Contest #141 winner 🏆

134 comments

Fiction

“... I want to paint you.”

She was surprised, sure enough. But she was also curious. Her face concealed nothing, and that was what fascinated me. As she walked through the gallery, each piece evoked something unique from inside her, and she did not bother to mask it. Anyone could read the critique in her face, if they took the time. It is an artist's dream – to clearly see the emotions we inspire with our work.

Many had passed by my work since the showing began, pausing for a moment, offering a quick word of praise. I didn't approach them. But, when she came to my painting, she lingered. At first, she kept a sort of distance, taking in the portrait from optimum perspective.

Then, she moved closer. Closer, still.

Narrowing her eyes, following the strokes of brush that formed arms and legs, and the arch of the neck. But, instead of smiling, like the others, she was disturbed. There was a distinct anxiety resting in her eyes. And that anxiety shattered me faster than any editorial the local paper had ever dished out. Editorials can be shredded with triumphant pleasure. But in the slight furrow of her brow, and the downward tug of her lips, this woman single handedly brought my heartbeat to a most uncomfortable rhythm.  

It was this distinct discomfort that pulled me from my place of observation and motivated me to speak.

“Something wrong?” I asked. 

I startled her, but she smiled and returned her attention to the portrait.

“I was just looking at this dancer,” she replied.

“Yes, but you seemed... upset?” I ventured. “What is it about the dancer?”

She darted her eyes at me for a moment, but only long enough to decide to continue our conversation.

“It's just, I feel sorry for her,” she explained.

“Sorry?” I wasn’t sure what to think, really. “Why?”

“Because, I think she is lonely.”

That threw me off guard. I was accustomed to the usual praise.

“Beautiful.”

“Profound!”

“Truly, one of a kind.”

It grew tiresome in a way, but it was comfortably expected. The local venues were always thrilled with my offerings, but over time, my enthusiasm was reduced to contempt. When my secretary had first booked this showing for my latest piece, I almost threw my coffee at her. 

I was exhausted with the weekend shows at The Courtyard. True, they had conjured a good deal of business as of late, but I felt no satisfaction at the end of the day. All I could hope for were a few simple remarks, no real conversation. No true appreciation.

I had little expectation for this showing. My most recent work was a portrait of a ballet dancer. A studio had commissioned it, but agreed to let me display it at the show before delivery. It was simple in concept, but stood out amid the offerings of that particular show. Amid the bulky sculptures and spattering of interpretive study, my dancer's clean lines were in stark contrast. Dark strokes outlined her body against white canvas, highlighting her single color.

A pale violet tutu.

“Please, what makes you say that?” I pressed her.

This time, she turned to face me, surely intending to end our discussion, or perhaps threaten to call security. I had to save myself quickly.

“Forgive me, it's just, I am Stephen Erik,” I said. 

Her eyes widened, right on cue. “You mean, you're the--”

“Yes, I'm the one responsible for this… sad little dancer,” I replied, through somewhat gritted teeth.

Sad. Sad was not the word I had imagined when bringing this piece to life. There was a soft laugh mingled with her smile, and I thought I saw a faint blush in her cheeks.

“It's wonderful to meet you, Mister Erik. I always hope to see something of yours here at the gallery, and I've never been disappointed.”

At this, I felt I was able to breathe again. “And, you are?” I prodded.

“Grace.”

“Well now, Grace, please, indulge me? Why do you say the dancer is lonely?”

For a moment, she hesitated, and I almost regretted revealing my identity as the artist. I’ve discovered that nice people are often afraid to offend the creator of the work. Perhaps they think we mix our own blood into the paint, or clay, or watercolors. I have never had such an attachment, although others surely have. More than spared feelings, I always craved true reaction. And, happily for me, Grace could not taper her true impressions.

“She holds herself tightly. Like no one else has ever held her before,” she told me.

I looked again at the portrait. Yes, her arms were crossed over her chest, and her feet tightly planted in fifth position. I had sketched her hands myself, and yet, I had not quite noticed how tightly her fingers grasped. Or, perhaps I had done this.

Perhaps I had subconsciously slipped my own hands into those of the dancer.

“That's quite an observation,” I replied. “Is that all?”

“No,” she admitted. “The color. Purple. It's such a lonely color.”

I chuckled a little. “As opposed to, shall we say, yellow?”

Her eyes darted back to me, wholly unamused. “Yellow can be lonely, too.”

“Oh, really? How so? Tell me this philosophy of yellow,” I implored.

