For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Michael challenged me with “‘When you meet someone, you can get something out of him like when you first look at a painting.’ -Gary Oldman” and I challenged Kameko with “You travel back in time, to change the outcome of…”
Marisa Sanders sat uncomfortably in the red velvet winged-back chair. She wasn’t sure why her husband was so keen on having her portrait painted but here she was, waiting on the great Pierre to come into his studio. Her eyes gazed around the studio, searching for paintings which would give her an insight of what the finished product would look like. Mildly surprised, she exhaled a short breath of disappointment. The walls were bare of any paintings; Pierre’s or any others.
To her right, Marisa heard a commotion as Pierre entered into the studio. He appeared to float on air, leaving a trail of wind behind him. A young red-head with black rimmed glasses struggled to keep up with him. Dropping the papers in her hands, she cursed softly as she bent to retrieve them.
Pierre stopped, his back to Marisa. From her view, she could see a long, black pony tail, muscles rippling underneath a paint spattered muscle shirt. Levi’s worn, soft in all the right places. Without warning, Pierre swung to face her. Marisa caught her breath. What was a man so beautiful doing painting portraits rather than being in front of the camera, she wondered. A slow blush crept up her face.
“Mrs. Sanders!” Pierre seemed to shout. “I apologize for being so late. I’m rather afraid my last subject wasn’t extremely pleased with the finished results of her portrait.”
“That’s an understatement,” the red-head muttered as she arrived next to Pierre, breathless. “Here are the pictures for Mrs. Sanders to view. I need to make some calls and do damage control.” A quick, insincere flash of lips towards Marisa as she huffily turned to exit the door.
“Pay no attention to Doris. She’s a little miffed because she has to deal with the temper tantrums. I refuse to. I paint what I see. I tell this to all of my subjects as I create.” He paused, squinting his coal eyes. Silently, he moved closer to Marisa. Lifting his right hand, he gently cupped her chin. And simply stared.
After what felt like hours, Marisa began to squirm in her seat. Wherever had her husband found this man, she wondered again.
“I apologize, Mrs. Sanders. It has been far too long since I’ve met someone as exquisite as you. Yes, far too long. I believe capturing your portrait will be a delightful challenge. Here,” he barked, thrusting the papers at Marisa, “I need to mix my colors and set the mood.”
Marisa’s hand shook slightly as she accepted the papers. Her mind ran a thousand questions at once, each with the same theme, wondering if she was going to be alright with this odd man. Attempting to make herself feel better, she reminded herself artists were of strange personalities but normally dangerous only to themselves.
“Great choice of dress, Mrs. Sanders. I like the Victorian era myself. A personal favorite. I do believe you are in tune with yourself. Perhaps more than you realize,” Pierre interrupted her thoughts.
“Thank, thank you,” Marisa stammered. “The, um, the pictures show you as being very talented, Mr.-”
“Pierre. Please, call me Pierre. I apologize for the hectic beginning but I simply loathe for someone to criticize my work, especially when I captured what is shown. Now, if you’ll please relax, we can begin.”
Marisa attempted to arrange her body in a comfortable but natural position. Her unruly curly hair bounced into a new style with each movement. Worrying the Victorian style dress was perhaps the wrong choice, she jumped when Pierre came to help. Wordlessly, he adjusted her shoulders, softly arranged her curls, and deliciously arranged her feet to cross slightly at her ankles. His hand lingered a second longer than necessary on her calf. Smiling, he stood slowly and all but disappeared behind the huge canvas setting on an easel so old, it looked as if it would fall apart any second.
“Tell me, Marisa. What do you think of as art?” Pierre asked, gazing around the canvas.
“Oh, I don’t know. I haven’t given it much thought before now, to be honest. Philip, my husband, was the one who suggested I have my portrait painted. Although, I’m not quite sure why. I’ve never known him to be a fan of art. Or that he even knew an artist.”
“Philip. Yes. He is a man of many mysteries.”
“I guess.” Maris laughed nervously. “He seems pretty predictable to me after ten years, I’m afraid.”
“But you, you Marisa, are not quite so predictable, are you?” Pierre gazed around the canvas again. His eyes held such warmth in his smile.
Marisa began to relax. “Oh, I don’t think I’m exciting or have exciting things I don’t share with people. I’m just your ordinary every day housewife.”
“Ah, you must never discount your self-worth, my dear. You are far more valuable to a man like Philip than he rightly deserves.”
Marisa fell silent, unsure what to make of the conversation.
Pierre continued. “Do you know why I’m such a sought after artist? Because I paint what is truly in front of me, Marisa. I don’t just merely take my paintbrush, dip it into lavishing colors and replicate the same thing a camera does. If that were my calling, I’d simply be a photographer.” He paused, peering around the canvas. His eyes searched deep into Marisa’s.
“I paint the true essence of a person’s inner self. Some of my subjects have been the most beautiful people you could envision. Aura’s as bright as a golden angel, with feathers of glitter. And those are of the most plain faces you see. Others, in very rare instances, have had souls so dark, that when I reveal my finished portrait, they foolishly take it as modern abstract nonsense.” Pierre fell quiet as Marisa absorbed his words.
Thoughts danced through her mind as she thought about the parts of who she was which were hidden so deep, she almost forgot they existed. Her thoughts picked up speed as she reflected on her dreams she abandoned to support Philip in his career as a successful corporate attorney. The monthly trip to an out-of-state spa so she could relax and have the toxins of her unshed tears removed from her body. The laughter of children she desired to have. The blackened disappointment of finding out Philip had a vasectomy and told her only afterwards. Would Pierre truly capture all of her soul on his canvas? No sooner had the thought entered her mind, Pierre declared his masterpiece completed.
Hesitating slightly, Marisa stood up, swallowing a lump of fear, timidly approached the canvas. Tears sprang to her brown eyes as she gazed upon her reflection. Words cease to exist as she took in the delicate but intricate strokes of paint as they immortalized her very existence. Pierre simply grabbed her hand, placed a warm kiss on it, smiled and retreated from his studio in silence. Marisa understood. No words could do the painting justice.
Tears streaming, she smiled.