There’s a hot young artist in Midnight named Isabella.Â She does these wild, nearly abstract things on huge canvasses.Â While painting, she wears a red dress and heels and a modest bit of gold jewelry, maybe earrings, maybe a necklace or a bracelet.
It’s not the art so much as the spectacle.Â Her paintings are a performance.Â She sashays and struts and sways; she dances as she paints.Â She doesn’t even see the audience.Â Sometimes she sings, too softly for anyone to make out the words, but her notes are precise and organic, and more than one man–more than one woman–has fallen either hopelessly or helplessly in love.
But Isabella doesn’t care.Â She’s all about the art.Â She’s all about the moment.Â She was born in Barcelona, but you’ll never hear her speak of that city or its wonders.Â The past is gone, abandoned and ignored, and with it all her sins, her lessons, her failings and her glories.Â She’s twenty-two.Â She’s got time for more of everything.
She inspires devotion and respect.Â When she’s done with a piece, which may take days to complete, the people crowd around her; they want to touch her red hair, perhaps her hand for the briefest moment, they want to praise and please her and fulfill her every desire.
Isabella thanks them all, and always has time for everyone no matter how young or old or foolish.Â Worse still, she remembers you, and calls you by name the next time, and maybe that’s why so many Midnighters are so enamored with her.
On no particular Thursday night, after she has finished a blue and green canvas she calls, “Mediterranean”, she accepts the adulation and accolades, kisses the cheek of an old man, squeezes the hand of a young boy, and throws a wink at the girl too shy to approach her.Â The crowd disperses slowly, but inevitably, leaving Isabella a moment to see the fullness of her painting for the first time.
“Beautifully rendered,” one last onlooker says.Â It’s the mad preacher, the wise stranger, the freak who always wears black and stands outside the Fairgrounds judging you with his eyes; it’s the Wandering Reverend, and Isabella suddenly finds herself nervous.
“It reminds me,” the Wandering Reverend finally says, “of the flood.”Â Then he wanders off to do whatever it is reverends do.
Isabella goes home.Â It’s a nice place, spacious, bright–incredibly vibrant, in fact, for this City of Night.Â She keeps a friend there, a boy her own age, with his own definitions and expressions of art, but as yet nobody knows his name.Â She lingers in his embrace, and steals extra kisses, and then insists on bourbon.
“Tonight,” Isabella says between glasses, “I received a visitation.”
“Was it glorious?” the boy asks.
Isabella finishes another glass of bourbon and, in her heart, misses the cava of home, misses it though she has never missed it before.Â She says, “No, it was not glorious.Â It was far from glorious.”Â And for the first time in a very long time, she wishes she could leave Midnight and go home.
June 19, Thunderstorm Books starts accepting pre-orders for Once Upon a Time in Midnight.