Special thanks to Sandy for the edit and direction.
Chapter 1 – The Artists
It was a nice touch and a great way to end two semesters of study. Their instructor had decided to hold a formal charity event and put the art work on display, even though the artists were only amateurs.
Nick was dressed in a black tux, holding a glass of wine in one hand. His petite wife, Nancy, hung from his other arm as they walked from room to room taking in the different pieces of student art. Nick was positively glowing at the encouraging comments he overheard from the viewers that milled around admiring the pieces.
Nancy gave his arm a squeeze, sensing his pride and sharing it. She had every right to feel proud of him. She knew Nick had always been interested in art, but now she was getting a firsthand view of what she only heard about.
"These are good Nick."
"Oh we can thank Julie for that," He replied modestly. "She's a first class tutor."
"No Nick, I mean these are very good," She smiled up at him. "And it's not all down to Julie. It's your talent she's refined, but the finished piece is still yours!"
"Hold on a minute!" He chuckled, "It's not all my stuff you know."
They moved on to a second room arm in arm. Julie had rented a full house for the show. It was quite professionally done using lots of track-lighting on the ceiling designed to focus on the items being displayed on the walls. Each room highlighted a class project for the month, displaying a number of different pieces that were created by each of the students. Julie was the one who selected the pieces, framed and mounted the work on the walls. Each room sported a different theme. There was the watercolors room depicting 'still life' using the standard vase setting, surrounded by flowers near a window. Another room contained abstract oils that captured nothing but colors, texture, and light. A third contained canvases with different items glued to the matting to project texture, accented with splashes of oil where the artist decided it was needed.
Nancy was all smiles, spouting an endless stream of questions, especially when she came upon an item that had Nick's name on it.
"It appears that retirement has been good for you." Nancy said, as she moved closer to one of his pieces on the wall.
Nick was able to retire at fifty-five, earlier than most. His business had done well and he was able to sell it off to his partners to retire. Early retirement provided him the opportunity to do all the things he wanted to do, but could not in his younger years. Nick had dabbled a bit in art while at college, knew that he enjoyed this outlet, having received good grades and feedback. He also recognized that he would never be able to live off the wages of being an artist. The desire was always there, but his working life never allowed him any extra minutes to even try.
Last summer Nick found he had the time and told Nancy that he wanted to enroll in an advanced art study course at the University. She thought he was nuts at first, but the first semester moved into the second Nancy found that she enjoyed her own personal time while he was away for a few hours at the college. She slipped from his arm to examine a piece more closely and Nick's mind wandered, reflecting on the past year.
The class was made up of people that ranged from twenty years of age to sixty. Most all of the students were women, with only one other man besides Nick. You could say that these women were not shy about almost anything. It was not unusual for Julie and a number of the students to adjourn to the local bar after the class to discuss the project and life in general. This discussion group quickly became comfortable enough with each other that they could speak freely during these evening sessions.
The course covered many different aspects of art focusing on the use of different media and tools. It was almost eight months later when they moved into figurative studies using only paper, pencils, and chalk. Julie had taken the group to a retreat in that final week to get away from the distractions of everyday life, to focus only on art.
Nick's mind was drifting back to the art show and as he looked up he found Nancy striding quickly toward him with a great big smile. She took his hand and dragged him toward another room. "I want you to explain the art in the next room."
Nick thought he knew what was coming. At least she was smiling. Not that he expected anything less from her.
In the room were a number of pencil studies. In each of these pieces there were one or more models depicted. Nancy knew the retreat had involved drawing live models. Now she was seeing the results of that retreat and wanted to know more.
Nancy walked him up to one picture showing a woman in a full length coat, unbuttoned, and standing by a sliding glass door. In front of her was a desk and behind the desk was a man. Apart from the coat the woman was wearing, both models were naked.
"Nick, tell me about this picture." Nancy prodded in a playful voice.
