Photo of

Sonia Nicholson’s work has appeared in the online magazine Mosaic Times, the literary poetry journal Time of Singing, the Living Hyphen podcast, and most recently in the Vancouver Island Poetry Collective publication. Her writing regularly explores themes of identity, family, and place. A first generation Canadian who grew up in a Portuguese immigrant household, she was born and raised in Osoyoos, British Columbia. Sonia holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree (with Distinction) in French and Spanish from the University of Victoria, and continues to call Victoria home. Her debut novel, Provenance Unknown, will be published in Fall 2023 by Sands Press.


Trigger Warning

“Ok, what about this one?” Beatrix held out her tablet and sat taller, causing the kitchen table to wobble.

Hector carried on scrubbing burnt cheese. “Where is it this time? Are you still looking at the Okanagan?”

A sigh.

“No, prices there have skyrocketed. I’m … exploring other options. How do you feel about Prince Edward Island?”

“Here we go …”

“Hear me out!”

He lowered the casserole dish into the muddy water and reached for a towel. “And how dilapidated is this place?” A hint of a dimple appeared on his cheek as he dried his hands.

“Well, it does need some updating.”

“Of course, it does.”

“Minor detail. But look at this property. And for that price …” Beatrix gave her husband a crooked smile. “Just come see. It’s perfect.”

“I’m sure.” Leaning over her, Hector watched as she swiped through a dozen photographs. The oils from her fingertips left tracks across the screen — though it was likely that many of them were left over from previous searches. There was always buildup.

She waited for the Usual Questions, scanning his face for any sign of a different reaction. The dimple had evaporated.

“That kitchen is awful. Total gut job. What’s the list price?”

“Only $545,000,” she replied, beaming. “And I think the kitchen has a certain … charm. Plus, there’s a separate cottage. My parents could live there.”

“Right. Except I don’t think they want to move across the country.” He’d returned to the sink to retrieve the pan and now wore greasy arm bands picked up from the water’s surface, where only a few hopeful bubbles remained. “Have you forgotten that P.E.I. has real winter? I can’t see them, or us — or our dogs for that matter — handling the snow very well.”

On cue, two small mutts trotted into the kitchen, wagging their tails. They planted themselves expectantly at Hector’s feet but set to scavenging for crumbs when they realized nothing was forthcoming from above.

“It would take some getting used to, obviously. But we would adjust.” She put the tablet down and skimmed the realtor’s description.

“How many bedrooms and bathrooms?”

“Four, and two.”

“We’d be losing a bathroom.”

“I know.”

“And is this near a major centre?”

She checked the map, although she already knew the answer. “Not exactly.” A car alarm went off somewhere up the street. “Like I said, perfect.”

“So, it’s in the middle of nowhere. That would be fun with teenagers. They’d love that.”

Another sigh.

“It could be good for them.”


They lapsed into silence, Hector washing and Beatrix deciding she’d moved on. The dogs did a final sweep of the floor and left.

That lot was too small anyway. What was the point of going to all the effort of uprooting their urban, West Coast lives if they — she — didn’t at least get more space?

Open skies. Open fields.

A new thought struck her. She could paint. Yes, a fresh start, after all these busy years in a busy place. It was just the thing she needed to set up her easels again.

No neighbours. No fences.

No debt.

If they sold in this inflated market and moved elsewhere, they could live like royalty. Country royalty.

Anne Shirley arriving at Green Gables. If she came with a family, that is. And baggage. But then, that would change the story.

More scrolling. Like movie credits, or fruit on a slot machine.

Beatrix would know, wouldn’t she? When she found the right one? It existed. Somewhere. Maybe it was time to take a gamble.

She tapped her screen to stop the motion. “Ooh!” Pasture. A blank canvas.

“Uh oh.” Hector half turned as she lifted her head. The evening sun falling through the window highlighted his salt-and-pepper hair. It was thinner than it used to be.

“This is it. For real.” Her voice came out an octave higher than normal.

“Uh huh.”

“Listen.” One hand applied an invisible first layer to the air as she spoke. Brush strokes, barely a wash. But a start. It was working already. “It’s a hobby farm, Hector. A hobby farm!” He shook his head — she’d expected this — and then she continued. “Fifteen minutes to Cavendish. Do you remember the red sand? I wish we’d spent more time there. The beach was beautiful.”

