NYC

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
Two people in the city try to figure out themselves, above all else.

Submitted: January 28, 2009

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Submitted: January 28, 2009

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“You’re listening to Late Night Airwaves, and it looks like we have a caller on the line. Hello, who is this?”

Christian uncrossed his legs, trying to get blood flowing back to his feet. It was almost two in the morning and he was nowhere close to completing his assignment before its eight a.m. deadline. Without looking up from his computer’s screen – the only thing illuminating his dark room – he fumbled around the floor for his pack of cigarettes. Finding it, he extracted a stick, balanced it between his lips and found the lighter. Just as he lit it, he realized he recognized the radio station’s late night caller.

He had missed her name when she introduced herself earlier but he was certain he knew who it was. That laugh was unforgettable.

“Well, it’s my favorite song and I hope every one tuning in likes it too,” she was saying.

“Thank you, Kate,” the DJ said and immediately the song started playing. Christian’s cigarette fell out of his mouth and onto his laptop’s keyboard as his jaw dropped slightly.

“Shit,” he cursed, picking up the stick and quickly brushing off the ash before this computer got singed.

Thankfully, the white exterior of his machine remained unscathed. He returned the cigarette to his lips and took a deep drag, feeling the smoke rush down his throat and fill his lungs. Slowly, as the opening notes of the song gave way to the haunting tones of the piano, Christian exhaled.

He put his laptop on the floor next to him and leaned his head back against the cold wall. He closed his eyes and he heard his words come out of the radio.

He had written this for her a year ago, and it seemed so long ago. Granted, it wasn’t his voice singing it but hearing the words for the first time in a year, it might as very well have been him singing.

Every emotion, every ounce of love for her he had felt while writing the song suddenly came rushing back, slowly but steadily.

Her smile, her eyes, and the way her hair tumbled onto her shoulders. He remembered the way her nose wrinkled up every time she laughed, the way she liked her tea to be just right in the mornings, and the way her eyes lit up every time he had managed to make her smile.

As Christian took another long satisfying drag on his cigarette, he started remembering what happened after. He remembered her face contorted with fear and anger, that confusion in her eyes as she struggled to understand what was going on. He had committed the easiest of sins and he had hurt her.

For months he had been unable to work, not without his muse. She had been everything to him. Every song he had written was either secretly or obviously written with her in mind. Every day was spent thinking about how to next make her smile.
The day she walked away was the day he knew he would stop writing music. He saw no more reason, no more inspiration.

His friends had mocked him, joked cruelly that she had might as well have castrated him, for both were now one and the same. At first he had been angry with himself for letting her cause him so much pain. He had tried to move on, carry on. He slept with a chain of women, smoking and drinking, trying to forget her and focus instead on the girls he was sharing beds and toilet stalls with.

In those months, Christian was with more women than he had ever been with, hoping that one of them would spark something off. Simply, he was looking for a replacement. Slowly, he became obsessed with finding another Katherine.

At the lowest point, he was with three different women in one night, waking up the next morning up in an empty apartment that wasn’t his.

Even his friends, who had once made him the butt of their jokes, began to worry at his drinking and promiscuity. It wasn’t till two months later, disheveled, anger and bitter, did Christian allow himself to be admitted into rehabilitation.  

He stubbed out his cigarette now, his room filled with the thick smell of smoke. It has been a year. He had spent months in rehab getting his life back together. He had a new job, he had a new apartment and he had vowed to forget her.

Yet, as the last notes of the song faded out, and he remembered once more her laugh, he couldn’t help but feel a strange longing for her.

If I could just see her once more, he thought. His digital clock beeped suddenly, jolting him. It was two in the morning. Sitting on the floor in his cold and stark apartment, Christian silently reprimanded himself.

He had had his time with her. It was his fault she was gone and he had to deal with it. He had a report to finish. Katherine was no longer his to think about. Christian took a deep breath and picked up his computer, placing the warm machine back onto his lap.

---

“You should be a radio DJ,” Dave said, walking into her studio that morning. It was early, and the whole place was bright with the sunlight spilling in generously through the three huge arched windows that lined one wall. “You have the voice.”

