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"Love finds a way."
Ever since the first time he saw it, the young man had been fascinated by the painting. It was of a young girl of about nineteen. She had beautiful, wavy, light brown hair that flowed down to just above her shoulders. Her eyes were a warm hazel colour, her lips were somewhat thin and a dull pink colour. She was smiling in the painting, smiling at him, he often liked to think. She reminded him of his late sister, the poor girl had been murdered some five years earlier.
Eventually the young man bought the painting. He hung it in his bedroom, where the plain white background of the image would fit in with the colour of the walls. What intrigued him most about the painting was the girl's smile. It was warm and knowing, almost loving. Like Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. The girl's hands were folded in her lap, her fingernails concealed. She wore a flowing white dress that fit tightly to her thin frame and went down to just above her ankles. She had two silver earrings and a gold necklace.
The girl in the painting watched over him in his sleep, like a guardian angel. He even gave her a name: Clara. His own name was Nathaniel and he was a charming, handsome young man of eighteen, going to college and well on his way to being a successful adult.
One night he awoke with a start to see the frame empty. The canvas was still there, but there was no beautiful young maiden painted on it. Where had she gone? Then he saw a shadow move in a corner of the room. He grabbed the flintlock pistol from beneath his pillow, "Who's there?" he called into the darkness. The girl from the painting stepped into a shaft of moonlight. "Y-you-you're...you're alive?" She nodded, gracefully striding over to him and removing the pistol from his shaking hand. "Do you have a...a--"
"Name? Yes. You gave it to me. My name's Clara. You're Nathaniel. You talk in your sleep. Do I have a namesake? You keep on calling out, "Clara, Clara, no!" in your sleep."
Clara was the name of his dead sister. He told the girl from the painting--Clara--so. "How is it that you can step off the canvas?"
"Some of us older pieces can. It's an ancient magic of painting long forgotten by today's artists. It allows the characters of a painting to come alive. Only at night, though."
They talked for much of the early morning hours, and it turned out that they got along well with each other. They had many of the same interests, literature, arguing, art, and they both had a morbid fascination for the macabre. They were nearly identical.
Alas, dawn started to approach, but before Clara left, Nathaniel asked her, "What happens if you're not in your painting after dawn?"
She looked at him solemnly, "I die." Then she stepped back into the painting and froze, her warm hazel eyes locked upon his, and that familiar knowing smile back on her face.
Clara's midnight visits repeated for a few nights, then one night she sat at Nathaniel's bedside, looking down upon the sleeping, handsome eighteen year old. His eyes opened, "Clara," he whispered.
She looked upon him fondly then began to speak softly to him, "Nathaniel, I've grown more attached to you than I have to any of my previous owners. I...I..."
"I love you."
"Yes, that's it. I do. Do you love me?"
"Clara, when I said it I wasn't finishing your sentence. I was telling you that I loved you."
She lay down next to him in his bed, "I love you too." Laying next to each other in Nathaniel's double bed, their lips met. They kissed for a long, long time, they pulled each other closer and closer. Finally, after what seemed like eons to them their lips parted. Nathaniel took Clara to see the sights of New York City, the city that Nathaniel lived in. They went to dinner and to a show on Broadway. Clara liked dinner and liked the show, but she did not like New York City. "There's too many people," she complained, "and not enough of my kind. You're the only human being that I feel comfortable around."
So Clara and Nathaniel continued their meetings in his bed for a long time. One night, after they had finished kissing, Nathaniel asked, "Is there any way to permanently tether you into this world, so you can go out in the day?"
"There are ways. But they are risky. If you destroy my canvas while I'm not in it I should be freed. I'll either be freed or I'll die." For the next few weeks this weighed heavy on Nathaniel's mind. He could make it so he and Clara could be together for the remainder of their natural lives, or they would be together only at nighttime, and would be forever parted by his death. He could not reach a decision.
One night, while the couple was out at a show, someone tried to rob Nathaniel's house. They did not find out until after the fact, the neighbors had heard the robbers and called the police. Now, while attempting to apprehend the burglars, a police officer's shot went badly astray, nearly slicing Clara's canvas in two. When the couple saw this, they were overjoyed, for it meant that Clara was free.
Later that night, Nathaniel pulled a small box out of his pocket. He opened it, and inside was a golden ring with a diamond set in the center. "Clara, will you marry me?"
She uttered something that sounded enough like a "yes" to satisfy Nathaniel, and they lived happily together for the remainder of their natural lives. And all of their unnatural ones, too.