The Painting

My whole life I had one goal; finish the painting. I slaved away for years at a mediocre job, making mediocre money. Nothing brought me joy, not like the way it felt to paint. Holding various brushes of intricate shapes and sizes, the weight between my fingers. The sound the horse hair bristles made as they stroked across a rough canvas was like a symphony in my ears. Watching an idea unfold before my eyes to become something beautiful, something that wouldn’t exist had I not created it. That was bliss.
I vowed in my early twenties I would create a masterpiece, a painting that could invoke emotions never felt before. It would be displayed in museums, sought after by billionaire art collectors, and my favorite fantasy; infamous art thieves compiling elaborate plans to steal it. I was in my late sixties now, my marvelous painting yet to be finished.

I was always too busy, whether it be work or loathing myself for lacking the artistic creativity to make something that would live up to my expectations. Excuses were my comfort now, the aching of my fingers tainted with arthritis, my back in agonizing pain from sitting at a desk for 45 years. I let the time slip by me, my life slipped away from me without even attempting my one dream.

I woke up one Tuesday morning to drag myself to the same desk I’d been at my entire adult life. The coffee machine beeped loudly alerting me my drug of choice to keep me moving forward was ready. I poured the hot liquid into my favorite mug, ravaged with chips and cracks from years of use, just like my body. I felt the hot steam on my face, the bitter aroma filling my nostrils, enticing me to take the first swig. I stared down into the dark abyss of my drink. The dark abyss I had kept myself locked in for years.

Suddenly I was overcome with fear, fear I would never do anything worthwhile in my life, fear I would never finish my painting. The dread set in as I continued to stare at my menacing drink. I grabbed the mug firmly and flung it as hard as I could at the wall to my left. It shattered into hundreds of small shards, with a sound so loud I nearly jumped out of my skin. But it felt… liberating. I watched as the dark liquid spread across my wall like a squid’s ink in water. Inspiration struck me like a tidal wave.
I ran to my bedroom, flipped open my phone, and dialed my office.

“Hello?” A soft voice answered.

“Janine, it’s Elouise, I quit. Tell Randy to go fuck himself for me, will ya?” I didn’t wait for a response, I clicked my phone shut and scrambled into my small studio.

I felt an intense rush of adrenaline, I didn’t need a job, I needed to pursue my dreams. I was giddy, I couldn’t stop smiling for the first time since I was a child. I gathered my brushes, pulled a blank canvas about half my size from a stack I hadn’t touched in so long I couldn’t remember. Once it was positioned on the easel I ran to my bucket with paints, and my heart sank when I realized I didn’t have black. I didn’t even have a deep brown or a deep blue. This wouldn’t do.

“What kind of painter doesn’t have all the colors in the rainbow!” I muttered to myself in disappointment.

I hurriedly gathered my purse and slid on my loafers. It was a short drive to the art supply store, as I made my way I wondered if the sweet girl with fire hair still worked there. My thoughts made the drive go by in what felt like seconds. I parked my car and hastily made my way into the shop. The bell rang as I opened the glass door, and glancing up from the main counter was the girl with fire hair. She pushed her glasses up to the bridge of her nose and beamed at me.

“Elouise!” Her voice was sweet as honey.

“Hey darlin’ it’s been a while huh?” I replied, I couldn’t keep my joy to myself, and her bubbly demeanor was difficult to resist.

“Yes ma’am! It’s lovely to see you! Do you need help finding anything?” She grinned ear to ear, emerald eyes glimmering. Oh to be that young again.

“Just getting some paints. I’m doing it, Ivy, I’m going to create the greatest painting!” I was thrilled to share my revelation with someone else.

“Oh, I am so happy to hear that! Promise you’ll show me first?” She clapped her dainty hands together in excitement.

“I promise.” I returned her smile.

I was making my way to the aisle of endless paints when I heard the bell of the front door chime again, I glanced back solely out of curiosity. A disheveled-looking man, probably in his late twenties, hurriedly rushed to the counter where Ivy was. In a hushed voice, he mumbled something to her. She looked scared, terrified.

“Ivy, darlin’, are you okay?” I asked cautiously.

“Yes… yes ma’am.” Her voice squeaked. But her eyes told a different story as if they were pleading with me that she was in fact not okay.

I made my way back to the counter.

“Excuse me, sir, I just need Ivy’s help to pick out a paint color, these old eyes aren’t what they used to be.” I chuckled lightheartedly to keep the situation from getting worse.

“Fuck off you old bitch, I’m trying to deal with something here.” He spat at me.

“Well excuse you, young man, that is not how you speak to your elders!” I felt hot anger rise to my face.

I tried to keep calm, for Ivy’s sake, the poor girl was shaking. I slowly stepped closer as I spoke, pretending to fiddle inside my purse as I discreetly flipped open my phone and dialed 911. After hitting the call button I set my purse on the edge of the counter and made my way to Ivy, to make sure she knew I was there for her.

Suddenly the mangy man whipped out a pistol and pointed it at my chest.

“Look lady if you don’t leave right now I swear I will shoot you!” He yelled, eyes wild.

Now I was terrified. I heard Ivy gasp, I reached for her hand which was shaking uncontrollably now, and pushed her behind me.

“Now calm down son, let’s just all talk together and I’m sure we can find a solution.” I tried my best to keep my voice steady.

“Fuck you!” He spat “Now move this is between me and Ivy!”

“Well I won’t let you be alone with this sweet girl while you’re brandishing a gun young man,” I replied as calmly as I could muster.

In the distance, I heard police sirens. Thank goodness, once they arrived all would be well and I could go home to my paintings while this man goes to jail.

“You called the cops?! You bitch!” A loud bang echoed through the air.

I felt a sharp pain in my chest, and my vision flooded. I faintly heard Ivy scream, and I don’t know when it happened but I was on the floor. The tile was cold against my flesh, and the lights of the police cars flashed through the glass of the store. I saw the man get dragged away, and I felt Ivy’s tiny hand slide into my own.

“Mis- Miss Elouise I…” she trailed off, I could barely see her, just the flame of her hair.

“Ivy…” I managed to croak out. “Don’t let your life pass you by not doing what you love my dear, would you be so kind to create the painting for me darlin’?” My breath was ragged, my vision slipping.

I managed to see Ivy’s emerald eyes, glossy with tears. Her curly copper hair fell forward as she nodded vigorously at me. With that I let the dark abyss take me, and my final vision was of the painting I had imagined. It was quite breathtaking if I say so myself, too bad no one will ever get to see it.

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