Andi and Allie
Chapter 10 – So… What’s nude?
Bob Preston didn’t look anything like I would have expected and yet I knew him the moment I saw him. He arrived with Jill on Friday in the early evening. They were on their way to dinner, Jill’s treat, and stopped off to view what work I had assembled.
I hadn’t come home as of yet but Allie was there. I walked in and heard the three of them in the main room where my work was stacked against the wall.
“Hi.” I said with my biggest smile.
All three turned toward me.
“Well…” He breathed the word. “When does Andrew arrive?”
Bob spoke in a very affected manner. I was reminded of the art ‘aficionados’ my class mates would poke fun at whilst in art school. Bob’s arm and hand movements as he spoke seemed to be somewhat exaggerated as well.
He was about my height, maybe an inch or two taller but he outweighed me easily by one hundred pounds. His hair was prematurely silver although I do believe that if it wasn’t, he would have colored it so. He dressed so very preppy from his buttoned down collared seersucker shirt to the boating shoes on his sockless feet.
“Ummm… I’m Andi?” I managed to speak and smile without giggling, which, I must tell you, was a major show of self-control.
Bob quickly put the horn-rimmed glasses in his hand onto his eyes and gazed at me slack jawed. At a momentary loss for words he turned back to a work that rested on the server. Then he turned back toward me.
“Are you in transition?”
He stared at me slacked jawed as if he didn’t believe his eyes. Then he shook his head quickly and looked at another piece.
“Never mind... You did do this work?” He said as more of a statement.
I am so proud of the self-control I exhibited yet again. I looked toward Allie who was turning bright ruby red as she covered her mouth trying to control her very infectious giggle.
I wondered how someone who owned a gallery as prestigious as his could steal enough time to work up such a perfect tan. It, and his silver hair, contrasted wonderfully with his deep blue eyes.
“There are also some painted ceramic pieces.” Jill offered as she and Allie came to my side.
“These are quite nice.” Bob turned to me again. “Do you work in oil paints at all?”
“Uhhh… No… Not yet...”
“Do so...! Immediately...! And think size...!” Bob spoke as Allie led the way to the studio. “I can charge by the square foot.” He chuckled as he slowly sashayed toward Allie’s studio.
I hate paints! Well… Not exactly paints... I hate oils! They really smell and the spirits to thin them and clean the brushes…? Oh my God…! But I knew what he meant. There is just so large you can go with chalks and ink. I’ve seen some really large works go for sinfully extravagant prices.
Upon entering the studio, the first piece Bob laid his eyes upon was the ‘Sun’ bowl. His eyes lit up as well as his smile.
“Oh my… This IS lovely!” He said in his lilting manner of speech.
“Ummm… That one is not for the showing.”
“What…? I could get maybe seven hundred or more for that.”
Bob looked at me with the same expression of incredulity he had when he discovered that I indeed was Andrew.
“Uhhh… That one is for Allie?”
She looked at me with a shocked expression that quickly turned into a very big smile. I knew Allie loved that piece and I truly wanted her to have it from the beginning.
“Pity… Well…” Bob spoke as he nudged his glasses even lower on his tiny pug nose. “In that case I hope we become good friends.”
He continued to look at what Allie and I had set aside for display.
“What happened to Jill?” I asked.
We seemed to have lost her on our way into the studio. Allie shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. Bob took his time and carefully inspected each piece. When he had finished, he turned to me.
“Where’s your studio?”
“Well…” smiled weakly. “…I mostly work around the apartment or in my bedroom.”
“And may I see where that is.” Bob’s voice was somewhat dour.
It was a request as far as I could tell. But… Okay… Whatever… I led the way to my bedroom and that’s where we found Jill. She was holding the one piece I didn’t really want anybody, mainly Allie, to see. It was the charcoal I did of her the night she went to see Steven for the last time. Jill was sitting on the end of my bed and gazing at the piece as it rested on one of my easels.
