Isabelle- An Occult Thriller- Ch1
An Occult Thriller by Tony DeLorger © 2011
Adam wearily leaned over to check the time on his bedside clock. It was early, 3.17am; a scenario that he had been forced to deal with during the past few weeks. He was genuinely tired when his head hit the pillow, but as always he had made the mistake of mentally sifting through the tedium of his day, reliving and reconstructing. One thing led to another and now at 3.17am he found himself once again consumed by loneliness.
As a kid he remembered sitting up in bed and peering inquisitively out into the darkness, trying to make sense of time and space. He then tried to sleep with his head under the sheets, frightened and with no answers. Now twenty-odd years later he was still facing the same darkness, in much the same quandary. Each sleepless night was beginning to take its toll, leaving him weaker and less able to cope with his incessant mental gymnastics. He was becoming immersed in himself, no longer being able to decipher his irrational, jumbled thoughts and was overwhelmed by their speed and consistency. They were like bullets ricocheting within his skull and he tossed and turned desperately trying to escape them. Adam began to pray for the sweetness and bliss of oblivious sleep, but more than that, to be set free from the relentlessness of his own mind.
After hours of servitude, eventually, at least for this particular night, Adam Tasman-Bishop found sleep, for a moment releasing him.
Seemingly moments later, strips of light edged slowly and silently across the floor in a ragged-edged pattern created by the cane blinds through which they emerged. Outside life was well underway and the harbour traffic cacophony dragged the rest of the world into consciousness. But inside this room life remained muffled, in the background somehow. The thin layer of dust that covered most everything lay dormant; there was not a stir or sound.
He’d found the warehouse two years prior through a friend, and had spent what money he had creating a basic kitchen and bathroom. The remaining space he modestly furnished with a bed, a two-seater sofa, circa 1920 and an old kitchen table and chairs he’d found in a local junk shop. It was basic in every sense, but these things were of little importance to him. Adam’s work was foremost in his life and he devoted all of his energies to that one pursuit.
As an artist Adam had so far been successful. Two exhibitions and a few private commissions had kept him going, buying paints and canvas, a few articles of clothing when he needed them and of course food, when he thought of it. He’d even managed to put a few dollars aside, just in case. But just now money was the least of his problems. For the past few weeks, getting down to work had been a real struggle, one that for an artist was like backed up plumbing of the soul. Several canvases stretched and prepared sat ready, propped up against the wall. Ideas had come but had not transferred to the brush. As each day passed without progress, Adam’s frustration and eventual depression grew. Sleep, when he could grasp it, was the only temporary relief from his pain and for the first time in his life, he was avoiding each day and the promise of more inaction and uncertainty.
As the morning gently drifted into day, Adam at last reacted to its constant beckoning. The warmth of the sun on his cheek forced him to move, albeit to escape the reality. Then suddenly through the stillness came a wake up call, perhaps a little too nerve-shattering than he would have liked. There was a loud rapping on the door, and it thundered through his brain like a jet breaking the sound barrier.
‘Taz! Ya there Taz?’ called an all too familiar voice. Adam rolled onto his back, unimpressed.
‘Shit!’ he grumbled, knowing exactly who it was, even in his half-stupor.
‘Come on Taz, open up?’
Ted was an old school friend, and in fact the only one in the world that still called him ‘Taz’.
‘I’m coming!’ shouted Adam, his slurred reply and tone unsympathetic. He threw on a paint-splattered shirt by the bed, to cover a similarly rendered T-shirt and hobbled stiffly to the door. With both hands he unbolted the old steel bolt and yanked on the heavy door. It opened with a creak
‘What the hell do you want at this hour?’
‘This hour?’ replied Ted. ‘It’s ten o’clock, old son!’
Ted burst into the studio throwing Adam carelessly to the side and hurled a large duffel bag onto the floor. Adam took a deep breath and reluctantly shut the door.
‘What the hell’s this?’ asked Adam, pointing to the bag and scowling ‘Well?’
Ted’s face collapsed into a slightly coy, ‘I’m not responsible’ look that he sported so often in his vain attempts for forgiveness. Adam’s expression instantly hardened.
‘Look....she’s done it again, chucked me out,’ explained Ted, his nose wrinkled up like a mischievous schoolboy.
Adam sighed deeply then stormed over to the table, turning around with his hands like claws, ready to strangle his friend.
‘So who is it this time? Shit, how many times have we got to go through this?’
