Does She Dare?byflamekitten©
It never ceased to fascinate her. Every Tuesday she could, Lucy would battle three trains and heavy downtown foot traffic to spend the day at the Art Institute of Chicago. She'd get there early, just prior to opening, and would stay until they were ready to shut off the lights. This was perhaps her tenth trip, and she had yet to see the whole tremendous collection that the museum offered.
She always went alone. Her parents had no use of "decorative" things, and she had no real friends to speak of. She'd never much cared for the girls at Rosary High; they were like paper dolls, two dimensional, without a mind of their own. She'd looked forward to the end of her high school with such a fever that, now that it was past her, she wondered what all the fuss was about. Since graduating, nothing had gotten better.
At the coaxing of her parents and guidance counselors, she had applied to several universities, and had no problem getting in. She even mailed off her acceptance letter to Champaign-Urbana, and got mildly excited about the prospects of college. Then she went on an orientation tour, and it became very clear to her that the Fighting Illini wanted to keep her in a box just as much as Rosary had. A bigger box, yes, but…it wasn't for her.
Not that she did know what was for her. She'd spent the last seven months hibernating, working as an order entry clerk; it was a simple, repetitive job that was on the verge of killing her spirit. Lucy still lived at home, in her parent's basement, but she was ready for that to change, too. Mostly, they tried to be kind, but were dull and weak in the way of people who've spent their entire lives doing exactly what was expected of them. As if sensing his own powerlessness, her father had a hidden rage which occasionally flared; Lucy and her mother were his only outlets.
Soon I'll move out and start my own life, she promised as she hugged herself against the shivering cold of another merciless Chicago winter. She wrapped her giant red scarf around her neck several times, but the wind still found its way to her skin. Before she had a chance to ponder her life plans further, the doors of the art museum swung open, which was just as well, given the slightly purple color of her hands.
It was always hard for Lucy to decide where to go first. Generally, she favored the modern art wing, but then, there was something utterly fascinating about artwork that had existed though hundreds, even thousands of years. She loved that you could see each stroke of the brush of chisel of the hammer. She also loved how a piece of art could look utterly different based on the distance or angle from which you viewed it. This lead to all sorts of philosophical musings on her part, which is why she always carried her journal/sketchpad in her army bag on her visits.
There were some pieces that she could stare at for hours, cocking her head, squinting, seeing all the different pictures within the picture. There were stories and thoughts and feelings hidden in each image, it just took a little coaxing to get them out. The only thing that Lucy did not like about the museum was endless line of red velvet ropes, keeping her distance held back. Oh, how she wanted to jump over those ropes and put her nose up to those priceless treasures. But she never did. Often, she would push her luck and stand at the line, leaning into the painting as far as she could. But more often than not, one of the numerous security guards would admonish her: politely, professionally.
As much as Lucy knew she'd enjoy the wonder of her favorite Matta painting, upstairs, she was intrigued by the signs announcing the current Bill Viola exhibit, and wandered towards it. It was an eighteen room installation of postmodern, multimedia works. All it took was a few minutes in the first room, and she was hooked.
Each room was a different masterpiece. Viola had designed the space of each room to create moods and pose questions, it was heady and intellectual yet astoundingly sensitive. He used audio recordings, videos and other lucid and textural elements in ways she'd never seen before. Lucy was in love with it.
Most of the museums patrons did not know how to respond to a creation of this sort; they rushed through each room in the exhibit, a minute here, a minute there. She'd heard a fur clad woman drag her partner along, "come, dear, let's not miss the Monet." Lucy would wait patiently for these distractions to leave the room, and then she would look, listen and feel, for long, drunk spells of time.
With people so consistently racing through each installation, it was easy for Lucy to notice the one exception to that rule. In stolen glances, she recognized that he was probably a few years older than her, and defiantly very cute, in a sloppy offbeat sort of way. Every so often she'd catch sight of him in an adjoining room, he seemed to be keeping pace with her.
But Lucy was painfully shy. She could not even look at him and smile. Which was fine, she decided, because she was here to get absorbed in the art, not distractingly cute guys with raggedy brown hair and duct-taped orange All-Stars. So she hurried past him, when necessary, and proceeded to forget about him. But then, a few rooms later, she'd catch another glimpse. By the time she'd finished the exhibit, though, over half of her museum time was already over, and she was certain he was long gone.
