In another life, I lived in Paris.
I wandered cobblestone streets and drank wine at a cafe table on the sidewalk. People strolled by, chatting and relaxed. It was Sunday, and no one was in a hurry. Spring leaves shone bright green against a dim sky, and I smelled honeysuckle and rose from the flower shop on the corner.
The sun hid behind a thin layer of clouds. Later it would rain, but by then, I’d be back at the atelier, painting Raphael, who would watch me with hooded eyes from the bed, where he posed for me.
The session would be cut short. Unable to concentrate on perfecting the curve of his bottom lip, I would throw down the brush in mock annoyance, cross the room, and throw myself on him.
This had happened many times, and I looked forward to it happening again.
He was late.
I sipped my wine and suddenly saw him, jaywalking through weekend traffic to my side of the street. Horns blared; he smiled apologetically. I admired the long, lean lines of his body before focusing on the angelic beauty of his face. He was made to be painted. How was it the whole world didn’t stop and hold its breath when he appeared?
Feeling drunk, blood fizzing, I stood to greet him. We hugged. He smelled musky, courtesy of some cologne, and I inhaled, momentarily dizzy. The painting would be finished soon. What then?
I abruptly sat. He positioned his chair so our knees touched and signaled the waiter. He needn’t have bothered, the man was already on his way over. Such was the effect Raphael had on those around him. They leaped to be of assistance, to do anything that would make him happy.
His wine arrived promptly. We eye-fucked each other over the glasses as we drank. The air swam with mist and desire and then mist turned to light rain.
He glanced up, laughing. “Merde.” Gulping the rest of his wine, he put down the glass and stood, holding out a hand to me.
We ran two blocks to an old stone building and raced breathlessly up the stairs to the atelier on the top floor. It faced north, for the light, but that made the space chilly. Raphael turned on the portable heater as if he lived there. I wished he did.
I opened a bottle of wine and filled a glass, then placed it on the nightstand. It was a prop for the painting; the lamplight made it glow a luscious ruby red. He brushed water droplets off his hair, stripped off his clothing, and lay on the bed, assuming the pose.
I gazed at the canvas, brush in hand. Was I doing him justice? Had I captured the dark animal magnetism that had drawn me to him? That had kept me captive for weeks? Just as in life, his painted eyes drew me in.
I didn’t want to sell this one, though I knew I’d have to. The rent was due in a week.
There was little left to do. Two hours later, I finished and put down the brush. “Come see.”
Naked, he came to stand beside me. We looked at it together.
He clasped my hand. “You have made me beautiful.”
“You are beautiful.”
I leaned against him, and he put his arms around me. Don’t leave. Stay with me forever.
He pulled free of our embrace and crossed to the chair in the corner, where he’d laid his clothes. He picked up his jeans.
My heart broke, the pain of it nearly forcing me to my knees. He was dressing, he was going.
He reached into a pocket, pulled out a condom, and smiled. “Time to celebrate, yes?”
I went to him eagerly. We fell on the bed. It had happened many times. I looked forward to it happening many more.
In another life, I lived in Paris.
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