A short story by Leena Auckel
She glanced at the paintings hanging on the wall. Some abstracts and some landscapes. It was a pleasant sight! When Henry wasn’t busy analysing enzymes and DNA in his lab, he used to paint in his studio. In the corner, she saw a sturdy shelf containing thick books. She trailed her fingers along the titles on the book spine. Secrets of the Chemists, DNA Demystified, and after more interesting titles. She reached his easel. On the canvas was a majestic swan gliding in a blue lake, that part was freshly painted with different shades of blue, which rendered it very vivid, she could almost catch the faintest ripple on the lake. She liked how the sky pigment sculpted the contours of the conifers around the lake.
It was amazing how he could handle electron microscopes and his paintbrush with the same finesse. She came near his table, a white mug contained water he had rinsed his paintbrushes in and the pots of cobalt blue and navy blue pots of paint he used to paint the lake lay next to it.
Cassandra had a passion for painting too but the sands of time wanted otherwise. Each time she started to draw something she was discouraged by her partner’s harsh comments.
Somehow seeing colours always brought back her childhood memories for those were the only colourful phase of her life. Unlike the last 2 years which were only a bleak black and white. She had been under constant psychological and moral abuse by her partner Jake, which had eroded her cheery personality and rendered her stoic. She was being dragged in the swirling vortex of manipulation without even realising it.
Henry had been abroad for some years. It was only two months ago that he came to Hamilton. At first, Cassandra plainly refused for the meet-up, like she had been doing for many other reunions and outings lately because Jake did not see it with a good eye.
In the beginning, she used to feel bad about not being able to meet her friends and relatives, but with time she changed. She started spinning a cocoon of low-esteem around her, and she showed no interest in sharing laughter with happy people.
Cassandra gave in only when her other two friends told her they would pick her up from work and meet over lunch. She would have been swallowed in a depressive tornado by now, if it was not for Henry, who saw how drastically she had changed from the happy-go-lucky girl he had known as a classmate to a forlorn girl with wrinkles of worry.
She went so far back in time that she inadvertently knocked over the cup of water which tipped over the pots of the navy blue and royal blue paint. A navy blue river started to form its way on the table sinuously until it reached Cassandra’s finger, which was lingering on the table. The cold water stimulated the thermoreceptors on her fingertips and flipped Cassandra back to reality. She stared at the mess in horror. She quickly picked up the cup and grabbed hold of some tissue paper and stopped the water from flowing from the edge of the table. Just in time before it reached the floor!
There was still some paint residue on the table. She reached for the tissue roll to wipe the rest of the paint only to find that it was over. She heard the garage door opening. Henry was back! Oh my god, what do I do now?! I created such a mess. It’s always me. Wherever I go things go wrong!
Her heart was pounding as she looked frantically around the room for something to clean the mess. Luckily, she found a bunch of filter papers lying on the bookshelf. She grabbed one of them and lunged towards the table. The knob of the door clicked and Henry’s shadow flooded the doorway.
“Am-am so sorry Henry, I didn’t mean to. I mean it’s my mistake, ev, everything just toppled over. I am cleaning it!” she muttered.
Henry just stood there staring at her. This made her even more uncomfortable. She wondered how will he react, will he brood? Will he scold? Or worst, will he beat me? This was how Jake used to react during disputes, with time she had been conditioned into walking on eggshells.
“Am almost done,” she said heading towards the table her cheeks turning crimson. By now the filter paper had absorbed most of the residual paint. She reached for it and started to crumple it.
She froze. She closed her eyes. It’s coming. She closed her eyes harder, conditioning herself to bear the pain.
She waited. Nothing.
“Cassandra …Cassandra!” he said in a soft voice.
Henry held her shoulders and turned her around and looked into her eyes.
“It’s fine!” he said. “it’s just some paint,why are you getting so worked up?”
He picked up the filter paper and admired it, the blue colours which had seeped in had taken different hues of blue.
“This is beautiful,” he whispered.
He bent down took his paintbrush and dipped in the the navy blue pot of paint and brushed a few strokes on the blotting paper. Cassandra peered to see what he was doing but she could only make out a blue blob of paint at the rim of the paper. He dipped the brush in black paint now and painted few more strokes and placed it back.
Now she could make it out. He had drawn a woman figure on the filter paper.
“For you this might be a wasted filter paper meant to be discarded. But the artist in me sees a sky on that paper. And that’s you with all the sky stretched in front of you showing you that possibilities are infinite.
Even if you soaked up all the mess that doesn’t make you less valuable, Cassandra. What you have endured does not put you to a disadvantage instead it has built you and armoured you with shields that will help you face harder days with ease.”
He stared at Cassandra’s awe-filled eyes and continued. “Don’t make yourself a victim of what you have undergone, you are more than just a sufferer. You are a Warrior! This sky is just waiting for You to open your wings and fly. Yes, Cassandra fly! Fly and conquer new horizons!”
(This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure about affiliate links here.)