tagFirst TimeArt History

Art History

byJet_Lagged©

Art History

"Oh. My. God. If I have to walk through one more museum, I think I'm gonna start screaming."

"Sammy, mellow out. What'd you think we'd be doing on this trip? The whole point is to go to museums and look at art." Beth smacked her friend on the upper arm and rolled her eyes.

"No. The whole point was to come to Europe and to be...in Europe – not in museums."

Beth's grin hadn't faded. "That might be the dumbest thing I've heard you say considering that art is what this trip is all about. Well maybe aside from what you said when you stole that pack of Twizzlers."

Samantha was clearing errant strands of hair out of her face by using both hands to pull it back and away from her eyes. She had temporarily gripped her hairband in her teeth which made her mumble, "I was thirteen for fuck's sake." After putting her pony tail in place she said more clearly, "You and that stupid story."

Beth put a mocking ring into her impression of a younger girl, "'I paid you but you must have forgotten.' And we were the only ones in the store. The look on that guy's face...it was like...like...he couldn't believe you'd said it either." Beth giggled. "You were so lucky he was cool."

"He wasn't cool, and neither are you. It's five years later and you just can't let it die. Come on, let's catch up with Ted, Lia, and Natalie."

The girls hustled past a set of Magritte paintings of doors that didn't exist without paying the masterworks any mind. They'd been overloaded with "culture" for the past week. When they passed a security guard, the two also missed the fact that his eyes followed them well past the line of propriety.

They caught up with their friends and Samantha slipped her arm through Ted's and asked him, "What's up?"

Ted gave Samantha a little squeeze back. "Hey, Thing 2. See anything you like." Samantha liked the nickname Ted had given her but Beth wasn't as thrilled with her nickname. Ted called Beth, Thing 1 because when the two girls were together, they were trouble as far as he was concerned.

Ted enjoyed the new-found familiarity he had with most of the girls on the trip. He had no idea that his growth spurt between sophomore and junior year had caught the attention of the entire female population in his class. Another year of running cross-country and track only augmented his fitness, making him leaner and causing more of a stir than he knew. His newfound maturity coupled with the collective bonding of this group of twelve kids travelling together had seemed somewhat of a miracle to him.

Samantha grimaced and repeated her complaints to Ted. She thought it was cool that he liked this stuff so much, but she really wanted to get out and have a chance to see the city on her own terms instead of the constant ramblings of docents.

Ted said, "You know, if you slowed down a minute you might actually like some of these paintings. Like that one, it's incredible."

"It's a big fuckin' apple in a room. WOW. I'm dazzled."

Ted shook his head. "2, you're hopeless. Remember what Thrad talked about – the whole point is not to have a point. Magritte is messing with perspective, making you question what you see, what reality is." He enjoyed looking at the paintings and knowing a little about what was going on with them. It made him feel, as cheesy as this seemed, grown-up.

"Nope – doesn't make me question my reality. It makes me think that guy was hungry for an apple. REALLY hungry for an apple."

Ted felt the pressure and warmth of Samantha's leg pressed up against his. Her black leggings were tight and he caught himself thinking about the curving line of of her ass that was so tantalizing in view at the base of her shirt. He knew he needed to move and change the subject or he'd embarrass himself. He detached from her arm in order to read the small placard next to another painting.

Samantha was a kick; fun to hang around with, but he felt that she hid behind her disinterest in things so she wouldn't have to work. She probably wasn't a genius, but it was too bad that she seemed so intent on not showing whatever smarts she had. It was a different story with Beth, and he really liked that about her. Of all the girls in the class, he was most interested in Beth but the two of them had a hard time talking. All of the casual contact he had with most of the others seemed to be out of reach for him with Beth.

The art history elective for seniors was an unusually small class, and it turned out that eight of the kids in the group were girls. Beth was sharp and it was obvious that Mr. Thrad enjoyed having her contribute. He'd often start a discussion about a painting by asking her a leading question to get things rolling. Somehow Ted frequently found himself seeing things differently and there were more than a few classes where their disagreement had sparked the long discussions in which Mr. Thrad clearly took pleasure.