Allie made a squeaking sound and then covered her mouth when she saw it. I should have destroyed it. Even seeing it now brought back the emotions I felt that night. I must say that I felt terribly invaded at this point. Apart and aside from my bedroom being my only private space, I felt that whatever was in that room was to be shown only at my discretion.
Whilst I didn’t mind Allie entering, and she only did so if I was present and amenable, and I always was, I wouldn’t have let anyone else in. The fact that Jill simply walked in on her own volition was…disturbing?
“I suppose this one’s not for show.” Bob spoke without turning his head away from the piece.
“No. It’s definitely not for display.” I had to control anger as I felt my face color Chianti red. “It’s… It’s an unfinished piece.”
All three of them looked at me. I was quite adamant in my tone. I even surprised Allie who looked at me questioningly. She could instantly see that something was really upsetting me.
She was more than kind enough to take my hand and lead me out and into the main room where the rest of my work was. We waited patiently. She held my hand firmly and stood against me…touching me…letting me know she was there…with me?
In a few moments Jill and Bob followed. They were speaking between themselves as they entered the room.
“Well…” Bob said in a rather blasé manner. “…I think we should show all of it. This work is very good…better then I’ve seen for a first showing in…” He gazed thoughtfully off. “… in quite some time. Have you titled any of these pieces?”
Bob reminded me of the Norman Rockwell piece of a schoolmaster I saw in a coffee table compendium of his work. With his glasses so low on his nose and his peering out over them and his belly just beginning to overlap his belt, I felt I should portray Bob in that similar fashion as a piece of Americana.
“Only the bowl...”
“That nude is…amazing. I wish I could show that.”
Jill, who had been silent till now echoed Bob’s comment.
“And that one is…what…simply…Allie?” Bob inquired.
“No... If I was to title it…I would call it ‘Pearl before Swine’.” Allie squeezed my hand just a bit and I could hear the start of a giggle perhaps?
“Speaking of swines… You really need to do something about that man.” Jill said most angrily.
I looked at Allie. I was quite surprised that she was still hearing from ‘what’s his name’...as she called him.
“It’s okay Jill. He’ll simply find someone else to…to do whatever with.”
Bob and Jill soon left to discuss the details of what needed to be done for the showing to happen. He would give me a section of wall and some display space for the ceramics. Allie, who still held my hand, dragged me back to my room after we had seen Jill and Bob out. She sat where Jill had and pulled me down next to her.
“Okay…? You want to tell me what this…” She waved her hand at the portrait. “…is about? First of all…when did you do this?” She looked at me.
“That night… You know… With what’s his name…?”
I looked down at my hands. I had pulled her hand with mine into my lap.
“Why are you hiding it? I mean…it is gorgeous.”
“No… You’re gorgeous and that’s the only way I see you.”
“Don’t change the subject on me buddy.” She smiled but she was determined to find out what was behind the work. “I want to know what was going on with you. I want to know why suddenly you did this piece.”
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is be honest. It’s not like when someone asks you if you like a mode of dress they’re employing or if you like the soup they spent hours making and you’re trying not to barf it all over the wall as you eat it.
This is deep down, soul of souls honesty and one needs to decide just how naked one wants to get; how much you trust the person you’re with. So I took a deep breath and held her hand in both of mine as I looked into her eyes.
“I was very angry that night.” Allie began to speak. “No… Please… Let me tell you first. I was angry with you and I was angry with me. When you spoke about him, I knew right away that he was married. I don’t know how but…I just knew. I wanted to tell you not to go…not to see him…that it would be bad all the way around. But I didn’t.” I felt tears coming to my eyes. “And I am so very sorry for that. I should have told you. I should have said something. But I didn’t. I am so sorry.”
I completely lost it at that point. I was so distraught, overcome and overwhelmed with guilt that I was verging on a full-blown panic attack. Allie thankfully recognized what was happening and she embraced me and began to speak softly into my ear.
“Shhh… It’s okay sweet heart. Calm yourself.” She began a soothing mantra of sorts.
