“Ode to her tight black dress, slit from ankle to creamy white thigh.”
“Excuse me?” I turned to my friend who looked at me with glazed eyes.
“That is the title…”
I smiled as it dawned on me what Alistair was talking about. I switched my attention to the covered painting that dominated the room. It was, according to my friend anyway, his greatest work and he’d been working on it for two years. Even being his closest friend, I had never seen it before not even early sketches. The painting was covered by a sheet as white as snow, and tonight was to be the night Alistair finally revealed it.
To be honest I was getting excited; it was only six o’clock and the event wasn’t till eight. But still there was something in the air. The atmosphere was different to that of his previous showings, though I am sad to say that the excitement affected me more than my worry about my friend’s well being. I hadn’t noticed it before, but Alistair looked ill. He had obviously dressed up for the occasion but to someone like me who had known him since childhood, he looked haggard and not his usual self.
“She is truly beautiful Edward, wait and see. You’ll be bewitched by how gorgeous she looks. I truly believe this is my best work. I may even consider retiring now.”
“You jest, my old friend. I’ve watched your work from your beginnings as a humble street sketcher to one of the world’s most famous and admired artists. You’ve got plenty of life and art left in you, believe me.” I put on my best smile as I said it, believing every word, as I always did. The words died in my mouth as I saw Alistair staring dispassionately with his unusually glazed eyes.
My friend didn’t reply, he just stood there silently staring at me. Perhaps he has fallen ill and maybe retirement would be for the best? I thought the question rather than ask. Alistair suddenly perked up and informed me that he was off to meet and greet his fans, and he apologised for his oddness of the moment.
I watched as he went off and I soon followed and found myself talking to the others who were invited to his show. At first I had trouble recognising them, but eventually I began to see the usual fans, so I smiled and went to mingle. I chatted and drank, laughed and smiled. It was always stimulating to speak to fans of Alistair, and they were always so passionate about his work. The very fact made me proud.
I smiled and had a stroll around the gallery; the main painting was under an archway set into the north wall, two flickering candles either side adding to the gothic atmosphere. At the moment a velvet rope was hung across to stop people getting too close to it.
Several other paintings lined the walls, Alistair said they were ones he’d drawn in-between his newest one. I studied them closely an uneasy feeling settling in on me. They were still in the gothic genre but they were more disturbing than his previous work.
The one that kept catching my eye was one which hung on the north-east wall; it was an impish creature, its slate grey skin covered in cuts bleeding. To me it looked like someone had carved symbols on his skin. Its right arm reached out as if trying to grab me. I tried my best to avoid looking at it but I kept sensing someone watching me and every time I turned I saw nothing and my eyes would be drawn back to that blasted imp with its smiling grin more like a grimace. I laughed at my overactive imagination.
The sudden mention of my name caused me to start, and I quickly turned around to see Alistair looking at me angrily. He announced that it was time to reveal his painting but he wanted to wait for me. Embarrassed, I looked at my watch and saw that indeed it was time for the showing, I apologised for not understanding how quickly the time had flown by.
I followed Alistair to the front of the growing semi-circle of people who gathered around the shrouded painting. Without a backward glance Alistair broke from the crowd heading for the side of the painting where he gracefully spun around to face everyone.
“Good Evening my fellow lovers of art. Tonight is the night I will reveal my masterpiece.”
The crowd cheered loudly, and with a smile, so did I.
“This painting took me two years to complete, not because I couldn’t have finished it sooner, but because it deserved to have my utmost attention and be perfectly detailed in every aspect of the subject.”
The crowd nodded as one, a smart arse at the back called out ‘Show us now! Stop droning on!’ The man’s partner replied with a swift slap to the side of the head. I turned back to see my friend waiting patiently.
“Now it is almost time to reveal it…but first I just wanted to say thank you to Edward for being there whenever I needed him. Ever since junior school you have been like the brother I never had. This painting is for you, I always knew you were after the perfect woman,” he paused to let the crowd laugh, I blushed. “So I painted her for you…behold my latest work. I call it ‘Ode to her tight black dress, Slit from ankle to creamy white thigh.”
