Bringing Her BackbySofieCo©
He wasn't sure when he first noticed her there. But the moment was clear in his mind when he first began watching for her, hoping she would make an appearance. It wasn't nightly but she showed often enough that he began to feel obsessed. Her sadness emanated from her and engrossed him. It inspired images of indescribable beauty despite their misery. As weeks added up he started to realize that he must go to her. She had become his muse and now he felt that the glimpses weren't enough. He'd described it to himself, during long nights of contemplation, as a compulsion, perhaps a modern term for intense inspiration. He needed to reveal the images he'd yet to discover from her or he would never be rid of her. He could simply tell there were more. Or perhaps she was more.
They worried. They all worried. She knew it. But if she took the only other option open to her, she knew they would wish for the basket case back. So she stayed, tethered to the planet. The heartbreak had been shared; she could not claim the grief for herself alone. And so she would not cause more grief herself. Her mother brought her food, as did her neighbor and she wasn't sure if she would have gone seeking it herself had they not supplied it. They just kept showing up with it. They always stayed to talk of course but she never found much to say. Since her thoughts rarely strayed from the now familiar grip of the past her conversation was lacking, she knew. When her refrigerator began to empty, through spoiling as much as from eating, she would grow in anxiousness with the impending visit. Had she gone out? Had she talked to anyone? Had she even worked? Wont you go here? Won't you consider this? She wasn't even sure that she was evading the questions anymore so much as not answering them entirely.
But she was relaxed tonight, her fridge was full. She had had a visit from her sister of all people the day before. This made the light rapping at her door all the more alarming but she rose to answer it nonetheless. She thought about how certain social customs were drilled into your head throughout life so well that you could carry them out without any conscious thought. She thought about this all the way to the door, which she opened slowly. When had it been raining? was her first thought as saw the wet man before her.
None of the misery he had seen before was with her now. Yet she was far from serene. He was put in mind of a long inactive volcano that shouldn't be discounted yet. He knew he would use reds and yellows tonight.
"I'm sorry to bother you, ma'am." There was a slight smile around his eyes but she was more struck by the curiosity he didn't seem to be trying to hide.
She was 27. He looked too old to be calling anyone her age ma'am. She felt off balance for a reason she couldn't quite place. It was interest; she couldn't even recognize it. She hadn't had any, not in people, places, or things, for too long. When she realized she hadn't answered him she found her eyes fixed on his, as though she had not seen him until that moment. She could all but feel his reaction as she focused on him.
"It's fine." A pause as she searched for something further to say. "Can I do something for you?"
She was being awkward again. Why am I so wretched? Her mind often jumped about without letting her keep up and she would find herself unaware of where the conversation had gone in her absence. He seemed content to wait, however, while she came to the end of her thoughts. Who the hell is he? And her mind was off again, unaware that it had run away with itself.
"Well, perhaps, if I can persuade you to there is. But don't let that put you off."
He introduced himself simply and she found herself, once again, gliding unthinking through the customs until they both had each other's names and had shook hands.
Her self-enforced apathy kept her from wondering what this strange man wanted. It also kept her from worrying about herself and what he could do to her.
"I sit out, often, at night mostly on my roof. Clears my head of the day's accumulated crap. I've seen you during these times and I've come over to speak to you, finally."
His honesty or perhaps openness was startling and sparked another one of those wary energies in her. One where she felt her mind seize up and she lost any idea of how she was supposed to act. She felt a warning in her mind that left no room for reaction. She cursed it.
When she didn't respond he prodded, "Well, is that passable? May I come in? Or shall I concede that stalking is a crime and walk back down the hall?"
More unapologetic honesty and brashness. She could find no excuse to reject him or even the care to work one up. He had been forthright and seemed to want the same from her, so she would give it. Mentally, she shrugged.
"I can find no excuse to reject you, sir, do come in." She left him in the open door, somewhat stunned.
He followed her to a tidy room with couches and chairs and all the trimmings. Moderately yet inattentively decorated, it seemed to him. She slumped, gracefully somehow, to a couch.
"What is it you want with me?"
