The Eternal Gallery

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Children Stories  |  House: Booksie Classic
When Molly and her friends go on a school trip - she gets a lot more than she expected.

Submitted: September 30, 2013

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Submitted: September 30, 2013

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Molly shuffled uncomfortably in her seat. She hoped that it wouldn't be much longer until they got to the museum. Not only did she get travel sick, she had been sat next to Trisha Wilson, the meanest and unruliest girl in their year.

"What's the matter little Annie? Do you feel sick? Are you gonna puke?" Trisha said to Molly.

"I don't like coaches," Molly said. She was used to Trisha calling her Annie and being generally mean to her by now.

"Well, why did you come? Are you stupid?" said Trisha.

"No. I had to. Miss Turnbull said so. Plus, I like art. My Dad used to paint," said Molly.

"Oh, here we go. The old sob story again. I'm an orphan, Boo hoo! Be nice to me, please," taunted Trisha.

“Just shut up, Trisha," said Molly, turning away and pressing her face against the window.

By the time the coach pulled into the car park, Molly was feeling rather queasy.

"Now class, follow me into the gallery and remember to be quiet. Don't ruin it for everyone else," directed the teacher.

"Yes, Miss Turnbull," they droned in unison.

"Firstly, we are going to look at the works of the Italian Renaissance Painters," said Miss Turnbull.

The group entered a large room with paintings on both sides of the wall. Miss Turnbull led the way. She stopped in front of some of the paintings, waited for the children to fall in line behind her, and proceeded to explain the painting in detail. When they had seen all the paintings in the first room, Miss Turnbull turned to them. “The next room has paintings by a selection of French artists,” she announced.

“I love Manet,” Molly piped up.

“I bet I love him more, Miss,” mocked Trisha.

“Well you’re both in luck then, because Manet is one of the featured artists in the next room,” said Miss Turnbull, “follow me.”

The ‘French room’ featured a number of paintings by Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas as well as Manet.

Molly took delight in closely examining the Manet paintings. “This is the one my Dad painted a version of,” Molly said to her teacher.

"These ones are pretty Miss,” Trisha piped up, pointing at a couple of Degas’ paintings of ballet dancers.

“Ah, yes. These are the handiwork of Edgar Degas. He was a painter and a sculptor and is regarded as one of the founders of what is known as the ‘impressionist’ movement. Over half of his works depict dancers but he was also famed for his racehorses and nudes.”

“Why do lots of painters paint naked people Miss? Are they pervy or something?” asked Trisha. A few of the others giggled.

“The truth is nobody really knows. Some artists say it is about the challenge of showing the beauty of the inside through the outer body. Many of the greatest artists have attempted to capture the female body on canvas,” said Miss Turnbull.

“Still think they might be a bit pervy,” muttered Trisha.

“Well, in that case, you’ll be glad to know there are no nudes in the next room,” said Miss Turnbull, “this next room holds the work of Turner and Constable – two of England’s finest painters.”

After about half an hour, Miss Turnbull led the group out of the room and towards the special area designed for school groups to use.

Molly sat down on one of the chairs and a dark-haired girl sat next to her.

“I like art too,” said the girl, “van Gogh is my favourite. I’m Sophie by the way.”

“My Mum really liked van Gogh. I’m Molly,” said Molly, reaching into her bag and pulling out a bag of crisps and a sandwich. “Would you like one?” she said, offering the bag of crisps to Sophie.

“Ooh thanks, I love salt and vinegar,” said Sophie with a smile.

“They’re my favourite too,” said Molly.

“You said your Mum used to like van Gogh. Doesn’t she anymore?” said Sophie.

“No, she’s dead. And my Dad is too,” said Molly, very calmly.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” said Sophie.

“Really? I thought everyone knew. Trisha teases me about it and you know what a big gob she has, I thought she would have told the entire school,” said Molly.

“I try and steer clear of her. She’s trouble,” said Sophie, “and besides, I’ve only been here a few months.”

"Right,” interrupted Miss Turnbull, “if anyone wants to buy anything from the gift shop, please go now as it will be closing shortly. And if anyone needs the toilet please also go now. We will be moving onto the final exhibition in ten minutes."

