I held my perspiring champagne glass while I observed the crowd at my gallery show in the wondrous city of New York. My eyes kept wandering back to the woman admiring my work while I sipped on my glass.
She'd turn her head this way and that while digesting the painting in front of her, obviously intrigued and contemplating what it meant. The gallery and the crowd seemed to disappear as I continued to stare at this woman, and for the life of me I couldn't grasp as to why it was so. The music that was lingering in the background complemented the atmosphere of the event down to the last, grainy detail as my agent promised. I smiled to myself in light of that regard and lifted my gaze back to the beauty viewing my art but she seemed to have disappeared.
I felt a tap on my shoulder when I was just starting to wonder and I turned to meet a pair of incredibly green eyes looking at me intently. I was a little startled and I think for some reason that flattered her because she glinted her eyes at me. I felt as though the ball was in my court so to speak, so I began the conversation as any decent person would.
"What a shit show, hmm?" I said as I took another sip of champagne.
"Really? I was starting to enjoy myself, actually." She retorted. I noted a sweet lilt of brogue in her voice that made her all the more captivating to me. And, it sounded like she had a relatively perky sense of humor, which I enjoyed as well.
"Well, I suppose it's decent. I saw you admiring the artist's work."
"Isn't that what you're supposed to do at a gallery, though?" She fired back with a little too much enthusiasm. Were her eyelashes fluttering or was that my wishful thinking? I put the blame on the alcohol for now and realized I was late on my reply that she was eagerly looking forward to.
"Yes, yes, you're right. I've gathered that everyone else here has followed your lead-"
"Yes, but not you." She said, her vowels lingering longer due to her heritage.
"I was... simply observing." I flashed her a grin as I downed the rest of my glass, tilting my head back.
"Simply observing or simply watching me?"
I felt as though a hidden challenge laid in wait, begging to be met with vigor. I was stalling still, my jaw moving with no words coming out. It was humiliating at first, but then my calm, cool demeanor came back when I noticed her fingers that were holding her glass started sliding back and forth mingling with the beads of water. It was quite sexual, or at least I perceived it that way.
"I was watching you, yes, but I had my reasons." I wanted to keep her guessing if she were truly that intrigued. Her pale skin seemed to glow when I revealed that to her. She moved the few strands of hair that fell in her eyes and tucked it behind her ear as she mentally begged me with her eyes to continue.
"Reasons being that... I would like to know why you were so captivated by that painting." I cleared my throat and also tucked my hair behind my ear hoping in vain she didn't think I was mimicking her out of desperation for a quick flirt or something else that could insult her. There was just something about her that kept me talking. It could've been the accent but that would be picking petals off a flower if I equated her to that. I didn't know her at all but I felt as though I were remembering her, parts about her. The striking beauty she possessed, her green eyes that bore through me, her pale skin that glinted and gleamed like ivory under a soft light, the short-cropped raven hair that hung gracefully along her neck – it was all speaking volumes to me and the only thing I was lacking was a good translator; and she fit the bill perfectly in retrospect to the situation.
"I am captivated by it still, in case you were wondering. I'm not too keen on, however, explaining the reasons to someone who can't appreciate art though." She retorted with earnest. I felt a tiny tremor of fear run through me at hearing that, it was as though she'd mistaken me for an asshole for stating what I said in a past tense.
"Forgive me. I am grammatically correct most of the time, but it appears I missed a lot of important lessons on my sick days back in high school." I quoted 'sick days' with the universal hand gesture, and continued. "... But, I'm the artist so I was simply admiring someone who could understand what I tried to convey."
Her slightly furrowed brows from earlier shifted to one of complete shock, then worry. She blinked a few times out of disorientation and looked back at me with an imploring look. I concluded to myself that when it dawned on her who I was, her sass took a back seat and it looked like she wanted to apologize. I like to play cat and mouse games so I decided to play and see where it lead. I needed a distraction to come and intervene and it was at that moment Billy Connoway, my agent, came to my aid when I rather heard his arrival than sensed it as I usually do.
"Sherron! Jesus, girl, you're going to give me a heart attack if you don't start picking up your phone more often. Some clients from last week's interview are here to discuss some of your commission ideas and they're not exactly the type of people to keep waiting for twenty minutes if you catch my dri- Oh... hello there, I had no idea you had company." Billy said while extending his hand out to the art admirer of the evening.