Adam slumped, exasperated. ‘Jenny’s not stupid, you know; you can’t keep doing this to her. She deserves better!’
Ted gave up the ‘I’m a victim’ look and dredged up just a little guilt from deep down inside himself.
‘I know, I know,’ he admitted. ‘But can I stay for a few days; just until I can patch things up again?’
Adam let his chin fall onto his chest limply. ‘What choice do I have? You know where the sofa is.’
Ted, with a grin broadly etched across his face, launched himself onto the sofa, and crossed his legs, stretching out in front of him over the arm of the sofa.
Adam looked at him squarely. ‘You know you’re going to lose her one day, don’t you?’ Ted replied with that salesman-like twinkle in his eye.
‘Just let me work Ted.....OK?’ begged Adam, waiting for a reply.
‘I will, I promise.’
Adam huffed and went to get a glass of water.
Ted had done this too many times to Adam and he was about fed up with it. But this time, given Adam’s state of mind, he wasn’t that upset, and he could do with the company. Perhaps someone else being there would help him break this unproductive cycle in which he found himself.
Ted was a lovable rogue, bright, intelligent, but when it came to women he was out of control, hopeless. He was an Ad Copywriter, on great money and married to an attractive, talented young career woman with all the prospects in the world. But Ted would risk all of this daily, for any woman who tickled his fancy and unknowingly paid the slightest attention to him. Adam could never work it out, this unyielding attraction that women had for the man. It wasn’t as if he were Paul Newman or someone of that ilk.
Ted was about five foot six tall, a bit portly, with brown curly hair, not particularly cared for. He was pleasant looking, but not what you’d call a ‘great looker’. But with a charismatic glint in his eye and all the charm and confidence in the world, he bounded from one infidelity to another with amazing resilience. It was his poor wife that was paying the price, struggling with her husband’s rather hapless indiscretions and still somehow clinging to this boy that had so far refused to grow up into a responsible man.
Ted had stowed his gear away and was busily making coffee to help clear out the cobwebs. Adam stared blankly at a virgin canvas now secured on one of his homemade easels in the corner. The light flooded the white textured linen, accentuating its clean, untouched surface. Ted silently handed Adam his coffee and he took a sip without saying anything.
Adam had had the same feeling each day, standing there before a blank canvas. He would almost become mesmerised, peering into its pleading void. A plethora of emotions stirred within him, like something trying to emerge but inadvertently trapped. An idea, a purpose unrevealed sat over his shoulder, so close yet so far. There was something that needed to be painted, but the thought was elusive and he just couldn’t grasp what it was. He had had blocks before, but nothing like this and this run of sleepless nights wasn’t helping.
Ted sat there on the sofa nursing his coffee and looking pensively up at Adam. He could feel there was something wrong with his friend, but unlike before when the creative flow had somehow temporarily halted, Adam seemed more disturbed this time, more affected, almost nervous. Ted thought it best not to push his luck, so he said nothing and remained seated, absorbing the warmth and comfort of his hot, black brew.
Adam appeared a tragic figure. He was tall and thin, fragile looking with long straggly blonde hair. His face appeared younger than his twenty-four years and his facial features were finely structured, giving him a gentle and kind appearance. With the palest blue eyes he seemed angelic, and if it weren’t for the three-day growth and the paint splattered rags on his back, you could well have made that assumption. But Adam was no angel and although grace of movement and his elegant, artistic hands often implied a strong feminine side, he had a very definite rash and impulsive artistic temperament.
Adam was likeable, and although his rather insular life often kept the world at bay, people were drawn to him. Ted was one of the few people that Adam let into his world, and being such an old friend, Ted knew old ‘Taz’ better than most.
For some time now Ted had noticed a sense of longing in Adam. It was as if there was something missing within him that begged replenishment or a problem remained unresolved, a question unanswered. In many ways Adam was the stereotypical artist, suffering for his art. But in essence Adam was as happy as a lark, doing exactly what he wanted to do. How people saw or judged him he cared far less about than the way he dressed or chose to live. Adam was a loner, but there was something in his life he was searching for, and that search now seemed hastened. As Ted studied his old friend, he thought that perhaps a good woman was all he needed. But Adam had something else on his mind, just at that moment.
Ted finished his coffee and feeling a little out of place with Adam so intent on working, he decided to go for a walk and get some fresh air. He quietly disposed of his cup in the kitchen sink and headed for the door.