Molly quickly finished her sandwich and drink. "I have some money left-over from my birthday," she said to Sophie, "I might buy some paints."

"Cool," said Sophie, "I'll come with you and have a look." The two girls headed for the gift shop.

Molly walked over to the paints section and picked up a 'paint your own' kit, complete with canvas and paints. "I'm gonna get this one," she said, holding it up for Sophie to see.

"Looks good. I’m gonna get a poster,” said Sophie.

The girls chatted as they waited in the queue, handed over their money and walked back to their classmates.

"Okay class, are we all here?" said Miss Turnbull, doing a quick head count. "Yes, I think that's everyone. Right, the next exhibition is called 'Reflections of the Self' and this includes self-portraits of a number of famous artists."

Sophie and Molly positioned themselves as far from Trisha as they could get. The area for this exhibition was huge. There were four separate rooms, each full of paintings.

“Right class, I think it’s best if we start from the far end then make our way back to here. Please pay close attention to the self-portraits on display here as it will help you with tonight’s homework,” said Miss Turnbull.

There was a groan amongst the class at the mention of the dreaded H word.

“What is our homework Miss?” said Molly.

“I would like everyone to draw, or paint, their own self-portrait and bring it into class tomorrow. And there might be a prize for the best one,” Miss Turnbull explained.

“Yours should be easy, Molly,” said Trisha, “just put a splodge in the middle of the paper," she giggled.

Molly ignored Trisha’s teasing and she and Sophie made their way around the room.

“Look who it is!” exclaimed Sophie.

“It’s your pal, van Gogh,” said Molly with a smile. “He’s a bit funny looking isn’t he?”

“Yeah I guess so, but he’s still a great painter. Look at that!” said Sophie, pointing at another of his paintings.

“That is amazing,” said Molly, “Maybe you should try doing your self-portrait in the style of van Gogh?”

“That’s a great idea,” said Sophie. 

After walking round the self-portrait exhibition for at least an hour, Miss Turnbull could sense that the kids were losing interest and getting tired.

"Right everyone, we shall be making a move soon. If anyone needs the toilet, please go now before we get back on the coach," instructed Miss Turnbull. A few of the kids, including Molly, headed off to the toilet. Trisha went too. 

When Molly was in a cubicle, she heard chattering and laughter from outside. There was some fumbling of the door and then the sound of footsteps heading away. When she tried to get out of the cubicle, she couldn't. The door was jammed from the outside. She tried fiddling with the catch and pushing and pulling the door but to no avail.

“Hello? Who’s there?” said Molly.

Silence.

“Hello? Is anybody there? Help me please, I’m stuck!”

****

Meanwhile, Trisha returned to the rest of the group and they all headed back to the coach.

Sophie noticed that Molly hadn’t returned. “Anyone seen Molly?” she said.

Trisha was in earshot, walked right up to Sophie and said, “shut your mouth or I’ll shut it for you! Do you understand? If you say anything else you’ll regret it!”

Sophie knew she’d better do as she was told.

Soon, the coach pulled away and started its journey back towards the school.

****

The lights suddenly went out.  

“Hello?” “Is anyone there?” Molly yelled.

But there was no answer. So now she was not only stuck in the toilets of a strange building but it was also dark. She sat on the seat and started to cry. She decided that crying wouldn’t help. She remembered seeing on the TV how a front door was kicked in when there was a fire inside, so she thought she’d give that a try. The door shook but didn’t come open. She tried twice more but then gave up realising she just wasn’t strong enough.  She sat back on the seat, exhausted, and pondered for a while then looked up to the heavens for inspiration. That’s when she saw that there was quite a big gap between the top of the cubicle wall and the roof. She stood on the toilet seat and clambered up the side of the cubicle. She straddled the top and slowly managed to make her way over and down the other side using the toilet seat to make her descent easier. After steadying herself, she stepped down onto the floor, opened the unlocked door and stepped out. It was quite dark but she could see what was where. She made her way to the door and pushed it. She was in luck - it was still open.

As Molly emerged out into the main area, she heard voices in the distance. She walked towards where the sound was coming from and shouted. “Hello, can you help me please? I’m not meant to be here.”

