Portrait, Chapter 4

Small Portrait .jpg
by Leslie Moore

Chapter Four

The ride home was quiet. Mabel looked out the window. She was curious. I wondered how many cars she’d been in. Her first owner trained her himself. They gave her up when their newborn started having allergies. Mabel was two when I got her. We’d been together for three years.

After adoption, I promised to make her feel secure for the rest of her life. I was seventeen when I was pushed out. My father, the minister, had given up trying to pray the gay out of me. When I announced I was trans, that was their last straw.

I was headed to Rhode Island School of Design thanks to a scholarship. My parents politely told me good luck and not to return.

It was ironic. Instead of feeling the loss of a family, I felt all the pressure lifting from my shoulders. I finally could be me, a complete person. I arrived at RISD feeling like a five-year-old going to her first birthday party.

We watched the traffic whiz by. I turned to Matt. “Your credibility goes down a notch when you refer to me as beautiful.”

He shook his head. He took out his phone. He showed me a Picasso nude, a Botticelli, a Sandys, Frank Benson’s, and a Degas. He smiled. “None of these paintings fit the modern day definition of beauty. Mona Lisa Giocondo could not have gotten a cover on Vogue but millions stand in line each year to admire her face.”

I laughed and shook my head.

Matt held my hand and looked into my eyes. He touched my face while he talked. “You are beautiful. Wonderful skin, gorgeous eyes, lush hair, and generous lips. And that’s just the superficial part of you. I want to get to know you better.”

He had a knack for making me believe his words. But sanity returned. I didn’t want to be hypnotized by his fast talk. I murmured, “We’ll be friends.”

Matt didn’t stop staring. “I want more. What about love?”

I shook my head and turned away. “You throw around a lot of wonderful words. You call me beautiful. You use the word love. You’re sounding like a complete bullshitter. Let it go.”

Matt was smart enough to stop.

As we pulled up to my office, the driver stopped the limo, got out, then held the door open for Mabel and me. I thanked him. I waved goodbye to Matt. He looked like someone was punishing him.

I stuck my head inside the open door. “Hey.”

He looked at me. His face was blank.

I leaned into the car right in his face. I smiled. “Thank you for lunch. And thank you for the gift. I enjoyed seeing your work and taking our walk into Central Park. I am looking forward to getting to know you better.”

He tried to smile. “Me, too.” He stared at me and sighed.

I reminded myself that he was a spoiled man used to getting his way. Money, talent, and good looks evidently gave him a free ride. He must get everything he wants, I thought as I walked up to my door.

Mabel waited while I unlocked the door. When we got inside and I was hanging out the open sign, the big black limo drove away.

I reminded myself that I wasn’t fifteen and susceptible to teenage crushes. I was a grown-up woman who knew what was best for her. I pushed away the fantasy of being in his arms and fed Mabel her dinner. As I leaned against the kitchen counter, I tried to focus on something else. It wasn’t working. He was a catch.

As we drove over the Brooklyn Bridge, I shook myself out of my flashback. Eighteen months ago, I met this man. Now, I was riding in his mother’s car headed to see the old crone and provide him moral support.

Our ride across the bridge and into the city was uneventful. It’s fun to gaze out at the scenery. The upper west side of New York is lush with beautiful high rise apartment buildings, marvelous boutiques, museums, galleries, restaurants, and Central Park.

Sidney pulled the Maybach over to the curb and the doorman opened my side. We rode up the elevator in silence. I could feel the tension radiating off of Mathew. We smiled at each other but I could see the anxiety on his face the closer we got to her lair.

I could almost smell the fire and brimstone as we walked down the hall to the apartment. She and her late husband purchased a second apartment on that floor to make room for their growing family. When Mathew left and his dad died, his mother had the rooms redecorated. If Mathew wanted to stay the night, there was always a sterile guest room he could use temporarily.

Mathew went to the Maryland Institute of Art. After he graduated he used his small trust fund to move out. Fortunately, he made enough money selling his paintings to stay almost independent.

Mathew refused to take money from me even though we were together. My graphic arts business was expanding and doing well. I started renting out my second floor home through Airbnb and VRBO to pay off my mortgage early. I banked the rest of my money.

The maid opened the door and ushered us into the foyer. “Mrs. Statler will be with you shortly. May I get you a beverage?”

We both smiled and said we were fine. Mathew’s mother was fond of importing Irish girls as her domestic help. We sat down and waited.

Mathew whispered to me, “I feel like a stranger in here. She’s redecorated again.”

I didn’t have a chance to answer before Helen Statler walked into the room. We both stood. I couldn’t get the grin off my face. It was like greeting the fucking queen. I tried not to laugh or curtsey.

Helen looked at her son but not at me. Boy, she was a piece of work.

“I had Briana set the third plate. I knew you’d bring your little friend along.” Then she turned and looked at me like I had an infectious disease. “Caroline, how are you?”

I nodded. “I am fine, Mrs. Statler. It’s nice to see you again.” She didn’t care how I was. I could have told her I was hemorrhaging internally and she would reply, ‘that’s nice’.

I loved the way she emphasized the word Caroline like I stole the name and she wanted it back. Mrs. Statler didn’t like having to acknowledge that I was transgender. In her mind, her son was living with a freak. She once told Mathew that she was tired of him bringing a drag queen into her home. She referred to me a man wearing women’s clothes, but not to my face. She knew I would have slapped her. I draw a line.

Mathew later related the conversation. He told her that he wouldn’t come by anymore to visit. It was then that she actually apologized. He defended me and told her that I was more of a woman than she was.

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This story is 1221 words long.