• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 10
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The Finishing Touch

‘A marriage of convenience.’ At least that’s how her father described it to her one morning, as she poured his tea. “You’re an awfully plain girl, Harriet. No one ever bothers to look at you, and your constant hanging around hinders my progress in making another matrimonial attachment. Your mother has been dead for three months now, and as an eligible widower I can’t remain single forever. It just won’t do. I require a male heir.”
Harriet’s new husband turned out to be a few months older than her father. From one old codge to another, she observed. He was a renowned artist. An artist who didn’t want anything to do with human love. His heart and soul already belonged to his Muse. What he needed more than anything was his own ‘slave.’ The artist, of course, didn’t say this to Harriet’s father, but her pater understood the silence between the words.
Harriet never complained. She cleared up after her husband, made his dinners, washed and ironed his clothes. She became adept at conducting one way conversations, where he did all the talking. She brought calmness to his chaos.
And the artist? He continued to devote every single ounce of himself to his Muse. His latest work, a special commission, the perfect showcase of his talents for painting the sea, and those who sailed on it.
His wealthy patrons took great pleasure in showing off their passion for consumption to those less fortunate than themselves. They never felt more alive than when they saw the envy reflected in others eyes. They came to the studio the once. Stood in a line, modelling their exclusive sailing gear. An afternoon proved sufficient to capture their exact likeness. The artist was that good. On the day of the appointment, Harriet escorted the noisy group of patrons into the studio. They watched her from under their privileged eyelashes, tittering behind their hands.

The Finishing Touch

Harriet remained impassive, fading into the background.
Finishing the commission at last, the artist decided to celebrate. Out in the tavern amongst his fellow backslappers he boasted about his finished artwork.
“It’s a masterpiece, I tell you. My name will go down in history for this one.”

Harriet had been a dutiful wife for five years. Long enough for her to put a little aside from her husband’s meagre housekeeping money. The skill of siphoning, second nature to her. Something Harriet mastered from her life spent with her father.
She packed a few things, then crept into the studio. She never understood why he adored this room, with its huge windows like glaring eyes and its stark white walls. These features only radiated emptiness to her.
She squeezed out a tube of the brightest vermilion. Her hand did not flinch, as a pair of luscious lips emerged from the canvas and smothered the smug patrons beneath. A giggle rose in her throat. Satisfied, Harriet stepped back to admire her finishing touch.