Chapter Five

The walls were wooden and stained dark brown. The curtains were red velvet and tied with expensive ribbons. The floors were made of wood that was stained a lighter brown. The stairway was grand and one of the first things you saw when you walked in. It curved in a very wide circle. The railing had carvings of the Greek gods on it.

"If you want to wear an engagement ring, you can."Her father said.

Mercy shook her head and looked back at the stairs below her. It was dark out and the candle flickered in the dark.

"No thanks, father." Mercy replied

Mercy played with her hand and watched the candle flicker. Her father shook his head in disappointment, he only had one daughter. He had done the impossible; he had married his daughter off to a wealthy man.

"Oh my child, but you are only engaged once." Her father said.

Mercy pursed her lips and looked up at her father. She knew that he wanted to show off his engaged daughter. There was just something about being shown off like a prize that annoyed her.

"I am only engaged because of a favor." Mercy replied.

Her father laughed and then looked at his watch. He had done a lot of work and promised a lot of people money to get that favor. Mercy had no idea how hard it was to find a suitable husband for her. No men had wanted to marry someone as unkempt as her.

"An engagement is an engagement." Her father stated.

Mercy got frustrated and her hand began to shake. She didn't hate the idea of getting married; she wanted to marry someone that she loved. But now she was never going to get to marry the man she promised herself too.

"This engagement will not cause my soul to rest nor my heart to stop loving him."

Her father was reminded of his dead wife. Her eyes had never given her emotions away. Mercy was exactly the same way.

. Her father recalled his late wife; her eyes never gave her emotions away. Mercy was exactly the same way.

"My engagement ring would be cut out of ruby and inlaid with diamonds, only then will I wear it." Mercy announced.

Mercy's hand traced against the rail, her fingers traced the outline of Athena on the railing. If she was going to be married to Joseph, she might as well get something out of it.

"Diamonds are rare, you know that." Her father remarked.

Her father looked at Mercy; he hoped she would be kind to Joseph. Joseph didn't deserve a nagging, over spending wife.

"You said yourself that Joseph is a wealthy man." Mercy replied.

Mercy straightened out her dress and stood up straight. She wanted to seem important and intimidating to her father.

"Indeed he is." Her father said.

Mercy knew that Joseph had the money to get her the ring. It was just a matter of what the ring stood for. Many people said that the ring was bad luck and cursed whoever wore it.

"Then he shouldn't have a problem getting the ring." Mercy responded.

Mercy's father felt his heart begin to beat a little bit faster. Mercy smiled, knowing that she had gotten to her father.

"Why do you want an expensive ring?" Her father asked.

Mercy closed her eyes and then opened them, she grinned. She loved anything to do with stories, so to have an engagement ring to do with stories would be a dream.

A woman once said that it was ring of a former queen. She said that it had a history that was rich and full. The ring has been referenced in many tales." Mercy answered.

Her father face contorted and he looked confused. Her father had never really cared for Mercy's stories and legends.

"Do you take the advice of random women?" Her father asked.

Mercy laughed and felt the candle shake a little. Her father still looked confused, wrinkles burrowing together on his forehead.

"She was a soothsayer with a seeing eye." Mercy answered.

Mercy's father shuttered, he didn't usually have good experience with woman on the street. It seemed they were always after his money.

"Those women are nothing but poor street women." Her father said.

Mercy felt her heart began to race, when she thought about her beloved story telling. It was something her mother had taught her. She always thought that if her mother were alive today, she would be proud of her story telling ability.

"I suppose it was my story telling nature that draws me to the idea of that particular ring." Mercy said.

That street ravaged woman still ruins my life, her father thought. It didn't matter how time passed, he could still picture his wife dying. He always heard that woman in his head saying she will pay for your sins.

Mercy looked up at her father and then went up the remaining stairs. It was as if there was something chilling in the air, her father felt a breeze. He had never believed in supernatural powers or other beings walking the planet. His wife always used to say that the spirits walk amongst us, and only those with the gift really see them.

Her father watched her shut her bedroom door and headed up the stairs to his own room. He told himself that he was silly for even considering the possibility of supernatural beings.