Samantha had encouraged someone else to share in her dissatisfaction and Ted wandered off, absorbed in the art around him. He found himself looking at a nude of Magritte's wife when Beth walked up next to him. The painting was hung right next to an equally bare photograph of the model.

She said, "I'm not sure Magritte knew where her breasts were supposed to go." The painting was a human head whose eyes were breasts and mouth a V of pubic hair. The image bore little resemblance to the stark reality of the photograph.

Ted was embarrassed to have been caught looking so closely at the pictures. "Err...yeah. You mean they don't usually go there? If they were there, at least guys wouldn't always be blamed for staring at them." Unfortunately his embarrassment was only worsened because he'd looked directly at Beth's chest when saying this. His face flushed.

Beth's own embarrassment stumbled along just behind his. She folded her arms and turned back to the picture. "Well if they were like, putting a bra on would mean we'd be smashing into walls all the time."

They both laughed.

"You probably won't believe me, but I was more interested in the photo. I'm just amazed at how the technology has changed. What would a guy like this have done with a digital camera? Or hell, anything on a computer? He was into graphic design when there basically was no such thing."

As much as Ted had liked the paintings discussed in class, he'd really gotten into photography. Learning about the early landscape photographers had spoken to something deep in him. The idea of those guys traipsing around the woods with all that huge equipment had captured his imagination. Then Mr. Thrad had shown him the work of war correspondents and he was lost. He'd burned his entire summer's earnings, plus a loan from his mom, to pick up a digital SLR.

Beth gave a small frown. "She was really kind of plain, but he made her beautiful. Even the abstraction of her body has beauty in it. It's almost like he loved each piece of her independently." Without realizing it, she crossed her arms in almost an embrace of herself. "I think it's really romantic."

Ted looked away from the photo and noticed her position. The tight-stitch sweater emphasized the slight rise of her chest that was pushed up due to the position of her arms. Her chestnut hair was splayed around both shoulders and complimented the off-green color of her sweater. He said, "I've never considered the art from the perspective of the model." The technique of creating the image had always been the obvious focal point for him. He was really taken with what she'd said. "You don't think she was embarrassed by the modeling? I mean, it was a long time ago and...you know...they didn't even have kissing in the movies back then. It's not like she was super pretty or..."

Beth couldn't bring herself to look at Ted, but she could feel him looking at her now. She said in a softer tone. "I'm sure she was comfortable with it. Any woman would want to feel that way." Her neck had gone red and she could hear her own pulse. She walked off to hide the further discomfort at him seeing her like that.

Ted watched her walk away and was more confused than ever. He wasn't sure if they'd just argued or agreed.

***

"What the hell, Owen. How much of my beer were you planning to drink?"

"Dude. It was important that I make sure it was safe for you. I was doing you a favor, fucker."

Ted closed the mini fridge and grabbed a bottle opener. The best part of the trip was how cool Mr. Thrad was about their drinking. Everyone on the trip had gone out and stocked their little fridges with beer or wine. Some had gone for the hard stuff, but Ted couldn't stand the taste of anything that didn't have a foamy head on it.
Ted turned back to the game. "Okay, whose turn is it? No, Owen it's not you. Christ you're a pain in the ass."

Owen's eyes were glassy from the beers. "Yes. Yes I am. And damned proud..."

"Sit down you noisy bastard." Samantha was lit as well and hauled Owen back onto the bed between her and Lia. She draped herself on him and Ted could see that her breast was pressed against Owen's arm. He could tell from the stupid grin on Owen's face that the position was appreciated.

"Thing 1 – it's your turn."

Beth was feeling the effects of her second beer. She'd gone much slower than Sammy, but the tenor of the game had clearly taken a turn for the crass and she was glad for the buzz. "Fine. Okay. Uh."

Samantha said in a sing-song voice. "We're waiting."

