I know why the caged bird paints.
Two maidservants watched the young bharat painting in the palace garden. She was always observed. Never alone.
“The flowers are fine. But she keeps changing those fable figures in the background, and they’re never quite right.”
“It keeps her occupied.”
“Imagine being a Sendra woman, married to our jayanta, with all he’s done to her people.”
“She renounced it, though. Converted to true Sambaranism.”
“The jayanta visits her bed. He must trust her.”
The bharat dipped her brush in tempera, covered the tiger image, began revising again.
* * *
The man studied the painting by lamplight. The tiger had turned from the swan, moved towards the river—one paw dipped in—the squirrel on its back. The man’s jaw dropped. So soon?
He paused, committing the scene to memory. This was too dangerous to trust to a messenger. He meandered through the stable yard, casually hailing other servants, until he was through the gate.
Once in shadow, he rushed toward the secret Sendra temple. He hoped it wasn’t already too late.
Word count: 175. Inspired by this week’s Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers challenge. Click the blue frog to read the other writers’ stories. Here’s the real (modern) photo prompt: