Flash! Friday # 29

CLOSED! Thanks to everyone for coming out to help dear Mlle Mona with her tale. Judge’s results will post Saturday afternoon.

I just can’t stop myself.

It was such fun last week with all the stories reimagining the Lady of Shallot’s tragic tale, I wanted to see what you maniacs would do with the ultimate Queen of the Clandestine, La Gioconda herself. She knows something, right? What does she know? Why is she grinning in that maddening fashion? This week’s the time and place to spill her deepest secrets.

(Here are your contest guidelines).

This week’s covert assignment is judged by clever mastermind and SVW member Beth Peterson. (Be sure to check out her judge page to investigate what she looks for in a winning entry.)

Let’s synchronize our watches…. now GO!

Word limit: 150-word story (25-word leeway on either side) based on the photo prompt.

* How: Post your story here in the comments. Include your word count (between 125-175 words, exclusive of title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one.

* Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday’s on Langley time)

Winners: will post tomorrow (Saturday)

Prize: A black-market-worthy e-trophy e-dragon e-badge, a covertly personalized page here at FF, a dastardly ingenious 60-second interview feature next Wednesday, and YOUR NAME in glowing Kryptonite across the shoulders of the world (so to speak). NOTE: Winning and non-winning stories alike remain eligible for selection for Monday’s Flash Points. 

* Follow @FlashFridayFic on Twitter for up-to-date news/announcements/secret dragon decoder rings.  And now for your prompt:

"La Gioconda," by Leonardo da Vinci

“La Gioconda,” by Leonardo da Vinci

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63 thoughts on “Flash! Friday # 29

  1. Lady of Ice
    A breeze blew in from the Ice Mountains from the west. It ruffled Lady Liada’s dark hair. She was used to the cold air; Lord Fergast, however, wasn’t.
    “How can your ladyship stand such weather?” he said, rubbing his arms from underneath his thick fur cloak. It was spring, yet he was dressed as if it were still winter.
    In contrast, Lady Liada wore a fine black and red silk dress, and no cloak.
    “I have been raised in the mountains. I thrive in the cold, just as the roses within your castle garden thrive in spring,” she said, cool and collected.
    “But how can you stand living so near the mountains? Near the dragons?” Fergast asked, nervous.
    “Because,” she said, turning to face him, a slight smile barely curving on her lips, “the dragons would not dare harm me.”
    Her dark eyes turned an icy blue.
    “Not me.”
    Word Count: 149

  2. @StephenWilds
    “Ungrateful” – 175 words

    Monica was becoming frustrated. She shifted and twitched, trying to look like she wasn’t moving at all, hand almost jerking up to her face involuntarily, due to her fiercely itching nose.
    “He’ll immortalize you!”
    Those words sounded flattering when Bernadette had convinced her to go see the great master painter, to sit and model for this beloved artist. Was Bernadette having a laugh at her expense? It had been over three hours on this stool, looking the best she had in years, wasting it away in this workshop that wreak of wet furs, sawdust, and burning wax.
    Monica had done her best to be polite and charming, knowing how influential of a man she had this appointment with. She had asked questions about his work, but he only wished to work. The Master did not let her see herself in the painting. It was too personal for him. Every instance that she had moved he would clear his throat in agitation, even when his back was turned to her.
    Monica was beginning to hate art.

    • I used to model at art schools some 20 years ago. One time there was this guy who first complained that they’d sent in a model with such a “round face.” The instructor told him that one works with the model they are given. The guy insisted that I was “moving my head” and bitched at me every few seconds. I finally snapped at him and told him that I was not moving my head. He threw a tantrum, threw his painting in the trash, grabbed his supplies, and stormed out.
      Fortunately, I didn’t usually have to deal with people that petulant. I modeled on and off for about 5 years.

      • Those who complain about their artist models should have to hold a convoluted 30 minute pose and see how “easy” it is. Says the person with a BFA who did some (clothed modeling) as part of a class assignment so we would appreciate what we were putting our poor models through!

