Living with Katrina Ch. 08byLaRascasse©
Chapter 8 now. Sorry for the huge delay, but my real life work caught up with me in a bad way with my endsems. Keep the comments and feedback going. It makes me want to write.
Thanks to all my fans who keep me going and to my editor NaokoSmith.
DISCLAIMER -- This chapter contains quite a few taboos. There is a "not flattering" portrayal of Christian Fundamentalists. There is also some sadism in this chapter.
"Stop looking for light at the end of the tunnel. Find God in the darkness."
"Another one?" said Katrina, glancing over at her roommate. Jake slowly tore open the envelope and read the small scrap of paper.
"Dear Ms Bauer," he started. "I shall pray for your soul. Our Lord is merciful. May He forgive you despite the blasphemy in your art. I hope that you yourself may reach Heaven, and beg our Father for forgiveness."
"Well, at least this one prayed for my salvation," she chuckled. "I guess it's better than the lot who want me to burn in Hell."
"What do I do with this latest bit of fan mail?"
"Toss it in the trash."
"The trash is full of them," he said with a look over his shoulder. "Guess I should take out the trash too."
He slung the trash bag over his shoulder and walked out. Katrina returned to her email account and refreshed the page.
"Wow.. 53 new emails," she said to herself.
The subject lines were themselves colourful indictments of her heresy. They were all misspelt variations of the general "How dare you paint that?" idea.
"Select all and delete." and they were gone.
She shut her Mac and turned the chair around towards the window. Her latest picture of a nude woman crucified and menstruating was... not as well received as she had hoped. She had meant it as a statement against the religious suppression of female sexuality down the ages. Given the spotlight on her after Dean Hamilton's endorsement of her art, it had created a significant stir.
"If only they could see the others I haven't released yet," she thought, grinning as she thought about how little they would appreciate the eroticising of their revered Saints.
The torrent of hate-mail had kept her mind busy, but she still found some private space to think about Jake. It was all fine to present a façade of buried love, to the point of pampering him, but she wasn't sure how long she could keep up the pretence.
Katrina felt like a dormant volcano just waiting to erupt. The magma of her feelings seethed beneath the surface, having grown immeasurably since her discovery that Jake subconsciously had feelings for her too. Her emotions felt like a caged beast within the confines of her body, yearning to break free and devour what was rightfully hers.
"But I promised him."
There it was once more, her conscience. It reared its ugly head. It reminded her that if the volcano erupted, it would only leave Jake burnt. It would accomplish nothing else. Whatever was in that private corner of his mind, it would have to stay there.
"Look out your window," said Jake reappearing.
She shook her thoughts off and went to the window. There was a small, motley group assembled outside the apartment. They held a few signboards and angrily waved them in her direction.
"I called 9-1-1 on the way up," said Jake. "They'll be gone soon enough."
She flipped the assembled group off and shut the window.
"Looks like Pat Robertson spawned some new clones."
"They're everywhere," said Jake shaking his head. "Are you still going through with your gallery opening as planned?"
"Yes!" she replied. "I'm not going to let a horde of religious nuts scare me off."
Jake settled back into the recliner, stretching his overworked limbs. Sundays always started too late and ended too early.
"What do you plan to do on your Sunday?"
"Nothing specific in mind. Just waste away in front of the TV, I guess," sighed Jake, yawning and stretching his arms.
Katrina tilted her head slightly to the side and smiled at him. If only he knew what she felt for him at that moment. Walking to his side, she held out her hand. He looked up at her, confused.
"Come with me," she said with a wide smile.
"Someplace magical," she said, clasping her fists under her neck playfully. "Where people still remember how to dream."
"Why are you talking to me in puzzles?" Jake inquired, narrowing his eyes.
"Are you coming?" Katrina reiterated.
"I'll let you know when you tell me where."
"I want it to be a surprise," she pouted. "Why can't you just go with that?"
Jake eyed her warily, unsure if he wanted to find out what she meant by a "surprise". Finally, his curiosity won and he got up. She happily skipped down the stairs, closely followed by him.
"You sure have a spring in your step today."
"What can I say?" laughed Katrina. "I know something about someone they don't know about themselves."
"So we're still talking in riddles, I see?"
"Riddles in the dark," she said, doing her best impression of Smeagol.
