#218 In Breathing Color

by Deborah Smythe

She paused at my easel, halted, yet vibrant with motion, like the hummingbird at the foxglove before me. Her smile broke, warm, red, sudden. My brush hand ached. I should add a stray bud to the flower and stop thinking of the girl with the lifeblood and sunshine smile.

She motioned to a wax-faced man in a polished suit. "Look at the movement, the colors." Her fingers danced on his arm.

"It's pedestrian." He brushed her off, eyes blank. The paintbrush cut grooves in my hand. Little bird deserved better.

"It's genius." That smile again, for my work, for me, for him. "Let's buy it."

The husband's gaze chewed me over. Back when men fought for my work, I'd taken pride in my appearance, but these days charity hung on my bones and it suited. He tapped his lips. "Would you paint Lyla?"

Paint Lyla? The tilt of her mouth, the fall of her hair, like joy on fire, all of her on my canvas?

On his canvas.

He was undeserving and I no longer did portraits. I offered him a post-modern from my metal carriage instead and he paid me in paper money.

"I still love the flower," she whispered.

Giddy, I finished the foxglove perfectly. Foolish. The flower in the ground was already withering. Her attention though was on the canvas.

She dashed then, my hummingbird, after her husband. I could paint her from memory, and perhaps I would. But not today, not for a lifetime of days.

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