on that piece at all. It's all going to the artist, every penny, and he needs the money very badly. I'm sorry.'

'Couldn't you . . . ask him? It's only three days before Christmas. Surely you're unlikely to sell the piece now? He might decide that half a loaf is better than none.'

'Well. . . perhaps if it's still here on Christmas Eve,' the woman agreed kindly. 'But until then I don't even want to ask him. That piece has brought a lot of enquiries.'

'I see.' The words were filled with disappointment. Briefly Domini wondered if she might be able to construct a similar creature ... she could, after all, work wonders with papier-mache. At once she discarded the notion, partly because there wasn't time before Christmas Day, especially with several big display props still to be constructed, but mostly because papier-mache, even built over an extra-heavy armature, simply wouldn't stand up to the kind of punishment a rocking horse had to take. There was no use making a toy that couldn't be played with. Domini trained a determined glance in the direction of the yellow unicorn. Its secret smile seemed to hold a message for her alone.

'I'll take it,' she said with a rashness she had not shown for four years.

The woman was surprised too. 'I . . . that's wonderful,' she said, breaking into a nice smile. 'Will that be cash or charge?'

'I'll give you a deposit,' Domini hedged, her long sooty lashes falling to conceal the worry in her eyes. Where on earth was the money going to come from? Oh, to have a charge card now! But that was one modern convenience Domini had abjured since coming to New York, realizing that it would merely seduce her to spend beyond her means. She fished into her wallet, extracted most of its contents, and handed the bills over with a forcedly bright smile. 'I'll give you the rest when I get it,' she said. 'I can't take it today because I'll be Christmas shopping until I pick my daughter up from day care.'

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