Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write for the SUSPENSE and/or THRILLER Genre (10/23/14)
TITLE: Rare Beauty - A Remedy for Loneliness
By Noel Mitaxa
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How many times have I heard these word from my old tutor? Benjamin asked himself―before the echo continued, “Through disciplined practice and reflection on the basics, you will make friends with anonymity well before the art world will want to make friends with you or your work!”
Everyone was an art critic. Nobody would ever enter anyone’s house, declaring, “What ugly furniture!” or “I don’t like your curtains!” Yet they will have no qualms about saying, “What a terrible painting!”
He had spent many hours away from public exhibitions and their partying; honing his skills and developing his sensitivity to his subjects and their settings.
Too many hours.
Benjamin needed a wife. But in this small village, where could he find a soul mate who could appreciate the value of anonymity?
He knew there was no shortage of beautiful young women nearby, having received commissions to paint many of their portraits. His prestige was growing, for he was mastering the balance between what he saw as the prose of a portrait―or accurately capturing the image―and its poetry―which interpreted the inner mood or personality of those sitting for him. Surely this balance would open doors to his fame and fortune.
Then, one market day, he chanced upon the local matchmaker, Mathilde, who was closing a fiercely-fought deal with a stall-holder over a length of brightly-patterned cloth.
“Aaahh, Benjamin!” she cried. Was her tone more predatory than usual? Or was it anticipation on his behalf?
“I can arrange a rare beauty for you to meet,” she whispered. “She will take your breath away.” Extending her hand―not-so-subtly anticipating a fee―she added. “Not only does she live in the next village, but she will open new doors in your artistic career. But make sure you say nothing to her until you return to me!”
He spilled coins into her hand, eagerly listening to her directions.
That night, his sleep was a fitful recollection of every sitting session with local beauties he had painted. A kaleidoscope of their cascading hair, graceful necks, pouting lips, bewitching smiles, sparkling eyes, alluring figures and elegant clothes crowded his imagination and fed his anticipation.
What could this rare beauty be like? More beautiful than any or all of these?
The sky was clear next morning as Benjamin left town, his heart singing with hope as he strode out along the road towards the thick forest that separated local farmlands from those that spread themselves around the village which contained the object of his desire.
It was only in the subdued, dappled light of the forest that he began to wonder if he was expecting too much. After all, he knew that the inner attitudes of his portrait subjects sometimes contrasted with their beauty. But his anxieties eased in a re-echo of Mathilde’s promise―she will open new doors in your artistic career.
Clear of the forest, and gaining a sweeping view of the grassy rolling hills that led towards the end of his odyssey, Benjamin found optimism returning.
Once he had entered the village, he appreciated the cheerful help of those who fine-tuned his directions. Surely their smiles participated in his anticipation...
His heart racing, he approached the door; reached out and knocked.
Timidly at first.
But before he could increase the tempo to match his heartbeat, the door opened.
Benjamin gasped―just as Mathilde had promised.
He was beholding a rare beauty indeed.
Clearly, there was magic in the air. But he remembered Mathilde’s injunction for silence, lest he break some kind of spell.
He smiled as politely as he dared, turned on his heel and left.
Placing her coat on the hook inside her door, Mathilde almost felt it give way under sudden heavy knocking from outside. “Yes?” she called, reaching for the handle and pulling it open.
To see Benjamin, earlier than she expected.
He was flushed, wide-eyed and still breathing with difficulty. “When does the magic happen?” he gasped.
“There is no magic,” she replied.
At that, his flush gave way to a surge of anger. “Then I want my money back!”
Mathilde’s brow furrowed. “Why so?”
“Have you ever seen this rare beauty? With her green hair? And her left cheek―covered by the largest of her five eyes? Her nose is halfway down her neck; and her teeth protrude from her left ear!”
“Benjamin, Benjamin. You call yourself an artist? Don’t you know you have to spend time with abstract art to appreciate it?”
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