Flash of Silver

Smooth, crisp lines flowing across the canvas, tracing the legs, the back, the head
ending in the pointed horn. I smiled and put down my pencil. Each time I kept getting better.
Each time it looked more alive, more mysterious, as though it could just step right off the
canvas and fly away through the window back into the world from which it came. All it needed
was some paint, and it would be ready for the exhibition next week. My agent didn't understand
the fascination. I could paint almost anything, landscapes, people, abstract, but for some
reason I only felt alive when I painted my unicorn. I never showed them to anyone other than
my wife; it seemed so silly for someone my age to have an obsession with unicorns. Besides, I
hadn't gotten it quite right. Now matter how much I captured, there was still something left
out. And it was frustrating to me. I could capture every facet of all my other subjects so
perfectly. But the unicorn remained elusive, untouchable, vanishing into the mists of my mind
even as I put form to it.

"Another one?" Danielle came gliding into the room and wrapped her arms around my neck.

"Mmm," I answered, picking up my paintbrush. "I'll get it this time. I can feel it."

"You say that every time."

"I'm bound to be right sooner or later."

"I hope so." She unwound her arms and left the room.

That feeling from her again, hanging on the air, as elusive as any unicorn. I often wonder
what that feeling means, but I never remember to ask, and it seems silly to get up from my
easel for something like that. What would I say? "That feeling you leave behind. What does
it mean?" I rinsed my brush and switched colors. Time enough to ask later.

I finished the painting. Again, another failure. I captured all I could think of, right down
to the silver light off its back and again, I missed something. I set it in the corner with
the others and finished up another painting for the exhibition. Then I set my supplies aside
and left my studio. Danielle had my dinner setting out at my place. She was seated in the
chair across from me, running her index finger absentmindedly around the rim of a mug, hot
chocolate, from the smell of it.

"Cold, isn't it?" I said, sitting down at my place. She glanced up, startled, then nodded and
looked out the window again. "Did you want me to start a fire?" I asked.

"I already did," she said, indicating the fireplace.

"Oh. It's still chilly."

"It usually is," she said, taking a sip from the mug. "The studio's the warmest room in the

I nodded, and went back to my food. Her gray eyes appraised me for a moment, then stood up and
placed her mug on the counter. "Well, good night."

I looked up, startled. "Good night?"

"It's one in the morning," she said, indicating the clock on the microwave.

"Oh. I didn't realize it was that late."

"Apparently not." She headed for the stairs, firelight catching the lighter gold in her hair. There was something odd about her walk, something stiff.

"Are you upset with me?"

"Should I be?" she asked, pausing at the staircase.

"I hope not."

She smiled, ever so slightly, and went upstairs. I finished my dinner, and went to the couch
in front of the fireplace. The fire was dying, and I added more wood to it. Our wedding
picture was on the mantle, and I paused to look at it. My friends thought I was insane when I
told them I was marrying Danielle.

"She'll tie you down, man. She'll hold you back," Toby said.

"No, man. She'll take your money and dump you first chance she gets," Tom told me.

Danielle probably said it the best. "Are you sure?" she asked me when I handed her the ring.
I had planned a whole speech, but it died on my lips with that look.

"Of course I'm sure," I responded.

"It's just that... Nothing lasts for me." I knew that. She had told me very little about
where she came from. To this day, I have never met her parents. But the life she carried in
her soul, her eyes, that life was enough for me. "But I'm yours as long as you want me," she
told me.

I went and sat on the couch. That light seemed to have died lately. I wonder if it was ever
there to begin with. Our worlds were so different, and she was so exhilarating. But now... I
went back to the studio and began my unicorn again.

I woke up in the gray dawn of morning. I had fallen asleep on the floor, which was now cold.
The fire must have gone out in the next room. I looked at my easel in frustration. I hadn't
even finished penciling in the unicorn, and I could already tell it would be as lifeless as the
others. I kicked the legs, and the easel fell over. The picture slid across the floor, the
unfinished lines mocking me. I headed for the door, grabbed my coat, and walked out.

The woods were cold and misty. I stumbled on a tree root and fell to my knees in the thick
mud. I cursed and tried to get up, but the branch I grabbed was slippery and I fell again. I
was about to attempt again, when I heard a soft whisper on the wind. It had no words, no form,
but something about it made me take notice. It carried that feeling with it, the feeling I
couldn't quite place, the feeling that Danielle left me. Then I looked up.

It came out of the mist, like a dream, like a ghost. It had all those qualities I had tried so
desperately to capture, and now that I saw it I knew the futility of trying to express them.
They weren't something that could be captured on any flat surface. No amount of analysis could
bring them to life. It was something to experience, something to feel. The gray eyes held the
life I sought, wild and free and never tied down. I wanted to keep that moment, but the
feeling told me, "Only for a little while. Treasure what you have, and remember." The sun
rose up, breaking the mist, shimmering gold over its back, and it vanished into the flare.

I trudged back to the house covered in mud. Danielle was waiting for me at the front door.
"Did you find what you were looking for?" she asked, gray eyes loving, questioning.

"I think so," I answered, a little tongue tied.

"It's about time," she said, turning to go back inside.

"Actually, I don't think I ever lost anything. It was only my imagination."

She came outside in her bare feet and helped me into the house.