Lauren knew that man, black suit, tall, thin and wild hair that had that drive with the top down look about it. Of course it was impossible, she was likely going mad from the adrenalin surge induced by the huge success her showing had been so far. Add one too many glasses of expensive champagne and she had herself on hell-of-a hallucination.

His back was to her and he appeared to be appreciating the painting she had named ‘Afterglow of Mourning’, her favourite piece. Whoever he was, her growing curiosity was enough to keep her eyes fixed directly on him.

He must have sensed someone watching him. He began to turn around and for the briefest moment, their eyes met and she knew, without having to know a thing that he was who she thought him to be. He was different to what she had imagined but the essence of him was sharp and distinguishable.

A blast of panic hit her and nearly knocked her off her feet and she spun around and ran toward the stairs that lead to the second floor offices.

Lauren found a small office at the end of a hall and sighed in relief to find it empty. She looked out the second story window. It faced the parking lot, which was full but for one or two empty spaces. In all her wildest dreams, she had never expected her work to be so well received. There were few moments in her life that were worthy of remembering but tonight was engraved into her memory for eternity, she had succeeded where many had said she would fail.

“Well, I think we can officially say that we were a hit, don’t you think?” said a smooth deep voice that she immediately recognized.

The broken silence startled her. If there was any trace of doubt left in her mind that he wasn’t real, now she knew for certain. She expected some relief in this realization; instead she was left feeling crazier than she did before.

“How is this possible?” Lauren asked with caution.

“I’m going to assume you don’t mean the show?”

Lauren nodded her confirmation as she willed herself calm down.

“You have so little to say for someone who had such a hard time keeping quiet during our time together.” He teased.

“That was when you were merely my muse.” She said, feeling at ease again with the man she had known for so many years.

“Is that what you thought I was?” he asked, a little affronted.

She allowed the confusion to etch itself across her face. “Is that not what you are?”

“Hardly.” He took a deep breath to mark the beginning of an explanation, though it was a minute or two before he spoke another word.

“Tell me, what do you know about Marius De Zayas? No, wait, let me start again.” He held up his hand before Lauren could reply.
“I knew Marius De Zayas. He was only a boy when we met but his dreams were the clearest I’d ever seen, that’s what drew me to him. It’s the same clarity that drew me to you.” He paused for Lauren to absorb his words.

“Of course you had talent, so did Marius, but what you both lacked was direction, focus and most importantly, confidence.
“A moment ago you called me your muse, I suppose in a small way I am, but I am much more than that too. Let me put it this way. You are the physical force behind your artwork. When one looks at the pieces individually, one is taken on a journey, transported to that time and that place, swept up in the magic of the moment you have captured on canvas. I am the force behind the magic.”

“So what you’re saying is that the success is yours?”

“No! No. Please you misunderstand. The success is yours, all yours; I am merely the driving hand behind the magic while you are the hand behind the masterpiece.”

“Really because it sounds to me like you’re saying that without you this show would not have been as successful.”
“I merely helped you succeed, as I did for Marius. He called me Alfred Stieglitz which was the name of a photographer of his time.”

“The Alfred Stieglitz portrait, that’s you!” She remembered how he had reminded her of the portrait when she’d first invented him up in her mind, or so it seems, when he first came to her.

“Indeed, as is your portrait of Freddy Glitter.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to disappoint you but Freddy Glitter is an actor. As a matter of fact he’s here tonight and he bought that very portrait.”

“Is that so? Perhaps that’s what Marius thought too.”

Lauren thought a moment about what he was saying. “Shouldn’t a painting mean what the artist intends?”

“Do you think that all the people downstairs see your work exactly as you do?”

“Well yes I did. Right up until you asked me that question.”

“Art is different for everyone, because everyone dreams differently. Some dream in black and white, some in colour, some dream symbols and numbers. Dreams are a gateway between your reality and mine. I feel every dream ever had, but some are stronger than others, some more clarified, and others more urgent. Those are the dreams that stand out and call to my attention. I can ride those dreams to their source, and then I have to choose whether I help make them come true or not.”

“You did this to me.” She said more a confirmation than an accusation.

“Well, yes. We’ve spent eleven years together. I promised you success and it’s yours. Now it’s time I moved on.”

“What! Move on? But…”Lauren had a million thoughts but could grasp not one.

“Shhh.” He soothed. “You have what you need. The magic is here.” He said picking up her left hand, gently stroking her fingers one by one. “Paint and the magic will come.”

“You’ve been a part of me for so long, how will I…” Tears began to spill.

“You will always sense me around but I’ll be just out of reach and I will feel the same with you. This is what keeps the magic alive. Do you understand?”

She did, somehow in all this madness she really did understand and long after Freddy Glitter had faded from her sight she continued to feel him nearby just like he said she would.

So she painted throughout her life, right up until her hands were stiff from arthritis and her eyes blind from cataracts, and on the night she left this world Freddy Glitter came to her side and helped her pass from this world to the next, and her name was known throughout the entire world alongside Picasso and Monet.

Through her name, through her paintings, the magic lives on.