***** ***** ***** *****
It was the last week of the final project. Julie had taken all that would go on a six day retreat off into the country. They had labeled themselves the 'Core Five': Liz, Christy, Vickie, Rebecca and Nick. Julie had rented a Bed & Breakfast three hours from the city, set deep in the countryside. She had used the establishment in the past and the owners were comfortable with a home full of wannabe artists. Upstairs were the bedrooms. The barn out back had been converted into a studio. Its main room sported a thirty-foot ceiling surrounded by numerous windows, and large enough to support a group three times the size of theirs. Adjacent to the main room were a number of smaller rooms filled with props that could be used to set up a scene for just about any study.
They had traveled down the previous night and Nick was first up and into the studio the next morning. There he found a table set up by the window, draped with cloth and an assortment of vases, flowers, and different pottery. The window was selected to allow the sun to stream in, providing a rainbow of texture and reflections. Surrounding the display were easels, drawing tools and chairs for each of the students. Nick had already selected a station and was seated when Julie and a couple of the other students walked in.
"Good morning. Take a seat at any one of the easels and we will get started shortly." Julie instructed. "When everyone is here, I have an announcement."
About fifteen minutes later all the students had arrived and were seated. Julie addressed the group. "I know I told you that we were coming out here to study the human form. The model I had hired came down sick and he had to back out from working the week."
A low grumble of disappointment could be heard from the others, when Vickie blurted out. "I was going to get to draw a naked man and now I'm not, damn!" The other women laughed at Vickie's comment.
"I am sorry. I tried to find a replacement last night, but came up short." Julie sounded genuinely frustrated and Nick could well imagine her making frantic telephone calls until she ran out of options.
"How about using Nick as our model?" Liz shouted out. Bringing another round of high spirited remarks from the women.
Nick could feel the blush rise in his cheeks while he sat quietly, not wanting to acknowledge Liz's suggestion. Nick thought to himself, I have only been naked in front of my wife and I have no desire to be naked in front of a room full of women. Especially these women. If you had a flaw, they would paint it.
"Yes, why not Nick!" Chimed in Christy, the youngest of the class.
"I really don't think that would be a very good idea." Nick finally answered.
"Too bad. I would enjoy drawing you in ways that might make you look better than you thought." Answered Liz. Drawing another round of naughty remarks and laughter from the women.
"Okay, ladies. I think we have embarrassed Nick enough this morning." Julie cut-in. "We have our study in front of you and we need to get started before we lose the morning light."
The laughter died and the group turned to the work at hand with Julie giving the class her final instructions on how to proceed and what she was expecting to see from their work.
***** ***** ***** *****
That evening the 'Core Five' remained in the barn with Julie as Liz broke out three bottles of wine and six glasses. Nick had thought the conversation earlier that day had ended, he was wrong. As the wine flowed so did the conversation, drifting back to the lack of a model.
"I really think you would make a great model Nick." Liz said looking over her glass of wine directly at Nick.
Nick wasn't sure if he really liked Liz. She was the most outspoken amongst them, and at fifty-nine she was also the eldest in the group. At five-foot-ten, Liz was a tall woman and was always dressed in some expensive outfit. She wore her graying brunette hair short, helping to present the authority figure that Liz liked to project. She was married to a CEO and had risen to a vice-president's position in her own company. Now retired, her expectations had not changed. When she spoke, she was use to having everyone agree with her and always tried to impose her will on the class, something Nick found objectionable. He was about to voice his objection when Christy interrupted him.
"I agree." Christy chimed in.
Startled, Nick turned to look at the youngest member of their group. Christy was twenty-five. Her long blond hair hung in a ponytail from beneath her baseball hat. She was always dressed in jeans, which hid those slender long legs, and a top that never reached her pants. She usually didn't say much in the class, but when she did, she reaffirmed that she was the least experienced. Yet she was sincere, and that fact endeared her to the group.
"So do I." Vickie said, looking Nick squarely in the eye after setting her glass down.