  3. @todayschapter
    “Revealed” – 174 words

    The artist paced anxiously waiting for his lordship. This was the fourth attempt to capture the likeness of his wife. The first he’d deemed “chubby”, the second “depressing” and the previous attempt “boring”. When her ladyship had learned of this assessment she exclaimed, “Well then we shall ensure he won’t be bored with this one.” That’s when the trouble began.
    The King burst into the room. He did not wait for an invitation to reveal the work, this was not a man used to waiting. He skidded to a halt as he saw the painting and stammered to get out his review, “w…w…where are her clothes?”
    The artist took a deep breath, “She refused to wear them my lord.”
    The King stared transfixed, “I see, well I shall deal with her later. You shall paint clothes on this at once before being escorted to the dungeon.” The King turned to leave but couldn’t resist a final glance at the canvas. As he stormed out he shouted, “And paint that stupid smirk off her face!”

  4. Hal Itosis’ Model
    Word Count: 149
    “I’ve gotta say, Mona, of all the ladies who have come in looking to model for our fall line, you’re my favorite!”
    These words of praise came from the lips of Hal Itosis, owner of the Netherworld’s very popular warehouse store, Hal’s Club. Hal imagined the Quatloos clinking as he pictured the women who would be inspired to buy the clothes modeled by this exquisite creature.
    “Grazie, Mr. Hal,” the woman said with a marked Italian accent. “It’s-a been a while since I pose, but maybe I still got it, eh?”
    “My good lady, you’ve got it in spades!” the money-loving man from Leng declared. “You’ve got that Everywoman look, but with that certain je ne sais quoi. It’s the look that every woman’s gonna want! You model the clothes, I’ll sell ‘em, and we’ll both collect the Quatloos! Now, let’s arrange for a shoot as soon as possible!”

    http://undeadinthenetherworld.blogspot.com/2013/06/hal-itosis-model.html

  5. Ian Martyn. @IBMartyn
    169 words

    Dum de dum. Dum de dum. How much longer? Hum, hum, hum.
    ‘Just zink nice zings, darling,’ he said.
    But he’s been at it for ages. My minds wandering like a bee through a florists shop. Ho hum. I sit and wait, does an angel contemplate my fate. I should write that down, you never know it might make a song or something. Oh come on get on with it! My bum’s going numb. I wish he’d hurry up.
    ‘I just vant a leetle smile,’ he said. ‘No, no! don’t grin like an idiot. A leetle smile, just leetle. Be enigmatic fer me, darling.’
    What is looking enigmatic anyway? I think I look simple. Do I look simple? How much longer do I have to hold it? My muscles are aching. I’m getting lock jaw, I just know it. It’s taken weeks. I think he’s dragging it out and I’ve got better things to do. Tuesday I missed lunch with the girls for heaven’s sake. I never miss Tuesdays.

  6. A new life

    ***
    “This will be a celebration of your rebirth!” said the artist.

    Too right; after bearing five children for as well as mothering that old man, locked away in their villa…when he passed away it was like emerging from a cave into beautiful sunlit countryside.

    Oh, he wasn’t all that bad, old Francisco. He’d been a good husband and father, and as a successful and reputable silk merchant had provided Lisa and her children with many fine clothes, but towards the end of his life, he’d required so much attention.

    She had played so many parts – the pious daughter, the daddy’s girl, the faithful wife, the doting mother – now that her husband had died and left her what she was due, her future was looking very bright indeed. The thought pleased her greatly, and she couldn’t help but grin.

    This painting would immortalize the purity of her joy, so she’d always remember.

    ***
    @theimaginator20
    151 words

  7. Title – Young and beautiful
    Word count – 175 (excluding title)

    My slight smile confuses them still. It is as blank to most as the canvas was the day he started painting me. They claim they know what it reveals of my character. But they think I’m smiling at them. I hold onto him in other ways. The truth of those days was painted onto another canvas by the brushes that he swept all over my body so that he could know something of the woman behind the eyes he always said could beguile any man. They follow you about the room and he wanted all souls who saw his work to get a glimpse of my deepest desires from every angle. Francesco certainly saw them and the spirited woman he had put on a shelf for years and he didn’t like it. He paid Da Vinci, but it wasn’t the trophy he had wanted. It didn’t reflect his glory. Rather it was a painted love letter to remind me of the soul who would love me even when I was no longer young and beautiful.

