Interplay of Art and HeartRina was looking more radiant than usual and Maya couldn’t help but wonder what had changed.
A boy? Could it be?
Maya continued to admire and speculate on her niece’s new found charm. Rina’s naturally long eyelashes beautifully accentuated the fresh sparkle in her eyes. It was almost eleven years ago that Rina had come to live with her as an orphaned five year old. This year she was away most of the time, studying in a top-ranking school in the city. ‘Nothing but the best for my girl’ Maya would often say.
Despite her lively appearance, Rina was unusually quiet throughout the drive back home. “But I need to come home. We’re just doing revisions and I could use a break before exams; and I miss you. Please?” and Maya was already reaching for her car keys to fetch her darling niece.
Rina dropped her bag and burst out in sobs as soon as the doors were closed behind them. “I’m so afraid… I’m possessed by a ghost!” she wailed.
’Possessed? Don’t be silly.” Maya’s voice took on a high pitch which was unusual for her. “It’s true… I can prove it!” Rina trembled as her voice stuttered the words.
Maya ushered her disconsolate niece to the kitchen and reached for two bags of calming tea. She was starting to regret her decision to send her niece away to pursue her dreams to be an art teacher. Rina’s paintings were masterpieces that won her accolades, and the girl was eager to the share the wide range of techniques she had perfected.
”Okay now, luv, why this sudden belief in ghosts? Have you been watching horror movies?” Maya teased in a modulated tone while smiling gently. Rina gulped down her tea and hurried to narrate how she and her college mates had been volunteering at an orphanage. There she had befriended a little girl who reminisced fondly on her mother, but lamented that she only had pictures of her without a smile. The child wished she had an image of her Mum that could smile at her when she gazed at it. Rina immediately offered to work on a portrait based on the photographs, but with an added smile. The little girl replied with a hug and Rina held her tightly as she felt a drop of tear on her bare arms.
Rina pored over the details of the photographs. She wanted to capture every little nuance of the elegant face and stature in the pictures. She immersed herself in the images whenever she found a moment during her packed days. Every time she picked up her brush, she thought fondly of the little girl and poured all her love into the project. This girl was proving to be the sister she never had.
For the next nine weeks her brush strokes took on a natural spontaneity that she had never experienced before.
“Just in time to surprise her on her birthday” she said to herself as she beamed at the stunning result of many late nights. Her eyes glistened at the thought of delighting her “sister”.
”Oh my God, you even added her dimples, how did you know? I never told you.” the little girl was too mesmerized with her gift to notice Rina’s rosy cheeks turning a deadly pale. Rina never thought much of her decision to add the dimples, it just suited the shape of that face and highlighted the smile. “Oh? Lucky guess?’she said, with a nervous laugh.
The little girl barely heard the reply and went on without removing her eyes from the potrait. “And look, the white flowers beside her, those were her favourite from our garden. She loved flowers.” Rina hugged her knees and buried her head between them.
Her friends had wondered about Rina’s sudden interest in flowers. She had begun adorning her room with cut flowers. She visited the park daily and snapped pictures of the flowers as well as the birds and butterflies that hovered around them. She studied the fine details of the beautiful creatures and the lovely blooms they visited. Consequently, her paintings mirrored her emerging passion and her grades improved with the heightened depth and care she displayed.
Rina showed more interest in fashion, as well. “I must be entering adulthood,” she used to joke when asked about her new hobbies. She experimented with new food and ventured to befriend more outside her usual comfort zone. She was taking on a new persona and she was loving it. “It must be the new surroundings, and I’m almost 16,” she would muse “time to experiment with more.”
But now, listening to the little girl, she was reminded of a friend’s casual joke when she was caught signing up for tennis lessons at school. “Who are you and what did you do with Rina?’ They laughed at the possibility of an alien abduction. But now she knew; she was possessed by the lady in the photographs. She was too afraid to inquire if she played tennis or liked spicy Mexican food or loved bright colours. Rina had just gotten her bangs highlighted a beautiful shade of burgundy; was it just a coincidence that one of the pictures had the lady in a smart burgundy outfit?
Maya listened without interrupting as Rina tried to equate her radical enthusiasm for life to a ghostly hijack. Though Rina’s artistic nature meant that she had an eye for detail, she had never really cared for life’s intricacies.
Most of her paintings were based on her own visualization and fantasies. She was a creative soul with an aptitude for vivid imaginations. It was her comfort, to entertain herself to sleep when her nights were empty with the void left by her parents’ demise.
Maya realized Rina was starting to reach out to the world that she had tried to protect her from. Maya gave her an abundance of love but failed to provide an outlet for the girl’s own loving heart. Her niece was the epitome of benevolence and needed to channel that bounty. The little brown kitten they had found, that would have been perfect. “No, luv, am afraid it might trigger your asthma, but we will find it a good home.” And Maya always refused her niece’s offer to assist her. She was too busy trying hard to fill her dead sister’s shoes to see the giving nature of her niece that was pleading to be liberated and expressed.
Rina’s little orphan friend had freed the shackles that had restrained her caring disposition. The child not only gave purpose for Rina’s art, but her heart as well.
”You are not possessed,” Maya announced with a big smile, and pulling her niece close she continued slowly and softly “you were asleep; and now, you are alive again.”