Belle couldn’t remember exactly when and how she discovered Tea in Pajamas. Growing up, she was no stranger to imaginative play. At the age of three, she often found herself in her father’s study, pouring over piles of books pulled off their shelves. Despite not yet recognizing words, and no matter their content, these volumes and their pages were the perfect stage props in her little narrations of enchanted tales of magical faraway lands and mystical creatures. When family or friends came over, she enjoyed giving colorful storytelling performances, and they indulged her flights of literary fancy.
On her fifth birthday, she was gifted with a brand new piano and ensuing piano lessons, and she took to music like a fish to water, mastering the instrument rather effortlessly. But to the chagrin of her teacher and parents, Belle eschewed convention, often improvising on her pieces and scales. At one point, she was only willing to play major keys on certain days of the week and minor keys on others, convinced that every day had its particular “sound.” This quirkiness did not sit well with her teachers (a total of five in succession), and she never made it past the Grade 3 examinations. Her piano now sat quietly in the corner of the music room by a large window overlooking the garden.
However, things took a more encouraging turn when Belle was introduced to art. Aided by painting lessons from Miss Brady, a family friend, Belle’s vivid imagination was transferred onto canvas in the manner of still life, followed by landscapes, then portraits, and back to landscapes again. With techniques imparted from formal instruction, she became particularly fond of painting nature in rich, earthy colors. Encouraged by her precocious talent, Miss Brady entered her in a string of competitions, and Belle went on to bag numerous awards and accolades.
Now, Belle’s interest in painting had waned somewhat—she no longer took lessons from Miss Brady, nor did she partake of further contests to add to her trophy cabinet. In fact, since Tea in Pajamas, many things in her life had taken secondary importance, the hours and days simply a build-up until Wednesday afternoons in Belzerac.
Then, last week, just before Tess’s disappearance, she had chanced upon some of her old artwork in the attic while rummaging for an old overcoat. Not having seen her paintings in awhile, Belle was struck by how much they resembled scenes from Belzerac, down to its river banks, mountains and deciduous trees.
How could I have had any impression of the place back then?, she wondered. After all, these were painted long before she had come to discover Tea in Pajamas, and all that lay beyond.
I hope you enjoyed reading an excerpt from the chapter “Flights of Fancy.” The above sketch is a preliminary draft. I’ll be sharing more chapter artwork as they come in. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback if any. For more exclusive news and upcoming giveaways, subscribe to my newsletter.