‘Out for a bit! See ya later then!’ he shouted, slamming the steel door behind him. Adam gestured goodbye with a furtive wave but didn’t turn around; he was too lost in his empty canvas.
As the echo from the thud of the door eventually subsided in the vast open space of the studio, Adam put down his brush and hung his head.
‘Maybe I’m pushing too hard?’
‘Nothing else has worked,’ he mumbled, trying now to loosen up and clear his head.
As an experiment, he decided to try a new approach, a careless, abstract approach unlike his usual planned execution. Normally this would have been out of the question, having got used to a strict regime, a professional and organised process that had in the past always provided the best technical and creative results. But now he was desperate, and anything to unblock this hideous, seemingly insurmountable glitch, was worth trying.
He arranged all of his brushes, palette knives and paints and oiled down his palette, closing his eyes and taking a deep rejuvenating inhalation.
‘Music! That’s what I need.’
He rushed over to a portable stereo player tucked away under a layer of dust and some old paint rags, then quickly sifted through the pile of tapes around it and found an old ‘Led Zeppelin’ tape.
‘God! How long since I’ve heard this?’ he chuckled, blowing the dust off its plastic case and then placing it into the tape port. He made sure the power was on, then rolled the tape and turned the volume up high.
Adam stood once again in front of the white canvas and closed his eyes, allowing the music to imbue his body. The studio suddenly came alive with sound and rhythm, and a smile crept across Adam’s face.
‘Yeah, that’s it,’ he groaned, his narrow hips beginning to gyrate under the spell of the music. He picked up his palette and brush and looked deeply into the white linen surface, searching for that elusive spark. The music was getting louder in his head, its rhythmic pounding and raw power seducing him, taking him over.
Suddenly there seemed something indistinct before him, somehow replacing the empty void. He could see a form, a painting with vibrancy and texture, developing before his eyes. It was as if all he had to do was to fill in the blank space, the painting itself already completed. Adam found himself hurriedly mixing paint, slurping on the primaries with careless abandon and whipping them together with his palette knife in lightning strokes. He was almost throwing the paint onto the canvas, with a brush, with a knife, anything to get the paint up. It was a frenzy of movement, slapping and swishing, almost aimlessly, or so it seemed.
Adam was shading with his hands, blending and scraping with his knife. The colours found their place, searching for the form in which they belonged and Adam was simply going along for the ride. As the music swelled, so did his emotions and his bush strokes became bold and impassioned. When the melodies became lilting and the subtle tone and timer of the acoustic guitars filled the studio, so too the brush strokes filled the canvas with clear and gentle hues. He was blending colours and tones into interactive forms that recreated again and again, over and over.
Adam had entered another world. He felt apart from his physical self, his mind taken elsewhere. A creative energy had simply taken over, energy that he had never fully experienced before. His controlled and developed techniques had suddenly flown out the window, and he was now at the mercy of creativity itself.
On and on it went, the music playing on a continuous loop in the cassette player. Time itself had abandoned the studio. It was as if the painting was creation itself and all else radiated from it as a result. Then suddenly, amid the fevered rendering, Adam abruptly returned to the real world as Ted barged noisily through the door and into the studio. His arms were full of grocery bags.
‘Sorry I’m late Taz, I dropped into Harry’s and.....’
Ted stopped dead in his tracks, his mouth gaping. As if in slow-motion, one of the grocery bags slipped unceremoniously through his arms, crashing to the floor and splitting; broken eggs, gurgling milk and broken biscuits strewn everywhere.
‘Who the hell is that?’ exclaimed Ted, staring in horror at the canvas. ‘You been smokin’ something?’
Adam remained motionless, almost catatonic. Broken free from his frenzied painting, he was left reeling, feeling disoriented. He suddenly realised what he was doing, and having been hardly aware of it, was more than a little bit put out. As the fog inside his mind began to clear, he looked at Ted’s anxious expression and then to the spilt groceries. Ted still hadn’t moved.
Adam apprehensively turned to face the canvas and as he focused, his jaw almost dislodged in shock. Amid the mass of hurriedly applied paint a form was revealing itself. At first it was subtle, almost lost amid the fevered crosshatching and colour blending. But the more he stared at it, the clearer it became. It was like looking at one of those cleaver dimensional graphics that you stare at until the hidden image appears. Then suddenly your eye sees the image and it appears to jump out at you, making you feel stupid for not having seen it straight away.