  8. In the Eye of the Beholder
    By: Allison Garcia (159 words)

    “OMG, this is the most boring trip ever.” Cindy snapped her gum and sighed. “If I have to go to another stupid museum or statue or tower, I’m going to flip out. I mean, seriously, check this one out. She’s, like, a total hag.”

    Daisy couldn’t hold back any longer. “That’s the Mona Lisa, you idiot. It’s one of the most recognized and famous works of art of all time. Some people travel across the world just to see this painting.”

    Cindy stopped in her tracks and spun around, glaring back and forth from Daisy to the painting. She shrugged. “She’s still ugly.” She smirked and poked Daisy in the shoulder. “Just like you.” A few of her entourage giggled and followed her as she sashayed away.

    Daisy shook her head and smiled back at Lisa. She stood in silence, awed by the overwhelming beauty before her.

    Suddenly Cindy’s opinion didn’t mean as much as it used to.

  9. Giovanni

    ‘Giovanni!’ barked the painter. ‘Sit still!’

    The wig he’d been made to wear was suffocating enough, but when coupled with the straw stuffed down the front of the heavy brocade gown, Giovanni felt stifled. He shifted again, just a tiny bit. Everything itched, and he was miserable.

    ‘For God’s sake, boy!’ snapped the artist, flinging his brush to the floor. ‘How can I paint, if you keep wriggling?’ He stepped around the canvas to glare at his model. ‘This painting must be finished, and it – you! – must be beautiful. Understand?’

    The child nodded, trembling. He’d been promised money and bread for this, he reminded himself. How lucky he was! Blinking, he sat up straight, smiling a little at the thought of bringing the coins home to Mama.

    Brush stroked canvas in the now-silent room. While the child dreamed of dinner, the artist plotted murder.

    Nobody could discover the painting’s secret, and so he knew the child could not live. The true identity of the beautiful lady, that eternal face, must die with her model.

    175 words
    @SJOHart

  10. The Composition

    ‘I am going to make you the most talked about woman in the world!’
    ‘Oh Stop it, Leonardo, you are such a dreamer. Those sketches of flying machines and counting machines! You were meant for another time, My Love.’
    ‘I tell you. This painting will be the most famous painting in all the world, and you will be the most famous subject! People in their numbers will queue to catch a glimpse of your form. Art collectors and critics alike will fill hours deconstructing your hands, your eyes, your mouth. There will be books written about you, copies of your image will hang in the most exquisite places.(There may be the odd tea towel but there is no accounting for taste.),’
    ‘Tea towels? You are outrageous!’
    ‘… even in its absence, this portrait will have people crowding to see the space it left behind.
    ‘To see the space it left behind? Oh, Leonardo! How do you expect me to sit still when you make me laugh so!’ she said composing herself once more.
    173 words

    • An interesting question! Did da Vinci realise the extent of his own genius, and how much of an effect his work would have on the world? My guess is ‘yes’. 🙂 I enjoyed your tale of banter between model and artist. Well done.

      • Yeah, I’ve come over all philosophical! It’s amazing how much of an effect one person can have. I agree, I think he must have known.

  11. Two little stories today. ^.^

    ****
    Perfect
    131 words

    The painter eyed the canvas in front of him, a faint frown traced over his mouth, eyebrows folded together. “No, no,” he muttered. “It’s all wrong.”

    The woman in front of him laughed quietly and gave him a small smile. “What is wrong, sir?” she asked, still smiling faintly.

    The painter glanced up, then froze. “The smile,” he hummed, and the frown melted away. “That is it! Do not move, miss!”

    Freezing, the women held the little half-smile on her face. “Hm?”

    “The smile! It was not right. This will be better!”

