Your Heart Is Your Masterpiece

A short story based off I’ll Keep You Safe by Sleeping At Last.


Grace stood by the front door of the small house, bouncing on her toes. The eight-year-old almost never got a day alone with her dad. He was always busy on the weekends and she had school during the weekdays. But sometimes, every once in awhile, he would excuse her from school and take her to work with him. This was one of those special occasions.
Her dad walked in and looked at her with surprise.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
“Yes, daddy!” she exclaimed. He grinned.
“Then let’s go!”
He carefully swung his supply bag onto his shoulder, picked up his canvas stand and tucked it under his arm, and then, finally, grabbed a tall wooden stool. They loaded up and were soon on their way. Grace smiled as she looked out of the car window.
When they got to their destination, they both leapt out giddily. Her father lugged the heavy supplies through the empty park, Grace not far behind. She didn’t even pause when they passed a playground. They climbed over grassy hills until they saw the beginning of the forest.
“Come on!” her dad laughed, beginning to sprint, which looked very funny since he was carrying so much stuff. Grace laughed and ran after him. They made it to the edge of the forest, both breathing hard. Grace stared up at the tall trees that were beginning to lose their leaves. The wind blew and dozens of brown, orange, and red leaves fell to the ground.
“It’s so pretty,” she said.
“Yes, it is,” her father said thoughtfully. “Which is why I want to paint it.”
“What did you bring for me?” Grace asked, turning back to her dad who had already set down his stool and his stand and was now opening the bag.
“Close your eyes,” he said, his shaggy blond hair falling over his forehead, but not covering his sparkling blue eyes. Grace obediently closed her eyes.
“Hold out your hands.”
She held them out. He placed something in them.
“Ok, open!”
Opening her eyes, she saw in her hands a blue-handled paintbrush and a set of watercolors. Her lips slowly curved into a smile.
“Can you feel the weight of it, my little architect?” he whispered, kneeling before her. “The whole world’s at your fingertips.”
Her eyes grew wide as she stared at the simple paints.
“This is how it all starts,” he said. “You can use these tools to make anything. You can use them to paint the depths of the ocean or the starry sky. You can paint summer or winter, rain or sun. Anything is possible. Amazing, huh?”
She smiled and nodded
“Well, we better get started,” he said, standing up and walking to his stool. “And quickly, before the wind knocks all the leaves down!”
He handed her a tablet of blank paper and Grace didn’t hesitate but began to paint, using a water bottle her dad had brought to wet the watercolors. Her father pulled out his palette, squirted small blobs of different colors onto it and soon he was painting too.
After a few minutes, Grace realized her painting was too colorful. It didn’t match the faded grass and dark leaves of the trees. So she ripped the page out and started again. But she used too much brown on that one. After several more tries, she dropped her paintbrush on the ground beside her. She looked up at her father’s picture and sighed. It was beautiful and realistic, even though he had only just begun painting the grass and the roots.
She looked down at her pile of mess-ups. The wind blew gently, almost sweeping them away. She breathed in. The wind smelled so… cold.
Could I paint the cold? Can I paint sounds? Can I paint smells?
She stood up and walked further into the forest, watching the leaves swirl in the wind. Going to stand underneath the tallest trees, she looked up. The sky beyond the trees was gray. She took another step and her boots crunched the leaves on the ground. Glancing down, she stomped again. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath.
And then, she lifted her hands and began to spin, listening to the crunchy leaves and branches breaking beneath her feet, smelling the cold autumn wind and the burning of leaves in the distance.
And then, she opened her eyes.
The tree was so bare and brown, but the leaves were so bright and beautiful. She stopped spinning and smiled.
I think I can paint it.
She ran back. Her father glanced at her, an amused look on his face, but he quickly focused on his painting again. Grace sat down and pulled out a fresh sheet of paper. Wetting her paintbrush, she began to paint. She smiled as she worked.
A few minutes later, she was finished with her masterpiece. She jumped up.
“Look, dad!” she exclaimed, running to him, her painting in hand. But her eyes were so fixed on her picture that she didn’t see where she was going. She bumped into her father and his palette flew from his hands.
Grace gasped as it splattered onto his painting.
“Oh no!” she exclaimed, clutching her picture tightly. Her father slowly reached forward and peeled the palette from the canvas. The colors were smeared all over his work. It was ruined.
“Oh, dad,” she cried, tears spilling from her eyes. “I’m so sorry!”
“Everyone makes mistakes,” her father said calmly as he tried to salvage his work. “It’s all right, Grace.”
“But I ruined your masterpiece!” she wailed. He paused and then turned toward her, getting down on one knee.
“It’s just a painting,” he said, looking into her eyes. “I can always make another one. A masterpiece cannot be so easily replaced. And do you know what the greatest masterpiece of all is?” She wiped away her tears and shook her head. Her father smiled. “Your heart. Your heart is your masterpiece. I can redo my painting, but a heart can’t be redone. And I promise that I will help you keep it safe.”
Grace smiled and wrapped her arms around his neck.
“I love you, daddy.”
“I love you too, my little architect.”


Grace adjusted her black dress before leaning down to slip on her black high heels. She sighed, trying her best to blink back her tears.
She was twenty-two, now, but she couldn’t help reminiscing about her childhood. That was when she was closest with him, before she became busy in high school and then left for college.
I should’ve communicated better. I should’ve visited more often.
Taking a deep breath, she stopped herself. She didn’t want anyone to see her cry, not even at her father’s funeral.
She walked through her messy apartment to the front door, not wanting to be anymore late than she already was.