"Can I open my eyes now?"
"Not yet. A little while longer," said Katrina, holding his hand and leading him on.
"It was so much fun when my eyes were closed and you were driving," Jake groaned. "How you got your license in the first place, I will never know."
"I stopped at the red lights, I promise. Now do you want your surprise or not?"
Katrina led him by his hand around a few more corners before finally stopping. She took a couple of steps back and said. "You can open your eyes now."
Jake slowly opened his eyes. It took him a few minutes to get his bearings right. The glare of colours almost blinded him at first. He ran his eyes over the intricately designed scenery in front of him. There was a gold bar which twisted around itself in an impossible loop, repeating the pattern multiple times until it reached its starting point again.
This was placed against a bright red backdrop, which seamlessly melded into the blue of the adjacent wall where there was a mythological beast, its eyes giving off a beam of light which formed the gold pattern. The whole scene looked positively surreal to Jake.
"Where are we?" asked Jake. "Not in Kansas anymore, right?"
"Nope," giggled Katrina. "In Little Italy."
"No way," he gasped, studying the continuous graffiti down the alley. "There is a place like this in Manhattan itself? How come I've never heard of it?"
"Because you and the rest of Manhattan look, but never see," she said dryly. "Open your eyes, Jake, and open your mind."
She led him past the mythological beast, his eyes following its green scaly body and curled tail. The tail split into various mosaics of famous personalities down the ages. Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, Walt Whitman, they were all there. The tail extended past to the back wall of a large building where the entire Algonquin Round Table sat, drawn in the style of The Last Supper. In the centre sat Alexander Woollcott, leaning away from Dorothy Parker. Jake split into a grin seeing the caricature.
"Come on," beckoned Kat and dragged him along. "Hold my hand. It's easy to get lost here."
They walked past a maze of alleys, each vividly coloured in a different artistic scene. Former presidents, activists and movie stars covered the walls. Each scene was more surreal than the last. Jake gaped at the creativity unfurled around him. People of all ages laughed and chatted animatedly and commenting on the graffiti. Some of them were painting on the walls. Many recognized Katrina, and waved at her as they walked past.
"This part of the city is cut off from the main roads of Manhattan. Traffic is non existent," she explained.
They walked to an abandoned subway entrance.
"The main line used to go through here some time back, but they rerouted it through Chelsea in the mid 90s. These lanes and bylanes are mostly abandoned."
She led him down the stairs. The former station was barely more than an empty tunnel now. The lights did not work but they were not needed. Carefully negotiating the stairs, Jake was amazed at what he saw.
The entire tunnel was lit by the eerie light of glow-in-the-dark paint. The pale green glow emanated from the walls, partially lighting the faces of the artists at work. They shook their cans of airspray, oblivious to him, and kept working.
They were painting an entire subterranean city here. Jake walked past delicately painted skyscrapers with Godzilla and King Kong for effect. There were cars painted on the roads between the buildings and people mingling on the pavement.
"Wow," gasped Jake, stopping to admire the level of detail.
"Magical, isn't it?"
The abandoned tunnel forked off in two directions. Katrina led Jake through the right fork and they saw people hard at work, creating more of the city underneath the city. There was one part where a girl stood behind a group of painters, giving them instructions.
"Samantha!" Kat yelled out.
She turned around and saw Katrina. Immediately, she dropped her can of spray-paint and ran over to hug her.
"Kat! It's been ages since I saw you down here," she beamed at them. "How've you been?"
"I've been getting around," said Katrina, pulling back from the hug. "And you? Still doing your art restoration job at the Guggenheim?"
"Yeah," she said, smiling cheerily. "I also do my own stuff on the side. Maybe I'll have an opening next month."
"That is so awesome," said Kat.
"Who is your handsome friend here?" said Sam, looking up and down Jake's body.
"It's my roommate, Jake. I told you about him."
"You didn't mention that he would be so hot," she said, licking her lips suggestively. "I'm Samantha Pierce, avante garde artiste of the Underground Artist Movement."
"Oh yeah, I heard about you guys," said Jake. "You defaced a part of the Stock Exchange during the Occupy Protests, right?"
"That would be me," Sam said, curtsying. It was difficult to make out her features in the dim green light, but what he could see was attractive. Her face was well framed with high cheekbones and sharp eyes. She bobbed on the balls of her feet with a smile constantly bubbling to the surface of her face. That smile conveyed a state of contented happiness with her life.
