He was sitting cross-legged
in the middle of the floor, surrounded by his scattered sketches. There
were broken and stubbed pencils beside him; a small but sorry pile of
crumpled paper at his feet. The screen saver blinked forlornly on the
laptop on the table, the paint program abandoned hours ago.
"Not a good night, then?" I asked, softly.
He grimaced. "Crap," he said, sharply. "It's all crap. High school stuff.
Back of fag packet stuff. Colour the dots stuff."
I crouched just outside the circle that he'd constructed around himself
and smoothed out one of the crushed paper balls. "No, it's not," I said.
He shrugged, impatiently. His foot nudged at a loose pencil in irritation,
rolling it back and forth against his bare toes. "The perspective is all
wrong. Too heavy handed on the lines of the face. No sense of movement
in the lines of the body."
I tilted my head to appreciate the sketched lines on the discarded page.
"This is beautiful," I said. It was only the head -- some swiftly
brushed shading around the jaw, sweeping almost carelessly into the strong
threads of muscle at the neck; a flicker of chestnut hair across the forehead.
There was tension in the lines around the eyes -- but amusement,
too, sparkling in the pupils. They were the only things he'd coloured
-- that, and the vibrant irises, purple-blue as if reflecting the
echo of the sea at night, shining with the memory of laughter and desire.
"Beautiful," I repeated. "Let me see more."
He scowled, but his eyes darted up to my face almost slyly. "I can't do
it justice. I'll never be good enough."
I moved a couple of piles of paper to the side. I was very careful --
he needed to be treated with delicacy at these times. My movements were
measured and steady; I cleared a small but definite pathway into the centre
of the circle. Towards him.
"You are superb. You are talented. You are passionate about your art.
No-one could ask more."
He smiled then, though it vanished quickly from his face. "You always
"I always mean it."
He leant back on his hands, creasing some sheets under his palms, careless
of them now they had escaped from both his hands and his pencil. "Why
do you bother with me?"
And so I laughed. "You know that already. You're the one I return to.
You're the one that makes it bearable, being away. Because I know I can
come home to you."
His head dropped, his chin to his chest, his eyes looking around the mess
that surrounded him, his hands clenching lightly at his sides. "I miss
you more than anything when you're away."
I didn't know what to say. He knew I felt the same.
"I just want to put it on paper. I want to have it for my own, for every
moment, for every day that we're apart. A memento; a reminder; a comfort."
I unrolled another sheet of crushed paper to find the scribbled lines
of a thin, sinewy body laid on a bed, barely covered by a thin sheet.
Naked flesh, yet the vision was erotic rather than obscene, the torso
twisted away from the viewer, only the long, muscled back in sight. The
head was bowed, yet turned to look at something off the page. One arm
stretched out to reach for someone, in the same direction. The tail of
a thick, soft braid of hair licked mischievously at the shoulder.
There was a small cluster of pencils drawn on the floor by the bed, like
someone had abandoned them suddenly in a scramble to move nearer the body
I smiled. My heart beat faster. "It's so good," I said, and I dropped
gently to my knees in front of him. "That was a good day. You captured
He looked up into my face, and the bare emotion was a picture in itself.
"You don't need a picture," I said, reaching for his waist, to draw him
to me. "You have me here." I embraced him, feeling the warmth of his body
and the quickening of his heart against mine. His head sank to my shoulder;
his arms came round my body and held me tight.
"Perfect," came a choked voice in my ear. "This is what I try so hard
"Hold me," I sighed. "Hold that memory in your hands." He held me tightly
and we supported each other for a long time, knelt on the floor, sharing
breath and heartbeats and the clutch of needy hands.
"Hold me forever."
[back to Fancy Figures' fic]