This story was originally published on December 21, 2011. The author nominated it for Snake-Oil Cure’s First Short Story Contest.
here was a day I opened my eyes and found the sheer fog usually blocking me from the world had faded. Even knowing this meant I would again be called upon to use my gift was not enough to obscure the satisfaction I felt as the trembling in my fingers turning to tendrils of sensation traveling up my arms. I pulled in a tentative breath, inhaling the too strong perfume and a whiff of smoky aftershave, sensing I knew why tonight I was finally able to see and hear the world of the auction house when so many other nights had come and gone without notice. I tried to concentrate on remaining motionless as person after person walked past my painting.
“Confession and Sacrifice? Seriously, Geoffrey, who names these things? All I see is a little girl in a carriage with a horse.”
Geoffrey gave my painting a ghost of a smile before turning to the woman standing next to him.
“This piece was finished in 1914 but was named by the original owner. There’s been a lot of speculation over the years about the identity of the girl in the painting. The artist would never reveal details, though a reporter once coaxed out of the artist’s nephew that the little girl named the painting herself.” He winked and continued. “You know, Lily, about a week after he gave the painting to his nephew the artist died quite unexpectedly under questionable circumstances.” Geoffrey paused for a moment before continuing, voice sounding almost wistful, “I met the nephew once, many years ago. In his words, the girl in the painting absorbs secrets and channels their power. He also told me that she saved his life, but I don’t know about that one.”
I watched him carefully, thinking that the twinkle in his eye meant he actually did know quite a lot about me but he just wasn’t telling. I felt my fingers tingle with an unfamiliar excitement, wondering how much more this old man knew as I felt a buzz continue to travel over my skin.
“Well, I think it’s creepy to use the words confession and sacrifice together in a title to describe that little angel in the painting.” She gave my painting one last inquisitive look before walking over to examine some of the other auction items on display.
A woman wearing a whole company of foxes leaned close to me and said in a booze- soaked whisper, “my husband doesn’t know that I’m in love with the gardener.” She blinked several times and stood straighter, looking around her as if to ensure she was still alone, before giving me a quizzical glance and walking away.