From the author of one of the most emotional and beloved books I have ever read, the unforgettable Making Faces, comes a story of before and after, of new beginnings and never-endings—The Law of Moses. And today, I have the great honour of sharing with you a never-seen-before excerpt…
“What do you call them . . . the different colors? Aren’t there different names?” Moses asked suddenly, his eyes trained on the horses milling about the enclosure. He held a paint brush in his hands as if he’d grabbed it out of habit, and he wove it between his fingers like a drummer of a rock band twirls his drumsticks.
“There are so many colors and kinds. I mean, they’re all horses, obviously, but each color combination has a different name.” I pointed to a reddish horse in the corner. “That red one there? Merle? He’s a Sorrel, and Sackett is a Palomino. Dolly is a Bay, and Lucky is a Black.”
“Yes. He’s solid black,” I answered easily.
“Well, that one’s easy enough.” Moses laughed a little.
“Yep. There are greys, blacks, browns, whites. Reba’s an Appaloosa, the greyish one with spots on her rump. We don’t like to label them by their colors in equine therapy though. And we don’t call the horses by their names. We don’t even tell the clients if the horses are male or female.”
“So you wouldn’t want me to notice that the Palomino horse, the one with the white mane and the tan body, looks like you and that she’s always making a nuisance of herself?”
“Sackett?” I was outraged on Sackett’s behalf more than my own. “Sackett isn’t annoying! And Sackett’s a he, which just proves my point about pre-conceived ideas. If you knew he was a he and not a she, you wouldn’t be able to label him as Georgia and say mean things. Sackett is wise! Whenever things get really deep, you can always count on Sackett being right in the thick of things.” I heard the affront in my voice and I glowered at Moses for a moment before launching my own attack.
“And Lucky is just like you!” I said.
Moses just stared at me blandly, but I could tell he was enjoying himself. “Because he’s black?”
“No, stupid. Because he’s in love with me, and he tries to pretend every day like he doesn’t want to have anything to do with me,” I shot back.
Moses choked, and I punched him hard in the stomach, making him gasp and grab for my hands.
“So you want the clients to not pay any attention to the color of the horse. That’s not even human nature, you know.” Moses pinned my hands over my head and stared down into my flushed face. When he could see I wasn’t going to continue punching he relaxed his hold, but he looked back toward the horses and continued talking.
“Everyone always talks about being color blind. And I get that. I do. But maybe instead of being color blind, we should celebrate color, in all its shades. It kind of bugs me that we’re supposed to ignore our differences like we don’t see them, when seeing them doesn’t have to be a negative.”
I could only stare. I didn’t want to look anywhere but at him. He was so beautiful, and I loved it when he talked to me, when he suddenly became philosophical like this. I loved it so much I didn’t want to say anything. I just wanted to wait to see if he would say more. After several long minutes of silence he looked down at me and found me staring at him.
“I like your skin. I love the color of your eyes. Am I supposed to just ignore that?” he whispered, and my heart galloped to the round corral, cleared the fence, and raced back to me in giddy delight.
“You like my skin?” I breathed, stupefied.
“Yes. I do,” he admitted, and looked back at the horses. It was by far the nicest thing he’d ever said to me. And I just laid there in happy silence.
“If you had to paint me, what colors would you use?” I had to know.
“Brown, white, gold, pink, peach,” he sighed. “I’d have to experiment.”
“Will you paint me?” It was something I desperately wanted.
“No.” He sighed again.
“Why?” I tried not to be hurt.
“It’s easier to paint the things in my head than the things I see with my eyes.”
“So . . . paint me from memory.” I sat up and placed my hands over his eyes. “Here. Close your eyes. Now picture me. There. See me? I’m the Palomino filly up in your grill all the time.”
His lips twisted and I knew he wanted to laugh, but I kept my hands over his eyes. “Now keep them closed. You’re holding a paint brush in your hand already. And here’s the canvas.” I brought the hand holding the brush to my face. “Now paint.”
He dropped his hand back to his lap, holding the brush, debating. I dropped my hand from his eyes, but he kept them closed. Then he lifted his hand once more and slid the dry brush softly against my face.
“What was that?”
“The left side.
“My chin.” It tickled, but I didn’t let myself move. Moses traced the tip of my chin, followed it down and around, making a straight line to my neck. I swallowed as the brush slid down my throat and whispered down my chest to the opening of my T-shirt. My T-shirt made a neat V above my breasts, and Moses paused, holding the brush pressed against my skin, directly over my heart. But he kept his eyes closed.
“If I were to paint you, I would use every color,” he said suddenly, almost wistfully, as if he was sure he couldn’t paint me . . . but he wanted to. “You would have crimson lips and peach skin and ebony eyes with purple shadows. You would have hair streaked with gold and white and blue and skin tinted with caramel and cream, swirled with pink and shaded with cinnamon.”
As he talked, he moved the brush this way and that, as if he were actually painting with the colors in his head. And then he stopped and opened his eyes. My breath was stuck somewhere between my heart and my head, and I concentrated on letting it out without giving myself away. But he knew. He knew what effect he had on me. He threw the brush and stood up, breaking the spell he’d woven with gentle strokes and soft words.