SHORT STORIES: A Portrait
Autumn was creeping in.
It was obvious in the rich orange that the city had turned, and the gentle breeze that blew around Harriet’s shoulders as she sat bolt upright on the hard wooden chair.
“I wish I’d brought a pillow,” she declared loudly.
“Sit still!” retorted Francesco.
She straightened her shoulders arrogantly, before turning her head back over towards him.
“Make sure you make my shoulders the colour they’ll be in a few days’ time, not the colour they are now.”
She had burnt badly on the beach the previous day, and didn’t want it immortalising in her portrait, but Francesco already knew this, and had started painting her shoulders a delicate bronze.
“Does it bother you the way the wind keeps bringing my hair back over my shoulders?”
Her rich auburn locks had been waving in the breeze for an hour or so now, but it didn’t bother Francesco, who had started with her hair.
“Can I fetch a cardigan? It really is rather cold out here.”
“Not yet.” Said Francesco.
“Have you got the sea this colour,” she said turning round and gesturing to the mighty ocean behind her, “or that greener tone from earlier.”
“This one, it matches your hair better, and makes the picture look more exotic.”
She turned back around, and once again squared her shoulders with the chair, before angling her head thirty degrees towards Francesco.
“What will you spend the money on?” she asked.
“Maybe I will put it towards travel to England. Who knows? Or maybe on other women” he joked.
The sun had now slumped to its lowest, and he couldn’t see anything but her silhouette. His face, on the other hand, was lit up by the sun’s last blaze, and she gazed dreamily across at him.
“Are you upset that I have to leave tomorrow?”
“Very much yes”
“We have had such a fantastic fortnight haven’t we?”
“The best” he replied, never lifting his eyes from the canvas. He licked the canvas a couple more times with the brush, before exclaiming that he had finished.
“Ooh let me see!” Harriet yelped excitedly. She ran across to the easel, and stared at her slightly exaggerated portrait. “It’s marvellous,” she said as Francesco placed a scarf onto her shoulders.
“Would you like me to carry it back to your hotel?” he asked, struggling to adjust his eyes back to the real world after so long staring at the canvas.
“Keep it.” Whispered Harriet, “To remember me.”
“But you’ve paid so much, and I will remember you regardless.” He protested.
“Please, keep it, and maybe one day we’ll meet again.”
He shrugged confusedly, and she drew him in for their farewell.
As she returned home the following day, Francesco was ever present in her mind.
As he set off out to the resorts he lifted up the heavy lid of the dustbin, and dropped the portrait inside.