Royal Red | Murtaza Jawadwala
She said that my face is the most beautiful one she has ever seen. I don’t believe her. Maybe if she came closer to take a look, she’ll see why. But she never comes out of the dark. The four white walls of my chamber stand with welcoming arms but she doesn’t trust them. Her favourite spot is that corner of my room which is on the southwest of my bed. That corner, which remains dark throughout the night. No matter how many candles I light.
“So are you…” I whisper.
“You are beautiful too,” I say, not knowing how she looks.
The moonlight falls like a bridal veil on the face in the portrait. The one hanging on the wall, in front of me.
“So was she…” I whisper again, looking in front of me, at the face in the portrait.
She was…The alluring Princess Amaravati…
“Shhh!” I softly scold her.
“No one takes her name in this palace,” I say.
Because of what she did?
Do you think it was wrong?
“Isn’t killing your family a wrong thing?” I ask.
I look at her and see nothing but darkness.
They deserved it, didn’t they? She whispers.
The so-called pious King and Queen of Amaravat. She chides.
I look at the portrait again. She looks beautiful, I think.
Despite the dusty canvas and the broken frame, The painting looks as good as new.
“I can’t sleep.” I sigh. “Shall we play?” I ask, suddenly excited.
We just did, aren’t you tired?
“No, I’m not.” I smile.
“Shall we paint?” I ask her.
I feel her presence creeping closer.
“Do you know what my favourite colour is?” I ask, whispering softly.
Red… She whispers back. Not softly.
“That’s right. But which shade?” I ask.
What all shades are there? She asks.
I sit up from my bed and look at the console table on its left. The canvas sits colourless on top of it. Surrounded by the knives, all of different shapes and sizes, but all coloured the same.
I pick up the Kitchen Shear. It shines silver in the moonlight, despite being coloured red, it doesn’t lose its shine.
“Can you guess this shade?” I ask her.
Scarlet… She breathes.
She bled scarlet, like the Vermilion she wears along the part of her head… She says, proudly. Proud at making the accurate comparison.
“Mother bled scarlet,” I repeat.
I press the Shear on the canvas, wiping it. And thus, painting the paper, the Queen’s scarlet red.
I pick up Cleaver next. Showing it to her.
Ruby red… She screeches.
As red as the big fat ruby which sits proudly in front of his crown. She chuckles.
“Father bled Ruby,” I repeat while painting the paper, yet again. But this time, the King’s Ruby red. Then I pick up the Chef’s knife. Turning to her, facing the dark corner.
“This is my favourite shade of red,” I say to her.
Apple red? She confirms.
“Like the apples that grow on the tree in our palace garden,” I say while smiling at the sweet memory.
“The one my brother and I used to climb as kids.”
He bled Apple red… She snickers.
“The Prince bled Apple red,” I repeat, yet again. And I paint the canvas with the Chef’s knife, till there is not a single spot of white.
What is my favourite colour? She whispers.
“Red,” I say.
Which shade? She asks.
I raise my hand towards her, with the back of my hand facing her. I close it into a fist and point at my knuckles.
“Cherry Red,” I say. Smiling at her. Smiling at the dark corner.
You bled Cherry Red.
When you punched through the glass window to enter the abandoned room. She recalls.
“Amaravati’s room,” I tell her.
To steal the portrait. She accuses.
“To free it,” I say.
I can feel her cold breath brushing my cheekbones, caressing it. I squint in the darkness, which seems to spread all around me.
“To free her,” I whisper into the dark.
To free me… She whispers back.