"Okay, give me a second. All right, I've got one. I never made out with someone at school – I mean during the day." She wasn't surprised to see just about everyone else in the room raise their hands and laugh. That kicked off a round of questions about who the crime had been committed with for each of them. Beth noticed though that Ted hadn't raised his hand, and was keeping quiet so as not to attract the rowdy group's attention to his relative inexperience. Her own amorous encounters had been limited to the previous summer when she'd worked at a sleep-away camp. The awkward kissing and ultimately painful encounter with her supposed boyfriend had left her with a fairly cynical view of both dating and sex. But Ted had captured her attention all year and this trip had only served to cement her fascination with him.

While the conversation tumbled along, Beth forced herself to look away from Ted, so she turned sideways in the chair and cradled her beer closer.

From where Ted was leaning up against the desk, he was looking directly across the room at Beth. She was sitting in one of the puffy chairs next to the window. The street lights outside backlit her hair and her smile was bright. The temperature in the room was high from having eight people in it and her loose-fitting, black t-shirt complemented her fair skin and dark eyes. There was color in her cheeks and she looked glamorous to him. His own consumption had lowered his inhibitions enough to do something he would have been too shy to do normally.

Ted grabbed his camera from the desk and took a wrap of the strap around his hand to stabilize it. He flipped on the power and rotated the zoom in enough that the whole frame was her face. He clicked the shutter and readjusted his position. He zoomed in further and focused just on her mouth. He could see moisture on her lips and her teeth so crisply framed in her smile. He clicked once and then again in rapid succession. She was as of yet unaware of what he was doing and just as he opened the shutter for the second shot of her mouth, the tip of her tongue had innocently emerged to get a small droplet of beer. It had vanished as quickly as it had emerged, but the camera had captured a sensual moment.

When Ted quickly checked the image in the screen, his heart skipped a beat. The picture was incredible. He brought the camera back up, pulled out on the zoom to get the full image of her in the chair with the light behind her. On his second shot she noticed, and apparently so did Owen. The third, fourth, and fifth images were of Owen diving across the field of view with a dumb-ass expression on his face and both middle fingers raised in a salute.

Ted sighed. "Nice – ya big jerk."

Samantha had noticed as well and practically launched herself across the room. "Oh – we have to do a photo shoot. She sucked in her cheeks and struck and utterly absurd pose. "We're bootiful, darlink. Natalie – come'ere." She grabbed at her friends arm so the two of them could mug for Ted.

He started shooting and saying, "Work it, ladies. Feel it." and began moving around in just as much of a parody of fashion as the girls. Pretty soon the guys were doing manly poses, pointing at far off things, making muscles and doing exaggerated dips with the girls as well.

***

After a great deal of clowning around, and then just hanging out it had gotten late. People were clearing out of Ted's room, and it became clear that Owen and Samantha were getting closer and closer. When they left together, Ted found himself alone with Beth. He had no idea what to say.

Beth said, "Well, I guess I'm in trouble now."

"Why's that?"

"Dummy – where do you think those two just went? You're the only one with a single, and they just went to our room."

"Right – the 'Thing Tank.' I forgot." Ted chuckled again at the pun he'd come up with when they'd arrived at the hotel and the room assignments had been handed out.

Beth wandered over to the desk and picked up the camera. For the past hour she'd been wondering about the pictures that Ted had taken before the antics had started. She hit the play button and the last idiotic picture of three girls hanging off Owen filled the screen.

Ted remembered the picture of her lips and it gave him a guilty pang. It was too sensual – somehow too personal. Would she think he was a slimeball? But he didn't know how to stop her; what could he say? He felt vulnerable which was odd considering that she was the one in the image.

Beth had scrolled back steadily through the pictures and had laughed repeatedly. Some of the images were sure to end up on Facebook. A couple shots were simply outrageous and she hoped he would delete them quickly. But then she came to the last picture of herself that he'd taken. It was a simple image, just her sitting in a chair and she hated pictures of herself. But the person she saw in the picture was pretty. The light, profile rather than straight on, her bare foot stretched out making her calf look longer and trim, even the closed arms all made for a nice shot. She knew instantly that if it weren't for the beer, her mother would have made a thousand copies and sent them to every family member.

She moved to the next image which was nearly identical to the one she'd just been looking at. As usual, she started to be critical of herself. Thank god her arms had covered her body – or lack thereof she thought. She never liked her chin, and in this shot she felt the slight change of angle of her face made her cheek look flat somehow.