After a quick sandwich break, Lucy continued her wanderings. She lingered in Abstractionism and was getting to know Kupka intimately when, out of the corner of her eye, she spotted him again, turned quickly away and shrugged it off. It wasn't until she caught his eye, an hour later, at the other end of the museum, that it started to seem fishy. Trying not to seem obvious, she took a meandering series of turns, examining the collection far too quickly for the likes of her. Feeling satisfied that she'd lost him, but weary over the process, she ducked into the courtyard to have a cigarette.
In the piercing cold, she fumbled with the lighter, and dropped it in the crunchy, white lawn. Before she could even bend to pick it up, Lucy felt a sudden sweep of motion and heard the flick of a lighter. Looking up, she held in a gasp. It was him.
Too stunned to do anything else, she allowed him to light her cigarette. Mission accomplished, he bent down to retrieve her purple Bic, and handed it to her. He was smiling a sweet, impish, dimpled grin and seemed completely harmless.
"You're following me," Lucy said, softly.
"Maybe we just have the same tastes in art," he replied, the devilish smile broadening. He lit his own cigarette.
Lucy pushed a thick strand of hair out of her face, and breathed out a huge plume of smoke and cold air. "I don't think so," she replied, her voice just above a whisper.
He bent his head and shuffled his feet in mock sheepishness, then looked up to try, unsuccessfully, to catch her eye. "Okay, you got me. But, let me explain."
A few long moments went by during which Lucy examined the duct taped patterns of his shoes. He continued. "It's kind of my…hobby. Watching people, I mean. I don't do it to be creepy, I swear, it's just…interesting. I mean, there are so many things that you can tell about a person by the way they move, the way they dress, how they act and react, but for every tiny glimpse you get into a person's being…it's like there are a thousand new questions for every answer." He noticed Lucy's hands as he spoke, her long tapered fingers and neat, unpolished nails, no jewelry. She acted nervous, but she held her cigarette with authority.
He continued, "I collect people." He noticed the alarmed puzzlement on her face and quickly modified. "I mean, I'm a writer. And I like to watch people, and make guesses about who they are by seeing where they go, what they do… do you think that's terrible?"
Lucy shook her head, still watching his shoes.
He crouched down so that his face would be in her line of vision, and pointedly looked into her eyes. "I'm Cade," he said with his most disarming grin. Still bent down, eyes locked, he extended his hand in greeting.
A slow smile spread on her face as she gingerly placed her hand in his. She shook it, and he acted as if each small movement were a pump, lifting his spine back up into normal standing posture. "Much better, don't you think?" he said with a glimmer in his eyes. "And your name is?"
Her lips were pressed tightly together, but it was definitely a smile. "Lucy." Her raven hair sharply contrasted her clear, pale skin, and the red scarf brought out the rose in her cheeks, and the blush of her lips.
"Pleasure," he said, with a small bow, but never broke eye contact. Lucy had never seen eyes such as his before. They seemed to change, as they were all colors, layers of green, blue, brown, even violet; she was hypnotized by their vivid depths.
Her boldness grew. "So…after following me all day…who do you think I am?"
His smile widened, revealing a set of clean, straight teeth. "You have excellent taste in art, that much I can say for certain. You are intelligent and curious, you examine with all of your senses. But you're young, and inexperienced in ways of the world. You've lived a very quiet life, and you're aching to burst past it, but you don't yet have the confidence or the knowledge with which to do it. You're dreams are so large that they scare you, and your favorite color is blue. Am I close?"
Lucy played with the fringe of her scarf as he spoke, her eyes growing wider and wider until the last statement. At the word of 'blue', she vigorously shook her head. "No. Purple."
She spoke with such seriousness that Cade laughed a rich velvety laugh that came from his belly. Lucy blushed a deeper red, beyond the cold. She admired the contrast between his long lashes and his strong masculine jaw line, and the fullness of his mouth affected the very core of her carnal hunger. She bit her lower lip as if to keep her thoughts contained.
"Lucy, do you want to go on an adventure?"
"Huh?" her eyes darted from the fine contours of his face, to his eyes, back to the ground.
