She notices me from the corner of the room, and approaches me in greeting. She's Mother, her greying hair whipped up onto her head with young eyes. I always thought that she was the old version of me, somebody that I'd be happy to become. Her cheeks are still a little hollowed, whilst her lips are cracked and bitten; we are from different worlds.
"Well, this is a surprise," she smiles, not recognising me. "I barely see any of the high class in here. What can I do for you, dear?"
The words that I rehearsed all the way down freeze in my throat, and shyness overwhelms me. She doesn't recognise me, I'm just as out of place to her. "I - I'm just looking around," I stammer, hiding my face as I run my hand over some red cloth with gold thread on a string.
"Well, we have many wonderful colours," Mother says. "A new delivery of ochre is just in -," she lifts her hands, and I see that they're dyed almost orange from the clay, fingerprints of the pigment smeared over her cheeks and forehead. She always seems to work harder than Thatty and me put together, and I realise that no matter how much I wished otherwise, Mother has struggled since we left. "But what am I saying?" she continues, "a lovely girl like you wouldn't like such a dull colour. I could match it to your skin, come closer..." she beckons me to the table as she rummages through swatches. Her hands shake, oh Mother...I'm so sorry. She wouldn't have let me stay anyway, she knew that being a Muse was what I wanted more than anything, but I know I could have tried to sneak out more, instead of Thatty telling her everything about me.
I put my head down, too afraid for her to see me. I lend her my hand as she puts swatches against my milky skin, and as our hands connect, I swear she flinches at feeling something. "Too pale for pink, I'd say. Purple, perhaps. I'm working on a garment for another client, beautiful silver detail. I could replicate one for you, if you'd like,"
Finally, I gather my courage. "Do you have anything in blue?"
She looks up at me, and I meet her eyes. "B - blue?" she asks as I feel her memory returning, and her hand tighten around mine.
"It was always my favourite colour, Mother."
Her eyes widen as I reach up and drop my hood, letting my hair fall out around me and the humid air graze my face. The swatches fall from her grasp in a heap, and she doesn't notice them. Her gaze, wondrous and disbelieving, penetrates me, and awkwardly I shift my feet and smile.
"Well, aren't you going to wish me happy birthday?"