Invitation

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The closet lay in the west wing of the Hillock Memorial Art Museum. Though labeled “Supplies”, this particular closet had been left untouched for months, with its newly installed brethren stealing away the custodian’s preference for third floor broom access. However, the interior of the closet was by no means deserted. The child lay, motionless by the mops, appeared dead if not for the minute movement of her inhale. She moved not a muscle, caring not of the visitors that made such a racket from the museum’s opened hours (7 to 4 on weekdays), or much of the janitors either. In fact, the only thing the child on the floor cared of at all was the crack at the bottom of her door. For at 5:24 PM every day, to the tune of the last janitor’s jolly whistling, the museum lights flickered, blinked and then finally died, leaving the small girl draped in a suit of confidence as strong as any armor.
She had lived this life for a year and a half, curling up in her closet (for indeed it was her closet) during the day, staying away from the big people, the people that hurt her. The girl had once had big people of her own, people who loved and protected her, actually cared. They were but a vague memory to her now. The heat of the flames that engulfed that love could still be felt by her, still cause sudden panic attacks. But that time was fading now.
She had been handed off like a hot potato, gifted and regifted by foster families all around the state. No one liked her, much less loved her. She was a ghost that disgusted all normal people, as if such a thing as normal could exist. Her life at the foster homes mattered not to her. She didn’t care. But one day she discovered a secret within her that she had not foreseen: she did care. She wanted that love and protection that her big people had given her. And so when her latest “family” had taken her the the museum, she found her calling. Slipping into the first closet she found, the girl vanished from the normal life of humans, coming out only now, in the dark of night when all are equal.
Slipping from the unlocked closet, the girl crept along the freshly mopped marble floors, making no sound on her worn-down leather shoes. She made her rounds, first to the main office, where the secretary had yet again left the rear door unlocked. Sweeping in as silent as the paintings on the walls, she grabbed her daily allotment of cash: 5 dollars in quarters. Taking her profit from the room, the child climbed to the fourth floor snack machine, were she bought a bag of chips, some dried fruit and a large cola. After ravenously consuming her feast, the girl embarked upon her main mission of the night. Creeping along the silent corridors, she began to visit her friends. First, there was Horse and Rider, with the fierce eyes of the stallion catching her young eye and the strong young man mounted upon it symbolizing the freedom that she so desperately wanted. After holding a brief, whispered conversation with the rider about the weather and the latest visitors, she moved on. Apples, which consisted of a series of lateral lines in multiple colors, ignited its usual intense discussion between girl and image. However, tonight was no different than any, and the child still could not get the canvas to reveal where the supposed apple lay in its expanse.
Thus the night passed, with the slight, emaciated figure backing her way to all of her favorite friends, discussing with each their favorite topics and the various news of the day. It was about 3:00, according to the slightly cracked crystal clock by the fake fireplace on the second floor lobby, when the girl finally got to the best part of her evening. At the far end of the floor’s Impressionist wing hung a picture that was completely out of place in that particular area. Immortalized in oil and pastel upon that paper, framed by a simple faux-sliver aluminum square, was the woman who was the girl’s favorite friend of all.
Her outstretched arm was inviting, and her slightly ruffled toga gave her a relaxed look that appealed greatly to the small child. The bright blue sky with a few clouds and ridiculously green meadow behind the woman added a great deal of color to the plain clothing that she was clothed in. The face was the epiphany of motherly love, a complexion that inspired deep and unending love from the girl at every glance. Her other hand held no object, but instead hung at her side, fingers curled slightly in, as if holding an invisible hand.
The girl’s eye always stuck there, on the hand that she so very wished was nestled in her own. She was tired of hiding, tired of stealing, tired of everything except this picture. The only reason she had not already let herself be found in the museum was because of a ridiculous but nonetheless strong feeling that there was a chance that she might be allowed to join the woman in her two-dimensional fortress of color. Sighing, the child slumped down against the opposite wall from the picture. In a sleepy daze, she stared with barely functional eyes at the plaque that was screwed in the wooden wall. Its scuffed surface read Invitation. With that single word, the girl slipped off into a deep sleep under the gaze of the woman in the painting.
From her dark dream, the girl saw a foggy image appear through the remnants of her unconscious mind. A hand. And not any hand, but the hand of Invitation. It seemed to be going towards her shoulder. When it reached it, it began to tap on her collarbone. The sound of those minute ticks of her bone seemed to be getting closer and closer to her spot on the floor. They in fact began to resemble footsteps. The carefully manicured fingernails now gently grasped her shirt collar and tugged forward ever so slightly. Suddenly, the girl was flying in slow motion towards her best friend’s canvas, as if the dream she had awoken from had never left. When she came to the very real surface of the paper, she braced herself for the ripping of material. It never came. When she reopened her eyes, there appeared to be a watery, shimmering film in front of her. Through it, she could see the early-morning guard saunter through the corridor, wearing his police boots with their tapping metal soles. He gazed about, then moved on.

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The little girl held onto her mother’s hand, gazing about the walls. She found her gaze stuck on a large painting of a woman, reaching towards her. Tapping her mother’s shoulder, she pointed to the image in the picture that had caught her attention. The small, bright child with her tiny hand interlocked with that of who could only be her mother wore an expression as peaceful as love itself. The girl smiled, then continued on.





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