Posted in Character Stories

Artists

It looks like my silent visitor is back today. Tucked into a secluded booth usually reserved for V.I.P. guests during the shows, Miles slowly unpacks his art bag with a determined expression. I work through the rest of the steps to the dance I’ve been choreographing for the hotel’s latest show as I watch his gentle brushstrokes onto the canvas. 

Once more with music. 

I click the remote in my pocket. A popular pop song about pondering love blares through the speakers. Miles jolts in his seat, his wild eyes scanning the room. Sometimes I forget that he isn’t used to loud noises. 

Turning the volume down to a whisper, I step through the dance. My focus isn’t on the movements, though. It’s on the way Miles has switched from watercolor paints to a charcoal pencil as his gaze flicks back and forth between me and his work. I wonder what he sees up here. Probably a girl with her life together. At least, I hope I’m managing to pull that much off these days.

The last thing I need is my boss learning from his husband that I am not emotionally competent at the moment. I swear the last three years have shaved a decade off of my life. I’m still a dancer. I still sing. However, if anyone is looking close enough, they’ll notice I’m just going through the motions. 

I run through the dance twice more, sure that I can teach it to the weekend crew. Matthew Krawlski asked for better dances or he would change the entertainment deployment, throwing some of these hardworking dancers out of a job or back into the serving industry they are trying their best to escape. 

I’ve known a hero or two in my lifetime. Good people who gave their lives to better causes than themselves. That’s not who I am, but I think people deserve a chance to fight for their happiness and success, so I’m going to give all I can to these new shows opening at Matthew’s hotel lounge and bar. 

Sweat drips from my hairline as I step off of the stage on tired legs. Dabbing at my face and neck with some napkins, I toss them into a trash can on my way to Miles’ table. It’s not very often the mysterious man is left alone with me. It’s not very often he’s let out of his apartment. Matthew must be too busy to take him out on a proper date. Whether or not he’s attempting to make up for it by letting Miles linger down here isn’t really my business. I think I’ll just take a few minutes to keep Miles company before I head back home and start working on the dance routines for my own club. 

Sliding into the booth across from him, I give him a gentle wave and a big smile. “How are you today, my artist friend?”

His returned grin is a mixture of embarrassed and proud as he points to the canvas he started working on when he got here. The sketch is incredible. A large skull. The impressive shading makes it look like I could reach out and grab it. In each of the eye sockets, he’s carefully painting vivid depictions of the galaxy. It’s beautiful. 

“What does it mean?” 

He pulls out his notepad and jots down a quick note. Does it have to mean something?

I smile at him and shake my head. “Guess not. It’s pretty amazing, though. Has Matthew offered to get you a gallery yet? You must have so much art around your home.”

His nose scrunches. Not very many good pieces.

“Hey,” I tap his note. “Don’t talk about yourself like that. I love your art. You’re a real artist, Miles. The kind of tortured soul that sees more than he could ever say.”

Red brightens his cheeks. Embarrassed. Excited. Some combination of both? Either way, Matthew must not be paying him enough compliments on his work. I’ll just have to make up for it. 

“Can I see what else you were working on?”

That pink stain continues to mar his face as he shakes his head. Not finished.

I shrug. “That’s okay. I won’t judge you. Come on, artist, show me it.”

Biting the corner of his lip, he taps his pencil on the table. Some kind of internal battle is happening behind his brown eyes. I don’t say anything else to pressure him. This is his decision. I won’t take it personally if he’s not ready to share his sketches. 

He returns to writing his notes instead of uncovering the sketch. You’re an artist, Lucy.

I start to shake my head, but he taps his note as if to emphasize his point and then points to the stage. Tears prickle my eyelids. It’s been a long time since someone complimented me for doing more than just my job. 

Before I can come up with a response, he uncovers his sketch and flips it towards me. It’s…Well, it’s me. He has captured my round face and full hips. I’m in just a tank top and leggings today, but this sketch has me in a costume with a plunging neckline and criss-crossing tights. It’s what I wore the last time he came to my show. 

My fingertips flutter over my lips as I stare at the looping lines. He’s captured me with my arms above my head and my expression serious as I stare out at the audience. Not stare. I’m looking for something. For someone. 

Tears burn my eyelids. 

I blink them away to give him a wide smile. “You’re really good at this, Miles. I feel really beautiful in your art.”

His head tilts to the side and then his pencil is moving again across the notepad. You’re sad?

I wave him off. This is not the time and place to admit my own emotional shortcomings. “You’re just so good. I can’t believe someone would draw me.”

He reaches across the table and puts his hand over mine. Tilting his head again, he silently implores for me to say more. 

