The Paint on Her Hands


There is no refuge from memory and remorse in this world. The spirits of our foolish deeds haunt us, with or without repentance.
-Gilbert Parker


2. The Demons in Us All

It was more than an obsession, it was a sickness. It was the third time I'd been back to stare upon the face of the girl who had been haunting my most recent dreams, all in the span of a week. I'd used my lunchbreaks to steal away and glimpse the perfection of that particular painting. The others were just as fantastic, but this one, this one literally had me coming back for more. It wasn't just the fact that Mellorie White was obviously a gorgeous specimen, but the way she had been depicted in this exact moment in time had caught a fragility that seemed to reach out to me. Because for the first time in what felt like forever I was looking into the face of someone who was sadder than myself and it made me curious. And in a kind of sadistic way it made me happy too, which in itself spoke wonders.

The open floor plan was almost deserted, apart from a couple admiring another artwork in the opposite corner and a few lost wonderers who seemed as though they had too much spare time during the day. Complimentary glasses of wine were still being passed around to the viewers, but today I had declined the Merlot on offer. I didn't need a drink to help enjoy the view, I could drink up the painting through my eyes and that would be sufficient enough.

In the near distance I heard footfalls approaching, clipping crisply across the varnished redwood floor. They stopped abruptly not too far away and I was aware that I had company, only he wasn't here for the painting. I could sense that smoulder of his a mile off and my radar had detected it flawlessly.

He didn't move to bring himself forward and I didn't bother to look behind, the close proximity was enough for now.

"You're back, again," The thickness of his silky voice flowed over me like a deathly warm blanket, sucking the breath right out of my windpipes and constricting the movement of my lungs. "Third time this week, if I'm not mistaken."

I kept my eyes focused in front, not daring to search for his face, "She's just so..." but there were no words for what she was, for what my eyes saw. She held everything and nothing at the same time; it was almost like seeing myself in another light. I shook my head at a loss to find the perfect description and let the silence linger, drawing its own meaning.

"She's going tomorrow," His voice was sullen.

Those words made me face him, a man who towered over me in high end jeans and an expensive looking dress shirt. His hair fell in dishevelled wisps, falling into eyes that were the darkest shade of brown I had ever seen. He was just as beautiful as his artwork, as refined as his skill and as self assured as a male peacock. But in the depths of his orbs a different hue lingered, a tint of something sinister and dangerous – a flash of something that stared me in the face every time I caught my reflexion in a mirror. We were too similar. I sensed it, he sensed it and although it was an enlightening sensation, it made me want to run.

I stood my ground, fully aware of the way my heart beat irregularly against my chest, "What do you mean?"

Terrent tilted his head towards his greatest accomplishment yet, "She's been sold. She'll be taken to her new home tomorrow, no doubt."

"Oh, of course," I stared at him blankly and he mirrored the expression. "A good sum, I hope."

"The best yet," he assured me with a dashing smile that didn't reach his eyes.

My skin crawled and I shivered involuntarily from a chill only I could feel, "And why not?" I reasoned, "It's breathtaking."

"Yes," Terrent agreed with me, his eyes never leaving my face, "she is." He took a decisive step forward, closing the distance between our bodies and causing my own to grow rigid, "Have a drink with me."

I stood as tall as I possibly could, not wanting him to notice my unease, "I can't-"

"You can," his eyes flashed ebony as his hand gestured in a beckoning way to a waiter and the tray came floating toward us, "and you will." He handed me a glass of the rich red wine, lifting his own glass to his mouth and taking a careful sip.

It was the first time since I'd started the habit that someone was forcing me to drink the alcohol and I did as he bid me, making sure my eyes pierced his as fiercely as his did mine. I lifted the glass in a half salute, "Here's to your success." I tried ever so hard not to let the bitterness of defeat lace my words.

Terrent clinked his glass with mine, grinning meaninglessly from ear to ear, "To success, indeed."

I took a swig of the velvety liquid before asking boldly, "You loved her didn't you?"

He seemed to growl defiantly in the back of his throat, a tortured sound that rumbled so low it barely existed, "Amongst many others."

I scoffed at the reply, "But she wasn't like the others..."

"Huh," he swished the drink in his hand in a circular motion and gulped the rest of it down, "that's what she'd have you believe."

"You won't be the last-" But something in his demeanour urged me not to finish that sentence, something that told me he was the last man she'd ever make a fool of. "Well," I threw my head back and let the rest of the Merlot settle in my stomach and disperse from there, "I really must be going."

I thrust him back the empty glass and gave him a hollow smile of my own, the tingling sensation was there again as his fingers brushed against mine ever so slightly.

Terrent's brows cascaded down his flawless face and in his eyes glinted a light that I hadn't spotted before, until now, "She was my world..." he spoke absentmindedly, his eyes flickering to a place only he could see and I was glad I could not follow his train of thought.

