A Model Victim

by | Nov 25, 2020 | November 2020 Writing | 12 comments

I recline voluptuously on the chaise lounge, or as I prefer, Recamier. A violet ribbon loosely contains my slightly tussled chestnut hair. A wisp coyly covers the corner of my right eye. Cheeks blush with lingering passion. Your warmth lingers on my partly exposed breast. Sighs echo on moist parted lips. Eyes shimmer with nostalgia. Arms open to vacancy.


“It must be believable,” you had coaxed.


My fertile flesh welcomes damp paint as it blends pale with rose. Pupils sting as touches of sapphire blue reveal nascent questioning. Paint thickens as it ignites regret and helpless panic. Likeness blurs into opaqueness as canvas and flesh merge with each stroke of paint.


My mouth barely whispers why?

as color suffocates breath.


  1. John Steines

    I really like how the first – self-image, contrasts so severely with the representation…and all that bridged by the phrase ‘it must be believable’. My thoughts (as you/I): ‘You calling me a liar?’ and ‘Is that who you see me as?’ Your brief text crosses so much territory. ‘Color suffocates breath’ is so rich a description of the dashing of life energy. So much contrast in so few words. A very simple set up in so many ways, yet ending with this soul smashing. Coated with complexity. Nice work Jennifer.

  2. David O'Connor

    Arms open to vacancy.—Love this line, and the last line, and the title. Throughout, lovely delicate, sensual, brush strokes, beautifully done. My only thought is that if a few (darlings) adjectives and adverbs were killed it might become even stronger. eg. sapphire blue, does the former need the latter?). Great title, too. Can’t wait to read more!

  3. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Jennifer, this is breathtaking, and unusual. Love how the seeming inversion and conflagration of subject and painter become fused here. I think the first person POV suits the subject, drawing the reader closer to the interior, reminding me of how a thrilling or haunted painting might do the same in a museum (call the observer closer). My only suggestion is similar to DOC’s, in that you might consider a few less (-ly) words (voluptuously, loosely, slightly, coyly, etc.) and merely because in a piece so truncated, you want EVERY SINGLE WORD TO COUNT!!! But, this is a terrific start, with a great twist on ekphrastic subject matter.

  4. Sara Comito

    When I was a very young person, an artist friend did a performance piece where she was covered with paint and then ended up in the emergency room with a toxic reaction. You provide quite a canvas here, Jennifer. I wonder if there are places to ratchet up the danger a bit. What about a flashback to the moment the artist had the flash of “inspiration” to create his/her masterpiece. What does it reveal about the relationship before that point? Were there flashes of danger already? I like the idea of a sexy pose and suggestion of romance hemmed in with risk – of losing one’s self or one’s life, one’s boundaries, etc. Intriguing stuff!

    • jennifer vanderheyden

      Thanks, Sara…how frightening about your friend’s reaction. I will certainly consider ratcheting up the danger.

  5. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Hi Jennifer, One of the dangers of commenting late, is that much of what one would say, has been said. My thoughts as I read it, pretty much echoed David’s comments above, some of the doubling adjectives might be edited, and as it stands now, I suggest deleting the “as” in the last line. The simile tends to distance that lovely line. One other tiny: does reclaimer need a capital? Overall, I love the conceit of this piece. The performance art of it, and Sara’s comments about perhaps strengthening the danger, could heighten the conflict of the sensuality. Would love to see what you do with this draft. Yum.

    • jennifer vanderheyden

      Thank so much, Martha. I agree about removing the “as” in the last line. I went back and forth about the capital…I will look it up.

  6. Rogan

    Jennifer, I love this device of narrator or author’s voice coming in from the jump and announcing, “or as I prefer, Recamier.” I think sometimes when we add adjectives or descriptors to things instead of it having the depth or visual effect we want, it smacks of insincere somehow. Like the way over-detail a lie we tell. You have so many descriptors going on in this short span, “A violet ribbon loosely contains my slightly tussled chestnut hair. A wisp coyly covers the corner of my right eye. Cheeks blush with lingering passion.” I would think about pulling it back slightly. I was thinking just the removal of “chestnut” and “lingering” might do the trick. But as always, I love your voice and gift for narrative.

    • jennifer vanderheyden

      Thank you so much, Rogan. Those are excellent suggestions that I see so clearly once you point them out! I study Eighteenth-century French literature, and sometimes I can’t get out of it!

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