Dinner dishes done and propped on the rack to dry, her husband opened the fridge, pulled out a craft beer, and joined his wife. The table teetered again on its uneven leg.

“We live near the ocean. It’s only a ten-minute drive.”

“A different ocean. It’s different.”

“How?” He cracked open the can and took a long swig.

“Because it’s here.”

Outside, leaves swung lazily from the Garry oak branches. The trees had somehow grown through gaps in the rocky outcrop that took up half the yard.

“Here is pretty good, you know.” Muscular, tanned legs stretched out from under the Formica.

“Yes, but …” Her voice faltered, only for a second. “But this place has everything on my list. Aren’t you even a little bit curious?” She willed him to ask the Questions.

“Fine. How much is it?”

“Ah.” Her eyes jumped back to the app. “It’s actually less than the last one, but with more land. $419,900 on over four acres.”

“I like the price, at least.”

Beatrix was more animated now, adding another layer to her landscape. Time for colour.

“It’s a great big old house, with a long driveway leading up to it. And there’s a front porch. Can you imagine us drinking our coffee out there in the evenings?”

“How many bedrooms and bathrooms?”

“Five,” she grinned, “and two.”

“We’d be losing a bathroom.”

“I know.” She braced herself.

“And is this near a major centre?”

“No. I’ll tell you what the property does offer, though. Fruit trees. Apples, cherries. A vegetable garden, already planted …”

“You have a container garden. An entire half of the yard.”

“… even animals! Comes with chickens, goats, bunnies … and a cow, I think. Several outbuildings. And it says here the owners will even throw in furnishings, and extra lumber and hardware supplies. What more could you want?”

He stared at her then. “Nothing.”


An odd expression. An odd, familiar, expression on an aging, familiar face. She recognized but couldn’t capture it; portraits had never been her subject matter.

Had she pushed too hard this time?

“It’s been a wild year, hasn’t it.” Not a question, but a statement. She struggled to fill the void.

Hector knocked back the rest of the pale ale, folded his legs back, and leaned across the table. “It has. But we’re still here.”

“We’re still here.”

They exhaled.

His cheeks were shifting from pink to red, matching the changing sky. Beatrix noted the nuanced palette. How each colour bled seamlessly into the next. How they contrasted with the green leaves. Green eyes.

Curious. A portrait as a landscape.

She could work with that.

“So,” she picked a bit of fluff from her tablet case before closing it. “What did you mean when you said ‘Nothing’?”


“Earlier. I asked what more you could want, and you said ‘Nothing’.”

“Oh, that.”

His hand touched hers and continued lightly up her arm. “What I meant was that I have everything I want. Right here.”

“Oh.” The technique was coming back to her. Views were lovely, but figures added life. In fact, portraiture was an art form in its own right. She could definitely work with that. “So do I.”

Open eyes. Open face. A fresh start.

It wasn’t too late.

She pushed her chair out, stood up, and walked to the drying rack, grabbing the towel on the way. As she polished the casserole dish, she called over her shoulder, “Would you like some coffee? I can put a pot on. It should be ready by the time I’m finished putting all this away.”

“Sure, sounds … perfect.”

A sigh. A different sigh.

In the ensuing silence, she remembered what she’d learned in an art class, so many busy years ago. Negative space was important in a composition.

Soon Beatrix filled two chipped mugs and placed one in front of her husband, pushing her tablet out of the way. The rocking she’d anticipated never came.

“Thanks. Wanna take our coffee outside? Sit in the yard?”

She glanced out the window.  “You mean, on our hunk of rock?”


Beatrix considered for a moment. “I do.”

A few minutes later they had settled themselves onto a ledge hewn in the outcrop over time by wind and rain. It was more comfortable than it looked.

Hector blew gently across the steaming liquid in his cup. “So, what’s your next destination? Sticking with Prince Edward Island?”

His dimple came suddenly, like a wink. It would take a lot of practice to paint it, she determined. But it would be worth it. Even if she never got it quite right.

“I don’t know.” She sipped too quickly and winced. “But I watched Roman Holiday the other day, so … how do you feel about an Italian apartment?”

“Here we go …”

Leave a Reply