"Billy Connoway, or better known as my nickname, Casanova." He said with a little too much arrogance. His short-cropped blonde hair was slicked back, adding that fifties' era to his chiseled features. He was undressing her with his blue eyes, trailing up and down completely oblivious of how much of a typical man he was. I noted her eyes scrutinizing him after his introduction and I couldn't help but chuckle; he always managed to get every woman in Manhattan to hate him in less than thirty seconds of knowing him.
"Veronica Sutherland, charmed." Said the vixen to my right with a hint of a sting to her words.
Billy looked at me in response expecting me to reply in spite of her comment but I took my leave with him; partly due to keeping Ms. Sutherland intrigued with my departure and to not my piss my clients off for another minute longer.
"On that note, Veronica, I'll see you around." Billy whispered with a sexual undertone and a wink. Veronica looked insulted and I scoffed at him.
"Billy, I could only fathom how difficult it is to hold your composure when you get a hard-on every minute but there is an art to seduction and I don't think you've quite grasped the concept yet." I said with a hand on his shoulder. I gave him a gentle pat.
Veronica snorted with some light laughter and I turned to her and gave her the most dazzling smile I could muster. Billy saluted her as he led me further out of sight. Right before I passed the wall that would close off my view of her, I saw that she was gazing at me in a longing manner. Although, her contrapposto stance was perfectly relaxed, it was her eyes that were revealing what her body language was hiding from me. I vowed to myself that I needed to find out more about her. It was not because of our immediate attraction to each other, not entirely, but it was something that I couldn't quite put my finger on – all I knew was that something was compelling me to find out.
* * * * * * *
"Ms. Fischer, I'll confess to you right now that I am your lucky man in that regard! Consider it expunged! Aha!" Mr. Morgan wheezed after taking a puff from his cigar.
He was retorting to a comment I made about a certain misdemeanor that was never erased off my record a few years back. To my dismay, this discussion came to fruition because of a joke Billy said regarding having an indecent exposure charge on one's permanent record. The man blowing smoke in my face recently bought the oil painting I completed while I was in Europe for a week roughly five years ago. He walked up to me after I had met with my clients and told me what he thought the painting meant. After his explanation, I had no fear telling him that he was completely wrong, which then led him to argue about it. And that's when Billy chimed in with his crude joke about how I've been trying to pull my pants up for the past few years due to my hunger for the same sex.
"You've been very helpful, Mr. Morgan, I never expected to befriend such a Samaritan at heart, for being a lawyer, that is." I concluded the small chat, shook his hand and wished him a farewell as my feet led me to the bar. I heard Billy's footsteps catching up to me as I tried to walk faster.
"So, that went well."
I turned around with a swivel of my heel and came to abrupt halt in front of him.
"Which part? The part where you completely stripped me of dignity in front of a stranger with a fuck ton of strong ties to the press, or the part where I saved my own ass and sold him my painting? I loved that painting, Billy. There was a lot of meaning to it. I put too much emotion into that canvas for a pig of a man like that to brag and show it to all his moronic friends." I said in dismay. I passed the bartender a bill and in return he passed me a Gin and Tonic on a napkin. I stirred it with the straw, tossed the red piece of plastic aside and relished the cold, strong elixir after the first sip. It was definitely what I needed after that scene.
"Alright, while you sit over here and pout, I'm going to find that Scottish tart. Did you see the way she looked at me?" He said with glee.
"You mean when she looked like she was going to rip your dick off?" I retorted.
"That is so not true! She wanted me. I could feel it! She said she was charmed to meet me anyway..."
"That was sarcasm, Bill. Look, stupid-fight aside, thanks for the show. I enjoyed myself. You were spot on with how the event would turn out and I think the critics will leave some impressing reviews come next column of The NY Arts Magazine." I stood up out of the bar stool and let my Bistre brown hair fall loosely over my shoulders. After I gathered my drink and cigarettes, I threw Billy my car keys.