He honestly hadn't given sex a thought in connection to her until that moment, when he very nearly answered just so. It startled him; he hadn't felt that lurch in so long. It wasn't like he had tried to be celibate. After she was gone, he simply hadn't wanted the others that came along. He told his friends he was over her, yes I'm fine, no don't set me up. And he was, he felt sure. But he never felt that way. He hadn't really tried to but he hadn't tried to resist either.
A picture was forming in his mind. He hadn't even been aware of its conception until it was partially completed. He felt an awareness click into place as this new piece of his feelings surfaced. How had he been so blind to his own motives? Why hadn't he considered his reaction to her stunning beauty? It seemed he had forgotten he was male. Well, maybe he'd just been distracted from the fact. She had a way of reminding him.
"Wow, that's quite an invitation," he said. She sat up abruptly blushing with the image of herself in her own mind. "Oh, no. I'm so sorry, don't be offended. I sometimes speak without thinking. I have never really been able to help it, though I suppose I could try harder. Don't let it sour you to me, I beg forgiveness."
His ranting style hit home to her, in both its message and delivery. She was alarmed to feel a chuckle raise her eyebrows and the corners of her mouth. He saw the mirth. The fleeting ghost of cheer graced her sullen brow for a moment. But he was sold. He'd have to find another chance to make it come back.
"You're forgiven. No begging required today. But what is it you want...from me?"
"I was wondering if I might persuade you to spend some time with me?"
"Please be honest with me."
"Who sent you? My mother? Claire? Why?" Her voice slowly rose.
"No. I'm sorry, I don't know them."
"I'm being honest," he said when he saw her frown in reaction. He was puzzled but he was willing to take his time.
"Then what do you mean? Spend some time with you? That's the vaguest come on I've ever heard."
He smiled warmly at her and thought he noticed a flicker of confusion.
"I did not mean to hit on you, Tessa. I'm sorry I worded it that way. My mouth and mind often come up with different versions and it's a coin toss between them", he shrugged. "I need a favor from you and I didn't know quite how to ask for it, so I guess I decided to botch it."
She rewarded his honesty with a small smile. Reward enough to make him hungry to earn more.
"I'd like to paint you."
"Who are you?"
"What? I told you, I --"
"No! You want to paint me?! Who are you? And why are you doing this to me? Haven't I had enough!?" she was standing but just barely. He moved towards her to take her elbows, which got him just close enough for her to shove him.
"Stop it, please. Tell me what is wrong. Use plain sentences please, I don't understand hysterics."
His sudden shortness and calmness sobered her. She felt tired. Exhausted. She hadn't had a fit like that in ages...
"You know me?"
"No, well yes, you're Tessa, we've just met."
"You don't know me? You just randomly want to paint me? A stranger you saw...at night or something?"
"Why?" she almost pleaded.
"I don't know. I just feel compelled to capture what you have to give to me but I can't seem to see it clearly without you closer. I need you."
He didn't mean to say it. He hadn't meant to say nearly all off it. It had just come out. And he had a feeling it was the only reason why she agreed to sit. He had seen her face change as if she were seeing him clearly. Then she sighed and let her body sag tiredly. And nodded. She had nodded and he felt the relief that he hadn't known he'd been waiting for.
She stewed all day the next day. Her mother, when Tessa called her, was appropriately surprised and pleased that Tessa had initiated the communication. But that was it. Tessa could detect no hint that her mother expected response over the man. It was the same when she called Claire. She knew they would get together and wonder what had come over Tessa that she was now calling just to chat for a few minutes but her curiosity had been overwhelming. She'd had to know if it's them...or just him. What the hell is going on?
She was distracted from the past for the first time in since it all fell apart. She didn't even realize it. Too distracted by confusion and curiosity to remember, dwell, or long. Too distracted to even notice the change.
He was coming back. Well, he said he was coming back. To paint me!? It was as if she was looking at a photograph through a filter that distorted it. She couldn't quite grasp the situation. Before she knew it she had showered and shaved all the appropriate places, washed her hair and brushed her teeth. All routine social custom she told herself, remarkable how easy it was to fall back into following them. She hesitated at the earrings; the impulse to wear them made her feel guilty and deadened her mood. She shouldn't be dressing.
