Starry Nights

Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney

Book: Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney Read Free Book Online
Authors: Daisy Whitney
Didn’t my brother tell you all this? The paintings come alive for you. You dance with them at night or whatever. What did you think, you were hallucinating? The Muses have always told us a human muse would eventually appear, and I guess they saw you hanging out with the Degas dancers some night and figured out that you’re the first human muse. There are Eternal Muses and now there are human muses. Now, let’s go into that room,” she says, so offhand, so matter-of-fact that she could be telling me about her geometry lesson or giving me directions to Notre Dame from here. Turn down this road, cross this bridge, and there you are. Muses. Human muses.
    â€œOh, sure. Human muses. That makes sense. And naturally, I’m one. Me. Of course,” I say, feeling like a pawn in some cat-and-mouse game cooked up by Bonheur and his wacky little sister. “I think maybe I’ll just leave this whole idea of curses and Muses behind, and let the experts do the actual authentication instead of an art society consisting of two people who believe in Muses.”
    â€œYou don’t believe me?”
    â€œNo, I don’t. I think that all sounds ridiculous.” I’m about to walk away when I think of Clio’s eyes. How she’s not like the other art. How she’s just a girl trapped in a painting for all those years. How I’m the only one who can see her. I can’t just stop. I have to help, even though the idea of human muses is ludicrous.
    â€œJulien,” Sophie says in a quiet plea. Her face transforms to a kind of reverence. “I’m not putting you on. I swear. You’re not the only one who loves art. You’re not the only one who believes in its power. I do too. So does my brother. But you are the only onewho can do this. You’re a human muse. You’re the only one who can keep that painting safe.” Her expression is tinged with desperation, with the kind of yearning an art society can stoke. She believes this so deeply, but I just don’t know how to take this news. I thought Muses were all women. I thought Muses were a closed club that wasn’t taking any new members. I also once thought peaches and cats and dancers stayed put in their frames.
    â€œWhy me?” I ask.
    â€œWhy not you?”
    Because I’m not a scholar, not a genius, not even a terribly talented artist, I want to say. Because I’m just a boy who loves art—all art. “How do you want to get in the room?” I ask, pointing out the practical problem. “You said the door was locked. You’ll have to find another way in.”
    â€œ
You’re
the other way.”
    â€œI’m the other way?”
    â€œYou brought the calf, right? With the Muse dust in it?”
    â€œYes.”
    â€œThen let me prove it to you. That you have a talent we don’t have. That we need you.”
    I hardly know what to make of Sophie’s conviction, but my world has become so topsy-turvy that anything seems possible, even something as absurd as what Sophie’s suggesting. I take the pink polka-dotted calf I won at the party from my backpack and hand it to Sophie. As crazy as the idea of human muses is, it would also explain all the things I see. It would mean I’m not losing my mind.
    Sophie takes off the cap from the calf’s fifth leg and taps some of the silvery dust into her palm. “See? Draw a key and touch it with the silver in here.”
    She closes her fist around the dust.
    I could not feel stupider right now. I could not be more certain the joke is on me. But then I remember the cat’s hair, how a piece of it materialized where I had drawn her, when I rubbed my silver-coated hand across the page. This can’t be. But what if? I want to know if maybe I can do something with my second-rate talent with a pencil and paper. Something that matters. Something that makes a difference.
    Sophie reaches into her pocket, takes out a sheet of

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