The next day, I went back to the graveyard. This time, I set up my easel in the frozen grass. Above me, Suzanna's statue glowed gold in the light from the setting sun. I didn't have time to do study sketches before the sun set, so I sketched her directly onto my primed canvas. Then I daubed paints onto my palette, letting my instincts guide me as I swirled up a mixture of deep, rich green. I filled in the canvas all around Suzanna with this color and slowly added texture to create a background of pine trees. I painted her pedestal next, and, at its base, I included the pot of carnations Jonas Whittaker had left her last night, and, of course, the white lilies.
Her long hooded cloak I kept in white, like her pedestal, as if it were still made of stone. But instead of cold, ivory curls beneath her hood, I painted flaming red spirals. I painted her hands in a pale flesh tone. Her face I did last, because it was the most important and also the most difficult.
Meanwhile, the sky was growing dark. It was getting hard to see her, especially her eyes, which were so vivid and, being hazel, required so much fine brushwork.
Setting my paintbrush down, I stepped back. I was tired and stiff, and the painting wasn't quite right. It wasn't bad, technically speaking, but there was something off about it. I wished I could see the self-portrait she had done for Jonas Whittaker. But I couldn't... at least not without breaking into his house.
Still, it felt good to be painting again. My head felt less stuffed full of thoughts, my heart less heavy.
An old woman hurried towards me through the pine trees.
"I would like to know what you think you're doing," she said crisply. "This is not an art studio, young lady!"
She had a British accent, reminding me instantly of my dad.
"I wasn't trying to be disrespectful," I said. "I'm sorry. I'm leaving now, anyway."
She harrumphed, but seemed at a loss for what to say.
"What part of England are you from?" I asked her, as I packed up my paints.
She blinked at me. "Oh, er, Buckinghamshire."
"I have a cousin who lives in Aylesbury."
"Do you," she said, still looking a bit taken aback. "I grew up in South Buckinghamshire, not far from London."
"I love London," I told her. "My dad teaches at university there."
"London is a bit too busy for me, I'm afraid." She toyed with the beaded necklaces falling to her waist. "I've always said it is a shame the British Museum has to be in the thick of things like that."
"Oh, I don't know. I like it. But I'll do anything for art, obviously," I added, with a wry nod towards my easel.
"May I?" she asked, with a glance at the painting.
"Sure." I walked around the bench to make room for her. She crossed the grass, her long dress flowing around her, and stood in front of my painting with her back to me, her silver hair crowning a column of black.
"Good heavens," she said.
"What is it?"
"I don't understand. Did you know Miss White? I've never seen you in town before."
"I didn't know her," I admitted. "I've only been here for a few months. But I just hear so many things about her, and... I know it's not a good likeness."
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Set Me Free [complete]Romance
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