The artist held an aristocratic and cosmopolitan air that was thick with arrogance, but he had been so kind and open to Frank that there was no way there could be hostility between them. After all,...
1- The Artist
It started with a raindrop; not a rainfall, but the first drop he felt trickle down his nose. For had he not felt that drop, he would’ve continued strolling to his home, to be safe with his wife and enjoy listening to the patter of the rain on the tin roof. But he did feel that one drop, and to avoid getting his groceries and gifts wet, he rushed into the artists’ shop. The market was only a couple of blocks away from his small home, but they were all out of bread and milk, so Carmen begged him to go get the groceries since she was feeling under the weather. He wouldn’t mind the bread getting soaked and the vegetables would get a healthy clean from the rain, but he possessed something he wouldn’t dare to get wet, a diamond necklace he had been saving up for for years that he had bought for Carmen for their five year anniversary. He wed her when she was 19, him 20, and it was hard to fathom that they had already been married for a long time yet they were still so young.
The tailor waltzed into the shop with a flickering fire in the chimney and he put down his soft brown bags to take off his coat. He was thankful he made the fateful turn into the shop since he could now hear fat raindrops covering the roof. The bell had rung when he stepped in, so he was presented with a woman much younger than him, with thick brown hair and ivory skin. She bore the rags of an assistant of a poor man, and as the whole town knew her, she was. The artist was poor, and the woman was his assistant. Her name was Alicia, though she was sometimes mistaken for Alice, and she took care of the young artist. Many didn’t know about him, so no one really understood why he needed constant care, but she was always there to offer it. All they knew was that her late husband was the artists’ brother.
She was surprised when she saw him at the doorway, “Oh, Mr. Iero, it’s a surprise to see you here.”
“Er, excuse me Mrs. Simmons, I just had to stop to let the rain pass, I didn’t want to get home soaked.”
“Oh please,” her cheeks flushed pink at the mention of a ‘Mrs.’, “call me miss, as I’m a widow. Now don’t stand by the door, it’s cold and rain will seep through the bottom. Come over by the fire while I get you a nice cup of coffee.”
“If it’s no trouble…” Frank added.
“Not at all,” she gave him a warm smile and disappeared into the back of the shop where he could hear her rummaging through the kitchen. Frank was not rich by any means, he was a tailor with a barely-enough salary to feed himself and his wife, but they were content. But by the looks of the shop, he saw it failed at an attempt at luxury, the walls peeling of their lead-laden paint and the bronze handles for the doors were worn and scuffed, lacking of care for years. The wooden floor gave way to his weight and moaned under his step, they were thick with mold and damaged with water. Alicia returned with two steaming cups of coffee and she pulled up a chair and set the tray on the coffee table in between the two chairs. “Sugar?” she asked.
“No thank you, I’ll take it like that.”
“Alright then,” she handed him a coffee cup that had an aroma of thick Columbian beans. He sipped the strong coffee and gulped it with ease. She, in the meantime, thickened hers with milk and three sugars. She sat back and began to nurse her own coffee. “By the way, how’s Mrs. Carmen? Still beautiful as ever?” she added with a thick French accent native to their town.
“Yes, she very much is. Today’s actually our 5th anniversary.”
“Oh, I do envy her Spanish touch, they add such delicate features to her almond skin, and a slender body that is far more envious.”
“I am rather lucky to be able to keep such wife.”
He could hear the creaking of footsteps coming from the kitchen and a loud yawn escaped the lips of the man who was entering. The artist ruffled his black hair that tangled in the back but hung like string beans that fell in front of his eyes. He was wearing thick pajamas and house shoes, walking stiff from rest and his eyes thick from the lack of appropriate sleep. Immediately Alicia rushed to his side. “Good afternoon, Mister Way, take a seat and I’ll get some coffee prepared. Mr. Iero, would you like me to set another plate so you could join us for lunch?”
Frank looked as the artist who sat down in the chair opposite of him with a rude stagger as if they didn’t have a guest over. He guessed Alicia’s manners were enough to make up for the artist’s lack of manners. “I should get home soon, but I don’t think the rain will let up soon. If it’s no trouble, I would love to stay for lunch,” he returned her smile but once she disappeared he stared back at the artist who bore an expressionless face.
“Hello, Gerard,” the tailor said. The artist hardly looked back at the tailor, but instead let his gaze sink into the thick fire in the fireplace.
Frank looked around the room and saw the endless sketches and paintings made by the artist. Some were rough and edgy, some were completed with such detail they could be considered photographs. He looked back at the artist who now looked back at the tailor with a sloppy smile. “How’s the tailoring?” he chimmed.
“Fine, how’s the art?”
“Mediocre.” The artist stood up, scratched the back of his head again and walked over to the bookshelf. He grabbed a thick book and sat down again, flipping through the aged pages of the book. “It’s been a long time since we’ve talked, Frank.”
“Yes, I know. Since preparatory school.”
