Chapter Three: Paila

It always amazed me how nobody wanted to have any fun with all of these paints, so mesmerized by their bold hues was I as they shimmered under the fluorescent lights.

I knew they were meant to be used upon the body rather than canvas, but without other resources to hand, and my mind eager to feel fulfilled instead of painfully bored, they’d become my reliable outlet.

I could pour my heart and soul out onto the page and it would all be transformed into a masterpiece. Or, at least, how close I could come to that level of talent, having never been particularly skilled with a paintbrush. Still, how could they not be seen as anything but brilliant? They were capturing the memories of the old silver screen, the posters which had advertised their coming showings my latest muse; I occasionally dabbled with newer movie posters as my starting point, but they lacked the depth the older ones had.

A girl born into the wrong time, that was me.

My collection of vintage memorabilia had been quite a sight to behold, the intricacies of some of the more delicate pieces having always been a favorite with many of the other women. But since finding myself in need of traveling light, I’d not been able to carry them about with me.

I’m certain Kovor wouldn’t have minded me bringing all of my personal effects with me, however it had been less about his allowing of it and more to do with a lack of time, frantic survival, and an otherwise less than ideal means of living.

In short, time and circumstance hadn’t been on our side.

Few things had been, on that day.

And those thoughts had no place here.

Picking up yet another pot, the liquid inside a royal blue, the richness of its color manipulated under the lights so as to look darker or more pale depending on where I placed it, I decided to begin. There was a small pop of air as I wiggled off the lid, the smell of the paint assaulting my nose as its fumes invaded the small space I occupied. It wasn’t an unpleasant smell, but for some it would be too strong — not for me though, I loved the way it roared upon opening, that first whiff always reminding me of the theatre.

My fingers wound around the handle of a thick, heavyset brush, its bristles slightly tinged from the last round of painting I’d subjected it to. With the smallest of sighs, I turned to grab an empty jar and go about filling it with water, not too much, just enough that it would help me better clean my brushes. A lot of the time, I relied on simply dry cleaning the brushes with an old, raggedy looking cloth, however it didn’t always do the trick of giving me that clean base to work with.

A couple more clinks of the glass while I cleaned my brush off, and I was ready to go, the whiteness of the canvas willing me to cover it. In a flurried rush of movements, my hand went about dipping from the water to the paint and then the canvas, hardly slowing its journey as I did so. I was lost to the whirl of it: the smells, the sounds, they all transported me off of this ship and into my own little world. I was safe inside my bubble, my boredom a forgotten fragment of my emotions.

The way the blue flooded all over, turning every inch of the brilliant white a shade reminiscent of the night sky, caused me to give a little wiggle of my hips in giddy excitement. It was that first step in making something wonderful — it always gave me a tingle of glee. I became like a child so taken by their new toy that they couldn’t help but squeal in delight as they played with it.

Instead of squeals though, I started to merrily hum. My tone was low at first, but the more I worked at my painting, the louder the tune became, the melody one I’d heard on the radio years ago. It had always stuck with me, and was the one song I would gladly listen to on repeat without ever tiring of it.

As I worked away while choosing my next color, my eyes drawn to the magenta pot while my finger hovered over all the lids, my humming turned into singing. Nothing loudly obnoxious, only the gentle purring of words able to fill me with happiness, arguably the ideal accompaniment to the contentment I found myself immersed in while painting. So engrossed was I in my labor, that I failed to hear the door behind me open wider as someone approached. Finally I looked out of the corner of my eyes, prompted by the uneasy prickling at the back of my mind that someone was near.

“Oh my goodness!” I gasped, startled by Wyann’s sudden appearance. Considering his muscular build, he’d moved with quiet grace; I was impressed. So large in stature that he towered above me, his strapping physique taking up a lot of the room and blotting the door from view.

I didn’t mind at all.

“I didn’t even hear you come in, Wyann.” I dithered, laughing to ease the stillness between us. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t say a word, he just grunted in agreement.

Slightly uneasy in not knowing how best to talk to him, I turned towards my painting to offer an explanation for my enthusiasm. “I simply adore painting — not that I’m very good at it, but it soothes me and allows me to get creative,” I gave him a massive smile. “I suppose such is the heart of the creative: we’re always on the search for more ways to express ourselves.”

“How can you enjoy it so much if you’re not, by your own admission, good at it? You’d be better suited to a craft you’re well adjusted to.” I could tell his opinion wasn’t to be taken disrespectfully, for he was simply curious as to how the two married together so seamlessly for me.

After all, it was clear to me that he was a man who only did what he felt he excelled at, rather than doing anything merely for the fun of it.

To try and better explain myself, I motioned for him to come to the other side of the room; there in the corner, tucked away from view, were all the paintings I’d previously finished.

I pulled them out one by one, eventually decorating the entire wall with them as I leaned each piece up against the sparse furniture of the room. Wyann still looked puzzled. I couldn’t help but laugh again, though this time it wasn’t a nervous sound but one of genuine pleasure. He was an odd one, but so was I to him, and so we worked well together in our own strange little way.

Finally, after much quiet reflection of my actions, he spoke. “I’m sorry, but I still don’t see your point?”

“I’m not doing a very good job of explaining myself, so all is forgiven.” I jested, though it didn’t seem like he understood why he’d need forgiving; whatever his life had been before finding his way aboard the Rogue Star, it wasn’t a life that had been filled with humor.

“All joking aside,” I began saying, in an attempt to move past his confusion. “The point I’m trying to make by showing you all of these is that it passes the time, it gives me a way to occupy myself, and when I’m doing that I’m happy. Does that make more sense?”

I was genuinely interested in whether it did, part of me concerned as to whether I was seen as such an oddball by the crew because of how I behaved or because of my speech as well.

Wyann fixed me with an intense stare, his eyes having shifted from roaming over my art to looking back at me. His eyes still roved, only now I was the subject of his scrutiny instead. I didn’t mind his observations though, as there didn’t seem to be anything untoward or unfriendly about them — he was simply trying to figure me out.

“Honestly, and without causing offense, I don’t understand more now than when we started.” I offered him a gentle smile in an attempt to show him that I wasn’t offended in the slightest, but he only frowned and continued. “I’d either want to be good at it in order to enjoy it, or I’d have to stop if I didn’t develop better skills. To do it for amusement, without any gain, seems a pointless exercise.” I must have looked crestfallen at this, as he added for my benefit, “Again, not meaning to cause offense.”

Oh. Well.

“We are different creatures, are we not?”

“Quite.” With one last sweep of the room, almost like he was trying to detect possible weak points in security rather than giving my art a final look over, he went to leave. “I’m sorry to have bothered you, Paila, I’ll leave you to your… exercise.”

“Don’t be a stranger, Wyann,” Picking up the paintbrush once more, I waggled the excess water off of the bristles as I spoke. “I’m always happy to show people the wonders of art, even the most reluctant of students.”

I could tell he didn’t get my meaning, choosing to take my offer as if I really intended to act as his teacher when, in fact, my offer had been to extend a hand of friendship.

He intrigued me.

I so wanted to know more.

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