In this excerpt from my time-travel short story, Mason gets some advice from a famous painter.
Mason spent the night under Botticelli’s roof, along with the apprentices and under-artists who lived there. He lay awake through the few hours left before dawn, casting about between the wonder of where and when he was, and the heart-bursting delight of meeting Alessa.
In the morning, he was haggard and sore from the hard bed, but eager to prove his worth in the studio of one of his greatest idols. Sandro lent him the use of his canvas and oils and an easel, and he set to work making paints by hand, in the manner he’d studied at school, and began to paint.
He started with vague shapes and free movements, not quite sure what he was going to paint until Sandro appeared at his shoulder.
“She made an impression on you, did she?”
Startled, he looked to the artist, then back to his canvas. He hadn’t realized, but a figure was taking shape there, a dancer, with a smudge of golden hair and a green dress.
He smiled ruefully and nodded.
“Ah, love.” Sandro sighed and sat on a nearby stool. “I’d bet you’d give anything to know if you made the same impression on her.”
“Is it that obvious?”
“I myself am not a stranger to the pangs of love.” A shadow crossed his expression, a faraway look came into his eyes.
Mason held his breath. Was Sandro speaking of Simonetta Vespucci, the married lady he was rumoured to have loved? He wanted to ask, but it would have seemed strange for him to know anything about it.
He settled for a safer question. “That sounds like an interesting story.”
“A sad tale. Not one, perhaps, for a man happy in the early days of love.”
“I like sad stories.”
Sandro laughed bitterly. “You wouldn’t like to live in one.” He seemed to hesitate, as though deciding whether or not to tell. With a quirk of his lips, he began his tale. “There is not much of a story. Everyone knows it, perhaps. But I loved a lady once. She was the most beautiful woman who ever lived.” Mason noticed his eyes wandered to his own half finished painting, lingering on the face of Venus newborn from the sea.
He continued. “But she could never be mine. She was married already when I met her, and so I never revealed my heart for her. But I like to think, to console myself with the thought, that if she had been free, she might have loved me. I’ll never know. She died.”
The artist looked up and met his eyes. “As am I. Sometimes I am sorry I never declared my love for her, even in secret, even knowing nothing could come of it. But it would have distressed her, I think, and so I’m glad I didn’t. I’ve never loved another since her, and I don’t think I will as long as I live. I want to be buried at her feet when I die.” He glanced out the window, in the direction of the Church of Ognissanti where Simonetta Vespucci was entombed. Where he would one day be entombed.
“You’re right,” Mason said. “It is a sad story. And I wish you hadn’t lived it, for your sake.” He held out a hand to grasp the artist’s shoulder in brotherly solidarity.
“I don’t.” Sandro smiled sadly. “Whatever cruel hand fate has dealt us, love is still worth the pain.”
“’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, eh?”
Sandro looked at him oddly. “An accurate sentiment. Eloquently put.”
“I can’t take credit. It’s from a poem.” Mason realized with a twinge that the words were from a poem written nearly four centuries from now, written by a man who had yet to draw his first breath, let alone feel any pain of loss. He couldn’t get used to that feeling.
“I suppose what I want to impress on you, young Mason, is that you do not know if you have tomorrow. I was not free to confess my love to Simonetta. But your way is clear with this Alessa. You should tell her how you feel.”
Mason glanced at the vague shape of the dancer on his canvas, drawing in his breath and holding it.
Did he love her? Could he possibly know after one brief meeting?
With a quickening of his pulse, he admitted such a thing might be possible. But there was only one way to find out. He must speak with her again. And soon.
After all, it was a miracle he’d ended up in the Renaissance in the first place. He had no guarantee how long this supernatural glitch would give him.
It was more than a mystery now, more than tracking down La Bella Ragazza. Now that he’d found her, the draw of her was so much more than a beautiful painting.
He let out his breath, slumping his shoulders slightly.
Sandro clapped him on the back. “Go to her! No one would fault you for it.”
Mason glanced back at the master for confirmation. But he didn’t need to be told twice.
With a grin, he unrolled the sleeves of his chemise and rescued his borrowed doublet from the corner of the workshop. Sandro tossed him a hat.
“Go and get her,” the artist said.
As always, please feel free to let me know your honest opinion. 🙂