Gerard smiled again, “that’s a beautiful necklace by the way.” He nudges his head in the direction of the groceries, where there was a white glimmer from the necklace. “It’s for Mrs. Carmen, isn’t it?” Gerard put his gaze on the letters in the book, but his full attention was on Frank’s answer.
“Um, yes it is.”
The rain started to calm and soon there was hardly a faint trace of rain in the air, it was thick with the aftermath of the pour. Gerard sensed this and turned to his guest, “You should go home now.” The artist stood up and grabbed the tailor’s coat and grocery bags, helping the tailor bundle up to go home again. Alicia walked in to announce the rabbit stew was ready, but she saw Frank was leaving and began to say goodbye. She had rubbed her wet hands on her stained apron and embraced Frank like they were good friends. The artist simply told the tailor that he should stop by more often. Frank was on his way out of the door when the artist called his name one more time.
He handed Frank the book he had pulled from the shelf and saw him out the door. Frank turned over the leather bound book once outside to take a look at the front cover. He immediately recognized the book as one he had lent Gerard ten years ago, the one only time he had spoken to the artist in secondary school. He knew then that he would be coming back to visit the artists’ shop again soon.
Immediately as he passed through the door, Frank was leeched onto by a woman no taller than Frank with ebony hair pulled into a tight bun with a few wavy strands falling to the front, framing her almond skin and olive eyes. Her plump crimson lips left wet kisses on Frank’s mouth and her hands traveled over his neck and down his arms. Frank returned her kisses and let his hands rummage over her hips and thin rags. Thin rags that bore a weak house dress and a thick cotton apron that he was lucky to find at the market. Egyptian cotton, a rare find for Frank’s budget. He didn’t fully understand his wife, she was the daughter of the captain of the Spanish army, she had riches to no expense and could travel anywhere in the world she desired, but she dropped her fortune and lost any dowry to marry into Frank’s poor life. Then again, not many men wanted to marry the Spanish beauty as she couldn’t bear fruit. She was infertile but that didn’t bother Frank, he’d always been uncomfortable with the idea of having kids.
She quickly pulled away and grabbed Frank’s grocery bags and immediately set them on the old kitchen counter.
“Thank you so much dear, I wanted to go out for the fresh air myself but you know I’ve been feeling rather sick. I hope it’s not anything serious though, should pass in a couple of days. I thought that maybe for dinner, since the bread didn’t get ruined I’d make some-…” Her rant of her Málaga-laden voice had quieted down and she pulled out a small velvet box that held a diamond necklace on it. Frank, who was still at the doorway nervously listening to her, now looked up with a warm smile.
She dropped the food on the counter and rushed over to Frank with the necklace in hand. She hugged his neck tightly and gave him a small kiss to his cheek. She looked him in the eyes and ran a delicate hand over his smooth jaw.
“It’s beautiful Frank.” She was buried into his chest and he stroked her thick hairs that were lazily falling out of the bun. He kissed her atop her head and pulled her off. She was smiling widely and she put on the royalty. “I’ll start dinner, dear.” Frank walked out of the kitchen and into the study. He lit a gas lamp and pulled the book from his coat. He saw it was a copy of “Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe”. He remembered Poe was his favorite poet in prep school, and the artist had shown interest in the book. Frank let him borrow it without hesitation, hoping he could share his close obsession with someone else, but after that day he never saw it again. Until today, when he held the very copy in his hands. And he knew it was that copy because it bore many side-notes in the book in Frank’s squeamish handwriting. He wanted to be so upset with the artist, in a way he had taken away his dream of writing poems just like his idol did, and by taking away the only decent literature he possessed at the time, the artist took away his inspiration. He wanted to be so angry at him, but he couldn’t be angry.
The artist held an aristocratic and cosmopolitan air that was thick with arrogance, but he had been so kind and open to Frank that there was no way there could be hostility between them. After all, when the artist gave him back the book, he gave him back his hope. If Frank had become an author he would’ve lived in much more poverty, he may have never married Carmen, he would’ve been worse off than the artist. But by depriving Frank of his dreams, he had been allowed to establish a safer abode that would allow him to later write without too much consequence. He no longer resented the artist, but owed much to him. He decided he’d no longer take his regular path to his shop, but he’d detour on the way home to pay a visit to the artist every day.
She was in the kitchen cutting some potatoes when the artist called her name. She walked out and saw him examining a sketch on the wall. He was contemplating and cogitating the rough sketch of a woman standing in a rainy meadow.
His voice was gruff and he had a distant gaze in his eye. “Mrs. Simmons, who drew this wonderful piece? I must say it’d go well with my book I’ve been working on.”
He spoke of a book, he was no longer the artist, he was the writer. “Monsieur Dautry, that was drawn by the artist Mr. Gerard Way.”
Claude Dautry smiled a sloppy dazed smile and pushed some dark hairs from his face, “Tell Mr. Way he’s excellent at drawing when he stops by the shop again. Now let’s go have lunch.”