With a skilful flick, Alistair yanked the sheet from the frame revealing the painting. Its effect was instant…the room went silent. It was truly his best work, and he was right, she was beautiful. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. The atmosphere changed it was so slight I might have even missed it. A curious sensation washed over me as the room and people around me just faded away. Seconds later it was just me and the painting, then it too vanished. But she was still there.
Sarah was her name. How I knew that I hadn’t a clue. I just did. She just stood there watching me. Beautiful, that along with any other word wouldn’t come close to the truth.
Words fail me to describe her in a way she deserved.
Sarah was about in her twenties. Her brown hair cascaded down into a bob, glistening as if in moonlight and framing an appealingly pretty face. Her eyes were a rare jade, and just as precious; they seemed to look at me as if I was the last living thing in the world and I was important to her. She smiled with her full red lips, revealing brilliantly white teeth. Of course, she was wearing a long black dress that clung to her flowing all over her body, the silk caressing her every curve. It was slit on the side, rising from ankle to thigh, revealing her creamy white skin; the neckline plunged in a v-shape revealing a tantalising peek at her pert and ample bosoms. Put simply, she was stunningly beautiful and she had stolen my breath away…
“Good evening Edward,” even her voice was a purr, and soft as the finest silk.
“How do you know my name?” I asked in a whisper.
She smiled and walked towards me, her hips swinging sensually. Her footsteps were light and delicate, and made almost no sound, I just watched and drank in her beauty. She reached me and stood in front of me. She was so close I could have kissed her, and I wanted to. She was just an inch under my height, and staring into her eyes was like looking into her soul. Sarah reached out a gentle hand and stroked the side of my face.
“I’ve been watching you for a while, my love. Whenever you’ve visited Alistair these past two years, I’ve followed you and I have yearned for you as much as you yearn for me.”
Her fingers traced a line down my chest; the sensation sending shivers down my spine. She whispered something in my ears but it was too quiet for me to even make the words out but whatever it was my heart responded beating faster.
Sarah smiled and my heart melted as she pressed her moist lips against mine. Her tongue was gentle but firm, she probed and tasted. The sensation was wonderful, I swept her up in my arms pulling her closer as I kissed deeper, she let out a murmur of pleasure. I felt her hand guide mine to the clasp on the back of her dress. I flicked it, feeling the fabric slide off her body.
Sarah stood there, resplendent in her natural beauty. I pulled her closer feeling her press against me feeling her nipples harden. She whispered to me to make love to her. I lusted for her and Sarah had been right I had yearned for her ever since I first saw the painting.
“Hurry,” she whispered as I felt her hands fumble briefly with my trousers but she stopped abruptly, vanishing before my eyes.
Confused, I found myself staring at my friend, I looked about and saw the room was deserted.
My friend answered my question emotionlessly.
“Everyone has already gone.”
“What do you mean?” I asked,
“Our guests left an hour ago you stayed gazing at sweet Sarah. Why did you stay? Why did you have to see her?”
“She said she has watched me and that she loved me…”
“No! She is mine! No-one can have her, not even you!”
Somewhere in the background I heard Sarah pleading. Alistair told her to shut up. My friend’s sudden change of manner shocked me in its tone and rapidity. His posture was stiffer as well, it wasn’t like him and it was worrying me.
The strike caught me in the chest catching me unprepared, I staggered back and threw my own punch, catching Alistair in the chin knocking him to the floor.
“What the hell is wrong with you Alistair!”
My friend rose slowly, and it was only then I noticed the knife he clutched in a shaky hand…and the blood dripping from it.
I heard Sarah scream as I glanced down, my eyes widened as I watched the crimson blossom over my shirt. I slumped to my knees, shock etched into my face.
Alistair walked up to me with a twisted smile, pressing the edge of the knife against my throat. He looked insane.
“Not even you…”
He yanked the blade abruptly and my vision was stained scarlet, that soon faded into a lifeless grey and then nothing but blackness…