There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning. -Louis Dearborn L'Amour
It was a dreary day in Kensington. Not a particularly remarkable day either, sombre and quiet. Rain chased down the large window of Arthur's favourite hiding spot, a small café on the corner of Wrights Lane and Cheniston Gardens, a mere five-minute walk from his townhouse. Across the street in a second level iron balcony, a garden spilled out from the dark insides, its vines reaching down the street below, petals of the roses trembling in the rain.
Curled in his preferred corner of the teashop, the Yellow Petal Café, his head leaning against the cold window, Arthur sat at a table for two, his belongings spread out, taking up the entire table with miscellaneous papers and sketches of fantastical creatures and buildings, while his jacket would save the seat across from him for an acquaintance that never arrived.
His pen lazed across the page in large and ornate arches, the remains of an church, overgrown with thick trees that broke through the cracked stone spreading out on the page of an open sketchbook. A unicorn was currently being added to the drawing, his mane draped in fragrant blossoms and tangled vines.
"Morning Mr. Kirkland," said a quiet voice beside him followed the gentle clink of a teacup and plate being placed in front of him. The voice belonged to the owner of the café, a young woman, Katya Braginski, with soft chin-length blond hair that framed her round, petite face, held back by a wide navy headband that accentuated her eyes.
Despite her young age, she had a wrinkle between her brows; puckering over the years she spent raising her two siblings. Arthur often saw them in the back, usually the tall brother, Ivan, in a frilly apron, hulking and being taught how to properly arranged the homemade muffins and jams.
The Brit's sketchbooks were filled with drawings of them, working farms in traditional costumes or the regal wear of their motherlands. He would spend hours slaving over details: the medals on Ivan's chest, the iciness in his eyes and the scarf that hid his childlike smile or the elegant jewels upon the nape of her neck, the gloves along her slim arms and the details on her bodice.
Another would often crop up within the pages. Her long hair usually being plaited and combed by Katya, her stunning face crumpled in a dissatisfied look and her body, soft and curved as it was, always straight and stone-like in stature, nothing like her playfully colossal brother or diminutive and regal sister. Nataliya was often drawn in a throne -always plain and roughly hewn by Arthur, her crown of frozen diamonds.
The youngest Braginski never spoke to Arthur and generally shied away from the patrons, clinging to her brother's arm, quietly watching. Arthur didn't mind, the one time he had tried to approach her for a refill and to try and chat, he had been greeted with a knife gripped in her hand and a steely gaze. He never asked her for the marmalade again.
Late nights, when Arthur's mind was wandering and the pencil in his hand was not quite his own, all three would appear upon his page. Katya was always in the middle, her brother and sister sleeping peacefully while her skilled fingers would weave together a beige scarf while behind them, a cart of hay rested, its draught horse eating from a bucket.
As warm as the scene seemed, no matter how many times Arthur had drawn it, Katya's eyes were always sad and he could never capture them right. Coming back to the present, he smiled at her, thanking quietly and dropping two sugars into the tea, stirring.
"Just you today Katya?" he asked warmly, sipping the drink, humming and taking off his glasses, rubbing his eyes tiredly.
The woman nodded, absently organising the pages on Arthur's table. "Vanya is out today with some friends," she said, peering at his sketches, as was her habit, "Natasha has her violin today."
Her fingers brushed over a sketch of herself in an elegant gown, chasing small versions of her siblings through an ornate hall. The Ukrainian was one of the few people that got to freely browse his work outside a professional setting; he trusted her.
Arthur chuckled lightly, finishing the unicorn and humming to himself. "I suppose they are starting to fly the coop," he asked, watching the woman nod, her eyes turning the shade of despair he could capture, shining slightly.
Carefully, he reached forward; pulling the drawing her fingers were resting on free from his book, offering it. "Here, it'll do you more good than it will me." He smiled and flushed hard as Katya bent over, kissing his cheek, thanking him in her native tongue before sauntering to the back, holding the drawing to her ample chest, taking care not to wrinkle it.
Minutes passed in relative silence, a small trio in the middle of the café discussing something or other, he couldn't really understand the mix of Flemish, Dutch, Luxemburgish and loud, offensive English but generally stayed quiet. From what he could glean, the tallest, lankiest one had some kind of hangover and was being reprimanded by a feisty blond with sharp green eyes while the third in the trio watched them dully, sipping his latte.