    Slowly, the woman blinked. The painter’s grin widened, and he began to paint again, brush moving in long, sure sweeps as he captured the woman’s little smile and painted it into immortality.

    ****
    Allure
    175 words

    Slowly, the man sat down in front of the canvas. He had seen a woman today, while he was at the market. She had given him a little smile as he walked past. The barest little smile he had ever seen, and, on her roundish face, with her long nose and warm, brown eyes, it was most becoming.

    Mysterious, maybe, he thought as he traced out her face with a bit of charcoal. As though she knew something funny, but was unwilling to share.

    As his hand moved swiftly over the canvas, he contemplated the woman he had seen. She had been rather plain, actually. Her clothes, while clean, were drab browns and pale reds. Her hair was slightly stringy and a dull, mousey brown. Her face was one of those faces that could be easily forgotten and lost in a crowd.

    But that smile… That happy, mysterious, quiet little smile. It made her alluring. Made her mysterious, and desirable. “La Gioconda,” he whispered with a smile as he picked up his paint brush.

  12. The Look
    @ShawnCowling
    173 words

    I know that look. I forgot something important. Think man, what day is it? Tuesday. Monday, maybe? Oh goodness, why is she looking at me like that?

    “Hi sweetie, how was your day” I say like I don’t suspect something is up already.

    “That’s great, I’m glad the market had it available” Oh goodness, she’s using that tone too. I’m a dead man.

    Think, man, think; you can figure this out. That knowing glance and wry smile of hers. She’s not even going to hint at what she’s angry about.

    “Nothing darling, just rummaging through the pantry. Pasta for dinner? That basil is about to turn.” Make her think of food; that will buy me some time. For crying out loud what did I forget?

    I’m just going to ask her. Straight forward communication is the key to a strong relationship. That’s what Dr. Maury says anyway.

    “Alright, darling, what’s go…”

    Oh my goodness, I remember now.

    “What I meant to say was, ‘let’s go for that birthday dinner’!”

    Leo you’re a genius.

  13. Oh, Wise One.

    The odor of onions lingered like the rotted stomach of a bovine creature. Why did this genius insist on cooking onions every time I sat for him? He’s mad, I tell you. Can’t he cook up that fat pig he has waddling around?
    I half expected a more appropriate meal for sitting, not lettuce, radishes, and corn? Who eats corn?
    I have to hold my laughter observing his wrapped feet in burlap. He won’t wear shoes.

    Oh, he’s leaning close again. “Leonardo—must you eat onions everyday?”
    “It clears my head.”
    Hm?
    There was no arguing with the man. There were only questions. Always questions, because he left nothing defined—except in his work, in his drawings, in his paintings, he defined the minutest detail.
    If it were answers you sought the only place to discover them were inside his sketches—flying machines, and star trackers. He mumbled to me once, he was met with a man from the clouds.
    Did I believe him? I was the only one.

    169 words
    @love8rockets

  14. Title: Beauty is a Beast

    “Why did I volunteer to help you with this?”
    “Because I said the word famous and you offered to help without hearing the rest.”
    Should the artist be to blame for where his imagination takes him? I don’t think so, but it appears I am alone in this thinking. When my muse believed I should take a turn at drawing a nude subject, it wouldn’t let me think about how asking my friend might have a less than desirable result.
    “I wouldn’t be able to get married after this.”
    “What era are you from? Nothing like that is going to happen.”
    She climbed down from the pedestal and stood alongside my canvas.
    “Is that supposed to be me?”
    “Weren’t you worried about being recognized?”
    “I was worried, but I still want it to look like me!”
    “Ugh. I was trying to just trying to fix your smile, and… I just had an idea and it got out of hand.”
    “So that’s why I have fangs and claws?”
    “That’s why you have fangs and claws.”

    @JSHyena/ 174 words

  15. “Is that the Mona Lisa?”

    I took a sip of my wine, savoring the flavor on my tongue. “Of course not. Like I could afford the Mona List.”

    “But it looks so real.”

    “It’s just a copy. Like the Picasso, the Van Gogh, and the Manet.”