Mercy stood in front of her canvas, the sun was shining and reflecting on the windows. The room was on the lower floor of the house. It was a quaint little room that she had decorated herself. It had stripped wall paper on the wall. There was a chair in the corner. A bunch of easels were in the room. When her mother was alive, she used to use it as her painting room.

"Mummy?"Mercy yelled to her mother as she ran in the room.

Her mother smiled and six year old Mercy clung to her skirts. She always used to cling to her mother's skirts, when she was younger. It drove her father's nuts that she would do that, he thought that Mercy was too dependent on her mother.

"Yes darling?" Her mother replied.

Mercy began to spin around in a circle; she had found a really pretty flower in the garden. She liked to give her mother pretty gifts that she found outside. Her mother would always put them in her special box and say that she treasures it.

Mercy looked at the laced covered brown wooden box now that had been left in the room after all these years. She picked up a pressed flower and held it to her chest. She could still remember the smell of the flower.

"I have something for you mum." Mercy said.

Mercy held the flower behind her back and while rocking side to side. Her mother could see the flower behind her back, but didn't say anything to her daughter.

"Oh what's that?"Her mother asked.

Mercy giggled and looked at her mother's painting. Her mother took a flower out of the vase by her. She put the flower in Mercy's hair and then smiled.

"It's a surprise."Mercy said.

Her mother grinned and lifted her daughter up on her lap. Mercy snuggled up against her mother's chest.

"Are you going to show me?"Her mother asked.

Mercy eagerly nodded and pulled the flower from behind her back. She handed to her mother with an eager look on her face.

"What do you think mum?"Mercy asked.

Her mother held the flower and smelled it for a moment. She looked at her daughter and laughed at how excited she was.

"It's beautiful."Her mother said.

Mercy sighed and put the pressed flower in the box. She picked up her paintbrush and dipped in the dish. She painted the canvas red in the corner. Mercy kept working on her painting for a few hours. When the painting was finished it was a beautiful painting of a young woman with a rose.

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"This painting is no good." Mercy mumbled to herself.

Jefferson walked in from behind her and stood by his sister. He put his hand on her shoulder.

"It's a fine painting." Jefferson stated.

Mercy looked at him unconvinced and rolled her eyes. She set her paintbrush down and sat in the chair in the corner of the room.

"It lacks emotion." Mercy pointed out.

Jefferson sat down next to his sister on a matching chair. He felt so weird being in the room his mother used to paint it. Sometimes he felt her spirit was still present or something.

"It just needs some more blue on the left sideā€¦" Jefferson said.

Mercy shrugged her shoulders and looked out at the window. Jefferson smirked; his little sister could be so melodramatic at times.

"It's not good enough to hang at the academy." Mercy stated.

Jefferson laughed and looked at her painting again. Mercy was an amazing painter; Jefferson wished that he had her painting skills sometimes.

"Any one of your paintings is good enough to hang at the academy." Jefferson boasted.

Mercy got a confused look on her face. She knew that her brother was up to something, but she couldn't tell what.

"They aren't the type of subject matter the academy accepts." Mercy replied.

Jefferson got an excited look on his face. Mercy began to get nervous; she played with the sleeve of her purple dress. She loved to wear deep rich colored dresses, they made her feel beautiful.

"Exactly, Imagine what would happen if you put a man's name on your painting." Jefferson said.

Mercy grimaced and then shook her head; she should have known this was coming. Her brother had wanted to be an artist for the longest time now. Sometimes Mercy felt like men's ambitions ruined her life.

"If you put your name on the painting is what you mean to say." Mercy said.

Jefferson sighed and then made a face; Mercy was so smart at times. He loved and hated how well his sister knew him. He had a theory that sometime Mercy liked to make things difficult for

"The academy would see your work. If I don't put my name on your work, it wouldn't have a hope or prayer of the academy seeing it." Jefferson said.

Jefferson sat there and sunk into his seat, it was going to be a long afternoon. He hand under his chin and looked out the window.

Mercy said "You wouldn't lie not to them."

Mercy glared at her brother and stood up. She stretched her arms and made sure to face the door. She wasn't going to listen to this, it was a crazy idea.

"They have a disliking for my work, but your work, Mercy." Jefferson said.

Jefferson got up out of his chair and went up to the door entrance. He blocked the door entrance and crossed his arms.

"How do you know the academy would like my work?" Mercy said with a smirk.