As he peered at this strange artwork, a face appeared as clear as his own. But what was staring back at him was horrid, as sinister a face as he’d ever seen. It was more the expression on the face and its evil intent that was so unnerving.
‘Who did that?’ asked Adam thoughtlessly, trying to deal with it.
‘God, I did!’
It was like a dream. He had been so lost in getting it down he was not the slightest bit aware of what he was painting.
Ted suddenly came around, and found himself standing in a pile of broken eggs and spilt milk. ‘Shit!’ He raced to the kitchen to get a cloth and returned to clean up the mess mindlessly, still glancing up at the unnerving image.
He placed the balance of the shopping on a bench and made his way to Adam who was now seated on the edge of the sofa, confussed. They both sat silently for a moment, unable to take their eyes of the painting. Then a little shaken, Adam got up and grabbed a dirty sheet from on top of the washing pile and quickly threw it over the canvas.
‘That thing’s giving me the creeps,’ he said, holding himself and warding off a sudden, uninvited chill.
‘I’ll get a drink.’
‘Bloody good idea,’ replied Adam still upset by what he had done.
‘It’s so weird. It was such a great feeling. I found myself painting, without even thinking.’
‘What do you mean?’ asked Ted, straining with a stubborn cork from a bottle of red wine.
‘I don’t know. It was as if I’d gone fishing and someone else was doing the painting. It’s weird, but I kind of liked it.’
Ted was a black-and-white guy, and this was a definite grey area. For Ted, this was more than a little unnerving and he wanted nothing more than to change the subject.
‘How about we cook up something to eat?’ he asked, looking jittery. Adam saw his discomfort, and smiled reassuringly.
‘Yeah, that’s enough excitement for one day.’
The two busily went about preparing a meal as a deep golden sunset imbued the bay and a path of clustered diamonds on the water, reflected the dying embers of the day. This was Adam’s favourite time, the warmth of the light drenching the studio and the city lights coming to life as twilight grew. This time was his sanctuary, and even in hard times, he allowed himself to savour the beauty of nature and life, through this one display. Clear day sunsets were often the one thing that gave him pure hope for the future and the reason to push on and try to get onto canvas what nature so effortlessly revealed at its leisure.
Ted opened the balcony door, inviting a gently wafting breeze inside. He suddenly felt bad yet again, for what he had done to his dear wife and stepped outside, leant on the rail and peered out over the picturesque bay beyond. He had believed that this fanciful flirting with other women was harmless and unemotional, and that in no way harmed his relationship with Jenny; he loved her. But he also knew that his view of it had little to do with the way she looked at it. He often felt guilty, but not for what he had done, but for how his actions had affected her. He knew now he had to stop it, for Jenny’s sake, but what motivated him to keep on acting like this, he didn’t at all understand.
While the pasta was simmering away in the kitchen, Adam joined Ted on the balcony.
‘Thinking about Jenny, aren’t you?’ he asked. Ted kept looking out into the bay, his expression unchanged.
‘Yep!’ he replied, taking another sip of his wine. ‘But save your breath. I’ve made a decision,’ he added.
‘Really?’ You mean, you know, about your libido?’
Ted glanced fleetingly at Adam and smiled. ‘I don’t think it’s got anything to do with my libido. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve already got what I’m looking for.’
‘Hallelujah!’ Adam quipped in disbelief. ‘You’re actually going to admit wrong?’
‘You don’t have to act so surprised!’ snapped Ted defensively, but with a covert grin.
Then the grin suddenly subsided. ‘I do love her. I guess I’ve been a bit stupid, eh?’
Adam put his arm around his playboy friend and gave him a squeeze of approval. ‘Ah, we have to grow up sooner or later.’ Ted grimaced and gave him a brisk elbow to the ribs. Adam pulled back and chuckled.
‘It about time you grew up, you hermit!’ shouted Ted indignantly. ‘When’s the last time you had a steady relationship?’
Adam escaped inside under the guise of checking dinner and quietly ignored Ted’s last comment. They both agreed to disagree and went about serving up their meal with a resolute harmony that they had somehow arrived at.
That night Adam and Ted polished off several bottles of red and shared more than a few secrets. They gibed each other as always and responded with quick and witty banter. All in all, the strangeness of the day had somehow brought them closer together, closer than they had been for some time.