    “Oh.” She looked disappointed. “Yeah. A copy.”

    She was like all the other women I’d brought home. She’d spend the night, and then be gone. Because I was a pretender. I collected copies of artwork, and displayed them in my cheap apartment. I wasn’t the rich man she wanted.

    But the night would be fun. And in a few weeks, I’d bring home that painting from Degas I’d had my eyes on. Like the rest, it wouldn’t be a copy, but the real thing, though I could never admit it. I savored more of my wine. The advantages of being a museum caretaker were better than anyone thought.

    “Technology lets them make really good copies these days, doesn’t it.”

    165 Words
    @LurchMunster

  16. Eterno Sorriso*

    “And here we have possibly the most famous work in the Louvre, Da Vinci’s portrait of whom we believe is Lisa Gherardini, wife of the Florentine merchant, Francesco el Giocondo,” said the museum docent.

    Under the careful eye of the guard, the tourists gathered around the portrait, held back by its protective enclosure.

    “You probably know it as the ‘Mona Lisa,’ but we call it ‘La Gioconda,’” the docent continued.

    “Is that the picture that was in that Da Vinci code movie?” asked one man. The guard looked him over. An American, of course.

    “That was ‘The Last Supper,’” the docent replied, her smile indulgent.

    “Can we see that?” the tourist asked.

    No, you moron, the guard thought, because it’s in Milan.

    The docent moved the group along, and the guard met the eyes of Lisa Gherardini. If only they knew, he heard her say inside his head. His smile echoed hers.

    The real Da Vinci code was his formula for immortality, and who better to guard his masterpiece but Il Maestro himself?

    173 words (sans title)
    @unspywriter (Maggie Duncan)

    *Eternal Smile

    • It sounds like you and I were thinking along the same lines. Well done! (and I’m very thankful I wrote mine and posted it before reading any others.)

  17. History

    Jackie had purposefully waited out the crowds in the cavernous Louvre hall that housed La Giaconda. Throngs of tourists had filled virtually every inch of floor space for hours, jostling each other for a glimpse of the mysterious masterpiece that had sparked infernos of critical debates.

    Now, Jackie was the only one left, apart from La Giaconda herself. Guards’ footsteps echoed in the labyrinth of halls. Jackie steeled herself and squared off with the painting.

    Masterful draping hid the dislocated shoulder which itself was covered by an intricate birthmark even the artist hadn’t know was there. Jackie’s hand brushed her own shoulder. La Giaconda’s eyes narrowed behind the thin barrier of painting’s protective glass. Jackie stepped back involuntarily, her hand coming to rest just below her belly button. Her chin lifted a notch, and her eyes took in the soft curve of lips that had benefited from Da Vinci’s love-struck generosity.

    Bewitching, she’d been called. If they only knew…

    (160 words; @AriaGlazki)

  18. Finished – 175 words.

    He sat back, surveyed his work, felt pleased. No, elated.

    It was finished.

    She was finished.

    And yet…

    He raised his brush, tempted to add, to embellish, to risk the most perfect work of his career. With a snarl, he snapped the brush, hurling the splintered halves into opposing corners of his studio, lest they should rejoin and prey upon his resolve once more.

    Glaring at the painting, addressing the model long forgotten and left behind by the masterpiece she inspired, he spoke aloud, “You. Are. Done.”

    It felt so good, so final after so much work, that he said it again and again, wagging a finger at her smug, superior face.

    Finally exhausted, he fell back in his chair and wept.

    He had to mark the moment, to share his success with someone living. He found his phone, thumbed his patron’s number and waited, grinning to himself.

    “Mikey? Yeah, it’s Del.”

    “It’s done mate – Not even Leonardo could spot the difference.”

    “Swap ‘em over, cushty.”

    “What, another?”

    “Guernica?”

    “How’s a week on Tuesday sound?”

    @Karl_A_Russell

  19. THE LADY’S SECRET

    Theo came shrieking into the house, his shirt splattered with paint. “Grandma!”

