The Picture

The picture on the wall stared down at her ominously. It was a painting of a young girl in yellow of perhaps nine or ten, sitting beside a table with three single red roses in a ceramic vase.

The rain poured down in sheets outside the window. She hated the rain. It was gloomy and cold and wet. Why would anyone want to splash around in those muddy puddles with yellow rain boots?

Yellow: The colour of suffocated laughter, artificial joy, sarcastic beauty. She detested its honesty. She detested yellow.

“Sophie!” called a voice outside the parlour door, “Come downstairs at once! The gentlemen will be here any minute.”

The gentlemen were her fiancé’s family. They were an obnoxious bunch. They were proud since they had sat on their own plot of land longer than any of the other families in their part of the town.

Sophie stood up reluctantly and straightened her mourning dress. Her fiancé had been murdered three days ago in the early hours of dawn, or so they said. He was strangled in his sleep before he could scream.

Sophie had confined herself to the upstairs parlour ever since. She took her time and straightened her hair and fixed her necklace, then descended the staircase, carefully running her finger over the dark wood railing.

“Sophie!” her mother called again. This time she responded by announcing herself into the living room, her eyes brimming with tears she was holding back.

The gentlemen arrived in time. There was a quick and silent exchange of greeting. All that could be heard were whispered heartfelt condolences. The question of the murder was left hanging beside the chandelier. No one spoke of it.

Sophie quickly greeted the guests, blinking almost continuously to hold back her tears. They shuffled outside into the snowy morning towards the church where the funeral was to be held. Friends and family waited in silence around the coffin.

The ceremony began and ended. When everyone was still, not knowing whether to cry or to leave, Sophie stepped out of the crowd and placed a red rose on the coffin. She whispered something quietly.

Once the crowd cleared away, Sophie returned to her sanctuary of the upstairs parlour and sipped a cup of tea to soothe her nerves.

The picture on the wall stared down at her. Dressed in yellow, the girl of nine or ten sat beside a ceramic vase with two single red roses.

She said to herself, “One down. Two more to go.”

The girl in the picture mouthed the words with her.

T. E. Pyrus

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