She’d never liked how she looked in pictures.
Photos were fine, actually—most were pretty accurate, the diminutive black machines saw to it. It was the paintings that annoyed her, prompting her to hide behind the nearest water-logged cloud. Which would explain why they unfailingly depicted her shrouded in cloud cover or veiled in mist, an obligatory afterthought in a landscape concerned with much more important things.
Not that she wanted to be the center of attention in one of these oil-on-canvas wonders; she was content to exist on the outskirts, circling and orbiting the beautiful ones, staying on path in her own lane.
It was the monotony of her life that depressed her, and the paintings boldly drew attention to it, stirring up her irritation. She was always placed one-third of the way down from the top of the scene, consistently oriented to the extreme right or left, gray layers streaking over, across, and around her form. Slight variations, but never too far from the basic portrayal. Those who thought they had talent loved to emphasize her imperfections, detailing every crater and crevice with a heavy, unsympathetic hand.
There were a few people, just a few, who in her estimation had done her justice. One was from France, or the Netherlands, not long ago. Well, not long ago to her. France? Somewhere in that quadrant. They’d made up all of these names for different places—too many to remember. It’s all the same place, one big round place, but they’d never understood that. Anyway, this guy from there had totally gotten her. He’d made her dreamy, swirly, brilliant. Lots of detail. Still off to the side, but one of the main attractions in the piece. He’d been troubled, though, and she’d heard he’d cut off his ear. A loss of immense proportions. He’d captured her perfectly, to the point where she would have ordered duplicates—5 x 7s, 8 x 10s, wallets. It wasn’t to be.
She’d never actually seen them painting her, rightly assuming they did it from memory. Bad memories. She’d get a glimpse of how she was portrayed when they displayed the paintings, in a hall with tall windows, for example. It would be night, the venue filled with snobby people dressed in high-necked black outfits. Artificial lighting coming from within; her light pouring in from outside; loathsome, unflattering images of her flooding the walls. If she could have rotated away, she would have.
Tonight was going to be different, although whether in a good or bad way she wasn’t sure. An outdoor night class where she would be the unwitting model, posing as they painted her. “Nocturnal Undertakings”—an inane course name created by an undoubtedly even more inane teacher. She surveyed the students from above and was less than thrilled, until she saw the man with the tattoo traversing down his left arm—“Te amo a la luna y de regreso”. I love you to the moon and back. It piqued her interest, to say the least. He began painting to his own tune, his own beat, seemingly ignoring the instructor’s whispered commands. She watched him as he looked up to study her, then bowed his head back to the work. Over and over this sequence repeated, for slightly longer than an hour, until the instructor signaled that time was up. She couldn’t see the painting but it was a masterpiece, she was certain. She’d felt seen, noticed, loved. The man took a final long look up at her and she knew what she had to do. One of the stars had taught her how—they did it all the time—but she’d never felt the urge to do it. She squeezed with everything she had, gathering the strength of a millennial’s worth of ancient volcanic rock and iron, and she shimmered and shook, one huge crater closing slightly then reopening. His eyes grew wide and she heard him mumble something. “What?” The instructor was impatient and ready to go off to some other type of “nocturnal undertaking”. Looking directly into the instructor’s eyes, the man repeated himself, “The moon just winked at me.” The instructor gave him a crazed look, then stalked off. Other students glanced and him and stepped far away cautiously. Not caring, he looked up at her again as if all the answers he needed might lie there.
Kimberly Lee happily left the practice of law some years ago to focus on motherhood, community work, and creative pursuits. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Literary Mama’s Blog, Toasted Cheese, The Satirist, Indiana Voice Journal, and The Prompt, amongst others. She lives in Southern California with her husband and three children, and is currently at work on her first novel.