    She lifted him onto the kitchen counter. “It’s all right, little one. If you hold very still while I clean you up, I’ll tell you a story, okay?”

    He nodded and solemnly submitted himself to her ministrations.

    “Remember the painting Grandpapa commissioned?”

    His eyes sparkled. “The one the king bought?”

    “Yes, ducky, that’s the one. For years, people have asked what I was smiling about. If I give you the answer, it must be our little secret.”

    He held out his hand. “Let’s pinky swear, Gran!”

    She chuckled and linked fingers with him. “To lessen my fear of being painted, Leonardo allowed me to paint him first. I took the brush, dipped it in paint, and stroked it across his shirt. Every day he painted me, he wore that silly ruined shirt, and that’s what made me smile!”

    – – – – –
    150 words / @bullishink

  20. You told me we would be together.

    You told me that, when the time came, you would come to get me.

    Now, I know that is impossible.

    How do I know? Because I am staring into your face. Not your true face, but a layer of paint and solvent and varnish housed in the back of a bulletproof box.

    But, it is you. I have no doubt.

    When we held hands in the stars, we looked in each other’s eyes, and you promised. Be patient, go back home, and wait. And I will be there for you. I will find you.

    That’s what you said.

    I hope you had a rich life – from the look of it, you did.

    But I will never know, standing here on the shiny wooden floor, feeling the five hundred years between us like a thick wall of your indifference.

    I am alone.

    148 words
    @betsystreeter

  21. School Girl Secret

    For centuries humanity has debated the process he took when creating me. Studies have revealed da Vinci drew me before he painted (How mysterious!), that there is a landscape beneath my veil (The plot thickens…), that there is a trace of an eyebrow under the layers of oil (How could he forget to paint them?), that he used himself as a model to paint me (How untrue! How could you replicate THIS?).

    Others wonder something like: What is my secret? Were da Vinci and I lovers? Am I his masterpiece? Did I even exist? Did my husband know da Vinci was painting me? Did my husband know I hired da Vinci to paint me? Do I know something no one else knows?

    And all I can do is giggle, regardless of how improper it may be for someone of my status to do so.

    You see…oh, I can barely say it! (Take a breath now, Mona.)

    You see, when Leo left the room to stretch…

    I tarred and feathered his stool!

    @nXgWVteacher
    171 words

  22. Mona Lisa Speaks

    Millicent shifted from one foot to the other. She glanced at Paul who leaned against the wall.
    “This is taking forever,” she said.
    “I told you the line would be brutal.”
    “Everyone wants to see her.”
    “Well, it’s not like she’s going any place, is she?”
    They were inside the room now, and Millicent could see the crowd bunching up at the end of the room. No flash photography, a sign read, but she heard cameras clicking.
    “I want to free.”
    Millicent looked around. “I’m sorry. Did you say something?”
    A few people looked at her and shrugged.
    Millicent’s teeth began to chatter.
    “I have lived in the palace of kings. I graced Napoleon’s bedroom. I have lived through revolution and wars. I toured Italy. And now they suffocate me behind glass. Me! The most famous woman in the world!”
    When a space opened, she saw the small painting, the woman with the enigmatic smile. Her dark eyes bore into Millicent’s.
    Millicent heard her shrieks of fury as she ran from the room.

    Word Count: 173

  23. Escape with the Rabid Dragons
    167 Words

    “Mom, I look like a girl!”

    “Charlie, stop it! It’s the European look. Schools are gonna love it, honey.”

    I can’t believe she’s making me do this- glamour shots in my graduation gown. The heat from the lights is creating a burnt dust smell. I might puke.

    “My Charlie’s applying to medical school, you know. So smart!” She says to the photographer.

    She still doesn’t know. That’s a relief.

    “Wipe that smirk off your face! Doctors need to look serious, Charlie. Studious!”

    I can’t help it. I’m thinking about tonight, when I’ll make my escape.

    “So proud of ya, Charlie.”