I almost do. 

The words are clawing at my throat. Vegas has been more than just a difficult transition and the last three years were more than I ever thought I could survive. I’ve had some small successes. I’ve had more failures. I lost everything I thought I needed and survived. 

I’m cut off from explaining myself by a shadow drifting over our table. Matthew Krawlski stops next to Miles, his dark gaze pinned to the spot our hands are connected. I should move. I should walk away. I can’t, though, because Miles tightens his hold on me and bids me to stay with a gentle smile. 

“Do I pay you to sit around, Miss Lore?”

I blow out a slow breath. Smile. Ignore the condescension. A boss is a boss whether I’m home near the Bay or out here in the desert. “I’m not actually on the clock, Mr. Krawlski.” I utter the words with as much polite energy as I can muster, daring him to reprimand me in front of his fragile husband. 

“Miles,” Matthew turns away from me to focus on the real artist at the table. “We have somewhere to be.”

I could have imagined it, but I swear Miles flinched. He pulls his hand away. Everything is happening quickly, but I know his fingertips trembled just slightly before he got his hand off of mine. 

Matthew Krawlski puts on the mask of a good husband. He shows off Miles, forcing him to stay on his arm during big events and make several appearances each month. They have been put on the covers of magazines and interviewed by several large news stations. Of course, the cover of a story isn’t always the truth. 

Miles isn’t really in a position to speak out. He might be good at playing his part as a compliant spouse, but there’s worry in his eyes. He fumbles with his pencil in front of me, ducking his face away from Matthew as he scrawls a signature into the corner of his notebook and rips out the sketch of me. 

“You don’t have to give this to me,” I murmur, gingerly accepting the paper from him as I set aside my worries to focus on this moment. 

He smiles and insists, taking his hands off and waving for me to leave. Ever so carefully, I slide out of the booth with his sketch and grin back at him. 

“This is going to hang in my office, Miles. I really love it.”

I watch as he lays his right hand over his heart and mouths two words: thank you.

It’s such a simple gesture. My chest warm, I step back a few more steps, my smile never leaving my cheeks. I need him to know that I appreciate this. 

What can I do for the husband of the richest man in Las Vegas?

I’ve got it. 

Directing my attention solely on Miles and not on Mr. Krawlski as he hovers over this moment, I hold up one finger to him. “I have something for you, too.”

I run to my bag near the edge of the stage before either of them can stop me and pull out the business card from my latest entrepreneurial venture. Crisp, black script cuts across the center of the card: Nabil’s Night Scene. My friend has had the business for a long time, letting it exist as a seedy bar for shady business dealings and mercenaries looking for a night off, but I’m working with her to retheme and make it better. I’ve already got her to agree to let me choreograph some dancers and to let me sing on the weekends. I think she wouldn’t mind letting me convince her to show off some art, too. 

“Whenever you’re ready for people to see your work, call this number. I think I’ve got the perfect spot for you.”

I hold the card out to Miles, but Matthew plucks it out of my hand and shoves it into his breast pocket. “Thank you, Miss Lore. I think that’s quite enough of you today. Please return for your business hours only.”

Matthew Krawlski has the exterior of a model. He’s got the charming smile with a dimple on his left cheek and dark hair to contrast against his blue eyes. On the outside, he’s everything that people look for in a businessman and potential crush. 

Inside, though, there’s something dark and twisted waiting to take an unsuspecting victim in the dead of night. His tone is polite and he smiles at me, but I know there’s ominous implications to his words. I can come back when I’m scheduled. Matthew doesn’t want me anywhere near Miles. Failure to comply will risk my job and possibly more. 

Ducking back towards the stage, I grab my things off of the ground and sling my bag over my shoulder while I continue to hold Miles’ sketch with all of the care it deserves. I’m out of the employee entrance a moment later. 

I don’t glance back to see Miles, but I hope someday he has a chance to reach out to me.

Author’s Note

Happy Saturday, guys! Thanks for reading this week’s prompt. I hope you all enjoyed a little Lucy and Miles scene. Come back next week to see what happens!

As always, please check out my partner’s blog as well!

Bridgette White: https://bridgettetales.com/2022/09/03/the-broken-shell-a-short-story/

Author:

Married. Writer. Dreamer. I have some obsessions with the supernatural, so look out for the upcoming vampires and syrens and more.

One thought on “Artists

  1. What an enjoyable little scene! You are so good at painting such vivid pictures. I could see the entire nightclub and these two troubled artists both struggling in the roles they are currently cast in. There was so much in the unsaid spaces between them. Very well done.

    Liked by 1 person

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