Elysium Ch. 04bydivinedidi©
"Doug, could you just..." Abi sighed as the object of her question purposefully ignored her and made his way out of the restaurant. Where was he going? The restaurant was absolutely heaving and it was all hands on deck but ever since Alex Walker had sent through the beautiful painting of the unnamed black woman with the title of "Beautiful" which had borne more than a passing resemblance to Abi, Doug hadn't had a civil word to say to anyone least of all Abi.
Abi sighed again but was heartened as she looked around the restaurant. All tables full, the bar heaving, the jazz band playing with their new singer belting out various songs by Ella and Billie. Abi loved it so very much. The only drawback to this whole success which she had created was that it belonged to Doug, and for as long as Doug owned the restaurant was for as long as she was under his thumb. She had been saving to try and buy him out, but had proved to be a victim of her own success - the more profitable the restaurant had become, the more it had rocketed in value and therefore the more she had to save. She wasn't even remotely close to being able to make a respectable offer and she wasn't about to take any handouts from him whatsoever.
As had been over the past couple of weeks, any time Abi had taken the time to think about anything, her gaze always found itself resting on the painting which they had had mounted on the foyer wall, highlighted by soft lights and surrounded by an ornate frame and the tiny gold plaque which she had had made to accompany it detailing the name of the painting and it's author.
Prior to the painting's arrival, it had been a couple of months since Abi had first set eyes on Alex and then never again, but it was as though she just couldn't get rid of him. After their initial meeting, his paintings had been selected for a huge exhibition at which he was headlining and he was now being touted in all manners of media as the art world's new darling boy. Alex was everywhere. Interviews, posters, his paintings being reproduced all over the place at an astonishing rate, and yet he had never returned to Elysium.
Doug and Abi had wondered aloud about this together; in fact, more so because Alex mentioned the restaurant favourably in almost every profile that the media did of him but since meeting with Doug, he hadn't been back. Abi had questioned Doug relentlessly; had something happened, did he finish his food, who was serving him? Doug had batted away these questions with irritation and told her to piss off, if she was that worried, why didn't she go and talk to Luke who had served him, which she had promptly done and Luke had told her that it had been fine and that he remembered Mr Walker because he had been an excellent tipper.
Abi was a little bewildered (and disappointed) then as to why he hadn't been back. She had put her feelings aside knowing that he had a girlfriend or a wife and remembering the beautiful blonde who had thrown her arms around him, but told herself that it would have been nice to see him again if only to thank him. Having a famous patron at the restaurant had started an upsurge in reservations which could only be a bonus for the restaurant.
And then it had happened; Doug and she had been sitting together going through shift rotas, accounts books, invoices when they had been interrupted by, "Excuse me, there's a delivery." Doug had waved off the waiter and told him to deal with it and neither Doug nor Abi could understand why Luke was unable to look either of them in the eye.
"What's the problem Luke?" she asked
Luke shrugged, "I think you should come and take a look."
Intrigued, Abi and Doug left the table and followed the sheepish Luke out to the foyer where stood a ten foot Alexander Walker original of a naked black woman with skin the colour of milk chocolate draped in a white sheet standing with her back to the viewer and only allowing them a vision of her profile. A profile which was very similar if not an exact replica of Abi's face. The silence had spoken volumes, and then all hell had broken loose, "Have you been seeing him behind my back?"
Too stunned to respond and still staring at the painting, Abi shook her head. Unable to tear his own eyes from the painting, Doug continued, "Well, how the fuck do you explain this?"
Snapped out of her reverie, Abi turned to him, "What do you mean how do I explain it? I can't explain it. I've only met the man once and you were there when that happened, and even so, what the fuck is it to you?"
"Oh, like that is it? Find yourself a new rich white boy so you forget about everything I have done for you and your fucking family is that it?"
Abi could feel the staff backing away slowly as Doug's temper unfurled and she turned to him, "I haven't found myself anyone, and I can't believe that you would throw that in my face. You know how I feel about everything that you have done for us and how much I have appreciated every bit of it - but I have also always been as honest as possible and have said that I can't see anything happening between us. Surely by now you should be happy to accept this?"