There was a mischievous glint in her eye that Nick found immediately uncomfortable; maybe it was the wine, he couldn't be sure, or maybe it was something else. He sometimes suspected that she might be sweet on him, but there was always the strongest likelihood that he was seriously mistaken so he didn't ponder such possibilities.
Vickie was thirty-eight and married. She had a career that she loved and then gave it up to raise kids. She had come to the class to provide an outlet, a break from her daily home routine. Her art was good. If she had something to say, she said it. But generally she sat quietly and focused on her work. Nick loved to watch her come into the class, sporting that wiry Irish red hair, dressed is some old slacks, loafers, sporting a loose blouse that hung over her pants, hiding some larger assets.
Nick was getting it from all directions. But he was totally surprised when Julie, his earlier ally, switched sides by saying... "You know, they are right. You would make a wonderful model."
"Now wait a minute, ladies." Nick cut-in, "It is one thing to be on that side of the easel, making a fool of myself. It is quite another to be sitting naked in front of a room full of women making a fool of myself. Besides, you really need a younger man."
"Oh, I think you are dead wrong." Julie replied. "You have a very distinct jaw that projects power and given that full set of hair, though it is turning gray, it is turning in all the right places. I have used a lot of different models and I would say that you would be more natural than most."
"I too think you would make a great model." Rebecca finally joined the consensus of opinion.
Nick did not say a word. He now realized that it was five against one. As his head turned to look at Rebecca, he blushed. The five women did not miss the redness of his face and they chuckled.
Rebecca was in her early thirties, she was once married and none of them were sure if she was currently married. She always wore her hair up in a bun and Nick thought when he first met her she might be a librarian by trade. Whereas in fact, he discovered that she was a photographer. The was something about Rebecca that Nick really warmed to, he couldn't quite place what it was about her because there was so much about her that was a mystery to him. He enjoyed looking at her and yearned to see her jet black hair down around her shoulders. She always wore something dull and conservative, moving from slacks, to a long dress, but most times a skirt that skimmed the floor and a long sleeve blouse. She didn't say much even during the evening sessions, unless she had a question or something important to say. But at the end of each project, as the class walked around to view the other's art, her pieces drew the most favorable comments from the class. She had the photographer's eye for light and detail.
"In my younger years I might have agreed with you, but now with the extra weight, I don't think I'm model material." Nick finally answered.
"We are here to study the human form and most human forms are not perfect, which makes you the perfect model for our class!" Julie was quick to retort. It was as though she had anticipated his answer, and Nick had walked into her carefully rehearsed trap.
She had definitely caught Nick off guard and he did not answer her right away. He had started to dig himself into an early grave and he wanted out. As his mind groped blindly for an escape route, he finally found one that he hoped would put the question to bed. "Okay, I'll do it only if one of you ladies will also pose with me!"
The five of them sat silently for a while. They turned to look at each other and then a common smile spread between them. It was as if they had just shared telepathic experience and reached a consensus agreeable to all. Nick's heart shrank as Christy vocalized her opinion.
"Deal – I'll do it!"
Julie again took over the conversation. "Good. I will work on how you will be posed. We will need to set a scene that you can remain comfortable in for ten to twenty minutes at a time. Once set, you will need to remain still and not move; otherwise no one will be able to draw. You can use any of the props from the other rooms to set up a scene and you will be able to talk. You cannot move after we set the pose. Is that agreed?"
"I definitely agree." Said Christy.
With that a round of applause erupted from the five ladies. Nick's bluff had been called, and he was now going to be held accountable for his remarks.
"Okay... okay... I agree." Nick answered while starting to get out of his seat. "And I think I have had enough wine for tonight, so before I get into anymore trouble, I will say goodnight and take this up with you all tomorrow."
"Get some good rest." Said Liz. "You may need it tomorrow when you are posing."
Nick got up from his chair and moved out of the room, catching a number of goodnights from the five women, along with some giggles. It was clear the women were still in the mood to talk. Nick needed to put this behind him and escape to his room.
