Painted lady in the mirror
Creating worlds in crimson tones
Her brush strokes, soft and tender
Like a feather down your back.
Claire’s red flowing hair complimented her pale skin and emerald-green eyes. Some had called her a witch, usually behind her back. She was also called the painted lady by the less charitable members of the village she lived in.
Claire had come to the village only a little over 3 years before, which was the principal reason she was under scrutiny. As usually happens in these small communities, the outsider is the object of gossip. However, she also lived alone and in the darkest nights, it was said, a man on a white horse come visiting, though no one had ever seen the mysterious man. Fact is, she was out of the ordinary and there probably would have been talk even in larger communities.
One rumor that went around the village was that she had red roses tattooed on her back, which was why some called her the painted lady. That was something that no proper lady would have done to herself. This information had been furnished by Becky, her chambermaid. Another bit of news was that she painted and that her paintings were used to decorate the more elegant brothels of Reems, the capital city of Chiang. Though no one knew where this rumor had come from.
She was an artist with a particular talent. Her talent was discovered by the Madame of the ‘Woe My Love’, the most famous (or infamous) brothel of Reems.
Claire was born in the brothel. Her mother, who’d died shortly after giving birth, was a woman who’d taken refuge in the house but was not one of the Madame’s protégé. The Madame raised her as though she were her own daughter, she’d never been able to conceive, and loved her dearly.
When Claire was only 3 years old, she began to paint. The scenes she painted seemed to come alive. One could almost hear the wind in the willows and the birds chittering in the morning. The roses she painted seemed to perfume the room where they were hung. But most marvelous of all were her portraits.
The portraits weren’t just physical likenesses of people. She seemed to capture the essence of the person in her paintings. The eyes would follow you around the room and it seemed that the expression would change, some said reflecting how the person felt, from time to time. The Madame made sure that only those whom she trusted knew who’d painted the pictures she hung in her house.
When Claire was 10, a gentleman came to the ‘Woe My Love’ and asked to speak with the Madame. The gentleman had never been seen in the house before.
“I am Manchers of Marks, Crown Prince of the land. As you know, my father sent me on a special mission to The United Realms of Worst. My true love whilst I was away, was found to be with child and thrown out of her home by her father. I’ve only now been able to trace where she’d gone. My child, whom you call Claire is our daughter. I want to see her.”
“My Lord!” she said as she bowed low, “What would you do with the child? You didn’t marry her mother and she’s been raised in a brothel. Would your family allow her to be recognized?”
“Alas, no. I’m afraid not. But I want to see her anyway and do what’s right by her. She has pure blood flowing in her veins and faery blood from her mother’s side too. She cannot become a courtesan!”
“That would never happen in any case. I’ve raised her as my daughter. I’m not ashamed of what I am, don’t get me wrong and if she didn’t have the special talent that she owns, she could have been one of the most requested courtesans of my house. Her manner is regal yet soothing, her voice as sweet as mead. But her talent lies in her painting. There’s something magic about my Claire!”
“Her mother too was a painter! If she is even half as good as she, then Claire’s talent will prove she’s her mother’s daughter, even if not mine. Her mother painted living pictures …”
“As does Claire. She also has a very particular birthmark … roses on her back, just as though she’d been tattooed.” and the Madame showed him a painting of his daughter’s back.
“The Roses of Mark, my house symbol! So there is proof that she is mine as well!”
This conversation had taken place almost 10 years before. When she was 16, a carriage came for her and took her to the village near the boarder of her father’s lands, where he came to visit her when the moon was new.
And she painted …
Inspired by Mindlovesmisery’s Menagerie Photo Challenge #8