Chapter Three

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Even with her music blaring, Desi could still ear Brian milling about her flat. He had been over every night for the past week and he was driving her crazy. She sat and stared at the blank canvass as she listened to him bop around the kitchen. He whistled along to “Pretty Brown Eyes” as he chopped the ingredients for his smoothie. Desi rubbed her forehead in disdain, trying to force an image out of her head. She needed to work. The blender started an ear-splitting grinding, drowning out the music overhead. Desi exclaimed out loud and threw down her paint brush. Hearing the commotion, Brian silenced the blender and the music. “You say something, babe?” he asked, looking across the room. Desi’s back was to him but he could still see her, holding her head. He rounded the kitchen island and strode across the room. He put his hands on her shoulders and started to massage her. Desi slipped from his grip and moved away from him. She held her hands out in front of her.

“This isn’t working,” she said. “What isn’t?”
“This. You being here.”
“You invited me.”
“I know. I know. But I need…to work.”
“What’s stopping you?”
“It’s not that simple.”
“I’m sorry, make it simple,” Brian said, his irritation level rising as well. “It was nice. Having you here, at first, but now I’m feeling…crowded. I don’t produce well when I feel crowded.”
“Now I’m crowding? You invited me here,” Brian reiterated, his brow furrowing. Brian had a point. Desi wasn’t sleeping again and she needed a distraction; Brian was a beautiful one. Even now, she had a hard time taking her eyes off of him. Tall, dark and handsome, he was an girl’s fantasy man and Desiree was pushing him away. They stood, staring, silently. After a moment, Brian started. “I’m gonna bounce.” He walked past her and began gathering his belongings. Desi stood in te same spot until she heard the door slam and he walked down the stairs. Even thought she hated seeing him leave like that, she was happy to be alone.

Desi stepped back and admired the canvass. Colorful and abstract, the paint swirled and jumped from every corner of the canvass. It was a step out for her, when she normally painted portraits and landscapes. After her last showing and its abysmal review in the culture section for the newspaper, Desi had been a woman obsessed. She needed to create better work; her gallery depended on it. Satisfied with her new work, she removed it from the canvas and carefully made her way downstairs. The gallery was closed for the evening, empty and quiet. She made her way to the display case, hidden behind a red velvet curtain, to display the new work. She put the painting on the floor and climbed into the case, moving the curtain so she could rearrange the store front. A rap on the window behind her almost made her jump out of her skin and yank the curtain partly off of the rod. She turned around to see a familiar, handsome face smiling back at her from outside. Laughing at her abashment, she climbed from the case and opened the front door.

Andrew, clad in his running attire, stepped through the door. Desi had forgotten how tall he was, especially after seeing him laying unconscious on her floor.“You haven’t learned your lesson about running at night, I see,” Desi jested.
“Seeing as though you’re not in a vehicle, I think I’ll be fine.”
“How’s your head?” she said, peering up at his forehead. He reached up and touched the scar lightly. “No permanent damage.” She smiled her gap toothed smile at him and he felt himself get excited. “Working late?” he asked, attempting to change the subject. “Just got done,” she said, stepping from in front of the door to flip the light switch. The front half was illuminated as Desi shut the door. “What do you think?” she said, picking the canvas up and showing him. Andrew stood back and admired the work for a moment.

“It looks sad,” he said, finally. “Sad?” Desi repeated, looking over the top of the painting. “Yeah. All the color and movement. Like you have something to prove,” he said. Desi was uncomfortable at how well he had just read her and sat the painting down. “Someone paid attention in their art classes,” she said, making light.
“Thank you, elective art history and culture. What about you?” he asked, looking around the room at the other work. “What about me?” Desi asked as she began attempting to rehang the curtain. “Did you go to art school? You got some great stuff in here.”
“Uh. I went. For a while. Then I left.” College was a painful, drunken memory she cared not to revisit.
“Well, it looks like you’re doing well, despite that.”
“Do you think you can give me a hand?”, she asked, desperate to change the subject.

Andrew turned around to see her standing in the case, on her tiptoes, holding the curtain up. He stepped into the case, moving two of the easels to the side and squeezed in front of her. At 6’5″, it wasn’t much of a task to rehang the curtain. The case was almost too small for two people to fit, so Desi pressed herself against the wall as he worked but he was close enough to smell his cologne, a musky, intoxicating scent. As he stretched his arms, his t-shirt raised slightly, exposing part of his muscular stomach, cutting deeply down into the front of his track pants. Desi resisted all her inclinations to reach out and touch him, to see how soft the line of hair under his navel was. He connected the last hook onto the pole and gathered himself. He looked down and saw Desi gaze up at his face. He could feel the heat radiating from her body and he took a small step closer to her. She was checking him out just then, her cheeks had turned a slight red color. Their bodies were just barely touching, his fingertips brushed against her soft skin gently.

They both felt the buzz of the phone ringing.

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