She pressed the back button and her breath caught in her throat. Her lips and the hint of her tongue monopolized the whole screen. Her upper lip was slighted tucked in, the lower full and slightly wet from the beer. The moisture on her tongue caught the light. The image was unquestionably sexual – there was no other way to see it. She immediately felt warmth in her pelvis. Ted had seen this. More than that, he'd captured a moment, a piece of her in time that was erotic – genuinely erotic. There in the middle of the room with everyone around he'd done more than kiss her.

Ted was silent. He watched her with morbid fascination. Yet the sense of foreboding gripping his gut didn't alter how he perceived her. Somehow the small furrow of her brow and the intensity of her focus on the camera's screen made her all the more attractive to him. He was certain she'd be furious, especially since he seemed to be particularly adept at annoying her on a normal day. He'd only seen the photo for a split second after he took the shot, but it was too intimate. He'd inadvertently crossed an invisible boundary and he knew it. He braced himself for the storm and completely misunderstood her silence. He lamely reached for a false casualness. "Thing 1, I..."

"Please don't call me that."

He stumbled on his words. "I. Look – I'm sorry. I was just goofing." He blew a sigh and ran his hand through his hair. "I'll delete anything you don't like."

She pressed the button again and took in her own smile. It was warm, full, and it too was beautiful. Something she never thought she would think about herself. The final picture of her full face was the best she'd ever seen of herself, and it moved her. "Don't you dare."

Ted was more confused than ever.

She found her mouth dry with nerves. For months, he was the best thing about Art History. Really the best part of any day she got to spend time with him, but they were always disagreeing. Yes, he had become so handsome but it was more...more...who he was and how he was that she couldn't get past. She wanted to be close to Ted in a way that she never felt about Mark during the summer, even considering that she'd lost her virginity to that particular jerk. Beth was always jealous of Samantha's ease in being physically close to Ted. The constant hugs or when she would walk arm-in-arm with him. Samantha made it look so natural to joke with Ted or to hop in his lap and laugh when they were hanging out over at her place. Until that picture, there was no way she could just reach out and touch him, even just to tap him on his arm to get his attention. But he'd exposed her – literally.

Beth carried the camera to Ted and stopped with mere inches between them. "Don't you dare erase that picture...any of them. It's amazing – it's beautiful."

She got up on her toes and leaned in to him. His expression was one of bewilderment, and she loved that he didn't get it. He'd acted on an innocent desire to see her through his lens, and that was all the more attractive. Beth reached up with her free and drew him closer. She kissed him softly, an experimental touch. Once, twice, three times before he responded in-kind. They kissed with mouths closed maybe a dozen times before she gently opened her lips and probed his. The kiss deepened further. She pulled back.

"Take some more." She placed the camera in his hand.

"Beth – I...you..."

She smiled. "I know. We're going to have to talk about this later, but right now you should take some more shots like the other one."

For Ted, the situation had morphed into a one of the surreal images from the museum. The flippant, obnoxious dynamics of the group sitting around drinking was the green apple that had seemed to fill the room and was now conspicuously absent, leaving just the two of them. His first real kiss, a kiss that meant something to him, was overwhelming. He could have stood with his mouth on hers for hours. The give of her lips had been exhilarating, yet the firmness contained in the motions of her mouth were equally intoxicating. And when her tongue had touched his, he'd almost become light-headed.

She gave him another quick peck and had to pull out of his grip, which took monumental will power for she wanted nothing more than to kiss him further. "What should I do?"

Ted fumbled for a moment with his camera. "Ah...well..." He laughed and swore and rubbed his mouth. Then he seemed to gather himself. "Okay. Have a seat there again; I want to try the same shot."

Beth felt awkward. She didn't know where her hands should go. She had a flash of self-consciousness. "Maybe this is a bad idea."

Ted saw the change in her and quickly abandoned the idea of a posed shot for the moment. He walked back over to her and kissed the top of her head. He inhaled her sweet, soapy scent and said, "I have an idea. Go get a glass of water and come out here. Just move around the room and do things. I'll move with you – ignore me."

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