Jefferson laughed and rolled his eyes, he leaned against the door frame. Mercy scowled and began to tap her foot on the ground.

"It has enough traditional elements to please them." Jefferson said.

Mercy looked back over at her painting and stared at it for a moment. It was a classic portrait in some ways. She had painted the woman to look very regal and sophisticated. Every detail looked very real down to the buttons on the dress. But at the same time, the painting had a rebellious element to it. The rose signaled a secret cult religion and there was nothing traditional about that.

"But I have no training and my lack of technique is evident." Mercy said.

Jefferson shrugged his shoulders and took a deep breath. He told himself to stay patient and not make Mercy anymore upset. If she would just give him the painting, then they wouldn't have to play this game.

"You have been painting for ten years." Jefferson pointed out.

Mercy nodded and then she cursed her brother under her breath. Jefferson could hear what she was saying; he didn't say anything about it though. Mercy closed her eyes and took a deep breath; she just needed this argument to be over.

"It would never work, the academy would find out." Mercy replied.

Mercy looked around the room at all her other paintings. The walls were covered with paintings of gardens and women with roses. She loved to paint flowers; it reminded her of a simpler time. How in the world would a bunch of men believe that her brother only paints flowers?

"Let me take your painting, the one with the rose." Jefferson said.

Mercy bit her lip and looked down at the hard wood floors. There was so much pressure on her right now. It was such a tempting opportunity; her work could be hanging up at the academy in the future.

"The academy would never hang it up." Mercy said.

Jefferson stood up straight and looked Mercy straight in the eyes. This was his last chance; he had to get her painting.

"You have to let me try." Jefferson begged.

Mercy looked into her brothers eyes and she could see his desperation. One part of her wanted to help make his dream come true. Another part of her wanted to keep her work hidden.

"I don't know." Mercy said.

Mercy gulped and the room filled with a thick tension. They had been family all their lives, they said that they would do anything for each other. But when it came down to it, would they honor their promise?

"No-one would know that it was yours." Jefferson stated.

Mercy needed to find a loophole and quick. She needed a good reason to say no to her brother or she was going to cave. Mercy had a bad feeling that if she said yes, something bad was going to happen.

"But what about your reputation at the academy?" Mercy said.

Jefferson laughed; it was too funny that his sister thought he had a reputation at the academy. The academy had always looked down on him. He wasn't a traditional artist and that's the only kind of artist the academy liked.

"I have a faulty reputation as it is." Jefferson said.

Mercy swallowed and then finally caved in. She couldn't fight him anymore, she couldn't crush his dream. Mercy had to keep her promise to her brother to whatever it takes to help him.

"Then take it." Mercy said.

Jefferson sighed with relief and closed his eyes. Maybe this was just a dream and he was going to wake up any moment. He opened his eyes, this was all real! Jefferson had never been more excited in his life.

"For a heathen you're pretty generous." Jefferson said.

Mercy looked at how happy her brother looked and it made her smile. She knew what she was doing was dangerous. Mercy just hoped that the consequences wouldn't be so severe for making this choice.

"Don't make me change my mind."Mercy said while wearing a smirk on her face.

Mercy giggled and then looked down at her dress. Jefferson moved away from the doorway and into the hallway.

"You wouldn't dare." Jefferson said.

Jefferson put his arm around Mercy and smiled. It was a good day, maybe his painting career would finally take off.

" I'm a daring girl." Mercy commented.

Jefferson laughed and stopped walking, he looked at mercy intently. Mercy was confused; she had no clue what Jefferson was doing.

"This is going to be big, just you wait and see." Jefferson said.

Mercy had this feeling that there was something her brother wasn't telling her. She wanted to trust him, but she just couldn't. She could see something in the future, something was happening. But that's all Mercy could see, past that it was all fuzzy.

"Would you ever hide anything from me?" Mercy said.

Jefferson looked at his sister blankly, he had no clue what had gotten into her. Mercy was always getting these silly premonitions and she took them very seriously.

"Of course, I wouldn't." Jefferson said.

Mercy took a breath and felt herself calm down. But there was still a voice in the back of her head that said don't believe him. She told that voice to shut up and decided to not think about the premonition.

"It is hard to know who you can trust, even in your family."Mercy said.