"Oof! Well thanks a lot, Sher! That's splendid! Leave me out in the cold." He shrugged and pouted his bottom lip. I laughed as I was walking away, saying, "You know I love you, Bill. That is for picking up another bottle of that champagne served here tonight. Don't bother going to the back to fetch another, I tried. It seems that we are all quite the alcoholics because we had, ...that's past tense in case you're too inebriated to calculate that at the moment, fifty stored in the back room to serve approximately seventy-five people every ten minutes. Oh, and could you also pick up some Gouda and crackers? And don't forget the strawberries this time, Billy. You always do. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go searching for a lucky four-leafed clover." All I could hear after that was the relaxed ambiance of the gallery so I assumed Billy caught his tongue in his throat for some odd reason.
And I laughed even harder when I looked back at Billy to see he couldn't identify the reference to Veronica.
"Are you really going to end your night with downing cheese with champagne alone in your room?" Billy said with obvious curiosity.
"I'll be in company by the time I get to my room, that's why." I mentioned, albeit bluntly.
"Hmm. Sounds intriguing. Are you ever going to let me come and watch?" Billy exclaimed with a demonic glint in his glazed eyes.
"Is it even possible for you to not act like a total dog?" Anyone within a ten-foot radius would hear crystal clear what we were bickering about.
"Fuck'n hell, Sher. I was just joking. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go fetch some cheese and club soda. I'll return these to you so you can manage to get your ass back home." Dangling the keys in front of me, he tossed them in the air and caught them midway.
He turned, casually draped his coat over his shoulder and waltzed away.
* * * * * * *
I paused and digested my surroundings but I saw no sign of Veronica, so I gathered that she must have headed off home. What with all that had transpired through the night, I was finding it more and more difficult to accept that she wouldn't be single. There was this abundance of time to piece together this stranger that entered my life mere hours ago, but her enigmatic nature created a barrier I found difficult to hurtle over. My instinct, on the other hand, was telling me something completely different. I figured after I sit and contemplate about it for a few minutes I'd come up with a better solution than I was conceiving for the time being.
The cold, stillness of the air bit my skin as I hurriedly slipped my arms through the sleeves of my jacket. Lighting the cigarette I had tucked behind my ear, I tried refocusing my thoughts as the sounds of the city distracted me from all the worries on my mind. As I was leaning on the brick wall of the building, my thoughts reverted back to Veronica and how much of a mystery to me she was already.
Why does she seem so familiar? She definitely looked as though she recognized me when I told her I was the artist...
My thoughts were racing through my mind, colliding with one another, trying desperately to regain control and understand how I could know of this woman Veronica Sutherland. The sounds of the city once again seduced my senses and I found my ears drawn to the sounds first. I heard the screech and wail of tires against pavement, honking in the near distance, steam rising and ascending to cloud the night sky. I saw a few pigeons huddled on a power line, pecking at the snow still caped in random sections along the cable. It felt nice to walk into New York City again, as if being reborn immediately following my departure from the art show held in my name. I took another drag as I tried to rack my brain endlessly to find a connection somewhere to Veronica.
Through Seattle? No, I'd remember her face. I always make a mental effort to remember faces rather than names; it's much easier in sticky situations, should there ever be one to occur. And, it's equally unlikely I'd ever forget her face...
I felt my mind stalling again, and found my attention drawn to the café a block from my right, the neon sign outside the door showering the vicinity with a green glow. The hole in the wall coffee shop's sign above the front entrance was caked with frost, however, it was still legible. The sign read:
CAFÉ DE VONÈTTE ROUX
STORE HOURS: 8:30 AM -
12:00 MIDNIGHT, M – F.
The bell above the door rang as three college students emerged from the warmth within, chatting to one another heatedly, adding their voices to the symphony of the city. I studied the sign again, my eyes skimming over the word...
As if speaking the word would somehow lift me from this spell of elusion, an image passed through my mind at lightning speed. Green hills surrounded by mystical mist, lakes, stone structures, cities and towns. A computer screen popped up inside my head, white light blaring black words:
VON: babygirl, I'd love to be drawn...
No, not Vonètte necessarily, but Von...Vonni?
VONNI: I'll keep this image of us fo...
The words blurred, the mist revealing a memory of five years ago in Amsterdam of myself leaning against a brick wall, clawing the rough surface in bliss as a beautiful Dutch woman's mouth turned my moans to howls on that chilly August night. I had been challenged to fulfill a friend's wish of wanting to try a hand at being an exhibitionist, so I hung around a few bars and clubs till I found a charming woman who seemed interested in one night stands, especially with foreign American women like myself. I told Von about the interesting ordeal a week later after Billy bailed me out, and how I have a case of "indecent exposure" forever on my record.
