My fingers are cold.
Everywhere is so shadowy and sad. It is as if I have somehow poured my grief onto this canvas, and it has crept out.
I see echoes of my mother and brother. They are silhouettes lounging by the windowsill. My beloved parrot Damy, is reflected is in the sun catcher that hangs from the doorway.
Sometimes I still hear her song when I’m painting. Her cheerful notes, Mother’s loving whispers and Jamie’s laughter blend into one emotion I can’t recreate.
My fingerprints adorn the edges of my newest masterpiece. Lovely red and blue splotches will be ladybugs when I am through.
This is my most beautiful work ever. I shall give this to Sister Adella, for the prayer room.
It is a picture of Mother.
I miss her so much.
This picture of her is as close as I can get. The same wild, curly hair, tinted in rich hues of black and brown with smiling lips, a dusty rose color and eyes that pierce my soul.
Someone is coming.
Footsteps warn me.
They are hollow, loud and send jolts of terror through every joint in my body.
Fear clouds my judgment.
My hands are plunged into the water bucket to wash away telltale paint. My wet hands scramble to hide my precious handiwork.
But I am too late.
“Jasmeet!” The angry snarl is bit off as my studio door is flung open.
Damy’s sun catcher flies across the room to land in my water bucket.
It is unnoticed by my step-father.
He is only staring at Mother’s picture.
My heart clenches into a knot as giant hands seize the picture and rip it to useless shreds.
The remaining scraps fall to the floor as his drunken slur bombards me. His scalding words trip over themselves, lashing into the leash I refuse to wear.
Names and words cannot break what is already broken.
When he leaves, I retrieve Damy’s sun catcher and put it to dry.
My stomach aches. My heart feels tied in a thousand knots, each one tighter than the one before it.
I have nothing left inside of me.
Nothing beautiful comes out of anger.
I want to hate him. I want to.
But I can’t.
Instead, I prepare a new canvas.
My hands clench into fists and I thrust them into the nearest cans of paint.
Black and red. How ironic.
The fists open to work their magic. My fingers glide across fresh canvas, creating something I do not understand.
I promised Sister Adella a painting for the prayer room. I must keep my promise.
Minutes melted into hours before her voice halted all creativity.
“Is that your heart?”
I whirled in surprise to see Sister Adella standing behind, her basket of jam over her arm.
“Sister!” I begin to move forward and belatedly realize my hands are paint-covered in angry black and red.
“Do not trouble yourself, child. I only brought a treat.” A jar of strawberry jam is set beside my easel.
As I washed my hands, she set the basket on the chair. I tuck the jam between my paints to hide it from my step-father and join her at the easel.
My face mimics the strawberry red as Sister Adella examines the product of my frustration.
“A heart is never locked, lass.” She murmured, expert eyes seeing what I thought I’d hidden. One soft hand rested on my shoulder and curved around to tip my chin up. “It is always filled. When we think there’s too much or not enough, then it’s time to make more spots and fill them up with love.”
Thin lips press a kiss to my forehead and a blessing is whispered over my head. “I’ll pick up the painting for the prayer room tomorrow.” Sister Adella paused in the doorway. “Keep painting Jasmeet, and open your heart.”
The first knot loosened.
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