"How about we go back to the surface?" said Kat. "Are you sure you won't burn to ashes if the sunlight hits your skin?"
"You've watched way too much Twilight," quipped back Sam. She barked some more orders at the workers and began making her way out.
"Who funds this?" asked Jake.
"Donations mostly," explained Katrina. "We all pitch in what we can. This project is close to the heart of the entire artist community in New York."
"So, Jake. What do you do when you're not being dragged around the city by your roommate?"
"I'm an accountant. Accounts supervisor to be exact."
"Boring," said Sam, faking a yawn. "What did Katrina tell you about me?"
"Not much. She doesn't like talking much about her friends. How long have you two known each other?" said Jake, taking the stairs two at a time.
"For eight years now," said Katrina. "Though I see Sam a lot less than I used to. We're still great friends."
"Friends, yes," said Samantha, stepping into the sunlight. "But back in the day, we were more than friends, eh?"
Katrina blushed, forcing a weak smile.
"No need to be shy now," said Sam. Suddenly, she held Katrina's face and kissed her deeply. Her tongue swept aside any restraint on Kat's part and slurped inside her mouth for a small eternity. Jake felt his eyes bug out of his head.
"We were lovers," hissed Sam dramatically.
"For real?" stammered Jake, stunned by this new piece of information.
"Yeah," said Kat, still blushing. "It was in early 2004. We met at this art club and started talking. Then we got stoned and well... you can imagine the rest."
"I'd rather not," replied Jake.
"I made her squeal like a pig being stuck."
"Sam!" exclaimed Kat. "Do you really need to revisit those days in such detail?"
"The lines were blurry back then, Jake" said Samantha. "We hooked up a few times before we realized that cocks are just too good to give up."
Jake almost melted with embarrassment. He turned a deep shade of red and looked away from the conversation.
"Told you he's a prude," laughed Katrina.
"I can change that," said Sam, taking out a marker from her jacket. "Give me that hand, pretty boy."
She pulled up his sleeve and wrote her number in beautiful calligraphy. Jake was amazed at how fast her fingers moved. She drew a small sketch of her face underneath the number.
"There, so you remember where it came from," she said, retreating back into the tunnel. "Nice seeing you again, Katrina."
"What just happened?" said Jake, still coming to terms with the number on his arm.
"I'd say you have a date in the offing."
The gallery opening for Katrina's heresy was more low key than she would have liked. Of course there were the expected number of prophets and assorted bible-thumping morons who dropped by to let her know how there was a nice burning spot in Hell with her name on it. Some even tried to help her on her way there by assaulting her, only to be dragged away be security, still cursing.
In the midst of this intermittent Biblical mayhem, her agent brought some interested buyers over. They negotiated for a bit and she managed to sell some of the art, but not quite at the price she wanted. The day dragged on, with few offers of note.
"She is the Antichrist."
Kat turned, wide-eyed, towards the door where a small mob had forced their way in. The scanty rent-a-cops were pushed aside. The leader of this group stepped forward, brandishing a small crucifix in his hand.
"Look all around you," he said. "Look at how she depicts our Saints. Look at how she shows our Lord on his knees sodomized by the devil."
His gaze was fixed on that particularly evil portrait. His followers nodded in silent approval. One of them even counted off beads on her rosary.
"Get out of here," yelled Kat, taking a step back out of fear. The mob got closer.
"We shall leave all right," snickered someone in the crowd. "But not before every bit of this art is in pieces, as are you, you goddamn whore."
They were even closer now. All the other patrons had fled and the police were nowhere in sight.
"Who dares use the Lord's name in vain?" boomed a deep voice from the doorway.
The voice had an immediate effect on the lynch mob. Suddenly, they all started shivering where they stood. Katrina saw a tall, slender man draped in a neat suit and pants with immaculately trimmed hair. He crossed the distance in a few brisk strides and stood between her and the mob.
The hitherto confident leader of the mob dropped his crucifix in fright. The man went up to him and bent down to pick it up.
"Never seek to cause harm in His name."
There was a certain quality to his voice, which effortlessly changed between the booming tone earlier and the smooth velvet baritone now. He had an aura of complete control. The shivering zealot fell to his knees and clasped his hands.