"Come to North Carolina with me. It'll be fun."
He said it with utmost seriousness, but surely, he must be joking. She laughed a little and rolled her eyes. "Sure, I'll just grab my toothbrush," she said.
"No, I'm serious," Cade said, searching her eyes out. It had been easier tracking her around the museum than it was to keep steady eye contact with this girl. "I have to make a delivery to my brother in Asheville. It's a great little town, full of artists and free thinkers. We can stay at my brothers place, a few days or a few weeks, I don't care. Come on," he said with the impish grin. It was an impulse suggestion on his part, one he didn't think she'd go for, but the act of trying to talk her into it got him more excited by the prospect of succeeding.
Lucy's head was reeling, she bit her bottom lip in thought. She'd never even left the state of Illinois; to her, the thought of driving across the country spur of the moment with a guy she'd just met was both insane, and deliriously enticing. "I have to be at work tomorrow," was her protest.
"Ha! You don't want to go there and you know it. Now, give me another reason why you shouldn't come with me."
"My parents would flip."
"'Bout damn time they did, I bet."
"I don't know you," she reasoned.
"Okay, that's fair," he continued. "let's just hang out for awhile, okay?"
With a shy smile, Lucy nodded. It was the only thing she could do.
Lucy insisted they explore the museum for the next few hours, until it closed, and Cade gladly obliged. They walked around mostly in silence, during which Lucy absorbed herself in the sculptures and paintings, and Cade wondered just what it was that prompted his proposal.
Initially, he'd posed the question just to study her character further, as she closely resembled the heroine of the novel he was cultivating ideas for. He would be lying to himself if he didn't admit a primal attraction to the girl, but if he'd simply wanted a piece of ass he could've had any number of less complicated, more experienced women. His motivation was beyond that. He wanted to help her break out of her shell. He wondered what was hidden within her.
Lucy found it hard to concentrate on the artwork with Cade so nearby. Her heart was all a-flutter, and she could not help but wonder if he was feeling the same about her. Crazy, but not impossible. He acted nothing but friendly, asking her a few polite questions about herself, she asked a few questions of her own in return.
She found out he was 26 – seven years older than her. He'd been writing since he was young and admitted to having little "success" in the way, say, her parents would use the word. As in, he didn't make money from his craft, but he certainly seemed to love it. He said he was working on a novel but didn't care to discuss it.
Cade was also a professed lover of music, his favorites were mostly names she'd never heard of, though those that she did recognize she approved of. He didn't work a day job anymore, but Lucy felt uncomfortable asking how it was that he supported himself. He'd grown up in Seattle, and spent five years after high school traveling the country. He settled in Chicago originally to be with a woman, and decided to stay in the city a bit after the relationship had fizzled. He'd been settled there for nearly two years, and felt a change was coming soon, but couldn't say what that change would be.
After the museum closed, they hurried over to a little café around the corner to catch get some dinner. They both ordered vegetarian meals and hot green tea. They found that they had similar taste in books, and that both had a strong dislike for television.
By this time it was a little easier to track down Lucy's cool blue-gray eyes. "So, what do you think about coming to Asheville with me?"
Lucy slowed chewed the food she was working on. "I think I would be crazy for me to go with you," she paused, "but if I said no, I know I'd regret it."
A slow grin crept across his face, "so, you're in?!"
Slowly, with a tiny grin, she nodded. He let out a whoop of delight, and sang a little impromptu song, blues style, into an asparagus microphone.
Goin' to Asheville with my friend Lu-cyyyy
Gonna have a real good trip.
Gonna visit ma l'il bro-therrrrr,
We're so cool, it just ain't hip.
Lucy just grinned and shook her head. She could feel the little tingle of excitement in her belly growing, and spreading. She knew she'd made the right decision.
They had a little discussion over the pre-travel plans. Lucy had wanted to take a train back to her parents house to pack, then take another train to meet him in the morning. Cade, however, wanted to leave quite early, and he was afraid that if she spoke to her parents, they'd scare her out of it. He challenged her to list an item she'd need that couldn't be found in the city, and she could list none.