"Love," the word spilled from my mouth, "it makes fools of us all."

His focus drifted slowly back to me, those hawklike eyes honing into my own, reading me like an open book. They say the eyes are the window to the soul – and his was unmistakably as rotten as my own. And it made me fear him more, because I knew my past and all the demons it held and the devil only knew what secrets hid behind those black eyes that belonged to Terrent De Prada.

.

Claire had practically pounced on me the second I walked through the sliding doors to the State Library. She had an eyebrow raised in suspicion and her lips pouted in a disapproving way. Her green eyes were so full to the brim with curiosity that I was glad she was born a human and not a cat.

"You've been to Terrent De Prada's exhibition again," she stated the fact bluntly.

I responded by sighing in defeat, "Correct."

The blondie huffed at my answer and turned on her heel, "Follow me."

I rolled my eyes in exasperation before falling in step beside her. She didn't speak to me until we were in a deserted isle with no onlookers or potential eavesdroppers. Claire sent me a very pointed look before delving into her troubled mind and blabbing her problems to me.

"Ok, Raevyn," I could see her trying very hard to kneed together all her thoughts so that she could express every one of them without misinterpretation, "I don't want you going back to that place."

I raised my eyebrows in half-hearted amusement, "Why?"

"Because," Claire's voice had adopted a stern undertone, "men like Terrent are dangerous. Sure, he's a great artist and he's going places, but he's bad news otherwise."

I sent a smirk in her direction, "Dangerous?"

"Yes," she pursed her rose coloured lips in dislike for the topic, "he has a foul temper and a wondering eye. I'd rather see you be fed to wolves than holding hands with that brute."

I stared at my companion mildly, noticing the miniscule twitching of her upper lip and slight tensing of muscles in her long, slender neck. Her eyes were fierce with a knowledge that I was not acquainted with and if nothing else, her warnings made me all the more wondrous. A flash of something inside those green circles of hers made me wary of her motive for singling me out.

I drew in a breath of air and corrected my posture, "Well, I appreciate you telling me this."

"I'm just trying to look out for you," her smile, although as warm as her beauty, was lacking in sincerity. "After all that's what friends do."

I gave her a tight lipped smile and dismissed myself from her piercing gaze. For the first time since I had met Claire I felt an unease wash over me. And a sickly voice in the back of my head warned me to keep my friends close and my enemies closer.

.

His eyes stared out at me accusingly from his untouched room. Those sad eyes finally depicting what I had been too blind to notice. The colour had drained from his face leaving behind a shell of the person he once was and would never be again. He was strung up like a puppet on a string, as lifeless as any hollow thing. Dearest Laython never stood a chance in this unforgiving world and I hoped with all the sincerity I could muster that his next life, pray that it existed, would be much more kind.

I blinked and the vision of his limp form vanished, my own eyes staring into an abyss of a non reality. The door to his room had never been closed nor entered since that day, but Layth was always here to remind me of the past. My attention shifted towards a door at the of the tunnel like hallway, the sound of protesting hinges echoing inside my eardrums of nightmares past. It was her room, the room that had once belonged to an old, demented woman. For all I knew she was still the occupant of the dimly lit, damp smelling enclosure in some kind of demonic form. But I never dared to prove this theory. Grandma Ellis's door was always shut fast, I made damn well sure of that.

I backed slowly away from both rooms and headed in the opposite direction. I shook my head to clear it and clasped my hand firmly around the glass I held in my left hand. The clear liquid lulled within the crystal cylinder and taunted me with every slight movement when ripples would appear. I bought the strong smelling poison towards my lips and tossed it down in one desperate gulp. It shocked me with a temporary buzz that pulled me down the staircase and into the entertainment room, where I slumped onto the couch and nestled into its soft lining. I sat in a dazed comfort until the room fell into darkness at the departing of the afternoon sun and my exposed skin tingled with the need to be covered.

A shrill ring of the telephone quick started my heart and I sat erect on the edge of my seat, slowing my jilted, unnatural breaths. On the fourth ring message bank took over and the robotic voice instructed for the caller to leave their name and number so that I could get back to them at my earliest convenience. The beep descended on my ears and a voice that had pissed me off today already, trilled through the speakers.

"Hi Raevyn, Claire here. I just want to apologise for my behaviour today, I didn't mean to make it awkward between us. I really am trying to look out for your best interests. Call me back, ok?" There was a double click and the line was dead.

I could swear I was alone in the house, but the voice that talked to me from the corners of the darkened room was Laython's.

"You know she's hiding something," it stated bluntly in that deep, rippled tone I adored so much.

I nodded my head, half aware that his voice was conjured from inside it, "I know."