06 February 2013

The Start of Something

I wrote this about ten years ago, and it had been the start of something that eventually morphed into my novella Certain Purpose. (Not currently available, but the main character's name changes from Rob to Rick, and the whole of the story takes on a very different tone. But it started with this idea.)

***

Robert Dumaine stared at the canvas propped in front of him. Then he glanced around the studio at the scattering of paintings against the wall and strewn around the floor. Yes, it was the same person, again and again, the woman he dreamt about. He’d put her in Impressionistic daubs, in violent abstracts, in old-fashioned portraiture. An average customer walking into the gallery to browse might not even notice the similarities. But Rob did. He knew.

Frustration caused him to toss the latest canvas aside onto a pile of discarded work. He was stymied, stuck. He stood and made a lion-prowl around the room, going window to window, looking out at the heavy traffic two stories down, cabs, town cars and limousines—limousines! at this time of morning!—making their way in unfriendly packs towards the downtown of the city. The sidewalks, though, were mostly empty; this side of town wasn’t much of a draw, old industrial converted into a few lofts and studios. His gallery was right downstairs and cheap, which was good considering foot traffic was light. People didn’t find his place by accident.

Rob checked his watch. Nearly nine. But also Wednesday, and he didn’t open on Wednesdays. He’d always hated Wednesdays as a kid, although if he’d ever had a reason for that he couldn’t remember it now.

He’d been born on a Wednesday.

He did another pace around the studio. He wasn’t going to get any work done today; he could feel it. In which case . . .

He grabbed his keys off the table by the door, took his leather jacket from the peg, and headed out.

~*~

Carter Christianson’s plane touched down at 9:16, six minutes late. He gritted his teeth. Inefficiency rankled him.

A blond man of average height and tan from years in the California sun, Carter was the kind of person no one would take special note of. Which was exactly how he liked it.

One of two. After so many years of work, he’d finally have the first one down by the end of the day. He was lucky Dumaine had chosen such an evident career. The picture in the paper, the little article about the gallery. Carter had seen it and known immediately.

He hoped Dumaine had the girl with him. Could they be related again?

Luggage in hand, he exited the airport. “Hotel,” he told the cabbie. "Something close to the art district."

~*~

Rob subconsciously found himself searching the faces of everyone he passed on the sidewalk. The girl, she was here somewhere. She had to be. Because he couldn’t be going crazy, not yet. Artists went crazy, but not at his age. He was too young.

He went to his favorite coffee shop, sat in the window there and nursed something warm. It was chillier out than he’d expected, and his thin silk shirt and leather jacket didn’t quite cut it. Maybe he’d go shop for a sweater. Take his mind off things.

~*~

Carter had gone by once already, but the sign said the gallery was closed on Wednesdays. He’d watched the second-story windows for a while, but he hadn’t seen any movement. If Dumaine was in there, he was being very still. So Carter had come back to his hotel to wait, for what exactly he hadn’t decided. A sign maybe.

~*~

Rob came out of J. Crew feeling stupid with the shopping bag in his hand. He always felt stupid carrying around shopping bags; it seemed like such a girl thing to do.

And people thought artists were supposed to be in touch with their feminine sides. Whatever.

He hoofed it back towards his pad, head down and hunching against the wind, wondering why he hadn’t just put the sweater and new boots on in the store.

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