He saw her the moment he entered the
café. In fact, he entered the café because he saw her through the window,
ordering a cup of tea while chatting with the barista.
It was the way she moved. Gracefully,
but wholly unaware of how effortlessly pretty she was. Then again, Zachary
Feldman thought most women were pretty to some degree or another. He was
trained to see the beauty in everyone. Sometimes the greatest muses were the
ones other artists decried as nothing special.
It also wasn’t until that moment that
he realized he had been in an artistic slump. Because the moment he saw the
young woman toss her giant bag of office supplies into one of the white chairs,
Zack knew he had to draw her.
People got weird about being drawn,
however. If Zack wanted to indulge, he would have to be stealthy about it.
Starting with entering the café as if he went there every day, when in truth he
must have passed Opal’s several times a week and never once thought to go in.
Not his fault it was located right between the marina and his apartment a few
But instead of heading straight to his
yacht to do some sketches, Zack decided to follow the muse where she led him.
And ignore the other muse blowing up his cell phone with texts and voicemails. I’ll get back to you later, Stef. Some
of his muses grew clingier than others.
The woman he had his sights on was in
her own world and hardly paid him any attention. Good. That made it easier to
take advantage of the situation instead of possibly taking on yet another woman
who didn’t know how to let go.
Yet like how Zack saw beauty in every
person, he also saw inspiration in the most seemingly random and mundane
objects. Since the barista was busy in the kitchen, Zack approached the case
and counter with a methodical eye that searched every curve of metal, every
flake of fake marble, and every sharp corner of kitchen appliances and
decorations for even the slightest bit of inspiration.
Zack glanced up and caught another
woman’s reflection in the shine of the display case. Hunched over, she
diligently worked from a few pieces of papers and a notebook beneath her hand.
A dictionary was opened next to her. Either Chinese or Japanese.
He ordered the first baked good to
tempt him and a latte to go with it. He had foregone coffee back home in favor
of having some on his yacht. This would do well instead.
Too bad he had to start answering those
texts the moment he sat down – with a good view of the woman at her other table
of course – and opened his drawing pad.
r u bb?” Stef hadn’t shut up for the past ten
minutes. “We doin anything 2nite? Maybe
some inspiration? ;) ;) ;)”
Sighing, Zack punched in a response. “Not tonight, babe. Catching up on other
work.” He temporarily blocked her after that. He knew how she would
respond. It was how she always responded. “What???
No, he wasn’t kidding. Truth was, he
was bored with Stef, and had been for a few weeks. They didn’t have an
exclusive relationship, though. Good thing, because Zack was the type to bounce
between a different woman every weekend. Hell, every day if he had the stamina.
(He often did.) A man had to do something with his days when he wasn’t sailing
But sometimes women caught him off
guard. Like the woman constantly scratching at her ponytail and sighing over a
She was both like all the other women
he lusted after, and yet nothing like them at all. Zack wanted to sit next to
her, to ask her questions, to put ideas of them getting dirty in the bunk of
his yacht into her ear. But he also wanted to keep a respectful distance, to
watch how she moved, how she spoke, and how she interacted with the big blue
world around her. Even if she only commanded her microcosm of whatever the hell
it was she did at her lonely little table.
Zack wiped the tip of his pencil clean
using nothing but his thumb and forefinger. Lead smudged his skin. He didn’t care.
Perhaps it would add a little more character to his project.
my dear. He reveled in calling her that without
her knowing. You’re my project.
He wanted to capture her on paper. It
wouldn’t be his magnum opus as an artist, but it would hopefully get his
creative juices going enough to send him back to his studio and get started on
the kind of project that took a week to complete. I haven’t had one of those in a while. Perhaps it was a good sign
for the summer. Things had been slow in the creativity department.
Probably because he had spent more time
mindlessly chasing tail instead of working. His best friend Seth, also an
artist, told him that it was going to catch up with his work one day. Which was
rich coming from a guy who fell in love with his muse. But he’s often right about those things. Not that Zack would ever
let Seth know that. Might go to his head.
up and start drawing.
