Part I: The Girl in the Painting
The Girl in The Painting:
Abby walked along the Parisian street dodging the many colourful tables and chairs that sat outside the numerous french bistros lining the narrow avenue. The smell of morning coffee and freshly baked pastries filling the spring air. Laughter mingled easily with light hearted chatter. Abby recognized the laughter of her girlfriends as she neared the little group.
''Bonjour Mesdames.'' Abby blew kisses with dramatic enthusiasm as she joined her friends. The three girls responded with equal drama and blew kisses back. Tucking a stray blond hair behind her ear, Abby settled herself on a chair. ''I never slept a wink last night. I'm soo excited about today's exhibition. I can't wait.''
''Oh Abby? you never sleep a wink.'' Carla stood draining her coffee. ''I have to go. I'll catch you later. Popping a cream beret on her burgundy curls Carla hurried down the street.
''Where's she off too. All dressed up?'' Abbey asked watching her friend disappear into the crowd. Her cream beret a dot in the distance.
''She met a guy.'' Sophia mused. ''We are able to get excited about live french guys too aren't we or do they all have to be famous dead ones featured in art exhibitions?''
''Where she'd meet him?'' Abbey asked raising a hand to a busy waiter.
''Some bar on the other side of the bank.'' Tina said. Fixing her glasses on her nose she bent to pick her bag up. ''I better go. I have things to do.''
''Jeez tanx. Guess your abandoning ship too, huh Sophia.'' Abby stated, as Sophia stood from the table.
Sophia smiled and patted her friends shoulder. ''We've only got one week left before we go back to dreary London and our even drearier jobs. Claude Monet is great and everything! but this is Paris and The Latin Quarter is full of students... hot male students. Sorry! I'm young and single. This week is about getting layed.'' Sophia batted her long eye lashes, pursed her pink lips and shook her long dark mane. Surrounding hot blooded males drooled into their coffees.
''Your supposed to be embracing the founder of the french impressionists. Broadening your horizon's! not having sex with every stupid guy you see.'' Abby lectured. Her green eyes flared.
''Do yourself a favor Abby. Get a life.'' Tina grinned slinging her bag across her thin shoulders. ''There's a house party to night. The students at La Sorbonne are arranging it. Why not come? It'll be fun and full of young handsome men.'' Tina pointed at Sophia. ''If she doesn't get to them all first.''
Sophia laughed. ''Perhaps I'll give you a makeover Tina. Do something with your awful yellow mop.'' Sophia rubbed a hand playfully through Tina's unruly hair. Speaking to Abbey she said. ''And I am broadening my horizon's, I'm adding a few horizontals all the time.''
Tina raised an eyebrow and looked expectantly at Abby.
''Well... I don't know. I'll see.'' Abby waved her friends off and looked around for the busy waiter. ''Espresso s'il vous plaît.'' She called. A few minutes later the waiter returned with her coffee. She sipped the hot black liquid and gazed about her. The hustle and bustle of The Latin Quarter was infectious. The ambiance was formidable. Abbey could people watch all day. The last few weeks in Paris had been delightful. The reason they'd come; an intriguing display of Monet's art had been breathtakingly superb. Although the other girls weren't taking the exhibitions quite as seriously as Abby. At twenty seven she was a hopeless romantic; she was loving Paris and the french way of life.
''Pardon, is this seat taken?'' A young man asked with an American twang. He was in his early thirties. He smiled politely at Abby. ''It's very busy this morning, difficult to find a spot. I'm dying for an espresso.''
''Yes!... er I mean no... please.'' Abby said gesturing with her hand for the gentleman to sit. His hair flopped over his forehead in a thick black fringe. The sides and back cut neatly into the shape of his head. A tight black T-shirt enhanced a muscular chest. His blue jeans were splattered with what looked like paint.
''Robert.'' The young man held out a hand. Abby surprised herself by taking it. His hand felt warm and strong. Her cheeks flushed. Robert smiled at her. ''Would you like another coffee?''
Robert's face was beautiful. Finely chiseled features with high defined cheekbones. His blue eyes sparkled brilliantly. Abby felt her heart miss a beat and all most sank off her chair to the ground. ''Please,'' she answered.
''You a student here?'' Robert asked waving down a waiter and ordering two espressos in perfect french.
