“I’ve taken her husband, now I’m going to take her lover. After that, who knows what I might take…………….”
Loretta’s words still lingered in my head as I awoke. She had somehow worked her way in to my subconscious. That someone so young could be so vindictive, so manipulative, so selfish, regardless of the consequences, amazed and appalled me.
I looked around, taking in the familiar, comforting beach scene before me. It was late afternoon on a balmy day in February; the beach had been crowded earlier, too crowded, but now only some local families and a few couples taking their dogs for a walk strolled past; some of them very familiar faces. The raucous teens of summer had moved on and it was the wrong season for surfers. The oppressive heat of the day had gone and the sun was well into his slow decline; turning the water a deeper, more intense blue.
I looked over at my dog, Jet who lay asleep on the beach blanket next to my copy of The Count of Monte Cristo. I traced patterns in the sand with my feet, watching rove beetles scuttling over the sand ripples as though they were traversing an immensity of desert. I felt a trickle of water on my shoulder.
“Sorry Pete, did I startle you.”
Jet looked up and rose from her spot by Dumas’ book, wagged her tail and greeted the speaker. The heat must have got to her as she only managed to jump up in front of the girl once. It was Kayla, a pleasantly familiar face from our local supermarket – a Checkout Chick as we call them here in Australia.
“Hey Kayla. You didn’t startle me. I was just waking up.”
“Oh ok. Can I take Jet for a run?”
I handed Kayla Jet’s lead and watched as the two of them ran down to the water. Kayla was petite, cute and about twenty. A beautiful, sweet girl with not a bad bone in her body. Why then; as I watched her lithe, tanned legs churning up the sand, while I admired her laughing face, cute butt and perfect smile and as I marveled at how her wet hair shook magnificently - why, in the face of such poetry, did I imagine only Loretta?
By anyone’s definition, Loretta was hot. She had come to our quiet beachside suburb from the country, to stay with my neighbour Zane and his wife Jade. She was Jade’s younger cousin and was in town for about a month to apply for next year’s university courses and to get a feel for life away from home. Also, she said, she badly needed a break from her parents on the farm.
At just nineteen, Loretta had shoulder length, strawberry blond hair, she liked showing off her tanned shoulders and midriff but she seemed particularly proud of her perky boobs; always wearing tight t-shirts and tops that left little to the imagination. Aside from that, she was beautiful; tall and slim with large, luminous blue eyes and hips that swayed like a cat walk models’.
In the first conversation I ever had with her I asked her if she wouldn’t mind getting naked for me one day.
Perhaps I should explain. I’m an artist, a painter and I’ve been good friends with Zane and Jade during most of the eight years that we’ve lived next to each other. I paint and draw from a variety of live models; women mostly, but also a few young men and one guy in particular, whose portrait I’ve drawn and painted very successfully several times over the last two years. His name is Ulrich and I count him as a friend too, but he comes into this story later.
The day after Loretta’s arrival was a Saturday and I got a knock on the door at about half past ten. It was Jade. I opened the door and smiled. Jade is thirty, just a little shorter than me with long straight hair; black and lustrous. She has a sweet oval face and delicate brown skin with large dark brown eyes and an endearing sprinkling of freckles. Her ancestors were Maori from the top of New Zealand’s south island and she is a vivacious, energetic and very hospitable person.
True to form, she grinned broadly as I opened the door.
“Hi Pete. Great sunny day it’s turning into hey?”
I looked up at the faultless blue of the sky and smiled
“Hmm, I think you’re right.”
“Well my cloistered maestro, how would you like to join Zane and me for dinner later? I don’t want to drag you away from the studio but we have a guest; my cousin Loretta from Loxton.”
“Oh ok. I’ll bring a bottle of wine.”
“Great! Let’s say seven?”
“Wonderful. See you all then.”
A few hours later, after I had showered, dressed and selected a good bottle of merlot, I tapped on Jade and Zane’s door. I made eye contact with the woman who opened the door she did likewise; looking me up and down ever so casually. She gave me a smile I’ll never forget; it was a sly, crooked smile, a smirk, with lying eyes – as the song says.
“Hi, you must be Loretta.”
“And you must be Pete the painter from next door. Painted any masterpieces lately Pete?”
Ok so she had attitude, but I suspended any other impressions momentarily as my attention was caught by a pair of skin tight floral shorts that were now leading me up Zane and Jade’s parquetry corridor past several of my own works. Never one to let a challenge go unanswered I said,
“It depends on your definition of a masterpiece.”
She paused and turned, flicking her hair past my shoulder. It was a beautiful shade of strawberry blonde with redder streaks and hung heavily just above her tanned shoulders. If nothing else, life on the farm had been good to her physique. She looked at me for a second, seemingly unsure of how to reply.
“Are those your pieces in the hallway?”
“Hmmm, does being a nude model pay well?”
