a portrait

Sitting quietly in his office, Yael calmly looks over a photo he has carefully set up to sit against his canvas. He feels no inspiration whatsoever but he knows he has to paint what he sees nonetheless. That is how his commission portraits work. Usually he has no issues with the work but this one just doesn’t seem to be speaking to him, there is nothing.

The photo is of a bride and groom, standing together, looking quite happy. The usual just-now-married kind of deal, really. There just is something to the bride’s eyes that settles unease in him, he can’t really pinpoint it. Plus, she was the one to commission the piece, something to give her husband to make sure the memory was still bright and clear as the day had been then.

He shakes his head and sighs. This will not be an easy piece, though he knows he can merely do the work mechanically, as if he were painting by the number. He’s done it before when another piece stirred no interest whatsoever in him. It doesn’t really bother him, he just feels no desire at all to get it done but he doesn’t really want to disappoint and client when they’re willing to pay a little extra to get the work done a little faster.

Rubbing his eyes, he stands and moves away from the blank canvas and the photo. He steps out of his studio and into the house proper. He heads for the kitchen where his companion is preparing two glasses of orange juice. Sitting at the counter, he offers a wan smile but sighs again and closes his eyes.

“Photo still not telling you anything you want?” Quentin’s words are quiet, curious as he carefully pushes one glass of juice towards Yael. He’s seen that look before though it is rare. Usually most portrait commissions mean something to Yael, they pull at him and he has no issues painting them and it is more often than not exactly what the client wanted. This one seems to be a lot more difficult.

Shoulders slumping, Yael grumbles faintly but curls his fingers about the glass of juice, offering a faint thank you as he takes a sip. “I just don’t know what it is about this one, her eyes, there’s something in them and I feel like I’m missing something big. I mean I know I shouldn’t even be worrying about that, all I have to do is paint the thing and send it back and that’s it but there’s just something and it’s annoying me.”

Quentin smiles wryly and shakes his head. “Try not to think too much about it. I can set up some of that background music that usually gets your artistic juices going, you do the rough sketch, clear it up and paint it in. You’ve done it often enough in the recent past.”

A lot of portrait commissions had come through within the past few months, Yael had even felt a little swarmed by it all.

When the sketch is done, he looks it over, then looks up to the photo. He nods to himself and sighs softly. He feels like he’s working on something evil and he still has absolutely no idea why. Maybe it was just the almost strident voice of the wife as she’d ordered the piece.

Shaking it off, he looks at the photo again but only to take note of things, the way cheekbones settle, the curl of lips, the way the eyes are set. He adds in more details, clearing up the rough sketch and making it something closer to what the photo was. The background was hideous but at least the woman had told him that he could drop it, just put a sort of vague, one-colour kind background if he so wanted. The important part was the pair, of course.

He keeps on working best he can.

He looks up again at the photo then back down to his work. The sketch is faded but still party visible as he continues to slowly work in the colours. He still hasn’t painted her eyes. Knows he should be doing them soon but he can’t bring himself to. They still creep him out.

Shaking his head, Yael laughs at the absurdity of it all and paints in her eyes.

Once he’s done, he actually pauses to give them a chance to dry and when they are, he actually carefully covers them so he no longer has to see them. It’s one of those things he can at least get away with doing. Final touches will require uncovering those eyes but he’s not yet done with the whole thing and he’s in no rush to see those almost evil (to him!) eyes.

Standing back from his canvas, the photo in hand, he looks between it and the canvas. It almost looks as if someone had just printed the photo on canvas. Though the eyes are slightly different. After he’d been done with the whole thing, he did look it over and went right back to it. Fixed up those eyes. Kept to the proper colour but he made them softer, he made them show more of that love he felt was missing from her gaze, the happiness that should have been there.

“She looked like someone who’d married the guy for what he had and was plotting to kill him.” He mutters softly to himself and he shakes his head. He pulls a cloth over the finished painting, knowing he will be packing it up to send it out in the morning. He just wants it out of his home as soon as possible. He really didn’t know what it was about it all but it gave him uncomfortable chills.

Come morning, the canvas is wrapped and dropped off at the postal office. Yael feels a weight lifting from his shoulders and he shakes his head as he wanders back home, taking his usual route.

He stops at the general store and buys some cheeses and pâtés. He feels the need to celebrate the painting being gone from their home. He walks three doors down and steps into the bakery with a soft chuckle. He had tried to avoid temptation but the smells of freshly baked bread won over every time. At least, this time he buys a single loaf of bread and starts on his way back.
When he crosses the threshold into his new life, he laughs softly, feeling relieved in ways he cannot really explain.

“I’m home!” He calls out before he takes his shoes off and heads into the kitchen to set out his small bag of celebration food.

He finally takes his coat off to hang it in the wardrobe in the foyer and heads back out towards their shared room where his companion still is half-asleep. Stealing a kiss, he slips into the bed, merely nestling slightly. He figures that he deserves a little more rest now that the painting that has kept him uncomfortable for the past three days is done and over with. He never had painted this quickly before but the quality of the finished work had not suffered from it.

“Remind me to not accept commissions if they creep me out.” Yael mumbles the words, yawning softly and closing his eyes, feeling exhaustion still very present in his bones, he breathes in then out. He relaxes and goes lax and sleep sweeps over him peacefully. Breakfast can wait.


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