The Master had said she must paint, and paint she did. Without knowing why he asked it of her, she dabbled with the paint uncertainly, because for the first time, he had given her no subject or direction, other than to ‘paint’. Various images filtered lazily through her mind as she gazed into the puddle of sunlight melting on the floor beneath the window. Outside she could hear the whisper of wind caressing leaves.
Long days like this made her especially dreamy, and she wondered where her sister was now. As she stroked the soft bristles of her brush across her cheek, she pursed her lips in concentration, remembering her sisters laughter tinkling along with the river as they ran together, wild and free. She had promised herself never to forget that magical laughter and the way it made her heart beat just that little faster in anticipation of mischief to come. Her heart was much too quiet these days, she decided with a frown and refocused on the empty canvas in front of her.
A little smile turned up the corners of her lips as she decided to paint her sister’s laughing face. And yet she hesitated, the smile quivering uncertainly as she considered the Master. He had after all, simply instructed her to paint and the choice of subject was surely hers. He so was obsessed with landscape and frankly, the topic was beginning to bore her. She pondered the lack of directive, supposing that he had meant for her to paint a landscape from memory and feeling a little guilty at her own intended rebellion. Her sisters laughter echoed softly in her mind, drawing her heart into a dance of delighted determination. She was alive, even if her sister was dead and even the Master could not stop her from living.
Hours passed in focused timelessness, colour after colour flowing with gentle strokes, from the palette to the mirror in front of her. For indeed, it was beginning to feel like a mirror, seeing her sisters face, so like her own, reflected back in the flecks of colour and light before her. The eyes, the mouth- all perfectly captured in frozen animation, it was as though her sister might come to life this very moment and catch her up in shared mirth. She couldn’t help but grin at her twin as she enhanced the sparkle in her eye with a little more white.
She supposed it was unseemly, her inability to feel only sadness so soon after her sister’s passing, but it seemed as though the memories of laughter filled the ache in her heart and soothed its ragged edges with gentle, loving care. It seemed so easy to smile in memory of her and the crazy adventures they had shared. Her family simply didn’t understand that she needed to talk about her sister and it was maddening to be hushed with disapproval whenever her voice seemed to bright and her manner too light, for such dark and dreary times.
At times, they studied her with askance glances and half-lidded eyes. Not only was her behaviour unfitting under the circumstances, it was quite simply out of character. They supposed it was part of the grieving process, but it was entirely unsettling to have shy and soft-spoken Anna-Maree becoming more and more like her dead sister Tigrena with each passing day. Pallo quite simply couldn’t cope with it at all and had packed her up and sent her to the Master for an extended study period in Italy.
She looked about her, noting the faded light through the windows and feeling the cooler touch of air on her skin. Paetro, the Master, would be back with twilight, to study her days work and she squirmed a little with unease. Paetro had adored and disapproved of the unruly Tigrena, who quite simply wouldn’t sit still long enough to finish what she started, no matter what it was. Mother had despaired of her ever learning the finer arts and eventually both her and Paedro accepted that Tigrena was quite simply more comfortable on a horse with an arrow notched in her bow.
It’s was a pity really, because Tigrena always was the better painter and her husky alto voice was gorgeous not only when laughing, but also when singing, even though she refused to go any where near the choir and would only sing with me, down by the grassy banks where the river curved and headed off towards the bay.
Anna-Maree stretched the kinks out her back and arms and washed out her brush. The light was truly fading now. Moving to the window, she looked out, wondering where he could be, and why she didn’t yet hear the sound of hooves rising up from the approach below. The sun setting over the distant hills spilled its light over the sky, dressing clouds in pastel apricot and pink. Closing her eyes, she breathed the moment in, imagining that she breathed in the magic light above her.
She froze. The voice seemed so real, as though Tigrena were actually in the room with her. If it weren’t for the eerie sense that someone was in the room with her, she would have dismissed the voice as having arisen from within her own mind. Perhaps it were only one of the maids, come to tell her that dinner would soon be served. Willing herself to breathe once more, Anne-Maree slowly opened her eyes. In the windows glass before her, she saw her own reflection; eyes a little wide and lips parted in surprise. Behind her, the painting continued to laugh.