We now stood in the kitchen from where I could see Zane and Jade in the back yard, cooking the barbeque. Loretta handed me a large bowl of potato salad.
“Depends on what?”
“Depends on your ability to sit still and do what I tell you.”
I said this with such seriousness that at first, it sounded like a reprimand but then I said,
“Twenty dollars an hour. Are you interested?”
She paused, surprised by my offer, but she said nothing, taking a strand of her hair instead and twirling it idly.
Jade had come in. She stepped in front of Loretta and kissed me then took the potato salad. I showed her the bottle of merlot and she smiled.
“Oh, there’s a cork screw over there by the microwave.”
She took two bowls of food out to the table in the yard. Loretta meanwhile had disappeared. I opened the bottle and saw that there were already wine glasses on the table outside. I stepped out and greeted Zane. He had been a great friend of mine over the years. We had a lot in common and he was someone I could confide in and trust implicitly.
“So how about we go skin diving again soon?”
“I’d love to, if Jade will let you.”
I teased him gently, knowing full well that his wife found our adventures at the many good local dive spots and in the open water a little too dangerous. He looked at me a little shame-faced and nodded.
“We could take the girls along. Loretta was saying she has spent very little time on the coast.”
Before I could answer Loretta appeared wearing a bikini. Orange, white and black, it was damn sexy yet very tasteful and in it she was an absolute knock out. She lay down on a deckchair in the sun and proceeded to rub tanning oil into her arms. I looked Zane straight in the eye,
“Err, you were saying…..”
We both laughed and Zane offered me a beer.
Later we all sat at the table to eat. Loretta sat opposite me and next to Zane. Lunch was delicious – one of summer’s simple pleasures. I poured Loretta another glass of merlot.
“So what are you thinking of studying at uni,” I asked her.
“Oh ok. Well, there are several good courses including theory, history and practical.”
“Loretta draws,” offered Jade. “You should show Pete some of your work Loretta.”
She was silent for a moment, seemingly embarrassed by her cousin’s revelation. A little resentfully she said,
“Ok, maybe. If you say so couz.”
For the first time I detected that there existed some friction between Loretta and Jade – just how much, I was to discover later. Zane quickly changed the subject and soon we were talking about the local restaurants, nightlife and the beach – around which the lives of those of us who lived by it inevitably revolved. Jade brought up my work again which caused Loretta to interject.
“Pete’s asked me to pose for him and I said yes.”
Her cousin looked at me a little concerned then smiled ironically.
“That was quick.”
“Might as well make hay while the sun shines. Besides, what better way for me to learn about art than to take part in its creation?”
“Well put”, said Zane, but his tone concealed the merest hint of doubt.
I took a sip of my wine and sat back contented. Life was good.
I made arrangements with Loretta for the following Saturday. She was to come over at ten in the morning and sit in on a session with one of my regular models Ulrich. I was sure that Ulrich would not mind.
A week passed and I saw little of Loretta, Zane or Jade. Zane worked in the city and he was seldom home before 6pm. Jade ran an on-line jewelry business which kept her busy but not tied down to office hours. My studio took up my entire front room. It had large windows from which I had a good view of the street and the sea beyond. On Friday I sat at my easel, painting a background – a complex and dramatic mixture of black, browns and grays - just as important to the finished work as the main subject. As I finished, I turned towards the window and noticed a familiar metallic green car drive by – Jade’s Ford Fiesta. Nothing unusual in that but a few moments later I heard a loud tap at the door.
I grabbed a rag and wiped my hands. Opening the door I found Loretta. There was a spy hole in the door which I rarely used. A fact which Loretta was obviously unaware of or else why would she strike a pose designed to show off her body in profile? She giggled at my look of mild surprise.
“G’Day painter Pete, what ya doin?”
I stepped aside to let her in.
“Watching paint dry, you?”
She laughed. “I guess you have to do a lot of that in your business. Jade has gone out to buy beads so I thought I’d pay your atelier a visit. Watching paint dry can’t be half as boring as beading.”
“Oh, I don’t know, Jade seems to do very well out of it and I like most of her work.”
She said nothing and blew an imaginary hair impatiently from her face. I could tell that the whole subject of Jade was closed. Hmm…well you can pick your friends..but..
“Would you like some coffee? I usually drink espresso.”
“Plain black and don’t call me Sugar.”
“Oops, sorry,” I replied jokingly.
I went into my kitchen from where I had a partial view of the studio. As I waited for the coffee to boil I could see her looking at the many drawings, sketches and paintings in various stages of completion that decorated the walls. I’ve always been a collector and the studio was filled with curious objects that I had picked up. She seemed to find these fascinating and as I carried the coffee tray into the room, I found that she had unsheathed an old sword.
“That’s a Scottish claymore from the 1660’s or thereabouts.”
She looked at me doubtfully and returned the blade to its sheath. Next her attention focused upon a frame containing a page of Sanskrit calligraphy.