Benjamin thought he had already cried his fill. But as soon as he got to the funeral, he knew he was wrong. The great Gregory Morgan, his friend and mentor, was dead. It had been sudden. He had only been in his early forties.
But I suppose all great artist die young. The thought wasn’t much of a comfort.
Benjamin folded and unfolded his hands, trying to remain composed. Hundreds of people crowded around him and he’d hate to cry in front of them all.
He stared at the silver coffin that was about to be lowered into the ground. Is it weak to mourn the one who taught you so much?
Tears were just beginning to fill his eyes again, when he heard a soft voice behind him saying, “Excuse me, pardon me, please, he’s my father, let me through.”
A moment later a young woman wearing black, like everyone else in the area, was standing next to him. She had curly blond hair and blue eyes that were shining with tears. Benjamin stared at her, realizing she was Gregory’s daughter, Grace, if he recalled. She looked like her father.
She didn’t even look at him but stared at the coffin and then at the pastor who was giving his speech.
It was soon time for the artist to be buried. Six men lowered the coffin into the ground. Before the first shovelful of dirt was flung, the girl beside him turned and pushed her way back through the crowd. Benjamin watched her. A moment later he was following after her.
He stayed a good distance away so she wouldn’t know she was being followed. He didn’t know exactly why he was following her. Curiosity, maybe? He had heard so much about her, though they had never actually met.
She was as beautiful as her father made her out to be.
He wasn’t intending on stalking her very far. They were about to reach the parking lot and he wouldn’t be able to chase after her on his bicycle if she got in her car. He stopped at the edge of the grass, wondering if she knew he was following her.
She walked up to a small, silver car and opened it with her keys. And then, to Benjamin’s surprise, she pulled out a large, white canvas, a stand, a stool, and a black grocery bag that was obviously full of something. She found a way to carry it all, and then, closing the back of her car with her elbow, she began to walk. He thought about asking if she wanted help, but when she turned he saw tears streaming down her face, and he knew she probably wanted privacy.
He knew he should walk away and let her have it.
But her father had told him she was a doctor. Not an artist. So, what was she doing with the canvas?
He followed her.
After a few minutes of walking, they came to a park not too far from the cemetery.
Benjamin knew it well. It was one of Mr. Morgan’s favorite place to paint.
She walked past the playground full of children and watchful mothers and then over the grassy hills. When she walked up to the forest just beyond, she stopped. She put down the stool, the stand, and the canvas. And then she reached into the bag and pulled out an old, worn set of watercolors and a paintbrush with a blue handle. She set them down on the stool.
Benjamin quietly walked up to her, determined to make his presence known.
But then she did the oddest thing.
She walked further into the forest, leaving the canvas and watercolors behind. Her head was held high. She looked like she was searching the sky for something. The trees were in full bloom. The leaves were bright green and some had flowers. The tall, green grass was littered with petals and leaves.
Grace lifted her hands, still looking up. And then she began to spin in a circle, tears streaking her cheeks.
Benjamin stopped next to the canvas, watching her, wonderingly. It was a sight more beautiful than anything he’d ever seen.
After a few minutes, she stopped. Her back was too him. She saw her shoulders quaking and he heard the sounds of quiet sobbing.
Tears filled his eyes and he didn’t bother blinking them back this time.
After a few minutes she straightened her shoulders. And then she turned back. She froze when she saw him.
“Who are you?” she said harshly, though her voice was quiet. “What are you doing here?” Her glaring eyes were red and puffy.
“I’m Benjamin. Benjamin Wagner. I…” he cleared his throat, “I was your father’s apprentice.”
Her countenance softened.
“Did you follow me here?”
“Yes. And I’m terribly sorry to disturb you,” he apologized, bowing his head. “I don’t wish to intrude on your privacy for very much longer. But… I just wanted to say… that your father was a great man.” He paused. “He told me multiple times that the heart is our greatest masterpiece and he didn’t want to shape his with sadness, but with love and hope. He… he always took his sadness and turned it into art. I admire that greatly and plan to follow his footsteps. I plan to take this sadness and turn it into a work of fiction. And though I will miss him, I know we’ll see him again. I can see you are an artist, like he was, so I hope you’ll do the same.”
Benjamin bowed to her, and then turned and walked away.
“Wait,” she called. He paused and looked back.
“Don’t go.”


Grace approached her father’s grave. She sat down next to it, placing a bouquet of bright flowers in front of it.
“Hi dad,” she whispered, looking up to the sky, and then back down to the grave.
“I’m sorry I haven’t visited you in so many months but… I’ve been busy. Little Gregory is a busy one.” She smiled. “Well, I just… wanted to tell you that… I’ve been working very hard on my masterpiece ever since you left. Benjamin has been helping me shape it. Don’t worry, dad, he has promised to help me keep it safe until I can get up there and show you.”
“Mommy? Mommy where d’ya go?” a young voice reached her ears. Grace looked over her shoulder. Smiling, she stood. But, before she left to go find her son, she looked back down at the grave stone.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “Thank you for teaching me about art.”


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    May 09, 2014 @ 18:21:54

    Beautifully done. Precious story



  2. Gabi M.
    May 10, 2014 @ 22:18:46

    Wow, that was an incredible story. You truly have a gift :).



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