Arthur's pencil skittered across the page, a windmill, rotting and broken behind them as they sat on at a river's side, feet dipping into the water, their clothes torn. He enjoyed this version of them better; they were quieter in the picture. Sighing, he leaned back in his chair, put his glasses back on, picked up his teacup, and turned to look out the window.
A man was standing there, a camera held to his face, obscuring most of it save for pale lips, taking a picture of the Brit. Arthur stared at him, nonplussed and quickly lifted a fist, tapping on the glass. The camera lowered slightly, covering the guilty-smile and revealing a pair of cerulean eyes blinked at him. Even without his mouth, Arthur could see the man was smiling.
"Hello," He mouthed, offering a small wave of his fingers. Arthur raised an eyebrow, putting down his tea and reaching for his pencil, sketching the man, though the image of the camera blocking the man's face- the eyes were impossible for him to quite get.
The blond man watched interestedly, smiling happily when he saw the Englishman's drawing. He tapped on the window, turning the camera around and showing the display to Arthur. There was a picture of him, bent over the sketch of the windmill. Arthur blinked at it.
Did he really look that… lost?
The man hung the camera around his shoulder, slipping a lens cap on and walking over to the front door of the café. He smiled brightly at the Englishman; cheeks pink from the cold rain outside. His short-sleeved dark-navy sweater hung baggy around his body and its low collar showed a chain and a silver cross on his chest.
"Hello monsieur, you 'ave quite a talent for drawing," the man said, making his way over to Arthur's table, a hand resting on the back of the unoccupied chair, not pulling it out to sit on it, merely resting. Without the window blocking the sound, Arthur could hear the Parisian accent on his words, curling around 'r's and ignoring 'h's.
Quietly, Arthur closed his book, placing his pencil on top and taking off his glasses. "And you have quite an eye for photography," he said, "How long have you been standing there?"
Smiling, the blond leaned against the chair, his left foot tucked behind his right ankle. Arthur took note of the tailored-leather shoes. "Only for a few minutes, I was waiting for you to start sketching again. You were watching ze others for quite some time." He hummed, lifting his camera and taking another picture as Arthur frowned slightly.
"Stop that," Arthur muttered, waving a hand at him, irritated by the sound of the shutter. The blond merely took another picture, the lips once again pulled into an amused smile. Feeling his cheeks heat up, Arthur took another sip of tea; could someone really get that much pleasure from seeing him frown?
Katya appeared, smiling; a menu in hand, apparently under the impression that this man was the friend Arthur had been saving the chair for. "Hello," she said, offering the small menu, "Can I get you anything to drink?"
"Oui," the photographer pulled the chair out, resting his camera on the table, "coffee please, with a little bit of cream on ze side and no sugar."
As the Ukrainian left, the man's blue eyes found Arthur again and the Brit carefully picked up his tea, purposely avoiding conversation. The man may have taken a lovely picture, but if Arthur invited everyone he had sketched for afternoon tea, the café would be perpetually filled to the brim.
The long fingers traced over the pages on Arthur's table, turning them so he could better see the fantastical drawings, graceful creatures and long-forgotten locales laid out in pencil. Arthur resisted the urge to spill hot tea over his wandering hands. The man had shown him photos, personal work, and obviously had some kind of artistic soul or equivalent measuring of respect for the arts. So, Arthur let him look.
"These are fantastic," the man said as Katya placed the coffee in front of him, the creamer resting beside it, thanking her and handing over the menu, "And nothing thank you." Smiling, a hand brushing Arthur's arm comfortingly, the woman walked away, returning to the back where Ivan peered at the pair curiously before being jerked behind the wall that separated the main dining room from the kitchen, Katya's hand around his scarf.
Arthur nodded slightly, picking up the loose sketches, starting to put them in his sketchbook, careful to not bend the edges. The sketch of the Frenchman he left on the table, looking up at the man: his pencil poised under the sketch, ready to title it.
Blue eyes blinked at him. "Uh, Francis. Francis Bonnefoy." he offered a hand with a crumpled business card between his fingers. Arthur took it, looking over, seeing nothing more than the name, occupation and a phone number in elegant, black font. Peering at the name, Arthur wrote it below the drawing of Francis, signing it before handing it over, storing the card into his day planner.
Taking the drawing, Francis smiled softly, frowning at the signature. "Arthur… Kirkland?" he questioned, looking up.
"Yes," Arthur said, standing up, slipping his bag over his shoulder, wrapping a scarf loosely around his neck, "you can read my signature?"
