Contest #141 winner 🏆

136 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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136 comments

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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Ihssane Naaim
23:43 Apr 28, 2022

I just have to say that i have never related before to a color in such a deep emotional way until i read your story. While your writing is concise, it also holds a lot of meaning and evoked in me various feelings of wonder and loneliness. Thank you for writing this, it really revived in me the passion of writing which i have lost long ago. I hope you can continue inspiring me and surely others!

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01:27 May 10, 2022

I'm so glad that my story could do something so wonderful for you! I will be looking for your stories on here :) I can't wait to read them!

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Jackie Palm
23:26 Apr 28, 2022

I love that this feels like a snippet of a story I want to know more about. This would be an excellent prologue. I love the imagery of the colors and their meaning and you made compelling characters right off the bat. I was pleasantly surprised at how much detail was in something that was short. I can't ever seem to keep my word count down lol Very well done!

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01:28 May 10, 2022

Jackie! I just might make this one longer Lol everyone seems to like that idea thank you for stopping to read my work <3

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Kristina Raynor
17:52 Apr 28, 2022

Is the narrator a he or a she? Their name is Stephen, but you and others refer to them as she in the comments, so I got confused!

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18:54 Apr 28, 2022

Hi Kristina! Sorry about that, the narrator is actually a HE :) If I accidentally referred to Stephen as "she", forgive my autocorrect xD sometimes I reply from my iphone

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Kristina Raynor
07:48 Apr 29, 2022

My older daughter's name is Charlie, and since your narrator wouldn't refer to himself by pronoun, I just had to check even though I've never met a girl Stephen! Okay, so now that I have the pronouns right, CONGRATULATIONS! I really like that your story has no excess fat to trim that distracts from the action and that it has an almost synesthesia-like quality to it. I think it would have had even more impact at the start if you used this line first: "Her face concealed nothing, and that was what fascinated me." To keep the circularity of...

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Wendy Hayes
01:25 Apr 28, 2022

Beautiful story!

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Marie Malo
17:47 Apr 27, 2022

Love the emotion of colour in this !!! An enticing read.

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Andrea Doig
10:51 Apr 27, 2022

I loved this one. Your writing style really appeals to me and this is a worthy winner. You have taught me a valuable lesson with this story! I am so caught up in a completed storyline or a full 360 degree experience in my stories… when a simple concept will sometimes suffice. Wow. Thank you. I’m going to take this knowledge into my next offering. Thank you for sharing x

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17:25 Apr 27, 2022

Andrea, thank you so much for reading 😊 and I’m so glad you enjoyed the story! Even if I have a bigger plot in mind, I try to write about “moments” most of the time. Give it a shot! ❤️

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Shea West
10:01 Apr 27, 2022

Hannah, I'm so behind in wishing you a huge congratulations!!! I just now got to read your story. I love when a short story packs so much into so few little words. This entire story made me think of the song, "Yellow" by Coldplay. Which is about feeling cowardly in love, until one "swam across, jumped across for you" and then yellow becomes something entirely different😍

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17:26 Apr 27, 2022

Shea! Thanks for stopping by to read 😊 oh my gosh, I had forgotten about that song! I will need to go listen now 😆❤️

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Shea West
17:33 Apr 27, 2022

I think you'll see that there are some lovely similarities between what you wrote an what Coldplay sang <3

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Jesper Jee
09:48 Apr 27, 2022

Wonderful story. Like the colors. Simply beautiful.

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Veronica Drake
22:29 Apr 26, 2022

I'm ready for chapter two. Please and thank you.

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17:27 Apr 27, 2022

So, I’ve been thinking about expanding this piece 😆 thank you for encouraging me!

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Be Happy
11:30 Apr 26, 2022

This is my first time here in reedsy and itsthe first thing i read and im so impressed by the quality and the meaning of the text keep the goof work hanna

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06:54 Apr 25, 2022

Your personality description of yellow and purple is very well done. You write effortlessly and it is an easy read even though it is loaded with emotion. Well done. I was deeply moved.

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Glen Gabel
22:37 Apr 24, 2022

So wonderful dialogue here. Your descriptions of the colors, emotions and characterization of the artist is fantastic. Great read. Thanks for sharing it.

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Angela Guthrie
22:25 Apr 24, 2022

What a lovely story. If I were to critique it, I would give it the color silver. Silver is the thought-provoking color.😊

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Nandini Panchal
12:10 Apr 24, 2022

It was simply brilliant! The way you have woven such depth in such a small length! I only wish I could write like you! By the way, congratulations on your win! You totally deserved it!

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Kanwal Golaknath
05:01 Apr 24, 2022

Hannah, many thanks for your moving story. I found myself blinking back my tears because the emotions, your story evoked, were so relatable. I loved the brevity of the story as well as the richly nuanced emotions and the two perspectives, so skillfully captured. The painter's perspective and the viewer's perspective, perfectly juxtaposed, add to the tension and result in heightened interest in the progression of the plot. Your choice of words was perfect. And the portrayal of the emotions evoked by the colors purple and yellow, in Grace's mi...

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Chris Williams
03:48 Apr 24, 2022

Well done.

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Angela Mc Ginnis
03:38 Apr 24, 2022

Simply put, I loved your story!

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Ariel Trimmings
21:34 Apr 23, 2022

Oh my goodness. I see why you won. I want more. Please tell me there will be more. LOL

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