My internet friend simply had written that she laughed and refused to believe I didn't enjoy myself because of the turn of events. I relented to tell her I only wish it were her I was being pleased by instead. Even now I could still picture the conversation with her, the tension of our heated discussion causing us both to lose inhibition.
The laptop resting on my thighs thrummed to life as my heart was racing with the memory still fresh in my mind; the smell of jail still lingering, although it didn't bother me.
I must tell Vonni! She's going to love this...
The computer's display reflected blue light on the lens of my glasses and face, giving my surroundings an enigmatic aura. I rested my feet on my wooden writer's desk, crossed at the thighs, whilst waiting for the laptop to load I sifted through the mail. I was halfway through reading a letter written from my aunt, its contents revealing how cats due to a neighbor's inclination to hoarding were overrunning her apartment when a messenger popped on the screen. The box was blinking, beckoning, and begging to be answered. I felt a thrill as I read the sender's name. Vonni. I dragged the tip of my finger along the track pad and clicked on the messenger icon.
A chime sounded her arrival.
VONNI: You've been a busy bee haven't you?
I felt my heart lurch.
At first I thought I was feeling fear build along my abdomen and down into my womb, but it was lust that was growing in my belly at an alarming rate. Vonni liked to emphasize her dominance, and I loved to acknowledge it. I licked my lips and began to type.
How'd you know, love?
(Vonni is typing...)
VONNI: I know you quite well now, I'd say. We read each other's minds well enough on a daily basis. Tell me.
Tell you what?
I loved teasing her. It was like prolonging an orgasm. I could practically feel and hear her hiss of frustration, as well as the creeping smile on her.
VONNI: NO TEASING TONIGHT. I will have a full explanation, darling. You mustn't strive to tick me off tonight, little dove. I would hate to make those delectable cheeks sting... or would I?
I gulped the fine red wine, feeling my pulse skyrocketing; the hand that held the glass, shaking. I felt frozen as I watched the scene develop, the imagery vivid in my mind, fluttering with excitement...
VONNI: Hmm... no response? That's all right. I'll make sure you feel your mistake in a little while. Do you feel your heart pounding? Feel it beneath your flesh? Goose prickles will dance along your limbs as I trace my fingers against your skin. My fingers climb to your chest, higher till the swell of your breast taunts me to squeeze it. A taut nipple scrapes against my palm, my fingers searching for it. To tease it. To make it even harder than it is now. Feel your tummy flutter, babygirl?
Oh, I do. I typed. Slowly at first, then faster as I kept up pace with her creating the world for us both to experience tonight, as we provide every night since the day I met her a few months shy of a year ago. I decided to bury those ancient thoughts and reminisce of our intense moment together instead.
VONNI: I let my tongue glide along your jaw, feeling you breathe unevenly, wild eyed. Twisting your nips..
Vonni, baby, please, you torture me...
VONNI: Well, of course I torture you. That's what I long to do to you, babygirl. I know what you like. And, I know what I like. To keep you on the edge of pleasure and pain. You know where my fingers will crawl next, pray tell...
VONNI: ...yes, towards kitty. Feel my fingers trace your soft flesh, ever more downward...
Yes, Vonni! Oh, yes...
VONNI: Hmm... it's sticky around kitty. Have I spilled wine on your kitty? Now, that just must be cleaned up. What do you feel, Shereee? Tell me what you feel Vonni's fingers doing to you.
I shivered and felt more wetness dribble along my thighs. I spread them apart wider, and looked down. My most private center was swollen, the flesh pink and glistening. I saw it pulsating, which lured my sight towards my clitoris, the star of tonight's show, I knew. We both seemed to have a fascination of my extraordinarily large clitoris, (she enjoyed calling it 'beany') and it was quite popular among our talks. Our conversations always had a sexual undertone, and we both didn't mind it. We enjoyed it immensely. Some nights called for bullshit girl-gossip, other nights called for something more carnal, something far richer in flavor. And there were nights where we spoke of love, of our love that seemed to blossom and bloom. The love that would last and linger beyond our graves, we'd say to each other.