Art Trip

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  No Houses

Chapter 6 (v.4) - Chapter 6

Submitted: January 23, 2018

Reads: 182

Comments: 1

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Submitted: January 23, 2018

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It was nearing five o’clock when Steve left Maggie’s flat loaded with her cases. The journey to Richard’s flat was slow sitting in the rush-hour traffic. Maggie, however, was in no hurry it had been quite an eventful day so she was quite happy just sitting in the back of Steve’s car watching the world go by. Just then the phone in her bag buzzed. With all that had been going on she forgot she still had a busy to run.

Taking out her phone she could see that there were six emails waiting for her. One was from the courier to say the parcel that Richard had organized would be with US Customs tomorrow morning. She replied back coping the client and Mr Logan the Antiquities Officer at LaGuardia Airport with the airline bill and Certificate of Authenticity, to prove the books value.

The second and third were from customers enquiring why was the shop closed today? Maggie replied back saying ‘Due to unforeseen family issues the shop had to close early but they should be open tomorrow as normal.’ After she sent the message she quickly put an ‘Out of Office’ on her email auto-reply.

The fourth one was her insurance brokers informing her she had just had an accident. The fifth was a snotty email from her landlord regarding the flood and the last one was from a Signor Rossi organiser of the Florence Book Fair, asking her to call him when it was convenient. Maggie marked that one as unread and threw the phone back into her bag.

Richard sat next to Maggie; he too was answering his emails. There was one in particular that got his attention, Eike Schmidt the curator of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence would like to speak to him at his earliest convenience.

An hour and a half after leaving Maggie’s flat, Steve’s very full Honda Civic pulled up outside Richards two-bed flat. They quickly unloaded the cars contents on to the street but because Steve didn’t have a permit to park, he and Janet had to leave Richard and Maggie to carry the cases by themselves.

Unfortunately, Richard lived on the second floor, so they just took their time bumping the cases up the stairs. “Please tell me you are a light traveller when you go on holiday” puffed Richard.
“I am,” said Maggie fighting for breath, “I go naked.”
Richard almost stumbled over the case he was dragging. Maggie looked up at him with exhausted eyes and smiled.

After much pushing and shoving, the cases were eventually in Richards flat. They both collapsed onto the sofa. “We are so out of condition,” stated Richard. Maggie said nothing she just lay with her head back against the sofa cushions waiting for her breath to come back.

Richard was the first to move, he went through to the kitchen to fetch them both a glass of water. When he got back to Maggie she was sending a text. “Just replying back to Janet, she said sorry for abandoning us and hoped we managed OK.”

Maggie thanked Richard for the glass of water and as she sat drinking she took time to look around. “This room is bigger than my whole flat.” Neither of them had been to each other places in all the years they had had been friends. When they went out for the evening Richard always picked Maggie up in a cab from outside her place.
“My aunt left it to me in her will,” said Richard.
“Lucky you all my aunt left me when she died were a pair of china cats and one of them had its ears missing.”

Before he showed Maggie to her room he asked her, “Would you care for a tour around Chez Maple?” She extended her hand a gesture that suggested, lead on.

Off from the lounge was an enclosed kitchen area that looked to Maggie like a laboratory with its all-white and stainless-steel cupboards and work tops. They moved back through the lounge and before exiting to the hallway Maggie remarked on the paintings hanging from proper picture rails. Not like the cheap pictures she brought from Poundland held up with string and a nail.

Now Maggie was no expert like Richard but she prided herself to know the genuine article when she saw it or she thought she did. Pointing to Picasso’s painting of ‘Guernica’ she asked, “Tell me that is not real.”
“Correct Miss Harris it’s not real just a very good copy. However, those are real.” Richard was drawing her attention to the two small van Gogh’s that were sitting side by side.
Maggie gave a high-pitched whistle. “How much are those babies?”
Richard waved her comment away, “Really Maggie art isn’t all about money.”
“They’re expensive, aren’t they?”
“Twenty-five thousand, give or take. They were a Christmas present from a client to say thank you for securing that Canaletto last year.”
Maggie once again puffed out her cheeks, “Christmas present! I hope this year you won’t be disappointed with socks from me.”
Richard laughed, “Come on I’ll show you to your bedroom.”

Maggie had the guest bedroom; was an en suite bathroom. Richard had it always made up just in case a client needed to over stay in London. It was all part of the hospitality service he provided. When someone is spending in excess of a quarter of a million the least you can do is provide accommodation for them.

“There is plenty of drawers and wardrobe space for you.” He dragged the two cases in for her. “I’ll leave you too it. Come through when ready, I’m going to fix dinner for us. How does Nettle gnudi with wild pesto and Torta del Nonna for dessert sound to you?”
“That sounds Italian and wonderful.” Richard closed the door for her on his way out.

Maggie was blown away by the opulence of the room. Gold framed full-length mirror, mother-of-pearl handles and hand-woven silk sheets from Japan. Richard had expensive tastes. She was defiantly in the wrong antique business.

She stepped out of the shower and realised she had not packed the hair dryer. She would just have to hand dry her short raven-black hair.

Once she dried her hair, Maggie unpacked the large suit case that contained most of her clothes and found a pair of grey sweat pants and her dark blue sweatshirt. She was still in good shape for a thirty-three-year-old woman who did no exercise and lived on convenience food. Breasts were where they should be, stomach flattish. Hips slightly large, thighs a bit chubby but the legs still looked good. All things considered a pleasing assessment.

