This is my response to the Flashback Track Friday prompt, where we were given Get Ready by The Temptations and asked to simply:
Write a fairy tale.
I felt that my original story had quite some more mileage, so here’s a second part, which I’m presenting today as my fairytale. You’ll understand why at the end.
Although it was only a short distance to the gallery, it was still raining. Rico himself opened the door, his normally floppy dark hair slicked back for the occasion, and looking distinctly uncomfortable in a shirt and tie. The girls rushed past him, into the warmth, and once they were safely inside, there were kisses all around. Both Christa and Marianne had met Rico before, through Caro.
Their coats divested; they were greeted with a tall glass of sparkling wine which, Christa thought, might have been more chilled, although it was crisp and refreshing. Almost a reflex action, Rico presented each a catalog – even though this was his sister and her friends, you never know. Rico’s introductory spiel betrayed his discomfort, fidgeting with his collar in this formal setting, and he was relieved to excuse himself to greet some more new arrivals.
The room was warm, stuffy even, and the three began to absorb the exhibits. The catalog showed about sixty items in total, shared among Rico and three other young artists, each with their own style.
It was clear from the outset that Marianne was struck by one of the artists, whom they met later. She was from Saint-Denis, out in the suburbs, living somewhere which seemed to double as her studio. Indeed, that appeared to be her dirty duvet, thought Christa, as they regarded a painting Marianne particularly liked. Christa was biased towards Rico’s sculptures. This was Caro’s baby brother anyway, but there was also something about being able to physically feel the object.
As they breezed around, perhaps this was not such a bad idea after all? Christa felt relaxed in this environment, and it was certainly helping her to unwind. She even took a fancy to a small sculpture. Tiny, no more than twelve inches tall; a delicately-crafted abstract piece, a pair of hearts, intertwined. It was how she felt love should be. Two become one. She had just the place in mind for it, on her desk next to the computer. She could do with something to replace that bloody picture of Pascal, which had lay there, face down, since the break-up. Yes, she could use some replacement, to throw Pascal into the trash, where the cheating bastard belonged. This piece might work.
Glancing at the catalog, however, she baulked. €250. Jesus, how could these young artists describe themselves as struggling? Putting her previous image to one side, she made a mental note to look for something next time she went to Ikea, and she ushered Caro and Marianne away, so they might resume their viewing.
An hour later, and the three were done. Rico fetched their still-damp coats. “Did you see anything you liked, ladies?”
“Oh, it was all lovely, but I couldn’t really see any of it in *my* apartment”, replied Christa, adding, “you should see what a pig sty it is”.
“What about his sculpture?”, helped Caro. “You said you liked that.”
“I don’t think that would fit in, do you?” Christa was suddenly feeling uneasy, but Rico by now had latched on.
Again, Caro interrupted, fumbling through the catalog. “Here, it was this one, wasn’t it, Christa?” She passed the catalog to Rico, who smiled. “Ah, you have good taste, mam’selle. This piece is my favourite, too.”
It was time to come clean. “Look, Rico, I loved the piece, but honestly, I can’t afford it.” Bluntness now seemed to be her best option.
Rico laughed. “Those prices? But they’re for the punters, the people who have more money than sense”, he whispered. “Wait a minute”, and Rico returned a few seconds later with the bronze. As if preparing to reveal his darkest secret, Rico spoke in a hushed voice: “Don’t tell anybody, but for my sister’s best friend, €50. How’s that?” In truth, Rico was anxious to make all the sales he could on this dismal opening night.
“You did say you liked it”, Caro chipped in, trying to help her brother.
It *would* look good next to the computer, thought Christa.
“Okay”, she countered, “€30. How about that?”
Inevitably, they settled at €40, with Rico adding, “I’ll put a ticket on it now, so everybody knows it is sold. We will re-display it until the end of the exhibition, then we’ll call you to arrange delivery. Is that okay for you? Let me have your address and number, so we can get in touch.”
Bored with the details, Caro interrupted once more. “I’m thirsty. Come on, Marianne, let’s leave them to it, do you fancy a drink?” Receiving Marianne’s confirmation, they’d see Christa in five minutes at the bar. “Just time for a nightcap”, added Marianne, looking at her watch, as she and Caro turned and fled. It was still quite windy out, but at least it had stopped raining.
At the end of the evening, Christa emerged from the metro one more time. As she hurried home, her phone rang. Not a number she recognised – at this time, probably a wrong number – and she rejected the call. Ten seconds later, that same Paris number. Possibly, it was deliberate.
“’Allo?”, she answered, stopping dead as she took in the caller’s words. Pondering for a moment, she simply responded “okay”, then ended the call. She resumed her journey now, but more slowly, preoccupied as the caller’s words sank in. What had she just done?
Thirty minutes later, butterflies when her buzzer rang. A voice she knew. “Christa, it’s me.”
“Come on up. Second landing.”, she instructed, quietly. Despite there being no-one to overhear, she was surreptitious. For now, this would be so very secret.
As he bounded up the stairs, she waited at her door. They enjoyed a deep, passionate embrace. His kiss was softer than she had imagined, he felt gentle to her touch and it was exciting that somebody wanted to touch her again in return.
Three hours later, in happy contentment, Christa lightly dozed. Feeling his gaze upon her, she opened an eye and smiled over at him.
“Regrets?” he whispered.
She thought for a moment then, as if some gesture were required, she leaned over and kissed him full on the lips. “None… not yet…”, she smiled, adding, “but… this might become complicated”.
“Just leave Caro to me”, promised Rico.
And I have one final, reciprocal challenge to you, dear reader. What was said in that phone call? Tell me below.