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A tear stained portrait.
Despite being a personable fellow, Declan had never enjoyed the bustling streets of London. They were loud, and dirty, and no one ever exhibited any qualms about jostling you. As a matter of fact, they seemed to hit into you on purpose, perhaps playing some sick game. Declan sighed; after avoiding them for years, he had been shoved back by the whims of a six-year-old. Still, he didn’t believe he could deny little Olivia anything. She was, after all, his favorite sister’s child, and the spitting image of her mother. Smiling from the memories he recalled, Declan glanced down at the little girl. She was gawking at the spectacles around her, equally amazed by the performers who danced on the sidewalk and the colorful signs of the shops. Declan chuckled quietly, but the little girl heard it and forced herself back from the land of her dreams.
“Oh, I didn’t mean to interrupt your sight-seeing. Are you enjoying London?”
Olivia tilted her head thoughtfully, causing her neat bow to slide down her cheek.
“Yes, Uncle, I think that I am. It’s very different from my home, but, if you don’t tell Mother when she comes to visit, I like it much better.”
Declan was taken aback. The child had not been told of her mother’s illness before she left, and Declan had not yet worked up enough courage to tell her that her mother was to die soon. He paused for a minute, wondering whether this wasn’t the best time to tell her since she was surrounded by objects which made her glad. While pondering, Declan’s face sank into its customary frown, the one he used when a client was annoying him. At his side, Olivia did not understand this sudden change, and tugged gently on his sleeve.
“Are you alright, sir?”
Declan opened his mouth, prepared to tell her all, but then he pictured her face, crumpled into a frown which might never leave; disturbed by the idea, he decided to wait a few more days. For a few more days, he’d allow her to live in dreamland.
“Of course, Dear. I’m just a little tired is all. I’m glad that you’re enjoying London, though perhaps you’d enjoy it more if you saw the inside of one of the shops?”
Olivia clapped excitedly, and Declan ushered her into a nearby building, a small store where which sold portraits.
Minutes later, Declan stood behind the artist and watched as the he sketched Olivia, who sat nervously perched on an armchair across the room. The portrait, even in its early stages, was masterfully done. This minute would be preserved even when Olivia was an adult. Even, Declan thought, when she was dead and gone. Like dear Oliver. There had once been a portrait of him at around the same age, but Declan hadn’t seen it since he was kicked out of the family home some twenty years before. Though he hadn’t thought of it for years, Declan suddenly missed it. Leaning over the portrait, now nearly finished, in order to hide his tears, Declan had an idea.
The artist glanced up from his work, tucking a stick of charcoal behind his ear.
“If I described someone for you, could you draw them?”
Mcbeth drew out a fresh sheet of paper.
“I can certainly try.”
He sharpened his pencil before lightly resting the tip against the paper.
“Begin whenever you are ready.”
“He is- He was- a little boy. A little boy who loved to wear a little white suit, like sailors wear, you know? A little white suit, and he had curly dark hair and the most beautiful eyes…. Large and pale, the color of mist.”
Mcbeth smiled musingly and drew for a moment before showing Declan. The picture was well done, but it didn’t look like Declan’s brother. The expression was wrong, wistful not mischievous as Oliver’s had been; as was the way the little boy sat. It was just pencil marks, but it wasn’t Oliver. Declan’s eyes filled with tears. Soon, this would be all that Olivia had- a bleary, tainted memory, made worse by the fact that she hadn’t known. That she hadn’t been able to say goodbye. Declan smiled wanly at Mcbeth before turning to Olivia.
“Let’s go home dear, I have something to tell you.”