The vibrant colors stained the empty canvas guided by the stern and rigid brushstrokes from Anne Ling’s graceful hand. The frown on her face echoed the frustration at her latest work. She was so close to finally producing the perfect painting for the Annual Art Contest. The previous pieces she had done throughout the year hung silently on the walls of her atelier, which was located in the most expensive and popular part of the Main Street in the city of Oatsbury. She was a state-renowned artist with a year’s long backlog of commissions to finish, yet this piece was more import. It was supposed to be the Magnum Opus of her 25 years long career. As a woman of 45 years, she was still considered attractive by many men, and she caught men 15 years her junior checking her out with a glint in their eyes. Interestingly enough, her aloof demeanor and absolute dedication to her work left little room for men – especially after Ferdinand left her, taking their daughter with him, some 9 years ago.
“It’s going to be just the thing,” she said apropos of nothing, leaving the brush aside, and inspecting her progress. The painting had a wonderfully painted autumn park with a child reaching for something in the glare of the sun. She still hasn’t painted the thing the child, which looked an awful lot like her daughter, Alice. It was the last bit remaining. She pondered for a while when the door of her atelier and a strange figure walked in. Anne raised an eyebrow at the ragged, slouched figure dressed in dirty old clothes whose odor told her he hasn’t seen a bath for a while.
“Bloody bums,” she thought as she narrowed her eyes and sent the figure an icy look.
“Hello,” the bum said with gruffly with a deteriorated voice, probably from tobacco smoke, seemingly half-confused – his eyes wandering aimlessly throughout the atelier – marveling at the beautiful works of art. From photorealistic portraits to abstract expressionist ‘nonsense’, it had it all.
“Such pretty paintings,” the bum uttered while rummaging in his pockets.
“Is this dreg trying to mock me?”
“Good afternoon,” she answered coldly, “and thank you,” she remembered to add as an afterthought. The day was short and she had only so much time to finish the painting before the submission deadline. She didn’t have time for dregs. She never had, they were just an obstacle in her ambitious quest for perfection. And they were an epitome of failure. The bum balked at her coldness, yet his eyes flashed with a knowing glint for a moment. His lines seemed somehow familiar – maybe she had met him somewhere?
“I, see nothing has ch… do ya’ have a change to spare? I haven’t eaten for 2 days.”
“Maybe because you’ve pissed what little you had on cheap liquor,” she scoffed and returned to her work.
“But ma’am, please…”
She sent him another icy gaze, put down the brush and went over to the counter and pulled out a 100$ note.
“Now, sir, I need you to leave,” she said pointedly and almost threw the bill at the bum.
“T-thanks ma-am,” he answered but there was something missing in his voice, a lack of will or a spark. A dead tone. He left the atelier without another word.
3 hours later and she still hasn’t finished the thing the girl on the painting was reaching for. Anne was fuming. That stupid creature interrupted her creative flow and screwed everything up. She had to change the location and finish it in the park, in the setting sun. She locked down the shop and used the shortcut in the dark alleys between the blocks to reach the park more quickly. Once she turned left, she felt something press against her back.
“Nothing has changed, bitch,” a voice said and the report of a gunshot echoed throughout the alley. Anne just felt the burning agony and her lung filling with blood. She let go of the painting which amazingly, stood vertically, leaned against the wall. Her hand brushed the painting.
“You were always such a cunt,” the gruff voice said, “walking all over people to achieve your damn goals,” the voice said mockingly. She recognized the voice – even though changed by rough years, it belonged to Steward – the ex-boyfriend she got expelled from the Academy because she was mad at him. Oh, how the wheel turned around. Her vision dimmed, her body was heavy and slick with something sticky. The pool of blood was widening around her. The footsteps took off with a run. She gave one last look at the painting. The smear on the picture formed the most perfect ribbon she had ever seen, in a rainfall of red. It. Was. Perfect.