“You’re sure you’re up to this, Edward? We can always catch the next session.”
“Thanks, but no, let’s not put it off. We’ve been looking forward to this.”
What he means is that I’ve been looking forward to this and he’s been looking forward to humoring me, which works just as well for us. The West Side YMCA is a short subway ride from the apartment, and though crowded, underground is a much more efficient venue for travel this time of the evening. I tunnel my way toward the front of the car and reach my arm into the throng of people, happily locating a sliver of pole and wrapping my gloved fingers possessively around the metal. Edward steps in snug to my back and reaches easily overhead for the leather strap. He wraps his free arm around my waist and tucks me firmly into his body. I drop my head back onto his shoulder and marvel at the security of being so utterly supported.
Greedy for an unguarded glimpse of his face, I turn my head and catch Edward staring blankly out the dirty windows, fighting to keep his thoughts in the moment. He senses my movement and immediately plasters on a brave smile for my benefit.
“Love you,” I remind him.
“That’s good.” He bends to kiss me and I can tell the resulting smile is genuine.
I’m content to ride the rest of the way with my eyes closed, leaning on my sturdy boyfriend, who seems equally content to lean right back on me. Giving and taking seem to have joined in a circle now, one bleeding seamlessly into the other.
Edward follows closely as we ride the steep escalator out of the dank cave into the relatively fresh air above. We’re already holding hands before we even reach the sidewalk, and I imagine how wonderful it will feel to walk along the beach joined this way, with nothing between us.
“I never noticed how big this place was,” Edward marvels as he pulls open the heavy front door.
“I think I read that it was the biggest Y building constructed at the time.”
Our eyes drift up the fourteen-story edifice together, and Edward comments, “Did you happen to notice it looks like a medieval castle? Look at those balconies.”
“You know, they have guest rooms here now. We could stay the night.”
“Hmm, maybe we should look into that. They might just have a dungeon socked away in the basement.”
“There’s a distracting thought. How about we find our class like two normal-ish people?”
“Sure, honey. Lead the way.”
We’d joked about the instructor having her Masters in Art Therapy, but I’m actually enormously grateful for her background right now. I know Edward prides himself on mastery of his own emotions, among other things, but it can’t hurt to give him an avenue for expression tonight. There’s a short line filing into the classroom, and just inside the doorway stands Hope Leeds, a sixty-something woman dressed in paint-splattered jeans and an untucked men’s white Oxford shirt, her long frizzy grey hair corralled at the crown of her head by a colorful turban but otherwise spilling freely down her shoulders and back. She greets each of us with a warm handshake and a welcoming smile.
“Please, everyone, find yourself a place behind one of the easels so we can start.”
Edward tips his chin toward a pair of easels in the back of the room, giving me a little glimpse into the kind of student he must’ve been. No front rows for my boy; no way he could ever behave. We rid ourselves of all the winter wear and settle onto our stools.
“The first brush stroke is by far the hardest,” Hope says. “The blank canvas seems to be mocking us, right?” Nervous laughter sprouts up around the room. “We’re going to show that canvas who’s boss.”
I lean into Isabella and mutter, “Now there’s an idea I can get behind.”
She smiles but keeps her attention on the instructor. I should’ve guessed my sub would be a goody two-shoes in class.
“What I’d like each of you to do is to pick one color from your palette and using your largest brush, cover the entire canvas. You can vary the intensity by changing the amount of water on your brush. Don’t worry about what this is going to be, just cover the white. Okay…go for it.”
I stare down at the choices splayed across my board, willing one of the colors to speak to me. Red? Green? Nothing. I beseech the white canvas to beg for something in particular—anything. Again…nothing. I glance over at Isabella, who does not seem to be having the same issue. She goes straight for the royal blue, dipping her brush daintily in the water dish first but moving quickly to paint then canvas, completely unfettered by doubt.
All right, I can do this. What am I making here? Sky? Ground? An interior wall? How am I supposed to—
I look up into the amused eyes of our teacher. Isabella’s brush pauses momentarily, but then she’s right back to it.
