A/N: This is the first time in too long that I've picked up my pen and written simply to write.
You never really liked painting on a canvas, did you? Whenever possible, you avoided it. “I'd rather my art live and breathe than die upon a canvas.” I can’t count how many times you told me this.
Perhaps that’s how I found myself sitting in your attic, back bared to you, day after day. Sometimes you finished quickly; often you did not, and for hours I’d sit, still as a doll, gazing through the sole dirty window that punctured the drab walls. We could see the whole world from up there: the little glade at the bottom of your wooded, sloped yard, and the creek tumbling haphazardly through it; the rolling field of gold and green that lay farther out, flecked with bright wildflowers; and, farther still, the pale violet bulges that formed a small mountain range, so far away that occasionally the clouds would fall and veil them completely. After the hours I’d spent gazing through that window, I’d memorized the landscape, and often could tell when even a single tree had been knocked down from a particularly harsh storm. Framed by the chipped wood of the window sill, it resembled a painting itself, so ethereal it was.
I recall you once having painted the scene, actually, for a school project. In my eyes, it had been an exact replica of the attic view; I can’t imagine how long you stood there, gazing out the window, your paintbrush flying across the canvas, capturing every shimmer of the light on the stream, every tiny wildflower in the far-off meadow.
You hated the picture. When it had been returned to you, you’d torn it to pieces, and thrown the tattered remnants out the very window you’d painted by. You never told me why, no matter how many times I asked.
None of that anger was present when you painted on me. Through the mirrors positioned carefully against the stark walls, I could see you, the paintbrush resting between your lips as you studied my back. It wasn’t that you needed to survey your canvas- you’d painted it many times- but rather, you were seeing something invisible to the rest of the world. It wouldn’t stay that way long.
A certain light came across your face, and you disappeared from my view as soon as the paintbrush struck my skin. Having played the part of the canvas so many times, I’d learned to suppress the initial shivers that threatened to ruin your work. Like a toy, I allowed you to tilt my head this way or that and clip my hair out of the way so you could paint my neck. The brush strokes came quickly, so that I could hardly tell them apart, except on the occasion where you paused to clean your brush and dip the soft hairs into a new color. Somehow, I doubt you’d have noticed if I’d shifted a little or coughed, but out of respect, I didn’t take the chance.
The first time you’d painted on me, I’d jumped and squirmed the whole time as if there were ants attacking me. Thankfully, you’d been amused rather than agitated when the butterfly wings you’d covered me with dripped and smeared. Rejecting my apology, you’d snapped a few pictures of them after I’d admired them in a cracked mirror.
“It gives it an identity,” you’d stated simply. “A little bit of you in my work.”
I can’t say I had the slightest clue what you were talking about then, but I didn’t question you.
“Alright,” your voice through my thoughts, drawing me back to reality, “I’m finished now, go take a look.”
Today, it seemed your thoughts had followed mine, through the smeared, cracked glass; and so, your brush had come to life, and on my back lay what could have been a photograph of the attic view I’d for so long admired, and a small butterfly on my neck. It couldn’t have varied greatly from the piece you’d destroyed, yet it seemed completely different. It lived and breathed as I did, a whole new creature, alive, a product of your genius and my genes.
A little bit of myself in your work.