The Face of Elizabeth

January 14, 2011
I smiled when I saw her coming towards me. She held her head up high, and walked with an era of royalty.
“Mademoiselle, may I paint you?” I asked her in my rusty English. It had been awhile since I actually had to speak aloud in anything but French.
She looked uncertain for a minute but she must have seen the desperation in my eyes; for she nodded and walked with me into the art studio. I had been painting for the King of France for some time and it was understandable that I had my own studio in his palace. She looked at me curiously as I started to paint. I would say that she looked at me with a bit of familiarity but I knew that was just my mind playing tricks at me. She couldn’t remember me. It had been 10 years since I last saw her.
“You are the Duchess of England, no?” I asked not taking my eyes off the easel where I sketched her outline.
“My mother is the Duchess,” she responded. I couldn’t see her but I knew what expression she had on her face. It was the same expression that her mother wore when discussing something she would rather not.
“How old are you?” I asked, my curiosity taking the best of me. I wanted to talk to her, I wanted her to talk to me. So I asked a question I already knew the answer too. She had turned 16 in March.
“16,” she responded politely but I could see a small smile tugging at the corner of her lips at the idea of being grown up. I painted the smile. I liked the shy smile that I had not seen in such a long time.
“And you are not yet married?” It was rare for royalty to not be married at the early age of 16. She shook her head and I continued to look at her so she would continue.
“I do not plan to get married anytime soon,” she said with pride. I knew her grandparents would hate the idea. Her mother might even hate the idea for all I knew, who knows how much she’s changed.
“Oh? And what do you plan to do?” I asked curious to see what her life was like.
She smiled again. Happy that I wanted to know about something that interested her.
“I plan to move to Italy for awhile,” she said.
“Italy?” It had been years since I had been to Italy, my home.
“Yes,” she said with a nod.

“Why Italy?”

“My mother spent her summers in Italy,” she said. I smiled. At least her mother didn’t hide everything from her.

“You want to experience it?” She nodded with excitement. I smiled with pride. She wanted to be cultured, to learn, to experience; my home, nonetheless. She would feel close to me; even if she didn’t know it was me. She would walk the streets where I once walked. She would see what I once painted.
“Elizabeth!” I heard a voice that instantly gave me flashbacks of the past.

“You better go,” I told her. And she looked at me for a second and I realized that she had not told me her name.

I quickly changed the subject, “I have not finished the sketch and I’ll have to paint it but you can come see it later if you’d like too.”

She smiled. “Actually can you send it to my room?” I knew what room she was staying in. Everyone knew where guests were staying.

“Sure,” I said and nodded. I tapped my foot as she smiled at me graciously. One last smile, tiny smile that I wish I had painted instead of her prideful smile. I wish I could capture the moment.

“Merci,” she said bowing and then walking off.

I lied; just as her mother has lied to her. She wasn’t going to receive this picture. I hadn’t seen her since I last painted her in England for her 6th Birthday. She hadn’t known it was me either. I continued painting the sketch of my daughter. I sighed in defeat; she would never know it was me, her father. She would never get the last and only thing I have of the daughter I’ve never known.

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