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The Artist's Model
AU All Human. Edward Masen is a painter in Paris known for his sensual nude portraits when he stumbles across Bella Swan.
Chapter 1: New Direction
"You don't like it." It was a statement, not a question.
Carlisle ran a finger through his wild blonde hair, heaving a sigh that sounded far too old for his mere 33 years on Earth. He shook his head slowly. "It's excellent, as always, but I wish you would choose different subject matter."
I rolled my eyes. What a diplomat. An insult within a compliment. Nevertheless, he was the one paying my bills and so I scrutinized my own painting, trying to imagine what a stranger would think of it.
It was one of my finest works, I had to admit. It depicted my model, Rosalie I think her name was, seated in a chair. She was nude just like all the other women in my paintings, and her pose was very sexual, her lips dark and head tipped back to reveal a slim white neck. The dark curtaining and paneling in the background made it a very dramatic and alluring piece, almost as if she was a succubus, luring men into the folds of her rosy flesh.
I frowned. "What's wrong with my subject matter?"
From his hesitation, I could tell Carlisle was picking his words carefully, trying not to upset me. "It's always the same."
"It's a series. The subject matter should be similar."
Carlisle shot me a withering glare. "In all my years of being your donor and sponsor, I would think you'd be able to find subject matter for more than just one series."
I crossed my arms and rocked back and forth on my heels. It was a common feeling for an artist to feel underappreciated "Well, what do you want me to do? Paint fruit, or maybe a landscape? Hard-edged abstraction?"
Carlisle grimaced and I tried not to smile. I knew of his hatred of Vasarely and the op art movement in general. He always insisted it wasn't "real" art.
"That's not what I mean. What I'm trying to say is that Picasso didn't always paint in the cubist style."
Now I was confused. "You want me to ditch the realism and go for expressionism?"
"No, no, no! But all your women are such sexual creatures. Try showing a different side of them. It's about time you understood their tenderness."
"I understand all about women's tenderness." My voice was dark. I turned away from him, suddenly overcome by the bitter memory that occurred so many years ago.
I had just turned seventeen and was brimming over with the joy of growing up, of falling in love. I met a Russian beauty two weeks ago, one with hair the colour of the sun's golden rays, her eyes clear like a lake in June. I quickly became obsessed with her, thoughts and dreams of her melodious laugh haunting me in light and dark. She had felt the same way, or so I thought. How many countless hours we had spent lying in my backyard, her head tucked between my chin and shoulder, whispering sweet nothings into her ears? Too soon I found her entwined in another man's arms. I didn't stay long enough for her to discover me, and never again did I speak to her though she called and pleaded.
She was a succubus, a voice whispered in my head, though the more rational part knew she deserved to have a say. But my heart, aching with the pain of betrayal refused to let her see me in such a state. Since then, I had not allowed myself to become close to a woman. Always I dealt with my models in a coolly professional manner. I knew that if a woman laced herself into my icy heart, in the end, she would devour it even if at the start her intentions were noble.
I paced around my studio after Carlisle left, thinking about this supposed new direction I was to be heading in. He advised me to find a sweet and innocent girl and capture snapshots of her life in various stages of undress. I resisted the urge to laugh manically. An innocent girl in Paris? Unheard of. All the girls here were cigarette-smoking, high-fashion tough broads.
I glanced out my wide windows. Although the setting sun had tinged the sky with a glorious orange, there was something about the mechanical shapes of buildings that still made the city seem cold.
My cell phone buzzed in my pocket, startling me. Only a handful of people were important enough to earn a spot on my short list of contacts. Checking the caller ID, I raised the phone to my ear and slid it open.
It sounded like there was a riot in the background. "Hey, Edward, I have an opening tomorrow. Want to come?"
"What time?" It was a rather unnecessary question because Emmett always scheduled his openings at the same time.
"7:00. Can you make it?"
My hand found itself tangled in my unruly hair. "Don't I always?"
Emmett chuckled and hung up. He didn't like saying goodbye.
He was a sculptor known for his bizarre and often humorous sculptures of popular culture and women. We had met at another artist's opening. The exhibition itself had been unmemorable, disappointing to say the least, and Emmett and I had exchanged asides about the quality of the former master's recent pieces. We would often find ourselves at the same galleries at the same time and we quickly struck up a comradeship. He found my work morbidly interesting, and I could always use a laugh myself.
Emmett had since become one of my few friends. We could not be more different—he was a loud, perpetually happy artist that enjoyed the freedom of partying and drugs, and I was the introverted thinker of ten prone to sudden, sullen mood swings. It was common knowledge that when I became obsessed with a project, I did not eat or sleep, choosing instead to pace my studio and paint well into the night under the fluorescent lights until I deemed my work as good as it was going to get. I then proceeded to sleep for a full 24 hours.
On the other hand, Emmett enjoyed getting several projects in the works at the same time so he could pick and choose between which he felt inspired to do that particular day. His studio was messy to the extreme, littered with chisels and clay and glue residue; mine was pristine and bright with two piles in the corner, one for incomplete pieces and one for completed pieces. The incomplete pile was the larger one by far, featuring stack upon stack of canvases that did not deserve to see the light of day.
I spent the whole night watching the city lights, immersed in my thoughts. Absently, I flipped a lighter open, the flame lighting up the room briefly before going out. A package of cigarettes lay beside me. I opened them up, sniffing in the familiar pungency of tobacco. Was tonight to be the night of reminiscing?
I didn't smoke myself because my earliest memory of my father was him with a stern frown telling me, Don't smoke; it's a stupid habit. He himself was a smoker for a decade until my mother became pregnant with me. I would often find him sucking on a cigarette, but I never saw him light one. He was never without his nicotine gum.
Ironically, he and my mother were killed in a car accident with a transport truck driver transporting nicotine products. Whenever I wanted to remember, I would stick a cigarette in my mouth and suck on its smoky poison, closing my eyes, just remembering. Over time, I found little details like the sound of my mother's laugh or exactly how the wrinkles on my dad's face mapped out his life.
I stubbed the cigarette out, grinding it eve though it had never been lit, had never turned into ash. It made me feel better to be doing something tactile, creating or destroying with my hands.
I knew my mother would echo Carlisle's statements to find tenderness. She had always been worried about my quietness, my unwillingness to go out. I was home schooled for most of my life, and I graduated high school at 15 because I never wanted summer's off. I had several online degrees, but my only passion was painting. My mother never knew about the girl I once loved; only that afterwards I locked myself in my room, painting disturbing pictures of hearts and bleeding and death.
Carlisle was in many ways a father-like figure to me although he was only around a decade older. He and his wife Esme constantly invited me to dinner under the pretense of discussing my work, but we all knew that Esme thought I was too lonely in my studio by myself.
And perhaps it was true, but I had never found any comfort in being with other human beings. It made me feel awkward because I couldn't relate to them even if I should've been able to. Even among other tortured souls like myself, there was a certain feeling of displacement, of being an oddity.
The sun peaked over the horizon, staining the world with its insistent happiness. I retired to bed, not feeling tired yet, but drained emotionally. I didn't bother to change out of my paint-covered smock. After all, who was going to look at me?
Please review and tell me what you think--even if it's just a line long. I enjoy inflating my ego.
The next few chapters should be posted soon.