“What is this?”
“It’s a verse from a medieval Indian book – a book on lovemaking.”
She turned sharply and I handed her a cup of coffee which she accepted silently.
“Is it the Kama Sutra?”
“No, the Koka Shastra.”
“The Hindus wrote a fair bit about sex, it’s called erotology, isn’t it?”
I was impressed, “That’s right.” Quietly I added, “Very good!”
“What does it say?”
Then, for an instant I saw the genuine desire for knowledge in her eyes – as though she appreciated that I was treating her as an adult and as an equal.
“It describes a type of woman called the ‘citrini’ or ‘picture woman.’ It tells of how she moves, how she sings and dances, how she is not overly tall or too short. Also that her body is slender, that she has prominent breasts, buttocks and lips and that her pussy has the aroma of honey.”
She laughed, but not out of embarrassment. “Is that all?”
“No, I think it also describes how she likes to make love. She might have a sweet tooth too, I can’t remember exactly.”
“Hmm, quite a picture of a woman. Have you painted anyone like her?”
“Once or twice.”
She swelled her chest slightly. She wore a light cotton shirt with roses embroidered on the sleeves over a 1940’s style twist bikini top and tight, black tracksuit pants with orange piping – that she was hot there was not a shadow of a doubt but I am a cautious man by nature so I did my best not to notice.
“So are you ready to pose for me tomorrow?”
She took a last swig of coffee and looked me in the eye, then in a sultry whisper she said,
“Why wait until tomorrow?”
“Ok, well, I’ll get some paper.”
When I returned a few minutes later she had taken her shirt off. I pinned my paper to the easel and selected a few pencils of different grades.
“Sit over there and let me see your profile.” She hesitated.
“Don’t you want me to take my clothes off?”
She seemed a little disappointed until I said, “I think we have enough to work with,” making it sound like a compliment.
I lit some incense and put on a chill-out CD. Loretta’s face had exquisite bone structure. Her full lips and crystal blue eyes struck me every time I looked at her face, her hair and delicate brows were beautiful. I had seen many beautiful women; I went out of my way to look for them, wherever they might be found. Here was fierce beauty but with much subtlety too. Minutes passed and my sitter seemed to be doing well, she was patient and relaxed. The music certainly helped as did the incense.
I drew Loretta’s graceful lines; the svelte contour of her chin, the graceful lines of her back, the slender curve of her hips, her long legs, and the lovely fullness of her breasts. My pencils caressed her body and little by little, so did my imagination.
I brought our session to an end after about an hour. I was glad that Loretta was able to concentrate through the whole session and to follow my instructions. I produced three sheets of sketches and two sheets of more finished drawings.
“Are we done?” She asked, now with a hint of impatience.
“Yeah, we’re done.”
She rushed over, knocking my coffee table in the process, and stood in front of the easel with her arms crossed and the frown of concentration on her face. I spread the other sheets of paper on the floor and she walked around them a number of times in silence. I was happy with my mornings work; it had been a good session. Her face hidden by her hair, Loretta turned slowly and cast a steady glance at me. She had an intense look in her eyes that made me wonder what was going on in her mind. She walked up to me at last and to my great surprise, I felt her hands grasp the sides of my head and her lips crush my own. I felt a tingle of electricity flow through my body – the stirrings of deep desire. All I could do was breath in and kiss her back. Her scent was delicious – all spice and savour. She pulled away after a moment as though to tease me, then kissed me again with double the intensity. Her hands soon began to wander over my neck, my back and shoulders, coming to rest on my hips. I too explored her supple shoulders and lissome arms; I held her head and drew her close. The whole time too I was conscious of her breasts pressing hard against my chest.
We stood in the middle of my studio kissing tenderly and passionately for what seemed a blissful eternity. Then I opened my eyes to see her looking at me with a smile that was all mischief. I smiled back and suddenly felt myself being pulled forward. Loretta was undoing my belt. She looked down for a moment as she undid the clasp and unbuttoned my jeans. Her hooded eyes told me exactly what she had in mind. I started to help her loosen my bonds when there was a quiet knock at the door. Loretta instantly left me standing and looked through the spy hole. She turned abruptly, smiled furtively and disappeared into the kitchen. I was astounded. Under the circumstances, I had been perfectly prepared to ignore whoever was at the door. I answered it and found Jade standing there looking distinctly uncomfortable.
“Jade, what is it?”
“Sorry to disturb you Pete. Have you seen Loretta?”
“No,” I lied. “Is everything ok?”
“Well no……. I mean yes – oh it’s nothing.”
She was about to turn and leave when something caught her eye. Hanging from the chair on which she had been posing was Loretta’s rose embroidered, white cotton shirt. Jade recognized it but said nothing. Instead she turned without looking at me and walked back to her house; leaving me feeling like a complete asshole and not knowing exactly why.