Kate looked up, her paintbrush poised mid air over the canvas. “What?”

“I heard you on the radio last night.”

“Couldn’t sleep,” she replied, setting down the brush and accepting the cup of hot tea from her agent. “I was up all night working on this.”

She stepped back from her easel so that Dave could take a look at her work. It was an oil painting, and though the canvas was only a meter tall, it loomed over them on its perch.

Dave crossed his arms, standing with his left foot in front of the right, as he always did when he was concentrating on something. He had been an agent for Kate for over a year now, and had grown fond of the girl. Her works sold quickly and steadily, and he had been impressed with the dedication and ease in which she produced her art.

Katherine Summer’s pieces were usually colorful, light and entertaining. Her growing fan base, mostly from right here in New York City, loved her work because it was a break from their mad lives. Her art gave them a quick escape, a reminder of a time when every one could afford simple pleasures.

City folks hated to admit it but amidst the rush of their lives, taking a moment to enjoy life was a luxury they no longer partook it. But Kate’s work provided them a glimpse into that life. Its colors, balance and tone served as a ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card to them. Dave had a sneaky feeling that her buyers would look at her work just before bed and think, ‘A happy place still exists. This painting reminds me. I can still go back to it whenever I want.’

Of course, they ever did. Dave should know. He was one of them.

But back in the studio, as he took in this latest work of hers, there was something different about it.

“What is it, Dave?” Kate asked before taking a quick sip of her tea. It was starting to cool, just the way she liked it. Standing behind him, she saw him sigh.

“It looks different. It looks sad yet beautiful. Fragile, almost,” Dave said softly, choosing his words carefully. It wasn’t that Kate was sensitive to criticism. It was that Dave didn’t want to influence the rest of the painting with his comments. He wanted her to continue, feeling and thinking anything and everything she wanted the painting to be.  

“Fragile,” Kate repeated softly, stepping forward and standing beside him. She looked at the painting again. The first thing that anyone would notice was the color. The entire piece had been done is different shades of blue. There was the darkest of blue that was almost black and she had the clearest of blues that reminded her of the waters at Santorini.

“Delicate,” Dave added, his eyes still taking in every inch of the incomplete work.

“But beautiful?” she asked.

He didn’t reply immediately. He looked at it again. The different pressures she had applied to her strokes so that the work, although flat, appeared textured. The flow of the colors. The shadows that were outlining the silhouette of a woman looking out a window. Kate had yet to finish the woman’s face but Dave could already imagine her expression. Strangely, he felt he would find her familiar, although Kate had never once painted a face on portrait of a woman.

“Beautiful,” he confirmed. From the corner of his eye, he saw her smile.

Kate set down her cup, safely away from her canvas and paints. “It should be ready soon. I have about three more pieces that I’m still working on so I think I should be able to get everything to the gallery by the end of the week.”

Dave nodded, pulling his Blackberry out of his coat pocket as it beeped. He had an appointment with another artist in ten minutes, and with the traffic, he would be amazed if he could make it there in half an hour.

“Take your time, Kate. I have to run. You’ll be good?” he asked, looking up at her. She was already back at work, her right wrist confidently running the paintbrush gently over the canvas.

“I’ll be just fine,” she replied, her back to him.

Dave started heading for the door of Katherine’s spacious loft that served as both her home and studio. Just as he reached the massive front doors, he turned back to her.

“Hey Kate, one quick question.”

“Yep?”

“Does this painting have anything to do with last night’s song?” he asked, genuinely curious.

“Nope,” Kate replied, her voice still cheery and light. “And you should really start trying to get to bed earlier, Dave.”

“Rest is for the weak and sleep is for the dead.”

Kate paused, her brush just inches from the canvas. She heard the heavy doors close and Dave’s footsteps fading out as he walked down the hallway and away from her apartment. Not until everything was quiet and still again did she allow herself a to exhale.

Her bottom lip started trembling and she felt her eyes burning as the tears came. Through her blurry vision, she looked at the canvas in front of her.

This would be her first self-portrait.


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