''I wish! No, I'm here with some friends. We have french men in common. It's just my guy is kinda old and kinda dead. Though he sure could paint.'' Abby grinned.
Robert rested his elbows on the table and leaned forward. His face only inches from Abby's. ''So! you must be a fan of ole Claude.''
''Yep! got it one. I'm Abby.'' She said twirling a strand of hair between two fingers. Robert leaned back as the coffee arrived. ''You're not a student.'' she added.
''Hell no. I'm a painter. I have a Château in Beaune, a few hours drive from here. I spend some time there and well the rest of the time it depends.'' He smiled broadly.
Abby ran a finger around the rim of her coffee cup. Glancing up she found Robert looking at her intriguingly. ''What?''
''Nothing, I just had a thought.''
''What?'' Abby asked again.
''I hate it when people do that.'' Abby said pouting deliberately.
''It's just, well... I paint portraits. And my model has let me down. Ah... she's gone home. Missed her boyfriend or some crap like that. So! I need a new model.'' Robert raised his gorgeous eyebrows.
''I hardly know you.'' Abby grinned.
''What do you want to know?'' Robert grinned back.
The rest of the early morning was a giddy pleasure of caffeine and conversation. Robert spoke passionately of his portraits and his beautiful estate among the vineyards. How he spent time in America and France. An only child with too much money and not enough people to play with. Abby spoke of her new found zest for the french way of life. Her love for Claude and the odd glass of chardonnay: perfect companions. She told Robert how dull her parents and younger sister were; how she hated her job in a run down art gallery. She felt her passion for life was slowly dissolving into the smog that permanently hung over London.
Abby felt herself drawn to Robert. His handsome face and smooth silky voice dominated her senses. She was mesmerised by his every word. He was sophisticated and intelligent. Perhaps flattery was the deciding factor accepting Robert's invitation to be his new model or perhaps it was something else entirely. Robert was irresistible and she was loving the attention; it was quite apparent she wasn't the only female attracted to his good looks. Thoughts of the exhibition were long gone. Her friends a distant memory.
''I can't believe I'm doing this.'' Laughed Abby hopping into the red peugeot cabriolet, dropping her over night bag onto the back seat.
Robert smiled at her. ''Did you leave a note for your friends so they won't worry?''
''Yes! I left a note; told them I was going to pay some attention to my own horizons.'' Abby giggled.
''We're going to have great fun. Trust me, you'll never see things the same way again. You'll love the Château; you'll never ever want to leave.''
The peugeot sped along the open motor way. The spring breeze was warm; the blue sky cloudless. The speed was exhilarating. God this was fun. Abby rested her head on the cushioned head rest and smiled. She closed her eyes.
''Abby, Abby wake up. We're here.''
Abby woke to find the car parked in front of a magnificent building. Three stories of stone loomed before her. Spectacular paneled windows lined the walls. A grand entrance was framed by a beautiful stone arch. Sweeping steps were adorned by elaborate balustrades. Each end of the building was supported with two rounded columns complete with towers. The well manicured lawns at either side stretched off into the distance. The Château was splendid; like a castle in a fairy tale. And at that moment Abby felt like a princess.
''So! what do you think?'' Robert stood back while Abby got out of the car.
''I... I think it's amazing. My God, do you really live here?'' She turned and looked at Robert.
''Some of the time. Come on lets go explore. I want to show you around.'' Robert took Abby's hand and they raced toward the beautiful Château.
The sunny afternoon was spent strolling through the many gardens that surrounded the Château. Beautiful crimson bougainvillea climbed old stone walls boarding the estate; lilac petals danced in the air falling from jacaranda trees before landing softy on the narrow cobbled pathways winding through the lawns; a sea of magnificent blood red roses adorned a sheltered corner; a bed of giant yellow sunflowers ran along side a small running stream; the air was filled with a heady scent from the numerous pretty blossoms; an ornate water fountain centered the gardens complete with elaborate white stone figurines; an apple orchard hid the entrance to numerous terraces full of leafy vines heavy with delicious grapes. It was a paradise; like nothing Abby had ever seen. It was overwhelming. It took her breath away. Robert was right; she could easily stay here forever and never ever want to leave.
An extract from 'The Girl In The Painting'
© 2011 Gabriel Wilson