“Yellow is a friendly color. It has lots of friends. Lots of people flock to yellow, because it smiles so much. And then, when yellow cries, they don’t know what to do. Because yellow is the one who smiles. So they just wait. Maybe they hand yellow some tissues or something. But it’s not what yellow really needs. So yellow is lonely, too,” she replied. "Even surrounded by people who love them."

I was silent for a long while. I didn’t really know what to say. So much thought, so much perception into a color that rarely graced the edge of my palette. 

“And… purple?”

She took a breath. “I think purple holds all of its feelings inside itself, until it is alone. And then, it cries. But nobody sees.”

At that moment, I knew.

I wanted to paint this woman.



April 10, 2022 18:00

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134 comments

Rebecca Wonsang
19:01 Apr 22, 2022

This story, while very short in length, it is immense in meaning. In its tightened length, it speaks volumes. You explained the portrait so vividly through both characters eyes, that I felt I could touch the ballerina myself. I've never felt color so deeply before. I pray one day I can write this way. I just started up again after so many years, but I'm hoping it comes back just like riding a bike. Your writing inspires me.

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20:03 Apr 22, 2022

Rebecca, thank you so much for reading my story! I'm so glad that you were truly able to immerse yourself in it! :) I will be sure to check out your work <3 keep writing! you've got this!

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Thom Brodkin
18:50 Apr 22, 2022

I'm a fannah Hannah. The first story of your that I read was The Gospel of Tea. I remember how i felt such depth in that story. I feel it again here. It feels like you have to be both the painter and the woman to see both souls so profoundly. It's a gift. I'm glad I get to read your gifts. Great job, deserving win.

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20:04 Apr 22, 2022

Thom, thank you so much for your kind words, they truly mean so much to me! I want more than anything for people to "feel" something when they finish reading my stories, and you reassure me so much!

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Nandini Shukla
03:31 Apr 27, 2022

Hannah I read the story first, and re-read it backward. I love how you portrayed colours here. And the way you described yellow? It blew me away. It is true, yellow is everyone's happy colour. But from now on, I don't think I will look at it the same way again (in a good sense, of course) 😁 A wonderful piece that got me thinking. Congrats on the win! You are an inspiration to all young writers like myself. ~Nandini

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17:27 Apr 27, 2022

Nandini, you are too kind! I’m so glad you enjoyed the story, and I will be sure to take a look at your work as well 😊❤️

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Karan Padda
17:35 Apr 25, 2022

This story has a meaning that creates a definite impact on the perspective of an artist. I like how you described what the character was thinking while she was painting. I also liked how you described the physical features that the character was making while she was painting. This story had many details that appeal to the senses which made it engaging for a reader. This was an excellent story, good job.

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01:24 May 10, 2022

Karan, thank you so much, I really do appreciate all the comments people leave for me! <3

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Kevin Broccoli
16:12 Apr 22, 2022

Congratulations! What a well-deserved win. Your language and the way you evoke the different moods within such a short space is really amazing.

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18:03 Apr 22, 2022

Kevin! Thank you so much, that means a lot! I worried it was too short, but the moment had depth and energy for me, so I just let it sit and here we are :)

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Mike Panasitti
15:44 Apr 22, 2022

Hannah, I am a part-time painter and hate to explain the reasons behind my paintings. There usually aren't any, other than to make impressive use of color. Perhaps that's why I rarely paint anymore, but I could really understand the character's dejection when hearing platitudes about her work. I'm glad she didn't throw the coffee into her secretary's face, a cheapskate collector would have been much more worthy of the insult. Take care.

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18:01 Apr 22, 2022

I understand what you mean! I did some painting in high school, and often there was not a "deeper meaning" to the painting. It just was something I enjoyed! Yeah, the coffee moment was definitely her "artistic temperament" coming through. Thank you for reading the story! I truly appreciate it!

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Mansi Raj
14:52 May 09, 2022

Now I'm believed that perfect ending does exist. Amazing story.

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01:25 May 10, 2022

you just made me blush :) thank you for your kind words!

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Prithvi David
03:00 May 09, 2022

Just a quick question. Does this story have like a certain time frame to it?

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11:16 May 09, 2022

So, I didn’t have a specific date, but I intended it to be a fairly modern era (within the last 20 years or so) hope that helps!

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Kenneth Allan
00:01 May 09, 2022

Brilliant. The portrayal of the woman had so much depth and sensitivity.

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01:25 May 10, 2022

Kenneth, thank you for that! I really try to step into my character's heads Lol

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Dillan T Ajer
22:59 May 08, 2022

Disappointing. I read it to the end, which I rarely do, and I see only a fading brown, which is..... ....disappointment.