    I hate to break her heart, really. I’m off to Seattle tonight to open for The Rabid Dragons. All those years of growing out my hair and taking “classical” guitar lessons really paid off. I can head bang with the best of them, and I’m so ready to rock.

    “Love you, Mom.”

    “Love you, too, honey.”

  24. Aftermath of Battle Draconus: Take 2

    “You captured the dragon beautifully…or…well…graphically anyway.”

    “You don’t like it?”

    “No! It’s…well…Don’t you think it’s a bit macabre?”

    “But Lisa, the beast laid waste to the entire area! I’m sure a painting of its decaying body-”

    “Would not go over well. Leo, dear, trust me-”

    “Don’t *you* want it? Your arm was injured in the attack!”

    “Where would I hang it? It’s unsalable.”

    “But…But…It’s perfect. The background of grays and blues in the singed landscape are reminiscent of smoke and despair fading into the past. The reds and yellows are evocative of the fire and blood of battle. The beast itself, rotting in the foreground…”

    “It’s too good, Leo. Too real. People prefer to pick and choose their memories – most want to forget the day ever happened.”

    “But, Lisa, I can’t just throw the painting away!”

    “Change the focus. Take the decaying beast out – cover over him. People much prefer a mystery – hints instead of stark reality. They wouldn’t believe the dragon was real anyway. It’ll be our little secret.”

    “Wait! Hold that! Don’t move.”

    175 words
    @lissajean7

  25. Jim admired her skin, got lost in her eyes and found himself smiling back at her.

    “Jim? Jim, where are you?”

    “The basement,” he yelled.

    The door swung open and his wife descended down the creaky stairs. “What are you doing down here? I need your help.”

    “I was just going through some old stuff. I’ll be up in a minute.”

    “What is that?” she pointed to the painting he held.

    “This? Just an old painting from college. It was a gift.”

    “From who?”

    “Just someone I used to know. It’s a painting of a girl he knew.”

    “It’s very pretty. What happened to your friend? Does he still paint?”

    “No, he had to stop. I wish he would have kept it up. He was good.”

    “Come on, come help me,” his wife said before disappearing back up the stairs.

    Jim caressed the painted woman’s cheek with the back of his hand and ran his fingers through her hair. He leaned in and sniffed, hoping for something other than the smell of a musty basement.

    175 words
    @hlpauff

  26. A Secret Worth Keeping
    Word Count: 164
    Twitter: @mishmhem

    He studied the painting as the Docents droned on about its history and the rumors that surrounded it, trying to make the portrait sound more mysterious than it was.

    No one had guessed its secret in over six hundred years, but today the world would have a new mystery to ponder. He looked at his watch and smiled.

    According to his calculations, the light from today’s summer solstice would finally reach the painting. and when it did, it would blind everyone for a moment.

    When the flash came, he quickly slipped his coat onto his lady’s shoulders, and led her away.

    A moment later the alarm sounded, and someone screamed, “The Mona Lisa is gone!”

    He suppressed a laugh knowing the picture was still there, but the woman with the enigmatic smile was now walking beside him.

    “I told you I would find a way for us to be together,” he told her.

    She smiled at him. He had been a secret worth keeping

  27. Not fiction, but… because I wrote this first:

    La Joconde
    163 Words

    They see her,
    And nothing else exists
    Her youthful hands,
    Her budding breast
    Her pale skin,
    Not yet kissed by the sun,
    They do not see the bridge behind her
    Or the water as it flows
    The understated layers of her gown
    Their artful stitches forever lost
    To the wisdom in her eyes
    And the smile on her face
    They will never see beyond her veil
    That hides nothing, yet obscures all
    Can anyone know her secret?
    Even after all these years
    Some say she is wisdom
    Some say she is every woman’s secret heart
    Some say she is la Gioconda
    But after all this time
    Does it truly matter?
    For she is the lady
    Who sits and waits
    Watching what will be,
    With infinite hope
    While her smile says
    She’s seen it all before.
    And we are left, wondering
    If Leonardo knew her secret
    Or did he put it there?
    after all this time
    Did he win the bet or did she?

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