She began to gently rub my back as she held me with her other arm. My face was buried in her shoulder and I could feel my tears wetting her dress. As I began to calm, Allie reached for a few tissues and handed them to me. I dampened my tears as she held me smiling so very serenely.
“Listen baby doll…” Allie said softly.
“I should have destroyed that portrait.” I sniffled and blew my nose.
“And that would have made you feel better? Everything would have been made all right? No guilt…? Listen Andi…”
Allie only called me Andi when she wanted to make a point and wanted to be sure I was listening…fully.
“If you had told me that night, I would have resented you for nosing into my affairs. AND… I would have resented you for being right. In fact I would have hated you for seeing what I was blinded to. I hope you can understand that?”
I nodded my head and I believed what she told me. What Allie said kind of made sense? I gazed down at the wet tissues in my hand.
“Then why do I feel so…bad…so guilty?”
I looked up at Allie as a tear or two began to flow again.
“Because…you’re an artist in the true sense of the word and when you see truth…” She paused and smiled for a moment. “You must express it. You did the proper thing. Trust me baby. Nothing good would have come from your telling me. And you certainly have done nothing that I need to forgive. I am really so very glad you told me about this now. You might have thought about this for God only knows how long.” Allie giggled.
She was right. And I felt so much better by telling her. I think that’s maybe why I kept her portrait. I must have known that one day it would remind me to relate what I felt and how I acted…or in this case…didn’t act…to Allie. She was so… It was so easy to tell her that I felt silly for not saying something sooner.
“I want this portrait baby doll.”
How very emphatic of her. I had to giggle…finally.
“I want you to sign the back. Title it the way you wanted to and sign it. I’m going to hang it in the cave so we can both be reminded that it’s okay for us to tell each other the truth…always. And it’s also okay for us not to listen.”
She laughed and it was slightly infectious. I caught it…a little.
I got up and went to the portrait. I carefully turned it over and, with a piece of chalk, signed it as Allie wished: ‘Pearl before Swine’…Andi. I slid it into a plastic sheet and handed the piece to her. She placed it upon my bed and stood up. Taking my face gently in her hands, she kissed me.
“Thank you Andi. Thank you so very much.” She hugged me. “What do you think about going out for dinner? Do you feel up to it?”
I felt so very drained at that moment. I felt good…but tired. Emotional outbursts do that to me. I’ve discussed my seemingly weird and unusual emotional swings with Allie. We came to the conclusion that my hormone intake was probably responsible. It seems that every little thing brings tears and sometimes the tears simply come from nothing at all. A major thing like this evening’s drama brings it all out.
But I was also hungry. I seemed to be putting on weight? I mean I always had this weight problem; not nearly enough of it that is. Now I couldn’t seem to get enough food into me. I was in danger of losing my ‘starving artist’ appearance. I guessed it was okay because I felt well enough and had more than enough energy.
So we went across town to China Town. We held each other’s arms as we strolled and for a while we walked in a comfortable silence. I think perhaps that my ‘confession’ was as trying for Allie as it was for me.
We went to a restaurant that we had frequented several times and had a very pleasant meal. The main topic of discussion was ‘our’ showing. We held hands several times over the course of the discussion. I found Allie’s touch becoming ever more comfortable each time I felt it.
When I was young, a mere child, I rarely got touched in a warm, loving, comforting or familiar manner. Touch was usually a very rough thing; it was a slap or a yank on my arm or leg. In school, at least through middle school, a touch was usually a punch or a kick or something of that sort.
This is not to say that I never received a hug or a kiss or some form of familiar touch. But those moments were all too rare and very often left me tense and anxious. Even after I began living with Allie initially, her habit of touching and hugging and even her cheek kisses took some time to become accustomed to. Now her touch was a source of warmth, a degree of comfort and, dare I say it…pleasure?
The next several weeks proved to be extremely busy and trying. Work was becoming quite pressured with the design of the packaging and Peter was given yet another large project for a potential client. I was in the midst of it all and the hours began to evaporate at a faster rate than ever.
