Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Rafael was an artist who embodied all the stereotypes associated with artists who were famous. Egotistical and flamboyant, arrogant and abrupt. Rafael said shocking things and did shocking things which Andrew guessed stemmed from a deep need of validation, which is why he needed to be the constant centre of attention, even if that attention was negative. While Andrew was shy and drew away from the spotlight, Rafael thrived. He complained about the vulture media and the stupid public and their inability to understand his work, but without their criticism, his sole purpose in life would diminish.
“It’s a beautiful, isn’t it?’ Rafael smiled at Dana, his eyes travelling over her form. “Not as beautiful as real life, of course.”
Dana laughed in response, “Ah, the flatterer par excellence.” She looked at Andrew, an eyebrow raised. “Is he always this charming?”
“No, I’m serious” Rafael replied, not smiling. “Comme quoi se sent-il pour être la fille la plus belle dans cette chambre ? ”
Dana looked surprised for a second, before grinning back, amused. “Merci, c'est gentil.” As both began to converse in French, Andrew felt his attention drift away. He scanned the crowd, wondering if he could leave now.
Both Dana and Rafael were talking animatedly about French cinema when a woman suddenly approached them, looking hurried. Completely ignoring the two men, she turned to Dana instead. “There you are. I’ve been looking for you. Come on, there are some people who want to meet you.”
“Ok, okay, I’ll be there already” Dana reassured before turning back to Andrew.
“You heading off?” Andrew asked, smiling blandly.
“Yeah, I guess so. Well, it was great seeing you again” She said, smiling hesitatingly. She had suddenly become strangely shy, the confident flirty persona evaporating.
“Yep” Andrew nodded, “You too, Dana.”
“Yes, well …bye then” Dana said. “Nice meeting you” She added to Rafael with a smile before turning and following the other woman towards the left of the room.
“Phew” Rafael bit his lower lip, “She was something, huh Dundee?” That was his nickname for Andrew. Dundee. Andrew knew it was offensive and he sounded nothing like Crocodile Dundee but he ignored it, the same way he usually ignored everything Rafael said.
“I’m sure she was” Andrew replied, checking the time on his phone. Only eight pm. Damn.
He was smirking at Andrew now, his eyebrows raised, “Well?”
Andrew swallowed his irritation and assumed a blank, almost benign expression, “Yeah, what?”
Rafael nodded towards Dana’s direction who was a few meters ahead, her back turned to them both, engaged in conversation with an elderly couple standing in front of her portrait. “Do you know her?”
Andrew shrugged, “She’s a friend, more of an acquaintance, really. She’s a friend of an ex.” He’s surprised by the words. When he remembers Dana, he thinks of her as the girl who dyed his hair blonde when he was nineteen and new to the US. He barely remembers Geraldine.
“Oh, right, a friend. And by friend, you mean?”
“I’m sure you know what the word friend means” Andrew replied, coolly, refusing to take the bait. He took a sip of his drink, looked around at the crowd.
“So you haven’t slept with her, then?”
“What?” Andrew wasn’t sure whether to laugh or act offended. “Oh, god no. No, I haven’t slept with her.”
“God, no? You make it sound like the idea of it is absurd” Rafael raised an eyebrow “Do you think she’s ugly? People have being staring at her all night; she’s a very attractive girl.”
“I’m aware of that” Andrew replied stiffly.
“Look at her” Rafael’s eyes scanned up and down her body, his voice low as to avoid being overheard. “Check out those legs. Can you imagine fucking her? They go on forever. And it’s the quiet types that are the real freaks in bed. So they say.”
“Okay, that’s enough” Andrew snapped. He didn’t know why but Rafael’s talk and his exaggerated leer made Andrew bristle inside.
“What? Just because you don’t find her hot? What’s the matter, Dundee? Not your type?”
“Not really” Andrew muttered, looking away. Fuck Rafael. Fucking asshole. He didn’t know why he called the guy a friend, when all he strived to do was rub Andrew up the wrong way.
“So she isn’t your type, huh? Don’t like black women, is that it?”
Andrew looked up at him, suddenly furious. “What the fuck are you harping on about? Get to the point, why don’t you? What are you trying to say?”
Rafael remained unperturbed. “Well, do you?”
“I don’t choose women based on their skin color if that’s what you’re suggesting” Andrew snapped.
“Whoa, take it easy. I’m just saying the way she was talking to you earlier, her body language was screaming fuck me. And you didn’t even notice her.”
Andrew rolled his eyes, “I can say now with full confidence that Dana is not keen on me at all. She’s just being sweet; she’s like that with everyone.”
“Oh of course, of course, you’re her friend, you know her best. Her aside, you didn’t answer my question.”
“Which question would that be?”
“Do you find black women attractive? I’m just curious; you’re the self-proclaimed blonde’s man and all.”
