Matte Canvas



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[size=-3]Kitti and Ocha <3​

England, 1615; Richard Chandler

The woman, she was the most beautiful creature that Richard had even seen. She could not possibly be real, he argued with himself. He must be going mad, for the woman was too ethereal and charming to exist in the same reality as he himself lived. Yet there she was, each day that he hurried from his home to the park, praying that she would be there and expecting her to have vanished. Each day, with his plain canvas, he painted her with the scenery ever changing. It frustrated Richard to no end, these paintings. No matter how hard he tried, he could never truly capture her as he saw her. The painting lacked the delicate wisp of her hair as it trailed from beneath the hem of her bonnet, or the perfect rose hue of her mouth curved in a gracious smile.

Each painting that Richard had at home, however, merely compiled in his growing obsession with the woman. He would stare fondly at the pictures, refreshing him memory of each day with his once stark white canvases, now painted in gay colors with the summer and, as time progressed, the more somber tones of the approaching winter. Richard had stayed hidden, all the while, his courage waxing and waning as he struggled to meet the woman he had begun to love through his painting. She was not only beautiful, she was smart; one of his paintings captured her dipping her quill in ink to finish her letter. Talented, he had heard her sing to the birds when she thought herself to be alone... She was kind, offering others her seat. He loved her more than he could ever imagine loving another person.

Today would be the day, Richard thought to himself, his hands free of his canvas and brushes in favor instead of a single white lily. Richard worked hard not to skip to her, equally as hard not to bolt away. She looked up at him as he approached and he dropped to one knee, his color rising on his face. Cheeks burning, he offered up the flower to the woman before him.
The morning was like any other, or Anna surmised, she was trying her very best to act as though it was. The household though was abuzz with the gossip and rumors that they thought they kept quiet. No, Anna heard the servants and their opinions on the events of dinner last night. It was for sure that all those under this roof, if not pleased, thought that events were positive. All those but Anna!

It wasn't to say that there was anything amiss about Mister Harris' proposal. No, it had been quite proper. Anna chided herself. He was not Mister Harris now that he had inherited his uncle's estate and title, he was Lord Harris. He was now titled, and it would do his family little good for him to stay a bachelor. Yes, Anna was very sure that Lord Harris' mother was the one that had picked her out.

Her heart was disquiet about all of this and she slept poorly that night. After breakfast, where she spoke seldom, though no one seemed to pay that much mind, Anna let herself out the door and headed out to be able to think, think and be away from all those that would rather her be a good little puppet. When the young man that she had made note of from time to time started her way while she sat on her favorite bench she didn't think much of it. He was most likely going from one place to another. Then he knelt in front of her and held out the flower.

"Good sir, for me?" Anna did not know how she managed to avoid stammering out the words as her hand reached out to take the flower, a lily of purest white. Her next words she had not meant to say aloud. "But why?"

Richard was crimson and possibly other colors, he wasn't truly aware. the woman had no idea who he was. He was both strangely pleased - did this mean he had been careful enough, she hadn't seen him lovingly painting each portrait of her? But also sad, was he a stranger to her? He felt altogether sick with shame and embarrassment but he couldn't help himself. Yet there was something about her that compelled him. He needed to know this woman.

"Y-yes, fair lady, this flower is for you though it could never hope to match your beauty - perchance I have faulted in shaming the flower but I could not resist in presenting such a maiden with a token. I apologize if I am being uncouth, if my words do not come out right, but it would please me greatly if you would let me stay and talk with you..."

Richard couldn't believe he'd said all that, he felt sure that she would lift one dainty little booted foot and flatten his nose further with it. Not that she was cruel, he thought, but he would probably have deserved it. He waited expectantly for her, the pastel colors flowing around him like background noise and the pale scents of the flowers around him could not ever distract his as he gazed hopefully into her eyes.
"Thank you kindly, but I must decline, it would not be proper," is what she should have said, but Anna was not talking with words of wisdom, nor was she saying anything that she thought out first.

"I thought perhaps you a painter with those hands, but it does seem that you are a poet," she instead murmured while she hid an impish grin behind the lily she was smelling. This was no good. She was an evil woman for sure to be doing this, but Anna had never had someone talk to her like that before. She was both amazed and curious. How was it this man was so earnest about her?

Not for a moment did she think him some boisterous cad who liked to play with the hearts and minds of any woman that took his fancy. No, he was sincere. One afternoon of talking was hardly the start of anything nefarious.

Richard smiled broadly, he felt as though his heart were soaring and his every dream had just become a reality. For a few moments he was too stunned to speak, but he quickly stood, nearly tripping over himself as he sat on the bench next to her, trying to pry his gaze from her eyes, twinkling gaily now and she seemed so happy. Normally, she seemed at peace or melancholy depending on the sweet songbirds but for her to look this truly happy, his fingers itched to paint.