He had thought of her as well. He hadn't made any decisions, wouldn't, things shouldn't be set in stone. He may have been mistaken about the twitches he felt inside. He just needed another muse; his last was too long ago. This woman's sorrow moved him, made him want to reach out to her, through his work. He didn't think he'd be able to handle anything more or that he even wanted it. So he kept his thoughts of her to images, to work. He was calmly, evenly, and happily sure about this, right up to the moment she opened her door the next day. The images came faster as he greeted her, they threatened to take control of his actions, they begged to be played out with her. Images of touching, her skin, body, her.
She wondered why she felt comfortable with him as she asked him, a strange man, into her house for the second day in a row. She should be scared, she was weak and he was obviously strong. Yet she felt sure that if he meant her harm it would have been done yesterday. She should be nervous as he walked past her into the kitchen, she felt the passion he was envisioning, knew what his posture and body language meant. Yet she trusted him to keep it to himself. If he was any good he would use it in his work, she thought, and she did not want to have to rob him of that mood. As long as he behaved himself she would play the innocent, unaware model. Why am I doing this? Because of his honesty? Really? She couldn't remember being quite such a sucker for principles.
She was shaking her head to her self as she came into the living room behind him. He cocked his head at the gesture. Wondered at it.
"Penny for you thoughts?"
"Huh? Oh, I was just thinking that I must be crazy for agreeing to this." At the word crazy her voice had fallen and she lost all the former appearance of togetherness. She seemed to fray before his eyes.
"Tell me", he touched her chin.
"What do you mean?" she asked defiantly, ignoring her slip into despair.
"When I said I saw you at night did you think I hadn't seen the tears?" he touched her face slightly to keep her from turning. "I was moved by them, by you. Your grief became mine for a few minutes on occasion. It is now an ache in me as well. To see it out and released."
Tears and wonderment were staring back up at him. She was in his arms. Lightly held near to him but not too close. Not bound up to him as he would have had her. He gently brushed her hair and touched her face. But no kisses were sent to tempt her, even as she saw his gaze fall to her mouth and linger. When her tears continued, silently "Should I not have told you? Am I embarrassed again? Has my mouth hurt some one dear?"
She started at the word dear. "No, you haven't hurt me. Tears are the normal state for me while a dry face is the unusual occurrence. Now, I may relax with you." She sagged against him fully, yet she felt light to him, small, and vulnerable. Tears dampened his shoulder but no sobs racked her frame as he held her softly. It had been ages since shed been able to sob. She almost ached to now.
"Am I sorrowful enough for your painting now?" She asked as she lifted her head and wiped at her tears.
"I didn't mean that. I don't mean- "
She cut him off, "I know, I know you didn't. I understand what you meant."
He felt that register a hint, a clue in his mind but he could not think what the feeling meant.
"What I meant was, shall we?"
"Oh yes, certainly, where?"
"I think that should be up to you, what kind of light? I have a fireplace downstairs, windows looking east or west, preferences?"
She had changed, no, shifted slightly. She seemed different for a moment, but again he hadn't quite understood the fleeting thought before it left. Remembering the volcano, "the fireplace sounds good. Is it functional? Do you have any wood cut? May I start a fire? Is it too hot for that?"
The rambling nature of the series of questions had her nearly smiling again at that vague sense of being out of control and lost. "There is some wood cut, may not be small enough, and yes you may start a fire. Everything you need is either downstairs by the fireplace or outside the door down there. Ill just be down in a minute." He nodded and went down.
The basement level was like stepping into a different world. Upstairs wasn't...anything....wasn't noticeable, bland, he guessed if he had to say. The basement was anything but. Bold colors, low lights. And things. Things everywhere. Nick knacks didn't even begin to cover it. It looked like a gypsy packrat had been storing her things her for decades. One area, a corner, more or less, was semi clear and he chose this to be the most suitable area. It was actually two corners, quite near each other and quite obtuse, making a backdrop for the corner. It was also near to the fireplace and in the perfect angle to it for the light he hadn't known he'd wanted till then. He pushed a plush lounge from another wall into the corner and went in search of fire materials.
