“Mache” by Catherine MacLeod

Truvy Caswell is an ambitious young journalist looking for a piece to kick off her career. Alarice Rogan, is a self-made Mache artist with secrets she can’t afford to come out. When persistent Truvy camps out in the artist’s driveway hoping for a coveted interview, Alarice just doesn’t have the heart to turn her away. Truvy’s questions trigger memories of love, betrayal, and murder. Alarice must keep her composure and answer every question carefully. Dark and mysterious, MacLeod delivers a thrilling tale of love, deception, and revenge.c

About the Author

Catherine MacLeod lives and writes in Nova Scotia, where she also spends too much time watching “Orphan Black” on Youtube. Her publications include short fiction in On Spec, Nightmare, Black Static, Tor.com, and several anthologies, including Fearful Symmetries, Playground of Lost Toys, and Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond.

Synopsis

Alarice is a woman plagued with many thoughts. Although its not customary, she allows Truvy Caswell to interview her for a freelance article that she desperately needed. Normally, Alarice never lets reporters get intervies. When she finds Truvy camped out in her driveway, she relents and agrees to the interview. As the interview proceeds, Truvy asks a question that trigger memories for Alarice. Memories of Joshua, her ex-husband, and the last words he had said to her, “What kind of woman are you?” Alarice has a hard time answering Truvy’s question. She didn’t like the usual question and the expected answers. She simply answers “A busy one.”

Truvy asks Alarie what her process was as an artist. Alarice surprises both herself and Truvy by inviting her to come and see. Again, this triggers another flashback to when Alarice first met Joshua. He came to her workshop to interview for a manager’s position to help her sell her Mache sculptors. He had come recommended by her “Uncle” Liam. Liam was not her blood uncle, but rather an old family friend. Joshua worked in his law firm as an accountant, but he had wanted more. An opportunity to manage an already successful artist was something he could do to make more money for himself.

It was love at first sight for Alarice. She knew better. Her mother had warned her that any man that will ever love her will only love her for her money. Alarice did not want to believe it, but she knew there was some truth to it. She invited Joshua to her workshop ten minutes after meeting him. The moment she invites Truvy into her workshop remind her of that first meeting with Joshua, and she also remembers the foolishness of how she had fallen for him so quickly.
 She knew that Joshua was only with her because of her money. Although she hadn’t made a lot of money on the sales, Joshua managed to invest the money and grew it over the 20 years that they were together.

Alarice makes her own paper. She could make it out of anything; Flowers, leaves, thread, anything. Truvy notices this exquisite paper hanging and asks Alarice what it was. “The paper had a faint sparkle, some with flung handfuls of sand, and others with salt. But not all.” There was something else in the beautiful pastels. When Truvy sees this, she realizes that Alarice kills. The paper is made of butterfly wings, firefly husks, and multicolored feathers. Truvy seems disappointed in Alarice.

The interview continues and so do the memories for Alarice. She claims that she never expectd Joshua to love her. She only wanted him to let her hope that he one day would. It was a small thing to ask, after all, she was not an unreasonable woman. Although Alarice knew of his affair with Jeanne, she had seen them kissing once. Then end of their marriage came because she lost the hope that he would ever allow her to love him. Jeanne was a beautiful Artist’s model with smooth rosy skin and hair like amber silk.

When Joshua asked for half of their assets during the divorce proceedings, Alarice made up her mind that she would not allow this to happen. She knew that Joshua only loved his ambition and what his ambition could get him, meaning money, Alarice’s money. She had to take away his hope as much as he had taken hers. She wanted him to feel the pain. When Joshua comes to her workshop, he sees a new paper that Alarice has made; bone white, pale rose, watered crimson. It is in this moment that he realizes that Jeanne is not just missing. She is gone forever.

“What kind of woman are you?” Joshua asks Alarice as she paralyses him with a tranquilizer gun. The same she used on Jeanne, making him conscious but unable to move. She quickly undresses him on her work table. She wraps the new bone white, pale rose, watered crimson paper all around his body, his eyes, and finally his mouth. Only then did she cry when she had to seal his mouth. She would miss his kiss. She let him sit and dry, thinking that he and Jeanne would pay for her mistake.

As the interview concludes and Truvy tries to get some pictures of Alarice and her house, she asks the title of the new sculpture.

“It’s called Self-portrait,” Alarice says. She was an honest woman after all.

Macleod’s story works because both the characters and reader share a collective discomfort. Her ability to weave an interview, a complex but vulnerable interiority of the main character, and her struggle to keep a secret while confronting her past is more than commendable, it’s as complicated as it is organic. Furthermore, the reader is learning more about the artist than the journalist will and the danger of a misstep just might keep that story from ever being published. The reader gets hints to what might be coming, but they remain oblique enough till the very end to suggest a multitude of possible outcomes. The main character is fishing for understanding and trying to make sense of her own actions while the journalist is fishing too, but for different things, not knowing that her questions are triggering a past that was slowly chipping away at her heart and is interconnected with her current work of art. The artist and her secrets relating to her husband and artwork, reside both in her and her art. Realizing the proximity in space and time of her deeds and the interview becomes horrifying the more is revealed.


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