Slowly, feeling deficient in mental capabilities, he realized he had asked her to talk and was now stupidly remaining silent! How unusual she must think him, he would hate for her to lose interest and wander away. "I-I'm Richard, my lady, a humble painter". Not the truth entirely, but close enough. He was Richard, he was a humble man, and he was a painter. It was embarrassing to admit to being the runt pup of a duke's bountiful litter. "I have seen you often, your beauty strikes me each time, but I do not know your name and while a flower may blossom and be loved for its winsome quality, it must be named in the eye of the beholder". He hoped he was not making her feel awkward, his lavish praise ought to be stinted but he couldn't help himself. Everything he thought of her was grace and beauty. He was dazzled by her.
Slowly her hand drifted down to her lap so that her face was no longer half hidden from the bloom of the lily. At his words, Richard what a nice strong name, she felt her cheeks take just a touch of heat. It wasn't just his fine words, but the intensity of them. She could scarcely believe she was the subject of that admiration or that she was in any was deserving. The wind blew a vagrant piece of hair against her face, but she only absently set it back with one free hand not for a moment looking away from him.

"Anna," she told him softly after a pause. She needed to gather her wits, if he kept up in this vein she might have to flee in embarrassment and then where would she be? No, she definitely did not want to do that. Thankfully there was a subject she could think of quickly that would give her an opportunity to get to know him. "What sort of paintings do you do Richard?"

Richard looked away, slightly embarrassed. He would not like to lie to her, but if he continued he was sure he would seem obsessed and she was already becoming a little shy in his presence, he thought, biting his lip. Richard took a moment to try to collect himself, but he couldn't help but think of her name, meaning from its Latin origin 'Grace'. It was so apt, he smiled to himself and formed an answer.

"If I may call you Anna, simply... But yes, anyway.... Anna? I paint portraits, lately I've expanded and have several paintings contracted that I have done for a few members of nobility. They pay very well for what I consider little talent, but it's all the same to me..." his father, who told him that it was the best work he'd ever seen, but only after he had been inspired by Anna.... A man named Harris, he had been irritating but paid a pretty sum... His father couldn't now he was taking money for painting, he would call it shaming the name. The subjects couldn't know of his station, or they would tell him he was being improper. In short, Richard could not fully be Richard. It was all right, usually, he liked better the side of him that painted.

"Do you have any diverting talents?"
"Talents? I?" This was unexpected. She had thought to perhaps ask about what he'd prefer to paint if given a patron that was interested in more then family portraits, but he had turn the tables and asked about her instead.

"My stitch work is horrible," she said in thought, a finger absently on her lower lip, "and I can only sing well enough that I, myself, can tolerate it nor be singled out in a group." What was she good at really? "I think that perhaps there isn't much art in my home, and my father was just grateful that I took to learned matters."

Then not wanting him to take pity on her, she smiled at him kindly. "Though I do enjoy that which is created by others. I suppose someday I would like to see if I have any ability with color." Now why did she say that? It was true that she admired and maybe even at times envied artisans, but when was she going to have a chance to learn to paint or any other such thing?

Richard had not expected that meeting the woman would not only renew his intense affection but deepen his fascination with her. She seemed somehow repressed and she would probably be very alarmed to know that his father was a Duke, and one of the most eccentric men about the country. Richard took her hand in his own in a rush of excitement. His studio was detached from the rest of the large house, tucked away in a garden. He could easily spirit her there without her knowing of the grand house behind it through the foliage. The only problem is, how would he convince a virtuous maid to accompany him to his studio. The other option...

"Would you like to try to paint with me? I could, if you keep coming to the park, I have extra canvases. You could use my paints..." he realized he had her slender hand in his grasp. He quickly released it. This was the realm of planning with her now, not simply the serendipity and daily pleasure of her presence. He felt a little timid as he searched for her approval.
Anna's eyes went wide. "I have little problem coming to the park," she said in amazement, "but are you sure you want to waste your paints on me?" Surely a painter with some skill would find it bored to tutor another in the task unless teaching was their true calling. Yet, she couldn't help but be hopeful. It was a wonderful opportunity and she'd get to meet with Richard again. There was nothing improper about this at all!

That's when the little voice inside her head got a little louder. What exactly did this man, who she barely knew, mean to her? She shushed it by telling that nagging voice that he meant nothing, not really. It was just that he was nice, and seemed to enjoy her company. That he was easy to talk to and seemed to have a friendly manner were just incidental things. Besides, all he'd be doing is training her in a task. Nothing else!

The internal war lasted but a moment. All smiles, Anna belatedly realized that he had taken her hand, and sadly released it. He had warm hands, and she felt her hands had fit nicely within his.

