July 22nd, 1941
Her slender fingers trailed across the woven canvas, mentally comparing the textures. She paused and turned halfway, her eyes resting on a canvas she had missed before. It leaned on its side, against the dark wooden chest filled with an assortment of paintbrushes. She carefully slid the canvas towards her, sizing it up and finally deciding that it was just right. Her creamy white eyelet skirt swirled in the wind as she made her way to the next table, her steps light and eager. The quietest smile whispered across her face as she drank in the sight of the huge display of paints. Every color one could imagine was there amongst the tiny silver tubes and dark wooden pallets. A larger selection than usual she noted, as her hands snaked around a set of blue-greens.
After nearly an hour of self indulgence she slipped through the open market, her purchases tucked neatly into her satchel. A withering old woman, her skin dark from exposure to the sun, and wrinkles deeply resembling a dried up grape, beckoned her over to her stall. Over the heads of the crowd she could barely make out the decrepit sign that declared that the stall sold fruits. There was hardly anyone nearby as she escaped the thickening crowd and reached the battered stall. The woman made a friendly gesture, perhaps an attempt at a smile, but it came out as more of a grimace.
Liadan smiled uncertainly at the old woman, before glancing down at the assortment of fruits. Her eyes were met with a vibrant orange gold, the citric fruit was glistening, sunlight reflecting off the mist most likely sprayed for preservation. She had not ventured into the market for actual food, rather for a few small trinkets and her paints, but now she couldn’t resist.
“How many would you like?” croaked the old woman, her eyes resting undeterred on Liadan’s face.
She could barely take her eyes off the inviting fruits, and hardly heard herself answering with a request for six. She hastily snapped open her satchel, scrounging through it only to drop a few coins into the waiting hand scarred with age. Her thin wrist reached out, her fingers closing around the woven basket that held the oranges. Her dark hair fell into her face as she mumbled a quiet thank you and turned to leave.
“Wait,” the sheer force in the command caused her to pause on her heel, slowly dragging her eyes to the old woman. She had not expected such a blunt demand, in fact she had marked the withering old woman down as rather feeble.
“Were you born on the summer solstice?’
“How did you know that?” she was puzzled, and confusion was written clearly across her face. There was a strange glint in the woman’s eyes, and suddenly she did not seem to be as old as she had first thought. Her complexion no longer seemed wrinkled, and her eyes glimmered with youth.
“This was meant for you,” a silver trinket was pressed into the palm of her hand, the cool surface tickling her sweaty palms. Her open palm swiveled up and into her line of sight for further inspection. It was a small silver charm that hung loosely from a thin chain. Embedded in the oval shaped charm, was a silvery gem, moonstone if she was not mistaken. Her hand clenched protectively around it, and she glanced up to thank the aging woman, only to realize she had vanished. The entire stall was bare, empty of the inviting fruit, devoid of even the simple sign declaring what was being sold. Deserted - as if the woman had never even been there. Liadan blinked her eyes rapidly, but to no avail. Her nimble fingers reached for the chain of the necklace, hesitating before draping it around her neck and fastening the clasp.
Liadan was still thinking of the mysterious woman as she stepped carefully on the slate stepping stones leading up to the cottage. Her hand closed firmly around the door handle, pushing open the pale blue door to slip inside. She still couldn’t fathom how the woman had disappeared so quickly as she set the fruits on the wooden table in the kitchen. It couldn’t make sense, unless she had imagined it. Which was possible, but not very probable - considering the necklace. She sighed, her bare feet padding through the silent house until she reached the hollowed archway. She leaned against the doorframe, smiling at the sight of her father bent over a painting, basked in sunlight from the open windows that devoured every inch of wall in the room. He turned at the sound of her footsteps, a grin spilling across his boyish face.
“I brought home some fruit from the market, I left them on the table,” she paused, stepping forward until she could see the large portrait over his square shoulders, “Indigo blue,”
He raised his eyes at her.
“It will help define the chin area, it’s still looking a little bit flat,” she clarified.
He nodded before swiveling around in his chair to face her, “Did you finish the painting of Eliza yet?”
“Not even close, that girl is a difficult subject,” she smiled frowned at the thought, “I barely have a rough outline, I just wish she would sit still”
“If you think she squirms, wait until you see Clarice,” he motioned towards the painting. She scrutinized the depiction of the slim girl, from her fair hair to her unblemished skin. The likeness was striking, but then her father was a master of his trade, he could come up with a masterpiece despite any amount of resistance from the subject. He had even managed to capture the innocence and naivety of the young girl, curiosity was practically bursting from her clear green eyes.
“That doesn’t make that much of a difference to you,” she said decidedly, “For you it’s just a trivial nuisance,”
“If you say so,” he grinned cheekily, “Did you have any plans for the evening?”
“Not in particular”
“I was thinking about going out for dinner, maybe the Mer Terrasse or that new place up along the harbor,” he wrapped his paintbrushes back up, “I already asked Annie and she said yes, what do you think?”
“I was actually thinking about showing my friend the cliffs and maybe the cave if I decide he’s worthy,” she smirked before continuing, “Besides, I think you and Annie need to enjoy some alone time,”
“Could you stop trying to set us up?” he scoffed, “Who is this friend?”
“It’s a bit of a surprise,”
“I suppose if you prefer his company to ours,” he feigned hurt, grabbing at his heart, “You know that Annie won’t leave you alone if you don’t invite him over for dinner one night before he leaves,”
“I know,” she smiled broadly, “But there is no way I’m allowing her to cook,”
He laughed heartily until the amusement finally escaped his expression, “There is some leftover pasta in the fridge, or if you’d prefer to eat out I left some money on the counter,”
“Thanks,” she paused, “Don’t come home too early…”
“Don’t stay out too late,” he called back after her retreating form.