But the bright eyes were staring at him intently, a smile spreading across his face, wider than before. "Ze Arthur Kirkland?" he asked, holding the sketch as if it were a precious artefact from days long passed, "you 'ad zat fantastic exhibition at ze Serpentine Gallery! I loved your faerie illustrations, simply stunning, ze level of detail, their eyes, oh it was fantastic!"
By now, the eyes of the other three patrons of the teashop were looking around and Arthur had bowed his head, putting his back to them, half-glaring down at the Frenchman, clutching the strap of his bag nervously.
"Could you hush about that please?" Arthur demanded quietly, taking his jacket from the back of Francis' chair, pulling it on, and struggling with it due to his messenger bag. He slipped out a wallet, placing money on the table before fiddling with his collar.
While he struggled, Francis had stood up, holding his camera, watching the Englishman eagerly, and still smiling widely. "I want to commission you," he said quickly, following Arthur, slamming a few pounds on the table, calling over a thank you to Katya.
The rain had lessened slightly, though Arthur still did not want to spend more time than necessary walking without cover. He started down up Wright's Lane, towards Kensington High Street, sinking low in his coat and trying to ignore the splash of footsteps behind him.
The high buildings that ran along the streets were in washed colours due to the rain and the cars that littered the few available parking spaces did nothing to alleviate the toneless lane. Even the windows were filled with bare and inoffensive blinds, hiding the store-bought insides. The only colour came from the rose-covered vines curled around the balcony, which Arthur was leaving further behind with each footstep.
"Please monsieur," Francis said, feet moving backwards and he walked in front of Arthur, "listen, I will pay you-" he barely got out of the way as Arthur made a sharp turn left.
The Brit started down a small road that turned again to the left, revealing the rest of Iverna Garden. About halfway down the street, stopping at door with the number 'twenty-three' in brass hung, Arthur looked back to see if the Frenchman had followed, his breath slightly laboured from his sped up walk.
Francis stood there, smiling widely, his hair damp and hanging around his face. He was still holding onto his camera, a protecting hand around the lens. The paper had been carefully folded around the drawing, tucked into his front pocket and Arthur could see the edge of the pencilled-camera.
Leaning against the door, Arthur grumbled and reached into his bag, pulling out his scheduler. "I'm behind at the moment," he said, opening it and flipping to that month, which was filled with suspiciously blank spots, "You'd have to wait a week before I could start, and even then we'd need a planning session, you'd have to wait for sketches and then there's inking and the actual final product-"
Francis smiled at his with those stunning eyes again and the words that were spilling out of his mouth came to a halt. "Zat's fine," Francis' fingers trailed over the book, travelling over days, "I will pay you whatever you want… I believe you can start in… two days?"
A sigh escaped the artist's lips and he closed the book, carefully placing it back in his bag, making no move to grab his keys. "If I say no… Are you just going to stand outside my door and wait until I come out?"
"Oui." It scared Arthur that the Frenchman seemed completely serious.
"Alright. I'll design whatever you want." Arthur rubbed his face, "What are you looking for?"
The Frenchman grinned, winking and pressing a finger to his lips. "Ah-ah~ Now that I 'ave your attention and house, I will not let you out of my grasp. Tomorrow I will call you and give you details." He smiled, starting to back away, "Au revoir then Kirkland! I will see you tomorrow!"
Frowning, utterly perplexed, Arthur had to force himself not to follow the blond. "Can I at least get a hint?" he said, slightly pleading. Knowing he had to design something but not an exact thing would keep him up half the night.
"Something for a turtle!" Francis called, starting to jog away, waving. The Brit watched him until he disappeared down the street, the vines and leaves from the balcony apparently swallowing him up.
Not even reaching for his keys, Arthur pulled out his sketchbook, crouching near his door, propping the book on his knees. Mumbling to himself quietly, he started with the finger pressed against soft rosy and smiling lips, the strands of hair splayed across his forehead and the angle of the stubble-ridden jaw. Then he reached the eyes and managed to capture the closed one's curled eyelashes but paused at the bright blue one.
The side of Francis' face remained blank so long that the rain began softening the edges of his graphite. Arthur stared, his pencil poised and ready, trying to imagine the eye again, trying to capture the emotions there. Huffing to himself, Arthur slammed the book shut. He reached into his pocket, not bothering to put the sketchbook away, fumbling the keys out and dropping them in frustration.
Damn those blue eyes.
Time for a brand new story. This one will be around the same length as Two Weeks and hopefully will keep up with it's tradition of updating once a week but-