“I guess. Seems kind of silly,” I answer, “but I guess I’m used to having a plan.”
Isabella smiles and keeps painting.
Hope points to my palette. “Which color do you like right now?”
I kind of like the blue, but I don’t want to be a copycat. “Black’s okay.”
“Just paint my canvas all black?”
“Sure. Why not?”
“I don’t know. It seems so…final.”
Hope shrugs. “It’s just watercolor; you can paint right over it when it’s dry. Just give it a try.”
She leaves me to go help the next stuck guy, I guess. Black it is. I dip my brush in the water first, then swirl it over the paint cup. As soon as the first splash of color hits the canvas, I feel enormous relief, and I realize how uptight I’d been moments earlier. I get a little braver on my second pass and take more color and less water.
“Nice,” Isabella comments. My eyes click over to hers; it’s finished.
“Thank you, Speedy Gonzales.”
“It’s not a race, sweetie.”
She seems to pick up on the fact that I’m a little self-conscious as I sweep the next brushful across the canvas. “I have no idea what I’m doing.”
“What’s wrong with that?” she responds.
“I just figured we were supposed to be painting something here.”
“Lose the ‘something,’ Edward. Just paint for the sake of the process.”
“All righty.” Throwing caution and control to the wind, I spin the brush around the top of the paint until it’s loaded with black then dare her to stop me before I cover the bottom half of my canvas with color.
“Now we’re talking,” she encourages me.
Hope sneaks in a bit of a lecture about using watercolors while we wait for our backgrounds to dry, explaining about scale, tone, and color. One thing I already love about watercolors is once the paint dries, you can pretty much paint over it, as if it never happened.
Now that we’ve all created our backdrops, she asks us to think about what we actually want to paint. I suppose a day at the beach is probably out, considering my choice, but if I’d really been feeling the beach mood, would I have really chosen black? I’m afraid my thoughts must’ve drifted back to the finality of putting Boomer down. After what Hope’s explained, I can see where his coloring would show up quite well against the black, and I decide that he’ll feature somehow in this great work of art. As if I could paint something that even comes close to resembling a dog!
Why am I here again? Oh yes, the girl next to me.
“What are you thinking, Isabella?”
She’s gazing at the blue expanse in front of her, turning her head this way and that, the gears cranking away inside that pretty skull of hers. “Looks like water to me. I’m thinking about our hammock.”
“Sounds good to me. You can write in, ‘Wish we were there,’ at the top and make it into a post card.”
“How ‘bout you?”
“I’m not sure yet. I think I might just keep working on the process instead of the something.”
“Okay,” she smiles, dipping her brush into the water.
“I seriously want to dive into your painting and just stay there for a week,” Edward praises. “Not only is that a great-looking hammock, it’s almost exactly the way I pictured it. We better have one of those in—”
Damn, he’s caught himself before giving away our destination. Edward shakes a finger at me. “Unh, unh, unh, Isabella. That was very tricky of you, but I’m not falling for it.”
“What did I do? I just painted a hammock. You did the rest!”
“Sometimes a hammock is just a hammock? Is that your story?”
I’m so happy his mood has lightened, and I wonder if it has anything to do with his painting. He turned his easel away from me before he started the foreground, so I have no idea what he’s done. It fascinates me that we both still have pieces of ourselves that are hard to share—not that we’ve been together all that long, but just that the intensity of it goes so far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.
“Mind if I have a look?”
He answers by turning his easel so it’s back in line with mine. He doesn’t say a word, just waits patiently while I decipher his work. There’s a yellowish-orangeish-brownish figure in the center that Hope must’ve helped him produce, because it’s textured in a way that a novice wouldn’t have the skill to achieve. Set into the figure is a pair of mostly black almond-shaped eyes with white at the inner corners and a bigger brown triangle that has to be the nose. It’s highly abstracted but clearly Boomer.
Surrounding the figure is a solid white loop that almost looks like Saturn’s rings. Four very ethereal vertical forms are spaced around the circle, and though the figures are far less confident than the dog, it’s not hard to discern them—they’re us, Carlisle, Esme, Edward, and me.
