Heat – Three Sisters by Balthus

Three Sisters by Balthus

It’s a hot summer evening in the countryside home of Nicoletta, Giselle, and Amalia.
The three sisters are waiting in the living room, windows opened, for their mother to prepare the afternoon tea. Giselle, sat on the couch, is bored. Nicoletta has been sitting quietly for an hour now, reading her favourite magazine, which their father brought back from the market this morning.  While Amalia, who rushed in from the garden, scaring off the cat, swiftly opens the dictionary and oddly straddles the chair.

“There is no need to run like you do everywhere Amalia, it’s so hot outside and you are going to get so sweaty!” exclaimed Giselle with exhaustion. She could barely stand the heat in spring and this summer had been extremely hot, so she is now longing for the rain and a crisp autumn breeze.
“I saw a squirrel outside and I want to know what species it is!” retorts the sister wiping her upper lip with her blouse, while Giselle looks away with disgust.

Nicoletta looks up with not much interest in what her sisters are doing. She is the youngest, and never interferes in their bickering. She would rather preoccupy her mind with words and stories from her books.

Amalia shuts the dictionary abruptly, stands up in one motion and runs back outside hurriedly. She doesn’t mind the weather, let alone her big sisters’ remarks. She wishes one of them would skip and hop with her in the meadows where she is not allowed to wander by herself. Soon, she will be called back inside to have her tea and a couple of biscuits, which her mother insists that she eats in front of her.
Amalia’s appetite for adventure is immense, but her one for food is not as intense. She forgets to eat most of the time, her silhouette shrinking as the days go by. Giselle refuses to have tea, claiming that it is too hot for a warm beverage and retires to a cooler room. She ends up lying face down on her bed, counting the days until Christmas, her favourite time of the year, to cheer herself up.

Nicoletta keeps on reading without detaching her eyes from the pages, she searches for the cup handle, which her mother ends up putting in her hand, and she sips her tea calmly, immersed in the fantasy world that is unfolding in her head.