"Could we try tomorrow if it's not too much trouble?"

Richard resisted the urge to leap to his cheer cheering. She wanted to see him tomorrow, she was not only not intimidated or disgusted by him, she wanted to see him! He grinned and nodded earnestly, his eyes wide with excitement. He could not wait to run and tell his father, his patient father who put up with his youngest sons whimsy. Richard suspected that in part, it was because his mother had been a little bit incorrigible and Richard had been her baby son, her precious cherub.

Richard had barely managed the words "I would like nothing more th-" before a loud voice interrupted. A tall man, slightly stooped in stature but roughly six feet in height appeared on the path, booming as though the park was his own private garden "Anna, there you are. I have found you, and lucky that I did too" he shot a distrustful glance at Richard before gripping her hand with his own to tug her up from her sitting position.

Richard stood as well, but only to passively retreat. This man was the sort who would get angry with Richard if he tried to say anything in his own defense, or Anna's, though she did not appear pleased judging by the expression on her face. Silently, his eyes met hers for a brief moment and he asked intently as he could with just a glance "Who?"
Of all the people Anna did not want to see in the Park, it had to be him. Someone from the household must have told him that she often went to the park in the day. If he was going to ruin her one retreat, how long could she possibly bear this, and only a day into it!

"You're hurting me," Anna said in a soft but with a crispness in her words until her wrist was returned to her. She rubbed it. "M'lord, shall I introduce you to my tutor Richard?" she said and then continued as if he had agreed. "Richard, this is, as of yesterday, fiancee, Lord Harris of Gravely Shores." Very much unwanted and unneeded fiancee thank you very much!

Then to keep his attention off of Richard any longer she looked at Harris and at least didn't look like she'd wish he'd get lost at sea. "Why pray where you looking for me m'lord?"

Richard couldn't move, he felt as if time had stopped and he was frozen in his tracks, nothing more than a statue to observe the destruction of his every wild hope and desperate dream. The exchange between them seem to flow around him, like a current he was not a part of at all. Richard did not want to move, did not want to appear to abandon her and he fumbled for reasons, though his mind seemed to be working slower than normal, at a stunned and tedious pace.

"Then, tomorrow, yes, painting. I'll bring paints, canvases... I bid you good day, my lord, lady. I am a very busy man, I have a portrait I must complete... Must go prepare". Richard was thoroughly distracted, and his hasty retreat made him look more scatter-brained than even he truly was. He wanted to see her, and not be seen as only a lowly painter, although that was how he saw himself. It was not good enough for her. She deserved more and he searched for an answer.

Minutes later, he approached the door of his father's study. "Father, might I ask a favor of you, as your ever loyal son?" Richard shamelessly tried to appeal. This was important to him, and a resounding laugh from the room told Richard that it had not fallen vainly on deaf ears. "Do come in, little dukeling, and be heard by your aging patriarch".
What Harris might think was important was at the moment interrupted by Richard choosing to leave. Not that she could really blame him, there was little reason to stay. She hoped, truly hoped, that he did indeed intend to come back tomorrow to paint. Anna wanted very much to see him again, and she tried not to think that the only reason was to not feel like she was the property of Lord Harris

That was the problem though, there wasn't any reason for Richard to return. After all, he had chosen to talk to her due to admiration, though she couldn't understand why, but now that he knew that she was intended for another, what reason did he have to see her again.

No, Anna doubted that Richard would return tomorrow and while this did not make her depressed, there was a melancholy that descended upon her.

"You were saying m'lord," Anna hadn't realized she had watched Richard as he was departing until she looked over once more at her fiancee.

"Father, I come knowing that I am nothing yet but a task on my aging parent..." he began but his father waved him off. "Just ask, my child. I have never been able to deny you a treat to make your eyes shine in the way Ermine's once glittered". His mother, Richard thought, it was why his father indulged him and it made him a little sad to think that it must be painful for his father to see his wife's favored baby son grown to take on her traits, if in a man's way. No time to consider it now, and Richard quickly picked up again on the thread of conversation.

"I want to hold a ball, a masked ball! In celebration of the engagement of the good lady Anna to the dour Lord Harris" Richard smiled winningly at his father. "Lord Everette would look like a marvelous fellow, were he to host such a ball... and his son might be forced to woo a woman and make something of himself?" he was teasing in part, but he knew that the agendas were real. His father laughed.

"I am curious to know what you are hoping to achieve, but the generous matriarch that once led Lord Harris's estate, his mother I believe, has long been a friend and so I have little qualm in doing this for you. I will announce it today, it will be held in two days time. Is that all, son?"

"Yes, father. If I may take my leave, I am going to go paint in my studio. I'll likely stay there tonight, please tell the household not to fret over me".