***** ***** ***** *****
Nick made his way quickly by foot out of the room and slowed as he reached the stairs. Now away from the women his mind drifted deep into thought as he climbed the stairs slowly back to his room. As he shut the door, he was contemplating what might happen tomorrow.
Looking at a naked woman would be nice. But being looked at as the only naked man did not settle well with him. They will not just be looking. They will be drawing me, naked! And what if someone would recognize me in the picture? Oh My God!
When I am in a room full of people, I feel very comfortable dressed in a nice pair of slacks and a solid long sleeve shirt with the collar open. Now thinking about me walking into the same room, naked. I'm not sure I can do this. I am just not sure.
Nick had stripped down to his boxer shorts and was staring into the mirror while he brushed his teeth. He studied the reflection in the mirror. An older retired man was looking back. Nancy had stroked his ego when he made love to her by telling him how sexy he looked, but those remarks came through the eyes of a loving wife. These women were not his wife and he had the feeling they would be telling him something different. They would be telling him the truth, and he was not sure he wanted to hear the truth.
Should I call Nancy and ask her for her advice? No! She will probably think there is some kind of orgy going on up here and only get worried. It was bad enough just thinking about doing this, I am not going to tell Nancy. At least not right now.
How am I going to get out of this? Maybe with a little sleep I will be fresh enough to come up with a clever excuse.
He laid his head down on the pillow, still deep in thought. His mind remained active with of all sorts of thoughts running wild. He had almost convinced himself that he would never fall asleep, when his tired body succumbed, and he drifted off to sleep.
***** ***** ***** *****
When Nick left the room and was safely out of hearing range, the women's conversation changed slightly.
"I wouldn't mind modeling with Nick!" Rebecca, normally so quiet, suddenly spoke up.
"Since we are here for a full week, I think it might be a good idea if you all took a turn. Then you all would have some skin in the game, so to speak, and Nick might not feel like we are picking on him." Interjected Julie.
Julie was clearly the instructor and she told you that with the way she dressed, the way she spoke, and way she ran her class. Julie was forty-three, and had experience life enough to know what she wanted and needed from herself and her students. She was small in size, standing only five-two, but knew when she needed to take charge and she took control even if she had to look up at you and tell you what she wanted. She always wore some crazy old hat and loved the color orange. Sometimes you had to look hard to find that color, but it was somewhere on her body.
"Vickie... Liz...do you agree?" Asked Julie.
"Yeah, I agree. Why should I let Christy have all the fun?" Liz blurted out realizing that this was going in a direction that she could not control. "I agree only if I can go first." Liz added. Her mind was racing as she looked around the room and realized that she was no match for these younger women. To minimize her embarrassment, she needed to be first.
"Okay, you can go first." Julie quickly answered, not wanting Liz to have too much time to change her mind.
"I'm okay, since we are all doing it." Answered Vickie. "But what should I wear?" This brought a round of laughter from each of the women. Vickie laughed at herself after she understood how absurd her comment sounded.
"How about a little wager?" Everyone suddenly became silent and looked at Rebecca expectantly. "I have a little game in mind and I wonder if the rest of you would like to play?"
They leaned forward conspiratorially. All eyes watchful as Rebecca slowly revealed what she had in mind, her hands dancing in the air like a conductor leading an orchestra as she emphasized her point. They listened with fascinated interest, the bold brashness of what she was proposing was not lost on any of them for a moment. Even Julie, their tutor, who was supposed to be impartial to these kinds of things, found herself being swept along by the tide of Rebecca's proposal.
Rebecca continued to explain her plan, dropping her voice to make sure no one outside the room could hear. As she spoke the women slowly moved their positions closer, making sure they did not miss a single word. From outside the room it almost appeared as if the group was growing smaller in size as each woman inched her way closer to Rebecca. Then, suddenly, the group exploded with shrieks of laughter and loud applause as Rebecca finished and they finally understood.