The Master’s Muse…Epilogue
She sat in her beat up car holding the steering wheel, a heavy weight in her chest. Two weeks had passed since that unreal day she had spent as the secretive, eclectic artist’s muse. While the memory of that incredible, intense and scarcely believable day still caused her inner core to pulse and warm, she was doubting the wisdom of foregoing the pay that had been offered. Now, it was time to face the music.
She walked the concrete path to the university’s administration building with her eyes downcast and a distinct sense of defeat. She had been unable to secure tuition for the term. She knew they would not offer her yet another extension. But she was going to try. It was all she had left.
The woman behind the counter smiled brightly at her. “How can I help you?” she bubbled.
“I’m here to beg for another extension to pay my tuition” she said flatly, “even though I’m pretty sure you’re going to tell me my days at this institution are done”. Her voice was hollow, monotone, and beaten. Her hair, which she had worn in a braid every day for the last two weeks, hung down the front of her chest, where she absentmindedly ran it through the fingers of her right hand in a release of nervous energy.
Bubbly Lady just continued smiling, turned to her computer screen and said “well, let’s just see where you are at”. She punched the student id number into the keyboard, waited a moment for the record to come up, and then paused as a slightly quizzical look crossed her face. “No…..” she said slowly, “according to our records, your tuition bill is all up to date, including your late registration fee. And in fact…” She paused again as her fingers tapped on the keyboard and she moved the mouse across the pad, clicking forward through multiple screens. “It looks like your tuition is pre-paid in full through Spring of 2017, which shows as your graduation term. So you are all set!” Bubbly Lady looked back to her with that bright friendly smile, to find herself staring into the face of a student struck dumb in stunned disbelief.
“That can’t be!” she blurted. “Does it say who paid?”
The lady behind the counter looked at the lower corner of the screen. “The note here says only ‘anonymous benefactor’. Looks like someone is looking out for you.”
Her hand released its grip on her braided hair, as an incredulous smile began to broaden across her lips. “Thank you” she breathed, as she slowly turned and walked from the building. Her mind was reeling as the realization of what must have occurred fully dawned on her. As each step passed beneath her, she felt an enormous weight leaving her chest. A familiar warm, surreal tingling spread through her, energizing every fiber of her being. The smile He had placed on her face would not leave for some time to come.
He sat in a comfortable leather chair, facing a warm crackling fire in the study. Much of the furniture in the large stone house showed little sign of use, but this chair bore the signs of much appreciation. A glass of fine bourbon graced his left hand, while his right rested on the arm of the chair.
In front of him, to the left side of the fire, sat an easel with a recently finished painting on it. A marble slab sat on the edge of a wild and tangled wood, with tendrils and vines of feral vegetation rising from the forest floor to the top of the slab. On the slab a woman lay on her side, back to the viewer. One hand raised her torso, the other sat open, palm upturned, into which the woman stared. Her face remained unseen. Down the middle of her back wound a long and sensuous braid, her hair emanating subtle light as though it came from within, rather than being reflected from some outward source. He sipped his drink slowly, staring at the painting.
A knock came at the study door. “Enter” he offered. The door opened and an older man in an immaculate black suit stepped into the study. He sipped his bourbon again, savoring its warm burn as it glided down his throat. “Is it done?” he asked.
“Yes Sir, it is. Anything else you need of me, Sir?”
Again, a slow draft of the bourbon before the reply. “Do you know, not a one has ever walked away from the money before? It is how I knew she was different.”
The man in the suit made a clear effort at suppressing a smile, although the man in the chair did not turn to look at him. “Yes, Sir. When I first opened the door for her, I sensed she was different. Will there be anything else Sir?”
The man’s grip on the arm of the leather chair tightened ever so slightly, and he answered “No, that is all. You may go.” The man in the suit turned, stepped from the room, and closed the door quietly behind him. Mr. M sat in the chair, staring at the painting, and the barest hint of a smile spread across his lips. The fire continued to crackle, and the woman in the painting continued to stare into her hand.
(Miss Amelia wrote the story, edited by Professor while Professor wrote the Epilogue, edited by Miss Amelia.)