"Happy to accept it?" Doug spat, "Happy to accept your undying gratitude but unwillingness to even contemplate a life with me or anything even resembling a romance when you have never given it a try? Watching you hide yourself away from everyone and everything but unfurling like a beautiful flower when this complete stranger walks into your life for less that forty seconds?" Doug stomped away from her, and then turned to face her, "Abi, I wouldn't do what I have done for you for anyone else, I did this, not because I wanted your gratitude but because I wanted to show you that I was and am willing to do anything for you. That remains but it seems to me that I really have no chance where you're concerned and in which case we are going to need to rework our situation."
Abi looked back at him uncomprehending. He continued, "Maybe it's time that you and your family found somewhere else to live, maybe it's about time that I found my life again and then you could go on and pursue whatever it is that you feel you have to pursue?"
Abi smiled up at him gratefully, amazed that he understood quite so clearly and had taken it all so calmly. The smile was promptly wiped off her face when he said, "It wouldn't be a good idea for us to continue working together so I understand if you want to hand your notice in - a month's notice should be fine." With that, Doug turned on his heel and stomped out of the restaurant sending the poor busboy flying with his tray of glasses and causing hundreds of dollars worth of damage.
And now this was how they existed together. Doug had never mentioned anything else about Abi resigning and to add insult to injury, her mother and brother had steadfastly refused to move out of Doug's house. Abi had rented herself a small apartment not far from the restaurant and she and Doug continued to work together in synchronised disharmony.
She couldn't understand just how Alex had managed to walk into her life, speak to her for all of forty seconds or so and manage to disrupt the perfect living situation that she had achieved. It was hard for her to admit to herself that she wanted him desperately, but she put that down to a lack of sex, confidence and far too much reading of Silhouette novels. Her mother constantly shook her head in exasperation. What in the name of God was she waiting for? A wealthy, respectable, friendly, black man wanted to marry her, and she wanted to waste her time with a penniless, divorced, white artist? But for Abi it was a little more than that.
She had known Doug for years and although she loved him the same way she loved her brother and she was more than well aware about the way he felt about her, forty seconds with Alex had made her see that these feelings could not be conjured up and to settle for anything else would be doing herself a disservice, and although she hadn't seen Alex since, she was constantly aware of his existence, in particular, every time her eyes flicked up to the painting hanging in the restaurant lobby.
And that was another thing. Abi wasn't sure what her response to the painting should have been. She knew Doug's feelings on the matter, everyone in the restaurant knew Doug's feelings on the matter, but for herself, she was a tad confused. Alex had a beautiful wife (with limitless pockets and zero body fat which should surely have meant that he couldn't be that bothered about Abi. And, she supposed, it would have been odd if Alex had painted a picture of Doug naked so it only stood to reason that the painting would have been of her, she didn't dare to hope that it was because he held an interest for her and refused to let her mind wander to why he painted her half naked.
However, when she was alone in the restaurant, just before closing, she let her mind wander that maybe he had painted the picture for her, and she imagined herself posing for him, draped in the white sheet, is brightness proving to be a stark contrast against her mahogany skin. She imagined herself letting the sheet drop from her shoulders, feeling the excitement of him watching her and listening as his breathing became laboured as he thought about her body under the sheet.
She imagined herself getting excited and the sound of the stool scraping the marble floor as he made his way across to her, ripping the sheet from her and gathering her loose hair in a knot in his hands, thereby tipping her head back and exposing her long neck. She thought about how it would feel to have him kiss her gently, nipping at her neck and moaning in delight and then she would think about what would happen from there. Every time she had this thought, she would drive home very quickly, having to satisfy herself with her vibrator.
And so this was Abi's present state. She felt as though she was living in a state of limbo. She figured that until Doug told her that she could no longer physically work at the restaurant she wouldn't go. Her family were being a pain in the behind but she was glad that they were happy and content and as long as Alex stayed out of the restaurant and continued saying wonderful things about it, she thought she could kind of manage it.
Doug winced as he walked away from the unanswered question that Abi posed to him. He still found it difficult to walk away from Abi but had hardened his heart to her. He couldn't bear it that she didn't want him. He always thought he had had a chance, but seeing the way that she looked at that Walker fellow made it blatantly obvious that he didn't even exist in her world . Fucking painting. Doug had to hand it to Alex for the way to a woman's heart. The painting was beautiful and had captured Abi perfectly. Her restrained sexiness and understated beauty. Her astonishing bone structure and lustrous hair all had been captured and magnified on a ten foot piece of canvas.
