J.M. Blackman’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: In Your Dreams
The first time he saw her, his mom was standing right behind him.
In fact, it really had been her idea to come to the museum. Jayden had just wanted to the spend the afternoon with Skyrim, but she had insisted that he get out. Apparently, she had counted the number of weekends he’d spent at the house. 13. It was enough.
And Jayden had been convinced that she had been wrong. Killing dragons for armor was way better. Until he saw her. Was she a princess? Or better yet: a vampire princess? A witch princess? A dragon warrior princess?
But the dragon didn’t look like it needed slaying. It looked like they were playing, as if it were her pet. No, as if they were friends. And the cat was, too.
He hadn’t realized how long he’d stared at the painting until his mom reminded him that they would miss the game if they didn’t leave for home right then.
But during the game, he thought of her. He couldn’t understand how a painting could be so...interesting.
So, he went back. There had to be something special about it. He researched the artist. Unknown. Someone had to know something. The curator knew less than nothing. The timeframe, the area it came from...nothing.
He grew up watching her remain the same, just as intriguing, as far away as she’d ever been. As mysterious.
Weeks of non-answers became months, which bloomed into years. He returned out of habit now, not the irresistible lure he’d once felt. One day, sitting on the wooden bench in front of her painting, he murmured to her over a cup of coffee.
“I’ve got a job interview today,” he said, eyes roving over the scaly companion for the 1000th time. “It might mean moving. I won’t be able to come back much anymore.” He couldn’t bear saying he’d miss a painting. But he would.
“Well, good luck,” a gentle voice said beside him. He jumped and sloshed his coffee onto the floor, barely missing his suit pants.
The woman beside him was...well, she was the girl in the painting. But years old. She was slim, as pale as he was dark, her black hair sliding down her shoulders. That same smirk tilted her lips.
“Thanks,” Jayden hiccuped, wiping the floor with the napkin. He didn’t know what else to say. How do you ask a woman if she’s...if she’s a painting? You didn’t. He didn’t.
“I’m glad you came to visit,” she said then.
He looked at her out of the corner of his eye. “Why is that?”
“Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to say goodbye.”
He rubbed his eyes and didn’t reply. What could he say? “What’s your name?” he blurted.
“Lisandra,” she replied, smiling now.
“And who are you?”
Just then the PA system announced closing time. They were having an event, a gala of some sort. He didn’t have tickets. And he couldn’t afford any. And he had an interview. But he wanted to stay. He wanted to say something, to ask how to see her again, how she existed. Why hadn’t she said anything before?
“I’m a dragon warrior princess,” she whispered. He whipped around and she was gone. He stared at the empty bench beside him.
He sat there until a guard asked him to leave.
But before he did, he stepped as close to the painting as he could and whispered, “How can I see you?” There was no reply. And after another volley of “sir, please” from the guard, he had to leave.
As he pulled away from the painting, he could have sworn he heard: in your dreams.
J.M. Blackman is a Language Arts teacher, author rep'd by Gina Panettieri and a feminist. She endeavors to review nearly everything she reads and is a happy wife. She's a SFF enthusiast, loves dark humor, and has an unhealthy need to protect the image of Batman.