She jerked back her hand in surprise. With the last brush stroke, the oil and charcoal had burst to life. The painting was finished. She leaned her face in close to breathe in the canvas. Sweet abomination. It was not what she had set out to paint. She had planned a chubby cherub with soft white wings and a heart-shaped arrow poised in a golden bow. But the God trapped in the canvas now was as frightening as he was beautiful. Not Cupid at all, but Eros. He was asleep on a jumbled stack of papers, sonnets, poems, pages torn from her own diary, but his sleep was not the quiet sleep of childhood nor the exhausted sleep of maturity. She had painted him in the wild and restless sleep of youth, his head thrown back, his breath fluttering at his throat, his mouth open like a fish’s.
His skin, which she had planned to make a soft ivory with a gentle rosy blush at the cheeks, was a golden crimson, the color of sunburn on virgin skin, the color of cinnamon swirling in a bowl of spiced wine. His lips were stained with the blood of berries from the mountains, and his wings, spread wide beneath him, burned orange and yellow. His chestnut hair hung in loose curls around his face. He was young, but not a child. His arms were strong, his shoulders broad, his waist lean and firm, and although he was small, his size did not make him seem young, only far away.
His golden bow lay loosely in his hand. His quiver was where he had dropped it, and the arrows spilled over the ground. She had expected to paint the arrows with short shafts and large heart shaped tips. But these arrows, with dark barbs and gleaming edges, were undoubtedly weapons. She could see names written on the shafts, names of doomed princes, lonely widows, warrior kings, and school girls, lover after lover, martyr after martyr, names she knew though she could not explain how she knew.
She reached out and ran her fingers down one dark shaft. The name etched in gold appeared beneath her fingertips. Mother.
“Mother?” The child at her side tugged on her pant leg. “Mom, who did you paint? Is he naked?”
She pulled away from the canvas.
“What? No?” she stammered and stood up. She looked around at the cluttered apartment. Toys were scattered across the floor, laundry piled high on the couch, her husband’s robe draped over the La-Z-Boy™. Puppets danced on the TV screen.
“Mom. I’m hungry. I wanna tuna sandwich. Mom?”
“Sure, clean up your toys, while I get it ready.”
“No buts, clean up your toys.”
In the kitchen she reached over the cluttered dishes and took hold of the Clorox High Efficiency Bleach Gel™. She went back to the TV room and, without the slightest hesitation, soaked the canvas. The colors ran together and bled off the canvas onto the carpet.