(See here for an explanation of this series, and here for an index to it.)
The placard on the post by the entryway that led into the gallery said "Please take one." It referred, as far as Natalie could tell, to a basket of beautifully-crafted, long-handled wooden paddles that sat next to the post.
Natalie looked at the placard and the basket in confusion for a long moment before she noticed that the gallery beyond was not entirely empty, as it had appeared at first. She felt herself growing faint before she even realized that she had gasped so deeply that she had forgotten to breathe again. There was a girl in there, and she was. . . she didn't. . .
"Do you like my piece?" asked a warm, feminine voice, in a French accent, from just above and behind her. Natalie felt the woman's hand on her shoulder, and she shuddered, suddenly wanting so much that she simply had never let herself imagine before.
"Um," said Natalie, blushing to the roots of her brown hair.
"Aren't you going to take a paddle?" the woman asked, in Natalie's ear. Natalie smelled lovely perfume, and her faintness seemed to increase. "The piece is meant to be a sort of simple drama: you are the heroine."
Natalie reached down, and grasped the smooth maple handle of a slender one, almost as small as a wooden spoon, wishing. . .
"Of course," said the artist, "if you would rather not take a paddle, but would instead like to go join Jacqueline, there, you may also do that, and become part of the piece yourself."
Natalie let go the wooden handle and, telling herself not to think, but simply to act--no, rather, to submit--she walked into the gallery.