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00:23 May 09, 2022

Hey Dillan, sorry this one wasn’t your thing. But I still do appreciate you reading it all the way through!

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Dillan T Ajer
09:34 May 09, 2022

Hi there Hannah, It was nothing personal and I don't usually feedback disappointment. I think you caught me at the wrong time, being tired and grumpy. I've slept now so I apologise if I offended you. I think the setting of your story intrigued me, being a failed artist, and I was hoping for a more poignant and gritty statement about art and artists. I was maybe hoping she'd call him a fraud and tell him to f off. I couldn't figure out why he wanted to paint her, other than alterior motivations! Anyway, your story was a winner so you're enti...

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11:13 May 09, 2022

Hey Dillan 🙂 no worries! As a writer I value all forms of feedback! I know my style/story won’t ALWAYS deliver, I can be too subtle, but my intention was that the artist (Stephen) was lonely. And Grace picked up on that because of how she sees color (the emotions in it) So he suddenly felt “seen”, and decided that he wanted to paint her because she actually understood he was feeling discouraged and kind of stagnant. Anyways! I will take the note and think about flushing out the motives more fully in my next piece 😁

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Dillan T Ajer
12:41 May 09, 2022

Ha, I never got that, but others must have. Stephens lack of confidence and loneliness would account for his opportunism. Unbelievably, your story was also a prompt for me, though it might be viewed as stealing. I outlined a similar, less sweet scenario with a known artist, looking for reassurance out with his sycophantic entourage, but who got much more than he bargained for. Not sure if I'll bother. Your idea is solid.

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16:19 May 09, 2022

… I’m gonna be honest, I would love to read this story!

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Viscaria <3
07:13 May 07, 2022

Oh, my God. I think I just fell in love with the way you write. It felt as if I was there, watching the scene unfold! And it's truly amazing. Great Job. You truly deserved to win!

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20:46 May 07, 2022

You are too kind ❤️ I’m so glad you liked it so much! This makes me feel so happy 🥲 sometimes I question if I should be writing, and then I see comments like this and it reassures me. Thank you so very much!

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20:46 May 07, 2022

You are too kind ❤️ I’m so glad you liked it so much! This makes me feel so happy 🥲 sometimes I question if I should be writing, and then I see comments like this and it reassures me. Thank you so very much!

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Elayna B
02:50 May 06, 2022

this...this is incredible. you had me tearing up, because purple is my favorite color and the way you described it in your story just...wow. thank you SO much for inviting me into your world <3

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13:06 May 06, 2022

Elayna 😊 I’m so glad you connected with the story. My bestie’s color is purple too. So I bet you are a very kind and caring person ❤️ Thank you for reading and commenting, I truly appreciate it

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Na'ryah Starks
19:43 May 05, 2022

this story was wonderful but it should have been longer cause it was so good

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22:11 May 05, 2022

Na'ryah! that is so sweet of you to say! thank you so much! I definitely think I will be making a longer story here :)

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Yanique Gayle
20:57 May 03, 2022

Good job. Although short, I really enjoyed it. Thanks a lot.

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Emmanuel Bakare
15:00 May 03, 2022

I am awed by how you succinctly described a style of art, with another. How writing intertwines painting. I'm left empty on reading this. The emotions conveyed.. Thank You for blessing me with this.

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01:26 May 10, 2022

Emmanuel, that's so sweet of you! thank you for taking time to read my story!

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Laura Eliz
14:17 May 03, 2022

I love how you assign feelings and philosophies to colors in this piece. I really enjoyed reading this.

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Lori Colt
20:00 Apr 30, 2022

So good. I'm a painter so I really enjoyed reading this one. Great job.

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Nehemiah Giles
07:35 Apr 30, 2022

My favorite part is when she went into the lives and perceptions of the colors I instantly understood where she was going. At one point I got carried away and started to hope that she would list all of the colors and describe them. This story is wonderful. Great work!!

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01:26 May 10, 2022

I am thinking about making this a longer piece so I can talk about more colors :) everyone seems to have wanted more. thank you for reading!

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Rachael Mungai
16:03 Apr 29, 2022

I might differ from Grace but only because there's nothing to criticise in this story. Got me hooked to the last line. Amazing. ❤

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01:27 May 10, 2022

thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it so much! <3

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Book Dragon
07:59 Apr 29, 2022

Oh my god. Wow. This is an awesome story and I love it so much! The depth; it's, it's just mesmerizing. You deserved the win!

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