Of course there were moments of extreme amusement. My sitting with Rhona for several minutes whilst having my morning coffee became more than a habit; it was a ritual. One morning I sat with her and we were discussing Lord knows what…something that I’m sure was quite trivial…when suddenly she whips out a nail file and begins to work away on a slightly broken nail tip. I looked at my nails out of habit and saw one nail that was perhaps a hair’s breath too long. So… The very next day I had my very own nail file to whip out and file away as well.
Suddenly Peter walks into the office and sees the two of us talking and filing away. He stood in the doorway with a bemused expression on his face. Neither of us noticed him at first so he could have been standing there for several minutes. I had my back to him and I was so intent on what I was doing. It wasn’t until Rhona finally looked up, saw him, and greeted him that I realized what I’d been caught doing.
“Good morning boss.”
Rhona spoke in a nonchalant manner as though this was an everyday occurrence. I, however, nearly jumped off my chair I was so startled and…embarrassed.
“Good morning ladies.”
Peter said with in an off-handed manner. He chuckled and walked to his office. Needless to say, I let Rhona bring him his coffee.
I understood how people could accept what saw when they looked at me. After all, I made no attempt to necessarily hide any sign of…maleness? I was merely conforming to a mental image. But when Peter addressed us as ‘ladies’, he spoke so casually, so easily, so totally normally that I took more than a moment to ponder the big question. Where was Andrew and did I really even care?
I usually wore a bra, now I had several sets of matching bras and panties, on weekends and days off. I had even taken to gluing my ‘boobs’ on with Allie’s assistance in which case they stayed on from Friday night till Sunday night.
But the ‘B’ cup size was too large, in my minds eye, to wear during the working week. So I bought myself a set of ‘A’ cup boobs. I would wear those during the week and even at work. They weren’t nearly as noticeable and, with a suit jacket on, and hunching my shoulders slightly, I felt more at ease with them on.
After all, I wasn’t looking for attention. I was pursuing that image in my mind; working on a work in progress. The world, or at least my little world, was adjusting quite well to my brand of performance art?
Allie and I were invited to Jill’s apartment for dinner one night. Aside from the social aspect of the invite, we were going to discuss a few of the details of our showing. Of course other issues arose.
Jill lived on East Fifty-Sixth Street between First Avenue and York Avenue. She owned a lovely three-bedroom apartment on the upper floor of a high rise. A doorman opened the door to the rather unassuming lobby and called up to Jill to announce our arrival. Evidential he knew Allie and addressed her by name. It was the first time I’d heard her called Ms. Morris. It was the first time I was called ‘and friend’.
We rode the wood paneled elevator up to Jill’s floor in comfortable silence. I was somewhat nervous and Jill held my hand. This was my…our first ‘dinner party’ invite…of sorts? Jill opened the door and she stared at us with a sly smile on her face, she spoke.
“Don’t tell me. You two are now an item?” She chuckled.
“What?” I said instinctively.
Allie and I were still holding hands. But really…? I looked at Allie who giggled.
“Just really close friends... Why…? Are you starting rumors again?” Allie said.
“What do you mean again? I’ve never stopped!” Jill laughed and stood aside bidding us enter. “By the way Andi… You look amazing. Simply gorgeous…”
I blushed a shade of auburn and smiled coyly. I did make an extra attempt to look nice. I even did my dramatic ‘evening look’ with some help from Allie. After all, I now was ‘uptown’.
Jill’s apartment was a mini museum of art. The walls were covered with works in various mediums and where ever there was a book shelf or a table, ceramics and various other pieces including constructions, some of which occupied an entire corner, could be found. I immediately began to look at every single thing I could lay my eyes upon.
Even Jill’s assortment of furniture appeared to be either antique, or inventive, which made for an eclectic setting. I found a stack of lawyer’s bookcases and they contained what could only be first editions of various writers. The volumes comprised several languages and some of the tomes were leather bound and of obvious age.
I could hear Allie and Jill conversing but I was so focused on what I was doing that when Allie approached me with a glass of white wine, she needed to touch my arm with the chilled glass to capture my attention. When we sat down at the dining room table, I was still casting my gaze all around at pieces I wanted to examine. I did notice an empty space between two oils.