To Doug though, it was more than that, it was Walker saying a grand "fuck you" to him by sending it there to the restaurant in front of all of these people but what could he do. If he refused to have the painting in the restaurant, everyone would know that it was because he had such a problem with it, so by accepting it, people wouldn't have anything to comment on.
He had the waiting staff sworn to secrecy about what went on behind the doors of Elysium and everything seemed fine outside in. But he just couldn't look at Abi without either wanting to hit her or kiss her. As long as Alexander Walker stayed away from Elysium, Doug felt that he would be able to find himself in a place where he could tolerate the idea of not being with Abi. Figuring this was the only solution, he shook his head and made his way to the office, hoping to bury his head in the accounts.
They got the message at the same time. Abi had been behind the bar, serving her regular customers and keeping an eye on the new waitress who had a penchant for mentioning stories about her dextrous tongue to the wealthy male guests, and Doug had been in the office, his head buried in his arms trying desperately to think of a way to rectify the current situation. Both had the same reaction.
Luke looked calmly at Abi and said, "Mr Walker is in the lobby. He has requested a table but says he understands if you can't fit him in." Luke stopped waiting for instruction from his boss, but noting that she remained fixated on him, mouth ajar, he continued, "So I have put him in the corner booth, table 93 and had Sylvie get him a drink. I didn't do anything about his order as I thought that either you or Mr Sanders would want to do that."
Abi snapped out of the daze which had entranced her at the mention of his name. She felt a little sick and looking at her hands, noted that they were sweating. God she was an idiot, there she had been, wondering what it would be like to see him again, and then he appeared and she was behaving like a spoilt schoolgirl. She fixed her regard on Luke and composed herself noting that he was doing his best not to smirk at her discomfiture. "Thanks Luke, you did the best thing. I'll take a menu over to him now and maybe you could mention to Mr Sanders that Mr Walker is here?" Luke nodded and made to leave, stopping only when Abi said, "But maybe tell Mr Sanders in about 45 minutes?" Luke nodded again, walking away rapidly so his boss wouldn't see his grin, the ice maiden had a heart after all!
She passed a mirror on her way up to the table, everything was fine she told herself as she smoothed down her hair and checked her stockings for any ladders, he was just another customer, she told herself as she injected a little sway into her walk as she made her way to the table, I would do this for anyone, she promised herself as she licked her lips upon approaching him.
He had seen her and was standing, she didn't remember him being quite so big, or his face being quite so handsome, why was it difficult to breathe all of a sudden, and for the love of God couldn't someone put on the air conditioning?
For Alex's part, he was delighted that it was Abi making her way to him. He had been aching to make his way to the restaurant ever since he had finished and sent the painting. His encounter with his ex wife had made it very clear to him that that part of his life was over and that he was willing to take a chance again with someone new. He didn't know what he wanted from Abi, only to get to know her and make her laugh and maybe kiss her every now and again. He didn't know what had come over him. It was almost as though the painting had painted itself, and now as she made her way to him, he saw that he had remembered everything about her, but to his mind he hadn't really done her justice.
She was lovely and unconscious of it and as she walked towards him, her modest black dress draped lovingly over her curves with a hint of cleavage showing, it was all he could do not to kiss her there and then.
I feel sick, Abi thought to herself. He really is lovely, but I have to remember to be professional.
"Mr Walker, I'm delighted you could make it to see us, we're ever so grateful for the all the wonderful reviews you have been giving us."
As she spoke, she gestured for him to sit down, holding out her hand, but instead of following her direction, he caught her hand and pulled her to him gently. He was delighted to hear the small gasp which escaped her lips confirming to him that he was on the right track.
"Abi, can we get out of here, just you and me?" She pulled back and looked searchingly into his eyes, obviously she found something, because she nodded once and walked away, not letting go of his hand.
She said not a word to any of the staff nor any of the customers waiting to be seated. She waved to Luke knowing that he would pick up the slack for her and that he wouldn't tell on her to Doug. For as long as she held Alex's hand, she felt that she could do anything.