Michael cleared the clutter from a wall in his house. He set up his canvas on a stand and meticulously arranged his painting equipment. Pencils, brushes, paints, a pallet, and some rags. He anxiously waited for Julie, who was late.
The king, who was very fond of art, had asked his minister to organise a competition. Artists from the kingdom were to present their pieces at a royal gathering, the best of which would be handsomely rewarded. Michael was a prolific artist but never got the recognition he deserved. This competition, he thought, was his ticket to fame.
While other artists painted kings, queens and palaces, Michael decided to paint a royal maid. He wished to stand out and hence attract attention. Julie, his childhood love, volunteered to help him. But she was late and Michael was anxious. Finally, he heard a knock on the door. Michael rushed to let her in.
“What took you so long?”
“Sorry, darling. I had to get the makeup just right!”
“Ok, come on in, let’s get started.”
He asked Julie to stand near the empty wall, with a bowl in her hand, while he settled in front of the canvas. He picked up the pencil and looked up at Julie.
“You look beautiful, my love.”
“Thank you,” she blushed. “But I wish you had painted a queen instead of a maid. At least I could pretend to be a queen.”
“Maybe next time.”
“Imagine, me as a queen,” she said and drifted into wonderland. She looked up and stared at nothingness as she dreamed.
“Here Julie, look straight please.”
Michael got to work but Julie was enchanted by her fantasy. She spent almost all of her time in dreamland and Michael stopped asking her to look ahead. He got to work with what he had. A few hours went by.
“Are you done darling?” she asked. “I’m tired now.”
In the next few minutes, he gave his painting some finishing touches. A big smile on his face was evidence that he was happy with his work.
“What? Are you serious!?” Exclaimed Julie when she saw the painting.
“I mean, it’s great, but where am I looking?”
“You, my darling, are in dreamland. I will call this painting – Dreamy Julie.”
“Dreamy Julie,” she chuckled. “Well, all the best!”
The next day, Michael carefully packed his painting and took it to the palace for the competition. His painting was put up in the hallway alongside paintings of kings, queens, knights and palaces.
The door to the hallway creaked as it opened, a guard came out and announced, “The king and queen have arrived. Artists, please take your seats. They will take a round to select the winning paintings.”
The king and queen walked in and started looking at the paintings. They observed each painting as they walked by them. Suddenly, this painting of a royal maid caught their attention.
“Well,” said the king, “this is something different.”
The queen noticed the painting too, “Oh! Who would have thought about painting a maid.”
They discussed the painting at length and summoned the artist. Michael came forward and bowed to the king.
“What is your name, young man?”
“Michael, this is a very interesting painting. What made you select this theme? Do you think this painting befits my halls?”
“Most certainly, your majesty.”
“Please do explain.”
“Your majesty, I believe, no person is big or small in the eyes of the Lord. We have all just been assigned different roles. Your role is that of a king, mine is of a painter and her role is of a maid. So why should it be unfit for these halls? A kingdom is made by the king and his people together. The royal maids work hard, by day and by night, to keep the palace sparkling. So, as a small tribute to them, I made this painting which I like to call Dreamy Julie.”
The king was pleased. “This is the first painting to be selected. It will adorn the walls of the dining room. Minister, reward Michael with a hundred gold coins.”
“Thank you!” Michael was ecstatic.
“But tell me, Michael,” asked the king, “what is she dreaming about?”
Michael knew exactly what she was dreaming about but remained quiet.
“Go on, you can tell me.” The king insisted.
“She, your majesty, is dreaming of a better life,” Michael replied wittily.
“So do we all,” said the king, “so do we all.”
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