She walked round the corner and into one of the rooms where the self-portrait exhibition was. What she saw next was quite extraordinary. There, right in front of her eyes, the painters in the self-portraits were deep in conversation with each other, gesticulating wildly with their arms. Molly gasped and stood frozen to the spot in a mixture of shock, amazement and fright as the eyes of the painters slowly turned to observe her.

“Ah bonjour Mademoiselle,” said a deep, accented voice from one of the figures from inside one of the paintings. The man who spoke looked quite old and had a grey moustache and goatee beard. He was wearing a beret and looking generally French.

“Erm...hi...bonjour,” Molly replied, a little startled. “I...I...I got stuck...I need to get out...to go home,” she said.

“Ah you are eenglish oui? Well as you can see zee museum is now closed,” said the figure.

"I know but...I need to get out...I need to get home to do my...home-work," said Molly.

"The night guard will come in approximately an hour,” said one of the painters, looking at his watch. “He comes everyday at 7 and then every three hours during the night.”

“You’re...You’re...You’re talking paintings!” said Molly, as the penny finally dropped.

“Yes indeed. You are very observant. Oh, I am sorry, ‘ow rude of me. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Monsieur Cezanne. And zees are my friends and colleagues,” he said, pointing around the room. Some of the people in the other paintings gave Molly a nod of acknowledgement.  

"So...so...you’re all alive? I mean really alive?” Molly said.

“Yes. It is because we are self-portraits. It was discovered long ago that when an artist paints a self-portrait and uses some of their own saliva in the paint it means that they live on through that painting. Forever.”

“Wow, that’s amazing!” said Molly. She looked around at the other paintings and suddenly stopped.  “Is that...Is that...Vincent van Gogh?” she asked Cezanne.

“Ah yes, Vincent. E is a strange one. He doesn’t really like his own paintings yet e is always the most popular in ze daytime...Vincent? Vincent? I think zis young lady must be a fan of yours,” said Cezanne.

“Does he speak English?” said Molly.

“Oui...yes,” replied Cezanne.

Molly approached the trio of van Gogh paintings. It was the self-portrait in the middle that had come alive. The artist was wearing a blue cape, a white shirt and in his left hand he clutched a paint pot and paintbrush. The background was a similar blue to the cape but also had white swirls and lines. Van Gogh turned his head towards Molly.

“Excuse me Mr van Gogh. I have homework to do and Miss Turnbull will give me detention if I don’t do it,” said Molly, “perhaps you can help me? What I have to do is paint a self-portrait in the style of one of the artists in here.”

“Ah well young lady, this we can help you with I am sure. Who would you like to paint like? Gauguin perhaps? Matisse? Cezanne? Maybe Rosetti? Or Monsieur Renoir?” said van Gogh.

“I want to paint like you,” said Molly.

“Like me? But why?” said van Gogh.

“Because you are an amazing painter,” replied Molly.

“You are very sweet, Molly, but I know my paintings are nothing special. First of all, you will need a canvas and some paints,” said van Gogh, quickly changing the subject.

Molly reached into her bag and pulled out the canvas and paints set that she had bought earlier. “Will these do?” she asked, pushing them as close to van Gogh as she dared.

“They are very basic but they will suffice,” replied van Gogh.

Then, step by step, van Gogh talked Molly through how to paint her self-portrait so it was just like his. When they had finished, Molly looked at the canvas in amazement. The likeness was uncanny – both of her and of van Gogh’s style. “This is brilliant!” she shrieked. Van Gogh smiled.

“Five minutes until the guard gets here,” yelled one of the other pictures.

“Oh, I’d better go and sit somewhere he can see me,” said Molly. “It was a pleasure to meet you.”

“Goodbye Molly,” said van Gogh.

“Au revoir,” yelled Cezanne.

Molly put her bag on her back, clung on to her canvas and headed to the main entrance desk.

When the guard arrived, Molly explained what had happened. The guard let Molly phone her Uncle and he came to collect her. He was very angry with the school and a little cross with Molly.

That night, Molly dreamt of her parents, and had an idea.