“Of course I do” Andrew lied. The truth was, he didn’t know. Sure, if he had to choose he thought Halle Berry was hot but in all honesty, he didn’t know because he had never noticed. He had friends of both sexes and all types of races, but the only women he has ever been with were Caucasian. Did that make him racist? He wasn’t sure but the thought of it gave him anxiety. It wasn’t as if he made a conscious decision to exclusively date white women. He couldn’t help who he was attracted to. And since he was sixteen, he had never been single, and by single he meant not sleeping with anyone. He was constantly drifting from one woman to another. If anything a more accurate description would be that they drifted into his life, he rarely sought anyone out.
“So, would you fuck her?”
Andrew could feel his temper flare “You’re a piece of shit; it’s none of your business who I choose to fuck. I also happen to be engaged.”
Rafael’s face become serious then, his eyes cold “So you wouldn’t mind if I placed a bid on this painting then? I was thinking of buying it and then sending it to her as a gift, what do you think? Think it’ll make her underwear hit the floor?”
“Fuck you” Andrew snarled, his fists clenching by his sides. He felt a strange throbbing begin by his eye.
Rafael started to say something else but Andrew turned and began to walk away. He was about to punch him in the mouth or do something drastic, erase the condescending smirk off his face. He wasn’t even sure why he was so bothered by this conversation when he normally just brushed off Rafael’s remarks.
He stepped outside into a blast of cold air and loud traffic. He walked down the steps of the museum, his eyes scanning for a cab he could hail down. He walked over, about to cross the road when suddenly he heard someone calling out his name. He turned to see Dana walking briskly down the stairs, her shoulders hunched against the chilly weather.
“What are you doing here?” Andrew asked her, as she walked over, short of breath. He was feeling quite stunned. It was as if she had suddenly conjured out of nowhere. He had thought of her and she was here.
“Nothing. I just saw you storm out, is everything okay?” Dana looked at him concerned.
“Oh, I’m fine. I just wanted to get out of there; the crowd was getting a bit boring. No offence.” He nodded at her politely, noticing her rubbing her bare arms. “You didn’t wear a jacket?”
“Oh, that” Dana smiled. “I couldn’t find my coat in the cloak room and I was worried I would lose you so I ran out without it. I think someone else took mine because there was a coat which looked like mine but it was bigger so yeah, I guess my coat is missing for now.” To her horror, she was blabbing on, but she wasn’t able to stop.
“That’s a shame. You look pretty though, despite how cold you look” Andrew smiled at her, suddenly feeling a wave of endearment. She looked fifteen just then, her arms wrapped around her thin torso, the wind whipping her hair in front of her face, the skirt of her dress billowing in the cold. A young girl on her way to the prom.
“Fuck, I’m rude” Andrew said, suddenly realizing. He shrugged off his coat, handing it to her. “Here.”
Dana looked up at him startled, “Oh, that’s okay, I really couldn’t. I don’t know when I’d see you again. Thank you, though.”
“Take it” He insisted. “Besides, it’s a reason to meet up again, right? As a matter of fact, what are you doing right now exactly?”
“Oh, I’m…” Dana could feel an onset of butterflies suddenly erupt in her stomach. “I’m free, I mean, I have no plans.”
“Great” He waved down an approaching cab. Dana watched him as he reached over, opening the door and holding it open for her. “Let’s go.”
* * * *
What the hell had happened?
Dana knew that sex might have been a bit unrealistic, but by the end of the night she had thought at least he would have kissed her or something. Was she just imagining things? Perhaps the sexual tension had only existed on her end, inside her head.
Andrew had suggested dinner. He had refused to let her split the bill even though she kept insisting. They had talked nonstop - catching up, reminiscing, and gossiping about the mutual people they knew. As they walked around New York that night, talking, he had constantly kept touching her, she could still feel the places where his hand had been, as if he had branded her. The small of her back, her hip, her arm, her shoulder.
And it was then while they both sat on a bench at central park that he pulled out his wallet, revealing the photo of his fiancée, Ingrid.
Dana was almost scientifically interested in how she had managed to look pleased by the news whilst her body felt like it had suddenly been plunged into an icy pond.
Then he had dropped her home, seeing her upstairs to her apartment. Dana was unsure of whether she should invite him in for coffee but as if reading her mind Andrew had smiled politely, wishing her good night. He added that he was already late, he had told Ingrid he would be home before twelve.
Dana handed him back his coat and thanked him for the evening. She wished she could keep it; she loved the feel of it, the sheer heavy bulk, it felt warm and comfortable enough to sleep in.
He kissed her good night, a quick kiss on the cheek before he turned and left. Chaste and friendly, even though it had accidentally landed a little close to the side of her mouth.
Dana closed the door, locking it firmly. And then she told herself to put the night behind her as a pleasant memory. She was not going to rehash everything over and over, dissecting each word, each look or touch as if it contained some secret code. It would probably be a few more years till she saw him again.