The ruffle collar of her dress tickled her neck, the light shone a little too bright off the white pages of her book and her back ached from sitting in the same position for too long, but the lady bore all her discomforts with stoic determination. The painting, she told herself, would only take a few hours more – and then no more. She would not see the painter after this day. It was her last sitting and then — back to that dreadful routine of illness and medicine and endless sleep. Her grandmother’s dazzling sapphire ring, which fit a little too tight, had to be returned to its rightful place in the drawer. She had enjoyed wearing it. It was a blue of the oceans she read about in books, the endless, frightening deep blue of death and oblivion. She longed for more sittings with the painter. Her nurse stood behind him by the lady’s bed, alert to the smallest sign of fatigue. This was truly the last and final one – Ah! The lady tried not to let her misery show on her face. Oh, but it was just too dreadful to think about! The painter was the only man who, despite her handicap, thought her capable of something important, even if it was just to keep still. After him, her days would go no further than this dark, gloomy room with its one lonely window through which shone the light of that distant star, illuminating the farthest corners of her misery. But there were books, the lady reminded herself gently, holding the one in her hand closer and tighter, eyes swimming across the words. She blinked back the tears from the glare of the light, too harsh this afternoon. There were always books.