The next morning, she found an old photo of her parents and slipped it in to her coat pocket. She told her Aunt she was going to a friend’s house straight after school. Her Aunt just nodded and shooed her out the door.

When Molly got to school, Miss Turnbull was very apologetic about what had happened at the museum while Trisha was her usual obnoxious self.

"How stupid must you be to get yourself locked in a toilet cubicle?!" mocked Trisha.

At lunchtime, Molly found Sophie and told her all about what had happened. Sophie was astounded at what she heard and was a bit unsure as to whether Molly was telling the truth.  Molly sensed her doubts.

“I tell you what,” said Molly, “let’s go after school and I’ll show you.”

“Really?” said Sophie, “that’ll be great fun.”

After lunch, Molly and Sophie went into Miss Turnbull’s art class. The children put their self-portraits on their desks and walked round the classroom looking at each other’s work. Everyone was mightily impressed by Molly’s painting.

“It looks like a genuine van Gogh!” said Miss Turnbull.

Molly winked at Sophie. All of the kids voted Molly’s as their favourite. Trisha was not impressed and was so desperate to get out of the classroom that she tripped over a step that she didn't see. She fell and put her arms out to protect herself and broke her left wrist. She started crying and Miss Turnbull took her to the school nurses office. They took her to hospital and she had to have her arm in plaster and in a sling.

After school, Molly and Sophie made their way to the station and within an hour, they were outside the museum. They managed to get in without paying and Molly decided that they should wait in the toilet cubicles again. After the lights went out, they made their way to the self-portrait exhibition.

Sophie soon discovered that Molly had told her the truth. While Sophie was busy introducing herself to all the artists, Molly asked Cezanne if he could help her paint a picture of her mum and dad so they would be alive again.

“I’m not sure if zis will work,” said Cezanne, “it only usually works on self-portraits because of ze saliva in ze paint.”

“I am their child so it should have the same DNA. It might work,” Molly said hopefully.

“Okay. We shall try,” agreed Cezanne.

“Thank you,” said Molly.

With the help of a number of the artists, Molly soon had a very impressive painting that looked very much like the photo of her parents. She had used some of her own saliva when the paints were mixed. They hung the painting next to Cezanne’s self-portrait in place of one of the other works.

“No-one will notice, there are so many paintings in ere,” Cezanne assured them.

“How will I know if it works?” said Molly.

“Come back tomorrow at ze same time and we can let you know,” said Cezanne.

“Thank you so much,” said Molly, giving him a kiss on the cheek, “how do we get out?”

“Wait for ze guard and zen sneak out ze door while he is in ere checking,” said Cezanne with a wink.

“Great plan,” said Molly.

The next day, after school, Molly and Sophie went back to the museum. When it went dark and the lights went out they again made their way to the self-portraits. The voices quietened as Molly and Sophie appeared. 

Molly walked up to Cezanne. He didn’t look as cheerful today. “It didn’t work, did it?” said Molly.

“Non. I am tres sorry,” said Cezanne.

Molly was crestfallen. She stood and stared at the painting of her mum and dad. She started to cry. Sophie put her arm round her and tried to comfort her.

“I’m so sorry it didn’t work,” said Sophie, “but you must remember that your parents made you. You are half your mum and half your dad so they are very much alive. In you.”

“But I want to see them and talk to them!” Molly protested.

“You can Molly. You can. You can see them whenever you want to. When you close your eyes and think of them, you can see them. And you can talk to them if you want to. I’m sure they’re listening.”

“Your friend is very wise indeed,” said Cezanne, “zay will always be with you, in your ‘art.”

Molly slowly stopped crying, “I guess you’re right,” she said.

“Why don’t you take the portrait home with you? You could put it in your room on the wall maybe,” said Sophie.

“That would be nice,” said Molly, sounding a bit more cheerful.

“Would you like to come to mine for tea tomorrow night?” Sophie asked.

“That’d be great, thank you,” said Molly.

Sophie smiled at her.

The girls said goodbye to all the artists and promised them that they would come and visit them again soon.

On their way home, Molly asked Sophie if she would like to be her best friend and Sophie agreed. From then on, it was going to be the two of them versus the world (and that included Trisha).

 


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