The following morning a lonely wine bottle sat on its side in the middle of the floor. At the foot of the sofa a half-empty wineglass glowed like a ruby in a shower of filtered morning light, creating an elongated shadow across the floorboards. Adam’s right hand hung motionless over the arm of the tattered sofa, his legs outstretched and apart in front of him. Ted had managed to find Adam’s bed, but only just, sprawled out half-on and half-off.
As the morning drifted listlessly by, the boys began to stir. Adam slowly lifted his hand toward his head in an attempt to support it. Gently arching his aching back, he dared to open on eye to make certain of his whereabouts.
‘Hell,’ he murmured, trying to sit upright, the sudden movement sending his head into a throbbing mass. Ted too had regained semi-consciousness and lay sideways, trying to lift himself up to gather some perspective. Having eventually both managed to get to their feet, they wandered aimlessly across the cold floor, airing their tongues and occasionally cursing under their acrid breath. At one point, they met haplessly in the middle of the room having almost collided, and with eyes all squinted up they half-heartedly acknowledged each other, then shuffled mindlessly on. Then, with a gargantuan effort-
‘Eggs?’ suggested Ted, softly.
Adam stopped wandering, his head unable to take another step. ‘I need something,’ he replied in a croaky voice.
So, as fragile as one can possibly feel, they both slowly and carefully collected themselves and went about organising their day, one quiet step at a time. After a hot shower and changing into some clean but wrinkled clothes, they slowly began to feel a little more human.
They sat quietly at the table, over some fried eggs, toast and coffee, the sun’s warmth bombarding the old oak table from the skylight above. As they ate and soaked up the coffee, their minds began to clear and life, ever so gently, came into focus.
‘Remind me not to do that again,’ slurred Adam, cradling his throbbing forehead.
Ted winced as he turned around. ‘The last bottle was your idea’.
They ate silently until they had had enough, then Ted’s expression changed as he looked over to the cloaked canvas.
‘Yeah, what about that damned painting?’ he remembered. Adam looked up, the memory of it drifting back into consciousness.
‘I’d almost forgotten about that. Maybe it won’t look so bad this morning.’
Adam rose shakily to his feet and accidentally scraped his chair across the floor, sending them both into sensory panic.
‘God, don’t do that.’
Adam shuffled over to the painting and with some trepidation gently removed the sheet that covered it. He peered down at the image and with surprise, stepped back.
‘Shit! Look at this! The damned thing’s gone!’
Ted strained to focus on the canvas. ‘It’s what?’
‘The face is gone. Look for yourself?’ replied Adam, seating himself on a stool next to the easel. Ted rose to his feet and ambled over to take a look; the light from the skylight above was interfering with his vision.
They both stood in front of the painting, in disbelief. The face that had so shocked them last night had mysteriously disappeared. What remained was a mass of colour, without form, as if someone had thrown paint onto a canvas.
‘I don’t understand,’ mumbled Adam. ‘You saw it too. It was there!’
Ted began to fidget incessantly; it was obvious that he wasn’t going to cope with this outcome. This was a grey area, one of those inexplicable phenomena’s that defied belief and dragged the deepest, darkest fears from within him, screaming to the surface.
‘Ah…look, I’ might go and see Jenny today. Maybe she’s cooled off...you know, we can sort things out,’ he said, still worriedly staring at the canvas.
‘I’ll see you then, Taz...OK?’
Adam smiled. ‘Sure, go ahead,’ he said, preoccupied with the painting. ‘I’ve got chores to do anyway.’
Ted broke his fix on the painting, grabbed his duffel coat and hurriedly left. Adam remained staring at the mass of paint, his mind overwhelmed by what had happened. Something was going on, but he was unsure how to react to it. It was more than weird, somehow threatening, but also exciting and this strange happening was energising him, giving him a remarkable sense of expectation. He couldn’t explain the feeling nor could he let it go, but it was important somehow, relevant in some strange way.
Adam moved closer to the easel leant down and rattled some brushes left soaking in a bottle on the floor. He chose one, wiped it clean on a dry rag and stood upright.
‘I guess we try it again,’ he whispered, removing the painting from the easel and replacing it with one of the virgin canvases leaning against the wall. He stared at its emptiness and unconsciously stroked his now four-day growth.
‘Perhaps, something a little different,’ he thought. ‘Bach perhaps? Yeah, why not?’