“Oh that, my dear Andi, is where my fee from you will rest. You did read what I sent you before you signed it, didn’t you?” Jill chuckled when I turned bright fire engine red and shook my head.
“Allie said you would be fair and honest. So I simply signed the thing.”
“Ah ha…! Now you can blame her for any misunderstanding we might have.” Jill chuckled wryly.
“Of course!” I laughed as I gazed at Allie.
I reached for her hand almost instinctively and she gave it to me. We touched fingertips for a moment.
“What is it with you two?” Jill inquired without a smile this time.
“Andi does that when he’s nervous.” Allie shrugged and smiled. “Anyway, he has lovely hands and they’re nice to hold.” She giggled as she looked at me.
“Whatever… So let’s talk a little about the showing. It will be in early December so we must get a mailing together as soon as possible. If Bob does it he will charge a fortune so we must take care of that ourselves.” Turning to me, Jill spoke again. “Make a list of everybody you know. Include teachers you’ve had, classmates, of course the people at work.”
Jill went on and on and on about what needed to be done. Thankfully Allie was paying extremely close attention because I was lost in a dreamland of sorts. I was sort of mesmerized by Allie; the way she looked when she listened with her head cocked slightly to one side and how she smiled and nodded with her brand of exuberance. I was just getting to the part of what it would be like to be naked next to her when a discordant phrase caught my ear.
“Well dear, now that you’ve chosen to join us again…” Jill smiled impishly. “I was simply saying that Bob thought it best to advertise the showing as ‘Andi’ and not Andrew… Whatever is your family name anyway?”
I guess I hadn’t told Jill.
“Anyway… Bob felt that the show should be your artwork and not you. He felt it best to simply use Andi and no family name since that seems to be the way you sign your work anyway.”
“Oh I don’t care about that. What about Allie though? I mean… Her work is showing as well. Can’t it be Andi and Allie or something?” Allie laughed and clutched my hand.
“You are sweet Andi but then why not give some space for whoever manufactured your pens and inks? It’s really your work and your show. I’m just happy to have you use some of my pieces.” Allie said sweetly.
“Are you two sleeping together or something?”
“Jill…!” We almost spoke simultaneously.
“Well… Why not…?”
“Listen Jill… We’re just really good friends. And that’s all.” Allie was quite emphatic although she did need to suppress a giggle.
Once we got past the showing talk, the conversation really became quite lively and animated. Jill, as I was to learn, was a marvelous hostess. She never let an opportunity pass by where a compliment could be imparted and she even began to see me in a different light as I opened up a bit. At first I found her to be intimidating but that changed when I realized that she was simply full of life and considered every moment a blessing.
When she realized how close the relationship between Allie and me was, Jill began to treat me in a similar manner; kind of like an adult child…her child. I must admit it took a while to become accustomed to this but after some time I became very comfortable with her ways. When the evening finally ended, we even hugged and kissed goodbye.
During the cab ride home Allie and I held hands. We were doing so more and more; maintaining that comfortable physical contact when we were out and about town together. Even in the apartment we would touch every so often and I always felt an energy that seemed to pass between us.
Odd as it may seem, I also found myself doing something quite similar with Rhona. I would touch her hand when we spoke or she would grasp my wrist. On occasion she would fuss a bit with my hair or I would adjust her blouse.
It was such an odd thing when I would think about it. Then one day I simply stopped thinking about it and accepted these mannerisms as something close friends did. It never occurred to me that it was usually close friends who were women.
The weekend came around and Allie decided to go out with ‘the girls’ from her office. She had asked me to come along but I felt too intimidated about going out with a group of women I didn’t know. I didn’t tell her that. I told her that I needed to work on a piece that I had in mind. I was still at work when she returned in the wee hours of the morning.
Could things be heating up between Andi and Allie? Or have we heard that crap before? Be sure to catch the next commercial free chapter of ‘Andi and Allie’!
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