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A Finished Portrait - a fiction short story
She sat perfectly still as he quickly brushed and stroked the canvas painting her portrait. She had worked as a model for this painter several times now. He seemed to be constantly starting over in painting her but she couldn't criticize. What did she really know about painting other than modeling for one?
His quick looks back and forth between her and the canvas upon which he painted, never revealed what he thought of her or what was going through his head if anything. He had a poker face that never revealed any emotion when she was there. Does he even know I exist, beyond the canvas, she thought. He never spoke as he painted either.
His eyes never wavered as he looked at her, but he never met her eyes with his. She anxiously looked directly into his eyes, a soft-bluish gray color, but he never returned her look.
"Can you please tilt your head a little to the right?" he asked. She complied. "No, no, that's too far," he said as he walked over and with his hand along her face he gently placed her face exactly as he wanted it. She relished his touch so gentle and smooth.
She looked up to his face and into his eyes, but he gently placed her head in the correct position again not looking at her. He definitely wasn't looking at her she thought but critically looking at her pose. He walked back to the canvas looking at her pose once more and continued painting, his intensity never ending.
"Do you think ---" she began.
"Shhhuu," he said, "Never speak while I am painting. Please," he added.
She didn't mean to break his concentration, but her back was aching and she needed a break. Finally, about twenty minutes later he said, "All right, that's enough for this evening. You may go now and thank you again for modeling for me. I am close to finishing this, but I will need you for a few more times. Can you return tomorrow night?" he asked as he walked toward her taking money from his wallet to pay her.
She didn't even bother to pull the the towel up and cover her breasts as she took her pay. He didn't even bother to look at her or them.
She hopped down from the table and grabbed her clothes and began to dress. She took her time putting on each piece of clothing one by one, but he was busy cleaning his brushes and putting away his paints.
She looked out the window and saw snowflakes beginning to descend. She pulled on her boots and coat and wrapped her scarf round her neck. "It's beginning to snow," she said, "look at the snowflakes."
"Hmmmm," was all he answered busy working not looking out the window or at her. "Would you join me for a cup of coffee at the cafe on the corner. It might help to take off some of this evening's chill," she hopefully asked while smiling beguilingly.
"Thanks, but no, I have to clean up around the studio and finish up a few things, but, thank you", he said concentrating on cleaning paint off his hands, but he looked up and smiled at her quickly and then went back to his hands. He began moving some canvasses around the studio.
"Okay, well tomorrow night, then, for another session," he said.
"Yes, certainly," she said disappointed in his obvious disinterest. She turned and walked out of the studio. It took all her self-control not to slam the door on the way out. He never even walked her to the door.
Why couldn't he see her, she thought frustrated. All he sees is the model, but he doesn't see me the person. Why can't he see me? Every time she modeled for him the conversation was so short and dry. He only spoke when spoken to and only when he needed to to tell her how to pose. He only answered her questions with the least possible amount of words. He was always so concentrated on his painting. He never revealed anything about himself or the painting for that matter. He never showed it to her or let her see his progress.
She didn't even know if he was married or had a girlfriend or a boyfriend for that matter. He was always so closed up and private at all their sittings. He just wouldn't open up.
She turned and pushed open the door to the cafe. She ordered her usual latte and biscotti and sat down at a table and began eating and sipping her coffee. She finally had time to read a bit of the newspaper.
"Hey, Marissa," Tony, the barrister called over to her. "How about going to the fights with me this Saturday night?" he asked winking at her. They had become friendly since she had been stopping in for coffee after her modeling sessions. Goodness, she thought, she knew more about Tony the barrister than about the artist for whom she modeled.
"No, thanks," laughed Marissa, "you know how I feel about boxing and umm, Saturday night is already taken up for me," she answered. Tony was pleasant and fun, but definitely not her type.
"Thought I'd try one more time," he said. "Hey, how about a refill on that coffee?"
"Sure, I could use some more tonight," she said as she got up from the table. She glanced up and out the window and noticed her artist was walking to his car which was parked on the street.
She raised a hand to wave hoping he'd see her and come in, but he never looked over, his eyes straight ahead and walking as if on an important mission. Marissa slowly put her hand down. Sie la vie, thought Marissa.
Marissa modeled for him several more times. Each time he was practically monosyllabic. On the last evening of her sessions, he paid her tremendously well, thanking her for her wonderful work and that was that. No, he would not join her for a cup of coffee or for a drink to celebrate the end of their sessions. And, no he would not show her his work so far. He never showed any of his models his work in progress.
Did he need her for anymore modeling sessions? No, he was nearly complete with his painting and her services were no long required. So, that was that.
Marissa left the studio wondering if she would ever see him again. She didn't exactly run in the art circles in town so she doubted it. She walked into the cafe feeling sad and dejected.
"Marissa, you okay tonight?" asked Tony as he watched her sadly walk up to the counter.
"Oh, yes, sure," said Marissa smiling at Tony who had jump-started her out of her sad stupor. She ordered her usual latte and biscotti. Why was it always the one's she didn't care about so much be the ones who noticed her, but the one man she wanted to notice her never did. Life was a mystery.
About a month later, Marissa was downtown rushing off on her way to the modeling agency, this time to drop off some new portfolio photographs, when she passed the dgriss Art Gallery only a few storefronts up from the modeling agency. She glanced in the window and gasped. There was her finished portrait. Several other people had also stopped to admire the painting of her.
She was stunningly beautiful and her portrait actually took her breath away. He had captured her in all her loveliness. Marissa couldn't believe she could look that beautiful. And, surprisingly, it was not a nude portrait as she had expected, but a portrait of her putting on her clothing at the end of the sessions.
He had noticed her after all. She was stunned.
She was so busy looking at the portrait that it took a few moments for her eyes to focus and she finally noticed his reflection in the window glass. She turned around and there he was, her artist, looking straight at her. She blushed.
"Do you like the portrait?" he quietly asked.
"Yes, it's beautiful," she stammered. "This is how you see me?" she asked.
"Yes," he said, "your beauty is incomparable to anyone else,' he added, "both inside your heart and out." She was speechless and didn't know what to say.
He walked toward her, his eyes never leaving hers. He cupped her face in both of his hands and gently kissed her on the lips. She gently kissed him back.
"How many times I wanted to do just this during our painting sessions," he said to her.
"Why didn't you?" she asked. "You were always so matter of fact and all business when you painted me," she said, "I didn't even think you noticed me or really ever saw me."
"Marissa, I always noticed you. I'm so much older than you and I didn't want us to just be a cliche. The older man and artist seducing his beautiful younger painting model. How many times has that happened in history? So many times I wanted to accompany you for coffee and really get to know you," he patiently explained.
"And, how much I wanted you to, so I could get to know you also," said Marissa. "I don't care about the age difference," she said. "I just want to know you and learn all about you. I have ached to know you better at every session we had together,' she said breathlessly. I never thought you even liked me."
"Like you? Of course, I like you, Marissa. How could I not? Of all the models who have ever sat for me, you are the only one who noticed me," he said seriously. "You are the only one who ever asked me out for a cup of coffee or for anything else for that matter," he said. "Would you join me now for a cup of coffee?" he asked. "Or are you busy? I see you have your portfolio with you."
"You know I will," she answered smiling at him. She reached for his hand and held it in her hand and clasped her fingers around his. The modeling agency could wait for the time being. This was more important to her. They walked together to a nearby coffee shop, smiling and talking, anxious in their quest to finally learn about one another and to just be together.
Many months passed and the finished portrait vanished from the art gallery. It now hung in the bedroom of their new home together.
Copyright (c) 2013 Suzannah Wolf Walker all rights reserved