He went to the stereo player and fumbled through the tapes. ‘Concerto in C minor, for Violin and Oboe,’ he read. ‘Perfect.’
He set up the tape and soon the studio was alive with complex, yet lilting melodies. The sounds drifted through the morning light as if to paint their own canvas. The old stone walls resonated with the rich, subtle tones and Adam closed his eyes, clearing his mind and awaiting the surge of creativity within him.
As he opened his eyes, he once again felt a stirring. The new canvas begged his participation, inviting his soul to become one with it, to harmonise with limitless conviction in creativity. He peered down at his paint-laden palette and began.
This time, with fluid strokes and subtle hues, Adam drifted carelessly into the painting. As before it engrossed him, took him over somehow. The surge of creative energy made its own way through him, yet without him. It was as if his mind dreamt, drifting silently through blissful oblivion, while his body acted out some preordained, primitive ritual.
The day listlessly passed by, enveloping the world outside, but not the studio. Inside, time had no meaning, no purpose. When the sun’s waning strength was gently dusting the landscape and the warm tones of sunset imbued Adam’s world, he was exhausted. He had used up all of his reserves and collapsed onto the sofa, the brush still in his hand. A weary but satisfied expression was etched on his face and he was more than pleased with what he had accomplished.
Again, he had painted a face, but unlike before, a beautiful one. It seemed the face of an angel, soothing soulful eyes, an obvious kindness that couldn’t be described with mere words. Each stroke had been executed with perfection, each aspect of this image a thing of beauty; it was unbelievable. But as Adam studied it, he didn’t feel responsible, couldn’t take any credit for its existence. Both these sessions had left him void of the memory of having painted at all, unaware of the subject until its completion.
Adam slumped onto the sofa, almost too tired to move. He felt exhilarated but concerned, suddenly doubting these strange happenings and realising that they were out of his control. He began to feel a little uncomfortable and more than confused. Suddenly the front door swung opened and Ted with Jenny in tow, waltzed in. Ted was carrying another bag full of goodies, and as he entered its aroma wafted in like a warm smile. It was Chinese food- his favourite and Adam’s mouth immediately began to water; he hadn’t had anything all day. He raised one eyebrow and looked at Jenny inquisitively. Ted halted in response and put his arm around her. She flinched, pulling back a little.
‘So, is this a cease fire?’
Jenny rolled her eyes and looked at Ted sternly. He felt the intensity of her glare but kept his fix on Adam.
‘I’m working on it,’ said Ted meekly. ‘We bought Chinese. Thanks for taking care of me.’
Ted went to the kitchen to organise dinner and be as helpful and as well-behaved as possible. Jenny wandered over to the sofa and sat casually on its plump round arm.
‘Thanks Ad,’ she whispered. ‘I think maybe you’ve knocked some sense into him this time.’
‘One can only hope,’ he replied, getting to his feet.
‘God it’s dark, I didn’t realise the time.’
‘Come on, get it while it’s hot,’ cried Ted, joyfully organising an array of Asian delights on the kitchen bench.
‘I’m starving!’ said Adam, switching on the light shade that hung low over the old oak table.
‘How have you been Ad?’ asked Jenny, pulling up a chair. Adam stopped and faced her with a strange, rather perplexed look on his face.
‘I’d be better if I knew what the hell’s going on with my painting. Here one minute, gone the next’.
Jenny, not understanding a word, smiled politely and turned toward the kitchen to give Ted a hand. Adam chuckled and shook his head, thinking how absurd the whole thing was.
Jenny quickly took over the kitchen, pushing Ted impatiently aside, then directing him to do all the fetching. It was blatantly obvious who did the chores in their home, but in a way Jenny enjoyed taking charge, and anyway she was still more than upset with her straying husband; he had a lot to pay for. As a servant, he had a long, long way to go. Adam often caught himself wondering how this couple was together at all- they were such opposites.
Jenny was young and pretty, but she wasn’t one to flaunt it. In fact, she dressed conservatively. She felt most comfortable in a high neck blouse, tweed skirt and cardigan with sensible shoes. Her long blonde hair was tied back in a tight bun and reading glasses sat down on the tip of her nose. But funnily enough it all seemed just right on Jenny and nothing could take away from her softness and femininity. Her flawless, finely textured skin and delicate facial features turned heads wherever she went and with whatever she was wearing.
