I’m not sure how long I sat on the balcony overlooking the cove and watched Papa, brush in hand, paint one broad stroke after another across his rough-hewn canvas. The azure blues of the ocean reflected in his grayish eyes as a slight glint from the morning sun highlighted his silver brow. No matter how warm the rising sun, I don’t recall ever having seen Papa sweat.

If he made a mistake, he would take a long slow deep breath and squint his eyes as if he was about to say something very profound and then, in all seriousness, would declare, “If I don’t mind, it don’t matter.” With my eyes wide in wonder, he would break the tension with a smile that rolled down from his grey eyes, over his ruddy cheeks, into his trademark contagious white grin.

He stood upright; posture dignified yet absence pretension, as the manner of his bearing gave forth a certain unexplainable charisma. He wore his customary white tunic, always immaculate and tailored to fit without effort. I marveled at how his smile matched the tunic, both of which he wore with a natural elegant ease. I never asked grand, but he must have had a whole closet full of them since they always looked spotless. No doubt, Papa looked better in causal dress than most Hynerians in full formal wear.

Papa stretched his own canvas, said it was the only way to become one with the work and he only ever worked with primary colors and a bit of white. I asked him why not black too, and he said there would be no darkness in his paintings. And then he laughed and said nothing is truly black and he would not use it as a crutch. I never knew whether he was serious in that remark or not.

We had just finished breakfast and I could hear grand in the kitchen, plates and glasses clinking as her delicate hands washed them one at a time. I had started inside to help her, but Papa insisted I stay. Said he had something he wanted to show me. I think he saw me roll my eyes as he rolled his in return. “Talk is cheap. Show first. Tell later. You know the routine,” he said, tapping the end of his brush on the table in mock anger like a school teacher. I still smile thinking at how adept he handled a nine-year-old girl. Papa’s lessons never felt like lessons at all.

“Come here Kyra. Take my brush. Pick up some yellow and put it on the canvas. Now pick up some red.” The polished wooden brush had a peculiar balanced heft in my nine-year-old hands and I had the overwhelming desire to whirl it in the air and let the paint go where it may, but of course thought the better of it. There was the white tunic to be mindful of. The brandonian oils Papa used looked thick, felt heavy on the brush and had the most wonderful sweet smell as they intermingled with the warm ocean breeze coming off the cove. “Now slowly run your brush between the two colors and tell me what you see?” he said in a low whisper as if we were about to share some ancient secret he didn’t want grand to overhear.

I looked in wonder as my yellows and reds became orange wherever the two met. “How does that happen Papa?”

“It’s the universal law,” he said. “Nothing stays the same and everything influences everything else. Be like yellow and you brighten everything you touch. Be like red and you darken everything you touch. There is no way around this fundamental principle.”

“But Papa, wouldn’t blue have been a better choice than red for this lesson? I asked with a smile as only a precocious young girl can do.

Papa cocked his head and with a wink said, “I think I hear your grand calling for some help.”

“Kyra, its Yul. We’ve got a problem.”

So much for daydreams I thought. “What’s the problem?”

“Mairi’s missing?” said Yul.

“Get Rog and Von over here right away.” I sensed a slight pause. “Yul, did you copy that?”

“No can do. Rog has gone missing too,” she responded, a slight nervousness in her voice.

Be like yellow I muttered to myself forgetting the responder was still on. “Be like what?” asked Yul.

“Just talking to myself, sorry. Grab Von and get over here as soon as you can.”

Categories: Story, Kyra, Papa, Yul, Paintings