A servant entered the small chamber where the three sat waiting. “My Lord,” he said, bowing deeply. “It is ready.” The king smiled and stood and took the queen’s hand. Bob, their son, followed close behind. Two more servants darted for the doors, thick pieces of cherry wood, and swung them inward. The painter greeted them on the other side. His white smock was dotted in every kind of color.
“My lord,” he said with a fancy bow. The king simply nodded as he strode passed. “My lady,” he continued. She lent her hand. “It is my greatest honor to be allowed work such as this.” He smothered her soft hand in quick kisses, carefully placing them between her lavish rings. She smiled and slowly pulled her hand away, allowing a few more kisses to land. Bob passed by the thin man with even thinner hair without the hint of a glance. The painter hurried to their side.
“Does it please my lord?” the painter asked.
The king did not answer. He buried his thick fingers deep into the fiery hairs of his beard. His traveling crown slid to the side of his head; he made no move to correct it. The queen stood behind his broad shoulder. Her eyes flicked between the painting and her husband. Bob crossed his arms and glared. For a fleeting moment he thought he saw a faint smile surface on the painter’s lips.
The painter bowed. “I apologize profusely if my work is unsatisfactory.”
The king freed his hand from his beard and waved the words away. “Your work is impeccable, as always.”
The painter tipped his head up to eye the queen. “The likeness is uncanny,” she said. She rubbed at her hands. “Your skills surpass your own reputation.”
“Yet it does not please you?” he asked. He did not give the prince a glance. “I shall humbly forfeit my commission, my lord, my king.”
The king waved his jeweled hand again. “It’s nothing like that,” he said, righting his drooping crown. Orange hair sprung through the top like flames. “You’ve painted my son how he is.”
“It’s just that—” said the queen. The king raised his hand and she fell silent.
“You’ve captured my boy,” he said, giving the prince a side-glance. “There is no doubt about that.” He narrowed his eyes at the portrait as if checking to be sure. “However, we didn’t expect you to be so accurate with the finer details of his face.”
“Yes,” said the queen. “We were hoping you would employ your artistic ability to correct for the severity of his acne.”
This time the painter did smile, just briefly, and Prince Bob glared with his arms crossed.