Richard was finishing laying the table when the fragrance of Maggie’s toiletries came wafting through. He stopped, closed his eyes to breath in its intoxicating perfume. Just then Maggie walked in to the lounge her nose was intoxicated by whatever Richard was conjuring up in the kitchen.
“How was your shower?” he asked
“Refreshing thanks.” She stared at the table with its matching place mats, silver service and candelabra.
“Are we expecting anyone else?” she enquired.
“No, it’s just you and me. Care for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc?” Maggie accepted and took a sip of her wine. It was good stuff; he didn’t get that from a supermarket.
Richard went to the table and pulled out a chair for Maggie,
“Would Madame like to take her seat?”
“Take it where?” she joked.
Richard playing along with her, “Madame is full of good humour tonight.”
Maggie took her seat as she watched Richard disappear into the kitchen before coming back with two steaming plates of Nettle gnudi with wild pesto.

Maggie had not eaten like this for ages, Richard was an excellent cook and the wine was exquisite. Richard cleared away their plates and brought through their desserts of Torta del Nonna.
“Chocolate,” said Maggie, “You know the way to a girl’s heart attack.”

After they finished their dinner they got talking over the events of the day. The wine was flowing nicely through both their blood streams and Richards’ tongue began to loosen.

“Maggie,” said Richard
“Richard,” said Maggie reply back in a playful tone.
“Why did you break up with Martin?”
Maggie was in a teasing mood. “Why do you ask?” she said as she ran her foot up his leg. If he felt her foot he wasn’t caring.
“I just well you know,” he stumbled along to make a sentence.
“He cheated on me.” Maggie spoke over the top of him ending his discomfort.
“Oh well perhaps...” Richard felt uncomfortable prying into her private life.
“No, it’s OK; I haven’t spoken about it for a long time. I met him at my friend Debbie’s thirtieth birthday party. We got talking; he was or maybe still is a lecturer at the Academy of Music. At the end of the night he took me home and I thought no more of it. Then Sunday I got a phone call from him, I must have given him my number. Anyway, he asked if I wanted to go for lunch and hear an afternoon concert on the South Bank with him. I wasn’t doing anything so I agreed.

I won’t bore you with the details let’s just say we hit it off. We started seeing each other, going to the pictures, restaurants, concerts and the theatre. We were having a good time. After about six months he wanted me to move in with him. I said no. I liked my independence at the time. Well periodically he kept asking the same question, did I want to move in with him. I couldn’t see why he was making an issue about me moving in. Anyway, one day he stopped asking. Good I thought that’s the pressure off me trying to come up with excuses.

Then one Sunday we were in our favourite coffee shop reading the papers, which we did back then, when Martin left for the toilet. I never noticed his phone was still on his paper until it flashed an incoming text message. Our friends were always texting us to see what we were doing so I picked it up. It was from Debbie and the message turned my blood cold as Martins coffee.
HAVE YOU TOLD HER YET! It read.

Just then Martin came back from the toilet and saw the phone in my hand. My face must have told him everything. He stood over me and snatched the phone out of my hand before flopping down in his chair furiously typing a message.” Maggie drank some more wine before continuing. “Have you ever had someone cheat on you?” Maggie asked Richard. He just shook his head. “You feel cheap, emotionally abused. You start asking yourself questions, like what have I done wrong? What could I have done to prevent this?”

Richard was shocked by this revelation. He could not comprehend how anyone could have been so cruel to a lovely lady like Maggie.
“So, he left you because you would not move in with him?”
“Well, he said I was not showing commitment to our relationship. Commitment! I gave one and half years to that shitbag. If HE wanted to show commitment, then he should have put a ring on it.” She held up her right-hand ring finger.
“So, what did you do?” asked Richard
“After listening to his bullshit, I just left him sitting there and walked back to my flat screaming down the phone to Debbie telling her what a cow she was and I hoped she died of syphilis. Once in my flat I collected any of his belongings and threw them into the street. He tried to phone, but I blocked his number. I have not seen or heard of him since.”

Richard was so angry at the way she had been treated. All he wanted do was give her a big hug, but all he could manage was a barely audible, “I wouldn’t have treated you that way,” staring into his empty glass.
Maggie looked at him with her brown eyes now magnified by her glasses as reached for his hand saying, “I know you wouldn’t have treated me that way” her foot now stretched out rubbing Richards’s leg. This time he did feel something and made to look under the table.
Maggie quickly pulled away her foot. “What’s the matter Richard?”
With his head still under the table, “Something just crawled up my leg!”
Maggie raised the wine glass to her lips and giggled.

Richard loaded the dishwasher as Maggie staggered over to the sofa and flopped down. Richard came back into the lounge and went to sit in the armchair opposite. Maggie smiled and patted the empty space next to her. He changed direction and sat down beside Maggie.

They both looked out over the rooftops of Chelsea watching the sun heading towards the western horizon. Maggie linked her arm around his and drew close, giving his arm a gentle squeeze. Richard relaxed in her presence he was starting to enjoy the intimacy they now shared.

Maggie yawned and rested her head on Richard’s shoulder. With the sounds of Saint Saens playing in the background, she closed her eyes. Richard looked down at her face now emotionless as she fell into a deep sleep. Her breathing became slow and rhythmic, with his free hand he brushed away her jet-black fringe bending down to kiss her gently on the forehead. “I love you Maggie Harris.”

Just like sleeping beauty waking from a curse, she slowly opened her eyes. “What did you say?” she said in a dreamy slurred voice.
Richard brushed back her fringe. “I said I think you should go to bed.”


© Copyright 2019 Markie Bee. All rights reserved.

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