A Thousand and One Stories#21 The Portrait

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The master of the house doesn’t like to see anyone. He stays in his study, reading, listening to old records and never saying a word to anyone. Even the servants got their direction through a written message from the pipe system installed in the house.
It was weird for the cook to have to decrypt his cursive writing every morning to decode whether it was coffee he wanted for breakfast or cocoa.
And for a man his age, he had been around enough for everyone to know he was a 72-year-old man but with his looks and the way he carried himself, he might as well be 42. He certainly ate enough for two. Not that many people had seen him. Even the oldest servant in the house had gotten barely a glimpse of him once. And he was to be relied upon for all descriptions of the master.
And if all shall fail, there was always the portrait of him hanging in the lobby. Such a majestic man. A special painter was invited to paint that portrait and he must have been the only man to see him in years. How lucky.
Well, the luck was limited since he left the house in such a hurry, perhaps on to another assignment that he didn’t see the cart coming over on the road and got trampled beneath it. But all good art comes out of tragedy and thus the tragic death of the painter made the portrait even more esteemed as it became his last work.
The painting was his last masterpiece and still hung on the wall in all its magnificence.
But even the keenest eye didn’t pay attention to the minute detail of the huge portrait, that if thought of, would explain why the Master chose to remain secluded. It was something in his eye. Perhaps it was hiding a world different than his own. Those eyes captured something so intriguing, alluring, inexplicably beautiful.
No, not a glint of pain or misery or something of that emotional sort. It was another image, like a reflection in the eye. The painter had in fact used intricate detailing to showcase his expertise, his style, to bring out that hidden life and lay it bare on the portrait for everyone’s eyes to see.
The image was that of a naked woman chained up. And the masterpiece of the painter wasn’t the portrait itself, but the reflection, the essence of Master’s being, hiding in plain sight.
She was the cocoa to his coffee. The reason for him being chained to his room and house, just as she was chained to his bed. She was a secret to be kept and so he stopped speaking altogether. She was a beauty to be cherished and so he had her painted within him. She was, after all, a woman to be loved, and so he chained her, to love her as only he could.

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