Several rooms over, Emily stood before the ornate mirror above the sink in Stephanie's bathroom removing her makeup. She gave little thought to the fact it had been applied less than two hours earlier, and even less that she would likely do the same thing more than once this week. She was more preoccupied with how the face in the mirror she now saw seemed different from before - that while so much of her inner life seemed to comprise of curious absences, a feeling of immediate physical presence had increased. It showed itself in her deep, piercing eyes and the heady glow that suffused her cheeks more strongly than the blush had done. That - made-up or not - her face, her whole physical form felt like something to be seen. But these were complicated thoughts, and she didn't want to waste the hear of the bath. Breaking away, she hurriedly brushed her teeth and lowered herself beneath the water, welcoming the relief of having finally got out of her heels.
Like Stephanie's room, it was lit low, the glow from the small light above the sink and the a scattering of candles around the bath absorbed into the dark green tiles and densely patterned paper that covered the walls. Even the flowers possessed a dark, slumberous quality that lent warmth to the shadows. As her eyes adjusted to the light, however, Emily began to notice something. What she had first taken to be part of the wallpaper she now realised was a picture in a frame. An early 19th century rendition (she supposed) - likely a print picked up from the art museum gift shop, suggesting the definite article was somewhere in the city. She recognised the style - recalling a lecture on the Old Masters in her first year - but not the theme. It featured a gathering of figures in a wooded glade, idling or reclining across rocks and trees. Perhaps the Bacchae between rites or Diana's entourage tired from the hunt. Most were clad in thin gowns or draped in skins and leaves.
Then her eyes alighted on a figure towards the right. It was a woman, a little way apart from the others, moving, as if looking for a spot to join the group, apparently faintly surprised by the scene before her. It took Emily a moment for it to dawn on her the girl was naked - or rather, the only one naked. She scanned the curved, reclining forms and took in glimpses of exposed flesh of thighs and torsos and found none in the same condition as this new arrival. Her gaze flitted between them - she sensed now that some semblance of the nervousness from earlier returned. But her mind wouldn't process why - and indeed would not for some time. Abandoning the passing attempt at analysis, she instead focused on the woman - curiosity quickly turning to fixation.
She zeroed in on the details - imagining what impulses, what considerations possessed the painter when creating it, creating movement through tiny flourishes; the light gleaming off of pale shoulders, the suspension of flesh mid-step, the turned head exposing a slender neck, the look of doe-like apprehension upon her face. The tastefully apportioned member that hung beneath the swell of her pubis.
Something was working - some teasing familiarity. She sat up, ignoring the contrasting chill as she strained to make out a signature. There was, but not one she knew; a rushed flick of a brushstroke something like the letter A. Her mind reeled with a series of Italianate surnames, many she was sure she'd invented in that moment, before she gave up and lowered herself back beneath the foam and returned her eyes to the girl. She resolved that the mystery no longer troubled her, and instead contemplated what her impression would be on meeting such a group of women, in such a condition as the girl. On this thought, she lay silent, the distant thrum of traffic and the hint of music emerging from down the hall quieting her thoughts until none remained.
It was Stephanie who brought her round, proffering a towel. Back in the room, Stephanie let down her hair and changed into her pyjamas while Emily lay on the bed, the memory of water still ghosting her skin. As they lay together, Stephanie caught Emily's eye for a moment, and she smiled, as if holding back something. But she said nothing, and instead brushed a damp lock of hair from her friend's eye and picked a book fro the night table. Within minutes Emily was asleep at her side as she read through a couple of pages before setting it down. Before turning out the light she studied her friend's sleeping face for a moment, wondering whether she could have foreseen their relationship taking such a turn even a few months earlier. Deciding probably, she flicked off the light and settled in next to her, uttering two words under her breath: 'good girl'.