The Muse

The artist paints, his brush moving in swift strokes. A small store room with space just enough for one. A lantern burning away in the midnight. The yellow glow fills the space. The heavy burning scent lingering in the air. A drop of sweat trickles down his face. The brush furiously moves. The painting must be completed tonight. He can almost hear the gold coins jingling in his pocket. His mind flashes the picture of the girl he met yesterday. The lighter. One flick and he was lit. All it took was one chance encounter. Her dazzling carefree smile replayed in his mind over and over. Those bright shining eyes that saw through him. Her purity glowing through her rosy face. The brush moved, trying to capture her brilliance as he saw in his mind. Everything happens for a reason.

The spark consumed his entire being. He was the lantern in the room. For a second he paused and looked at the flame, watching himself look back at him. For a second, she stared back instead and in another, she vanished. He snapped back to work. No stroke could do her justice. But he had to get her off his mind and what better than a blank canvas.

It had waited in the dusty storeroom for so long. Waiting for its day to come. When her master would finally touch her with his brush, filling her with life. Her life’s purpose achieved. The brush kissing her with every stroke. Sometimes roughly, sometimes gently. But always with passion. She couldn’t have been happier. It was nearly time now. After many years she felt the sun rays on her body again. She had never felt so warm. Ah, contentment. She rested in peace, waiting for him to empty himself. She lived just for him, and she was happy.

The brush paused again. He stepped back to admire his work. A hair out of place in the eyebrow. “Tch, tch”, he mentally rebuked himself. She must be perfect. Just the way he imagined her in his mind. Just the way he wanted her to be. Just the way she had to be. For him. She was the spark that lit the flame. And she was the flame that burned in him. Yes, nothing but absolute perfection. A flaw would only make her human. She deserved to be among the gods. And he would rise up to be with her. She was his muse. His inspiration. His salvation. She had reminded him who he was.

She pranced along happily. She had done her good deed for the day. Today, she smiled at a stranger! She could still picture his look of amazement in her mind. Haha, what fun it had been! She lived for such days. The sun suddenly seemed brighter, the flowers prettier. The world was beautiful. She plucked a tiny daisy gently and tucked it behind her ear. It matched her summer dress beautifully. She strolled along humming a little tune, the wind dancing to it.

At long last, it was complete! There she was in all her glory! Untainted, the picture of innocence. The sunlight streaming through the smudged window pane and basking her. He stood silently in awe. Suddenly overcome by emotion, he caressed the painting. Almost sad he had finished it. He couldn’t bear the thought of parting with her. She was his. He pictured waking up to her beautiful face every day. He imagined their golden future together. Let himself smile silly at the thought of it. A little indulgence.

Then, another image replaced her in his mind. A woman from another time. Long forgotten. Oh love, you wretched devil. A lone tear glistened where it fell on her cheek, her maker’s mark. The brush slipped and fell on the floor with a dull thud, and with it, the painter. A tortured look on his face, as he battled demons from a past that refused to leave him. He must bid adieu. He picked himself up, gently lifted the painting and quietly locked the room. Never again.

That darned painter was late! He angrily paced across the marble floor of his well-furnished living room. A hundred pounds he had promised him! Was that not enough to draw him out of his reclusion? He knew it wasn’t. He had seen the look on his face mirrored in the painter’s, as they both watched the girl entranced. He wished the girl had smiled at him instead. But no bother, he will see her smile every day now. If only the painter would hurry up! He grew impatient by the moment.

To love someone truly is to let them go. The painter looked at the painting one last time. Mentally tracing every brush stroke. He was leaving a piece of himself with her. His daughter. His lovely, beloved, blissfully unaware daughter. Another tear graced her cheek. Softly kissing the frame, he finally let go of his past. The past would be present no longer. He gently kept it outside the door and left without taking a penny. He had never felt richer. He lifted his head to look at the sun straight in the eye. Then shifted his clear gaze towards the sunny future beckoning him with arms wide open.

The woman smiled at him from the heavens. For the first time in years, he smiled back.



Arushi Singh


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