Carlos turned the canvas to face his model, then looked over at Rachel. “What do you think?”
“That’s my portrait?”
“Yes.” Carlos smiled. He was proud of the canvas.
“But there’s only blocks of black and white with a few blue. There’s not even a circle. That’s crazy.”
“No, it’s abstract.”
“That’s what you think of me.”
“No, that’s how I think of you.”
“I sat naked for three days. For this.”
Carlos went over to Rachel and took his model in his arms.
Rachel pushed him away. “Don’t touch me.” She hurried over to the corner for her clothes, then she said, “This is what I get for baring my soul to you. This thing.” She pointed to the painting.
“But this is you.”
Rachel was not up to hearing anymore. She slipped on her blouse. Then her curiosity got the best of her. “Okay, how is that me?” Her anger filled the room.
“You are like a city. A beautiful city that is like no other city.” He pointed his brush to the black area at the top. This is your hair. That lovely hair.” There was pleading in his eyes. And tears. “And this is your heart. And in this part, there is the life that you gave me. The life that gave me purpose.”
“Bull shit.” Rachel pulled on her pants. “And to think I believed in you. This is what I get for my trouble.” Her face looked like the face of a tigress. “Friends told me about you and I didn’t believe them. Well, I was wrong.” She zipped up and reached down for her shoes.
“I thought you would be pleased.”
“Well, I am not.” She slipped on her shoe. Then she grabbed her second shoe. It looked like she was thinking of throwing it. But she changed her mind and slipped it on too. She was dressed. “I’m out of here. I will never take up with an artist again. City, my butt. You no talent bum. You just wanted to use me. Didn’t you?”
“No, Baby. You’re wrong.”
She stood glared across the room at Carlos. “Was I that bad of a lover?”
“No, it’s not that.”
“Of course, I wasn’t. And this is what I get.”
Rachel headed for the door. Carlos stepped in front of her.
“Don’t go. Please,” he begged.
She shoved the artist out of her way and stormed out of his studio.
The next morning the headlines of the newspaper read: ARTIST KILLS HIMSELF, LEAVES BEHIND MASTERPIECE. Underneath the headline was a photograph of her portrait with a caption: “The Woman.”
On her way to the café where she worked, Rachel saw the headline and grabbed the paper and handed the newsstand owner the money to pay for it. On the bus, she read the story several times. At the end of it, the newspaper asked, “Does anyone know who this woman is?”
She waited her tables that day, wondering what she had lost. That night she cut the painting out of the paper, then for hours she stared at it. It was her. It was beautiful.
Later she dreamed of Carlos.