“Can you tell me about that?” I ask cautiously, not wanting to make him talk if he’d rather just keep it light.
His lips curl into a smile. “I knew it was crap. Can you not even tell what it was supposed to be?”
“Of course I can. I see Boomer and all of us, but I wanted to hear what you were thinking.”
“Pffft, you mean aside from the fact that I can’t paint for shit?”
“Is that really what was going through your head while you painted this?”
He folds his arms over his chest and regards his painting. “At first, yes. I wanted to paint Boomer, but I knew I’d never be able to. Once I realized I didn’t have to do his whole body, and that it didn’t even have to look like a real dog, I kind of just let go. Then, the people came much easier, too.”
“What about that circle? You seemed pretty sure of yourself there.”
His smile grows and he turns to face me. “That’s my little family. Mom, Dad…you. All of us fused together, more than the sum of our parts. When I think back on that moment, that’s what I remember most.”
“That’s why the people are kind of…”
“Airy,” he finishes. “Yeah. We were all floundering a bit by ourselves—well, maybe not you—but then, together…” He points to the circle as his voice trails off. “Strong.”
“Family,” I repeat, grinning like a loon.
Leaving class almost feels like a receiving line. “You survived,” Hope teases.
Leaving class almost feels like a receiving line. “You survived,” Hope teases.
“What do you think of your first piece?”
“I think I have the perfect place to display it.”
Isabella cracks up next to me and gives me a firm shove out the door. “See you next week, Hope. Thank you. We really had a great time.”
“Wait, we were supposed to have fun? I thought we were supposed to learn to paint.” We wind our way down the grand marble staircase back to the lobby.
“I think we’re supposed to learn how to have fun painting.”
“Wow…that is deep. How about I treat us to a taxi home? I don’t want to risk anything happening to our priceless pieces.”
“So tell me, where is this beautiful painting getting displayed?”
“I’m going to keep it in the Master’s closet, so if you’ve been particularly bad, I can make you look at it as punishment.”
“Oh my god, you are evil.”
“You think that’s evil…?”
Her head whips around just as the cab pulls to the curb. “What have you done, Edward?”
“Get in the car, sweetheart.”
She slides in, carefully holding the painting away from her body, her eyes not leaving mine. Once we’re tucked inside and the driver knows where to go, I reach into my pocket and pull out a stash of paint cups.
“Don’t worry, I’ll replace them next week. There’s an art supply store right down the street.”
“Why did you take those?”
“I felt the urge to practice…on your body.”
Her irritation suddenly gives way to amusement. “I don’t suppose you stole a brush while you were at it?”
I shake my head and waggle my fingers, and she throws her head against the back of the seat. “Lord, give me strength.”
“You’re not gonna need that. All you have to do is stand there like a blank canvas and let Picasso do all the work. Hmmm, I think I’ll be in my…red period tonight.”
She grabs my hand and pries open my fingers. “I presume I get a turn as well?”
My little tigress has come out to play. “Sure. Pick a color, any color.”
She reaches in and grabs the yellow, then thinks better of it and takes the blue as well. “Oh! Look at you! Are you going to be making green or keeping them separate?”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“In case we get carried away later, which I am certainly counting on, let me tell you right now that I’m really happy you signed us up for this class.”
“Thank you for keeping an open mind, especially with today being such a rough day. You really kind of blew me away in there, Edward.”
I give my canvas another look. Truly, it sucks ass, and there’s no way she doesn’t know that. “Which part was it that you liked—the disembodied dog head or the stick figure aliens floating in outer space?”
Isabella lets loose a loud guffaw, then instantly covers her mouth with her gloved hand. “Sorry, that was just…sorry.” She gets a hold of herself and answers me, just as the taxi pulls up in front of the apartment. “I loved that you let yourself go there. That was brave.”
I lean in and kiss her because she’s beautiful and she understands me like no other woman ever has or will. “Let’s go have some fun, shall we?”
“Are you sure this paint is not edible? Because I reeeeally want to lick this off you.” He’s standing in front of me in the shower, tracing circles around my rigid nipples.