She saw him chopping wood as she changed in her upstairs closet. His grace and power held her for a moment. She saw images of touching, the muscles that controlled the ax, his body, him.
Until she came into the room he wouldn't have thought the scenario erotic. Until he saw her in the light he had created he hadn't known how she would affect him. She had changed too. He didn't mention it. He didn't know what to say or how she had known exactly what to wear. She had suggested the fireplace as well. She seemed perfectly comfortable too. Maybe too comfortable. Most people were scared to death to model for him. Even past girlfriends, even Molly. These impressions gave the whole thing a dreamlike quality for him. He had wanted to paint her, she seemed to know exactly how to help him do so.
She went immediately to the antique couch, a drab olive color against the deep plum of the wall behind in the corner. He noticed, now with the fire, that the room was painted different colors in different areas and they seemed to have been painted over and over, edges of older colors still showing around newer patches. The room began to seem like one belonging to a maniac. He at once remembered her response to her own word, crazy. He instantly felt like he recognized her kind of crazy, if this was it.
Her simple long black dress hung on her. Her posture slumped, her back bowed, the light linen seemed heavy as lead and she seemed to struggle against it. Her hair hung naturally, her face was clean and her body held no decoration. "I wore it to the funeral" she said so quietly he wasn't sure she meant for him to hear. He erred on the side of privacy and said nothing.
As he finished setting up his supplies he turned back to her. He intended to instruct her, to position her, but she had taken the liberty herself. She sat staring blankly at his eyes. Head slightly cocked as if the weight of her hair was slightly more on that side. Hands with palms up and fingers relaxed and curled were laying passively in her lap. Her arms seemed heavy too. He said nothing. He could only begin.
As he worked his mind danced back and forth. First he would notice, embrace, her sorrow, the lines of her emotions, of her emotion-racked body. Then he would catch himself lingering at curve of her breasts or the skin of her neck. She seemed unreachable, yet not stony as she sat frightfully still gazing at him as if staring through him. Occasionally a light would flash behind her eyes and she would appear to see something past him, and the tears would start, silently again, and without apparent emotion. Several times he was conflicted in choosing to use the moments or going to her to catch the tears already shed and dry the ones to come. Each time he felt about to slip his control and go to her she would steel herself and cease crying.
There were no windows in the basement room and the time passed for both such that they were both startled by the sound of traffic when morning arrived. She stood up suddenly, seeming alarmed and confused.
"God, what time is it?"
"Nearly 7:30, I'm so sorry to have kept you all night. I tend to overwork when I'm...in control."
She nodded, "when you are on."
His questioning gaze unnerved her. She had a feeling questions were coming. She was suddenly tired, suddenly weary.
"I haven't been tired in months", she said to no one in particular. He took her hand and guided her to the fireplace. Impulsively, he pulled her down with him to the blankets that covered the floor there. He gave her head a pillow and nestled up to her back as she watched the fire behind drooping eyelids.
"I'm not usually like this," she said in a small voice.
"There's nothing wrong with you like this."
The sobs came fast and hard. She had not grieved violently enough for the depth of her loses, she had not allowed herself. But with a stranger's arms around her she found herself facing the feelings of despair, loss, and emptiness. Then she slept.
He'd left the painting. He'd just gone and left it. When she woke up she felt better than she had in ages. Felt the faint possibility of hope. But as she opened her eyes to the painting and note he left she was in awe.
Days went by without any contact from him. She was crazy. She was sure of it now. She had let a man whose last name she didn't even know come into her house and sleep next to her and now she couldn't even call him. I shouldn't even want to! Her nerves were frayed and she was edged with energy.
Her mother came by, like clockwork, and found her daughter's kitchen not only stocked but clean. "Nervous energy" was her answer but the older woman wondered what could possibly have sparked the change, and how to keep it going. Anything was better than the zombie she had been faced with for the past months.