"Forgive me, Father," he said in barely a whisper.
"I am not your Father, but He watches over us. He is disappointed in you."
He turned his gaze to the rest of the throng, all of them trembling. His hazel eyes burnt with supreme disdain.
"You have shamed me," he said, shaking his head. "And in turn shamed Him up above. Go to the nearest place of worship and pray for your souls."
The terrified mob stood in its place, rooted to the spot. They seemed paralysed with fear as the hazel eyes surveyed them.
"Go!" he boomed, sending them scurrying out the door like sewer rats.
"You must forgive my flock," he said, turning to a stunned Katrina. "They mean well but are misguided by what they see around them."
Kat had trouble squeezing words out. Her saviour smiled and extended a palm of friendship.
"Jared Wexler. You may have heard of me."
Robotically, she shook his hand. The name fleetingly registered in her subconscious, before finding a match. She shook herself out of her trance.
"The Jared Wexler? Head of Signiferis de Lumine?"
"Yes," he said with a mirthful air. "That is what we call ourselves. The bearers of the light. Cool name, huh?"
"What... why?" she stuttered out.
"Because I have a ticket," he said, waving it in his hand. "When I heard of this event, I knew I had to check it out. Sadly, so did my followers. I would like to offer my most sincere and heartfelt apologies for their behaviour."
"You guys just think you can go around terrorizing people?" snapped Katrina, finally finding some words. "This is a free country, last I checked."
"Is that any way to talk to the guy who just saved you?"
He had a fascinating charm about him. Charisma oozed in every word he said. Under different circumstances, Katrina would already be plotting ways to have him inside her.
"Saved me from your own bunch of freaks," she growled.
"True," he admitted. "...but saved you nevertheless."
He walked up to a large portrait. It had a graphic visual of Judas Iscariot being fellated by a nude Apostle who was in turn being sodomized. Their pale bodies showed in stark contrast with the darker background. She had invested some time in texturing the bodies and putting a look of anguish on the Apostle's face.
"I like the curves," Jared said, running his eyes over the painted figures studiously. "It has the delicacy of a Degas or a Renoir."
Katrina eyed him, her face a mask of incredulity and utter disbelief. He casually sauntered over to where St Peter was mounted on a Berkley Horse and being whipped by a woman.
"Who is this woman?" asked Jared. "It can't be Mary Magdalene. "
"Aphrodite," said Kat, passively.
"Makes sense," he said thoughtfully. "Punishing Peter for preaching sexuality to be a taboo."
He ran his eyes over the rest of the pieces.
"How much for the lot?"
"Excuse me?" said Kat, stupefied.
"I want to buy all these portraits," he stated plainly. "How much for all of them?"
"Is this some sort of a joke?"
"No," he said. "Why would you say such a thing? I genuinely like the fact that you dared to show modern day religion as the empty lie it is. You did not let fear of consequences come in the way of your vision."
She looked at him blankly.
"How much?" Jared reiterated.
"How much would you be willing to give?" she asked weakly.
"I'll take all ten of these for a hundred thousand dollars. Is that OK?" he said as if he was buying a new shirt at the GAP store down the street.
"A hundred thousand!"
"I think they're worth around that much," he said nonchalantly.
Before the shell shocked expression on Katrina's face could change, he wrote down the number on a cheque, signed it and handed it over to her. She took it in her shaking hands, her eyes refusing to believe what was written on it.
He snapped his fingers and two flunkies appeared out of nowhere. One of them called the attention of the gallery owner and got busy with the formalities regarding this buy. Katrina gave the cheque to the gallery owner, who himself couldn't believe the number on it.
"How about we celebrate your successful opening with dinner at Graziano's?" he asked. "I don't know Manhattan that well, but I hear the food is tolerable there. I'll pick you up at seven tomorrow then."
Jared turned around and walked out, whistling to himself. Katrina stood still, gaping at what had transpired.
Jake waited patiently outside the red-brick apartment complex. He was wearing semi formals and jeans. He leaned against the hood of his car tapping on it for a while before he heard the metal gate open with a clang. Samantha stepped out, effervescent, in a peacock blue dress and pencil skirt. Her red hair was tied in a ponytail and it swayed behind her in rhythm with her stride.