“I’m not sure it’s not, but I’m not sure it is, either, so we better not.”
“Okay, that was a quadruple negative, so that’s a yes.”
“You’re stalling. It’s your turn to stand still and you can’t take it.”
“Sure I can. I’m just not done with you yet.”
“Tell you what, let me paint you and then you can finish with me. How does that sound?”
“Go for it.” With that, he sets down the paint and drops his hands passively to his sides. I refill the water cup with a fresh supply from the spigot.
“Hey! You’re ruining my masterpiece.”
I drop my chin to my chest and look down my body, where the red coloring is forming long rivulets from my neck, striping my breasts and stomach, and rolling down my legs.
“Sorry,” I murmur, shutting the water faucet. Loading my fingertip with blue paint, I draw an experimental line from his nose to his ear and repeat the stripe on the opposite side.
“Would it help if I whooped out a war cry for you?”
“Hold still,” I scold, tracing his perfect jaw with the next stroke.
“I’m aware,” I smirk. He’s just painted my entire front one fingertip at a time; I know exactly how this feels. “Turn around please.”
He cocks a surprised brow—an impressed “Damn-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that?” brow—and I give him the twirl finger. Happily, he obeys this time.
Painting Edward is a rare joy. For one thing, he’s standing still and letting me do what I want to his body, which is a rare treat and a guaranteed good time. Secondly, running my hands over his skin with no time limit really affords me the chance to appreciate the many interesting dips and muscular ridges that make up his topography; I even find myself a couple new places to explore in more detail at a later date. Finally, there’s the good old-fashioned ogle factor; the man has a great ass, and I hardly ever get the chance to enjoy it this way.
His back becomes visual proof of my travels, a mess of crisscrossing lines and circles that make no sense artistically, but tell a robust story of a lover’s attention. His ass is a system of concentric circles with random blue trails leading into the vertical divide between left and right. Edward seems to enjoy those particular trails the best of all, as evidenced by the huge smile on his face when I have him turn around.
Though my boyfriend’s front is equally enticing, I opt for a simpler design. Starting with a fresh dollop of paint at his breastbone, I arc up and over his well-defined pec, tickle down the vulnerable hollow along his side, and follow the cradle of his pelvic bone right into the base of his beautiful cock, a lovely piece of organic art that needs no further embellishment.
Once I’ve seen the prize, drawing the mirror-image to the first half of the open heart design becomes more challenging, and I have to admit I’m not exactly patient in making my way to the pointy “V” at the bottom.
Edward’s swollen cock twitches in greeting as I hastily join the two strands of blue and lift my gaze to his waiting, hungry eyes.
“Isabella, if it’s all the same to you, I’d really like to fuck you now.”
Tossing the paint into the corner of the shower stall, I link my hands behind his neck and assure him, “That works for me.”
His serious expression morphs into eager joy as he hoists me up onto his hips and presses me to the cool wall. His blue combines with what’s left of my red, making a watery purple mess between us. “Mmm, colorful,” he observes between kisses.
I cross my feet at his lower back, my heels digging into the want I painted all over his ass. With his hands stretched around my thighs, Edward holds me open and still while entering me, and my loud “Unf” echoes off the ceramic tiles. My back is chilled, but between his desperate kisses and the friction of his thrusting, my front is on fire. The pounding and suction between us make for an erotic soundscape worthy of a porn video, and Edward’s low grunts soon add to the mix. The feel of him smothering me against the wall and thrusting with wild abandon fills me with joy; he’s my Edward again, full of love and passion and need. He releases inside me with a low, building rumble, a freight train rolling into the station, and afterward, he holds me there with long, slow kisses and sweet whispered words.
We clean each other with slow, relaxed swipes of soapy washcloths and swirly massages of peppermint body scrub. Edward is worn out by the time we fall into bed, and he falls quickly into a deep sleep. I watch him for a long while, my breathing synchronizing itself with the rise and fall of his chest.
Today, he was a boy, a son, a novice. Tomorrow, he will be my Master.
Whoever Edward is or will be, I know I will love him fiercely.