But in contrast, the women that old Ted ogled were vixens in tight miniskirts, stiletto heels and tops unable to contain the heaving, voluptuous mounds that were bursting so earnestly out of them. The contrast with Jenny was mind-boggling to say the least. Ted was a bad boy, but had managed to find the real thing in Jenny. Adam only hoped that he had finally realised that, before it was too late.
Ted and Jenny ceremoniously paraded the plates of oriental delicacies from the kitchen to the dining table and Adam’s face lit up.
‘I can’t believe how hungry I am,’ Adam quipped, already seated at the table.
This was the second day in a row that Adam was going to eat a meal. Ted secretly thought that it might be some sort of record. Adam’s eating habits were far from normal, his appetite usually dictated by his accomplishment with his paintings. When driven to paint, soaring in some creative updraught, the last thing Adam would think of was food- so he simply didn’t eat. It may well have been the reason for him being so painfully thin.
After feasting to their heart’s content and nudging a crisp bottle of white, Jenny began to feel more at ease. Those solid impenetrable walls that she had erected so determinedly, to isolate herself from her philandering partner were slowly crumbling. But old Ted was on a short leash, one more step out of line and he was gone; that he now knew.
Having a long history together the three sat revelling in each others company, laughing and telling stories, somehow forgetting all their problems and for Adam, his strange artistic encounters.
But about 11.30pm they all ran out of steam. It had been a long day and a good meal, a few drinks and some hilarity had finally finished them off. They sat there void of energy, half-smiling, with nothing else to say, waiting to see who’d suggest first that they call it a night. Then suddenly Adam remembered the painting...
‘The face! Hey, I forgot to show you the painting. You won’t believe how beautiful she is.’
‘Anything would have to be better than the last effort,’ Ted chuckled.
Adam went over to the corner lamp near the easel and switched it on. ‘Ah shit! The bloody globe’s gone,’ he spat. ‘No matter.’
He carefully lifted the canvas off the easel and turned toward the sofa. Ted and Jenny sat waiting in anticipation. In the darkness, Adam hadn’t noticed the tin of paint medium on the floor. It wasn’t big, but when he’d noticed it at his feet, he startled and sidestepped to avoid it. The painting slid from his grasp and in an attempt to reclaim it, he accidentally launched it, sending it spinning through the air. There wasn’t even enough time to get a word out, as the painting spun, as if in slow-motion, eventually landing face up on the floor in front of Ted and Jenny.
‘Thank God!’ cried Adam, finally getting the words out. ‘I was sure it would land paint down.’
As the painting stopped spinning and stopped, Ted and Jenny peered down at it in silence.
‘Isn’t she beautiful?’ asked Adam, coming over to take a look.
‘But what’s this? Where’s the girl, Taz?’ asked Ted. Adam rubbed his eyes and studied the canvas. Sure enough the image was gone.
He sat down cross-legged in front of it, with both hands supporting his forehead.
‘I don’t understand. I must be going crazy- it was there this afternoon. She was beautiful.’
Jenny looked worriedly at Ted and he shrugged, not knowing what to say. Something was going on, but he, least of all people wanted to know about it.
‘It’s getting late Taz. We could all do with some sleep,’ said Ted, rising to his feet and dragging Jenny behind him.
Jenny piled up the dishes in the sink while Ted got his belongings. She wandered over and gave Adam a warm kiss on the forehead, and ran her fingers through his straggly hair.
‘Now…get some sleep.’
Adam remained cross-legged and grabbed Jenny’s hand warmly, giving it a gentle squeeze. ‘Thanks,’ he said with a smile. Ted and Jenny then quietly left.
‘I’ll call in tomorrow,’ shouted Ted from the stairwell, as the heavy door clicked shut.
Adam dragged himself wearily to the old sofa and briskly rubbed his face with both hands, trying to stimulate what life was left in him. There seemed no answer to this, no reasonable explanation. He felt confused, but worse than that he felt used. What was happening was beyond his control and he was either going nuts or someone was playing some trick on him.
The exhilaration he had first felt with these paintings had now been replaced with a feeling of anxiety and a sense of fear began to plague him. This just wasn’t right, but he had no way to even understand what was going on, let alone judge it.
In the end he was simply too tired to deal with it all that night, and decided to go to bed. After a quick shower he slipped into bed and for once he eased into a deep sleep. The usual traffic that inhibited his hours of rest had been overridden with exhaustion, his mind unable to do anything but give way to the necessity of slumber. Whatever was going on would just have to wait.