Zack’s latte cooled, since he soon
forgot it was there. Same for the lemon cake, which grew staler the longer he
sketched the woman sitting not so far away. He did his best to capture the
wisps of her hair, pulled back into a needless ponytail. What was the point of
wearing her hair like that in an air-conditioned café? Wouldn’t it be better to
let it flow free around her pretty face? Her style choices were interesting as
well. Not many women could do the denim shorts and flannel top thing and not
look like a try-hard hipster. Her clothes and subsequent style naturally suited
her. She was wearing those clothes before they were cool. Maybe she really is a hipster…
It was a simple sketch. One his advisor
in art school would have called “pedestrian” and “it’s always good to practice,
isn’t it?” That man never cared for Zack’s sketches, anyway. He was more interested
in what Zack could mold, be it with clay, stone, or even wood. There wasn’t a
single art medium Zack wouldn’t try, although after ten years of intensely
going at this whole art thing, he definitely had his favorites. Wood was not
high up there.
Neither was sketching or painting,
truth be told. But Zack’s best ideas flowed when he put images down on paper
He didn’t bother with a lot of shading.
Nor did he draw anything below the table, opting to instead depict the young
woman as she looked – hand on head, elbow on table, pencil thumping against her
dictionary as she inevitably gave up on whatever she worked on.
keeping you from working, my dear? Those were
the kinds of questions Zack asked his subjects when he attempted to crack their
hardened veneers. What’s got you so
tense? Is it money? What’s it like to worry about how you’re going to pay your
rent? Zack had never worried about that, but he admitted that kind of life
– on the other side of the mirror, as it were – was like for those forced to
live it. Is your work hard? What are you working on? Translating? Writing from
scratch? Or are you studying for school? Ah, I don’t mean to be rude when I say
you look a bit old for a student. In a good way, though. I’m tired of college
co-eds. Zack was finally reaching that age, he supposed.
His phone buzzed with a new text. The
message was from Seth.
on your yacht?”
Seth was never that direct, unless he
was chewing his best friend out.
What the fuck? Zack wanted to laugh if
it wouldn’t disrupt his workflow. That kind of text was so uncharacteristic for
the uptight ex-doctor who gave up his whole private practice to pursue his true
calling in the arts. Seth would choke on his own brushes before texting that to any man, let alone Zack, who
would never let him live it down.
Judith.” It must have come from his girlfriend.
How Judith got a hold of her boyfriend’s phone like that, Zack didn’t want to
know. I kinda do. Again,
When Zack put his phone down again, he
noticed his new muse was gone. Her stuff remained behind, however. She must
have gone to the bathroom.
Just as well. Zack had shit he needed
to do. He shoved his lemon cake into his bag and took a big gulp of his latte.
The last thing he did, after putting the rest of his supplies away, was rip the
sketch out of the pad and approach the barista rearranging the case.
“Could you give this to the young lady over
there?” he said. “I’d appreciate it.”
The barista looked between the sketch
and the man who drew it. “But, this is…”
“I don’t need it.” Zack lowered his
sunglasses and turned toward the door. “I got all the inspiration I need,
The sun was warm on his skin and the
air smelled of the marina only a few more blocks away. To go home to start
working… or the marina to play?
Zack loved that his day became
unpredictable. No other kind of life was worth living.
Rachel returned from the bathroom, a
bit crestfallen that the handsome stranger was gone. So much for the eye candy.
Did this mean she had to get back to work?
“Hey, Rachel.” Parvati approached her
table even though a small line formed at the counter. A piece of paper was in
her hand. “You know that hot guy sitting over there?”
“Uh, yeah? What? Did he stiff you? Harass
you?” Rachel knew it. Men that hot never kept their business to themselves.
She did not expect to see a sketch of
herself land on top of her mobile office.
“He told me to give this to you before
Rachel snatched the drawing paper and
held it between both hands. Her eyes widened to see her at work, pretending to ignore Mr. Hot Artist as if he were a
man who could be ignored.
was drawing me that whole time? He… noticed me? He acknowledged my presence?
he never even said hello?
“What an asshole!” That sneer echoed
off the café walls. The two other patrons, each minding their own business,
looked up at her. “Least he could’ve done was introduce himself!”
Parvati rolled her eyes. “I’ve gotta
get back to work. Have fun with your own. You should frame that, by the way.
It’s pretty good, huh?”
While she took a middle-aged woman’s
order for a hazelnut latte, Rachel continued to stare, dumbfounded, at the way
a total stranger had decided to depict her.
Then she marveled at how big his balls
were. Because only a guy with big balls could have thought it acceptable to not
only sketch a stranger, but to give her
the sketch as well!
No name. No phone number.
Just the slight scent of his cologne. A
bit of musk mixed with a hint of something that smelled like pure sea air.
Rachel’s heart and mind vied over what was going to
break first. Her brain won.