So Cade ended up taking her to his favorite resale shop, near his home, by Clark and Belmont. Together, they picked out a few changes of clothes for Lucy, but with Cade's influence, the choices were a little more daring than she'd have on her own. Bright colors, rich textures and quirky vintage styles were discouraged in her upbringing, but seeing them modeled on herself, she realized they complimented her. The kicker was a perfect rust-colored corduroy jack: double breasted, wide collards, it fitted and flared at the hips to accentuate her figure, much unlike the heavy gray pea coat she usually sported. At Cade's urging, she left the old coat behind in the donation bin.
Afterwards, they went to a drugstore so Lucy could pick up toiletries, and from there they walked back to Cade's apartment. He lived on the third floor of an old walk-up in a small, uncluttered one-bedroom, but he had wood floors, lots of windows and a view of the lake.
As Cade was getting the couch ready, Lucy realized that she didn't have any sleeping clothes. Once altered, Cade dashed into his bedroom and procured a white thermal top and a pair of Pac Man boxers. He shrugged as he handed them to her. "Will this be alright?" he asked. She nodded and found her way to the bathroom.
For a bachelor's pad, it was surprisingly clean, she realized as she locked herself in the bathroom. Glancing furtively, she noted that there was only one toothbrush, and no feminine articles anywhere. She blushed at herself for doing so, and the blush furthered as she pulled on the thermal: it was tight, and rather see through. Frowning, she pulled the boxers on, and felt another sort of intimacy with Cade. She felt uncomfortable, and exposed. She tried to quiet the feelings as she brushed her hair and her teeth.
Cade was waiting for her when she emerged from the bathroom. She had her arms crossed tightly across her chest, and shifted her weight from foot to foot. "Well, I was going to offer you the bed, and I would take the couch, if you wanted," he said, recognizing that she was back to her timid self.
Lucy shook her head, afraid to feel that close to him. "No, the couch is fine, thanks."
He nodded and ruffled her hair as he made his way to the bedroom. "Goodnight, Lucy. Don't be afraid to knock if you need anything," he said as a polite measure, before catching it's potentially suggestive connotations. He hoped she hadn't taken it that way.
Lucy tossed and turned for an hour on the couch before falling asleep. She was surrounded by his scent, it made her dizzy, nervous, excited. Quite excited. After she was certain he'd fallen asleep, she reached in through the access hole of the boxers, and stroked her warm wetness to ecstasy. Then, she fell asleep soundly.
Lucy awoke to the sound of her name being called, softly, nearby. She tried to stretch her arms, and when she was blocked on one side by the back of the couch, she sat up with a start, remembering where she was. It was still dark out; light spilled in from the kitchen.
"Sleep well?" Cade asked. His hair was sticking out in every direction.
"Hmm mmm," Lucy replied, and absentmindedly smoothed out her own hair.
"I'm going to toast a bagel. Want one?" he asked.
Lucy nodded. "No raisins," she said in an almost childlike pout that made him smile.
"Okay, no raisins. If you want to take a shower, there's an extra towel on the back of the door."
Under an hour later, they walked towards Cade's vehicle, with several backpacks and duffle bags in tow. Lucy started to second-guess herself but she forced herself to stop. Cade stopped in front of an older Toyota pick-up, with a camper shell on the top. "Ta-dah," he said with a grandiose gesture.
Lucy looked up at the shell curiously. "What's this?" she asked.
Cade gave her a bemused smile. "My home away from home." Unlocking the back door, he ushered her in. Inside was, indeed, like a miniature home, along one side was a tiny sink and countertop with a propane stove bolted down. On the other side was a long, narrow table flanked by two benches. Behind it all was a wall of cabinets and ladder, leading towards the over-the-cab bedroom. He smiled in satisfaction. "It's great, isn't it?"
Lucy nodded, curious. Why, she supposed, one could live their entire life out of a truck like this, always on the move. The thought thrilled her.
Cade took the wheel and popped in a CD by a band called Pinback. Lucy fell easily into their grooves, and was lulled back to sleep.
She awoke halfway to Indianapolis. The sun tried desperately to blaze through a thick gray wall of clouds. Miles and miles of deserted farmland stretched everywhere the eye could see. Pinback was gone, replaced by a sexy man's croon and soul aching guitar.
Lucy looked over to Cade's fine profile. "Who's this?" she asked.