What if you called the sky purple?
And the sea red?
What if the sun were blue and the clouds green?
Michael slammed the front door behind him. He had so much excess energy, anger, frustration, hurt. He didn’t know what to do to help Max...to help Liz. He felt as if his world was coming apart at the seams.
Alcohol had ravaged his life. He only knew the ugliness it could bring. His father Hank, had destroyed his family, had beaten the innocence out of his soul. And now Max. Everything about this situation was bringing up the memories, the pain, everything he’d kept pent up inside.
He needed to paint.
He needed bright blotches of color to eliminate the darkness that threatened to take over his soul. He needed beauty to wipe away the ugliness in his life. He needed Liz. But how could he ask her for what he wanted. He'd promised her that there were no strings attached to their arrangement. And there weren't, but asking her to pose for him might be too much.
He strode to the corner where he kept his art supplies, and stood in the light shining through the window considering the empty canvases he had prepared earlier that week.
“Michael?” Liz’s soft voice cut through the stillness.
He struggled to contain his emotions, sighing raggedly before turning to her. “Yeah. Sorry about the door, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Is everything all right?” she cocked her head, sensing the reserve in his tone.
Michael gave a short bark of laughter, it was the kind of laugh that held no joy, the kind that said no everything is all wrong, and caused Liz to flinch in response. “Yeah. I just need to work some things out.”
“You went to see Max,” Liz stated quietly. She knew his answer before he even gave it, and he knew there would be no lying to her, no hiding the truth.
“I did. He’s pretty messed up,” Michael watched Liz closely, watching for her reaction.
“Did you guys fight? Are you hurt?”
“No. Not really. I mean, I punched him. But..." Michael trailed off. Taking a deep breath he confessed, "I wanted to hurt him for the way he hurt you. But he was pretty far gone when I got there. Why didn’t you tell me about the alcoholism?”
She sighed and rubbed her temples. “I didn’t want to admit it.”
“But you knew?”
“On some level,” Michael stared at her, stunned by her response. Why hadn’t she done something, anything? Why hadn’t she ever warned him? She hesitated and added, “When we had the accident, I knew I shouldn’t have been in that car with him, that he shouldn’t have been driving. But it was easier not to fight, to placate him.”
Michael nodded and said, “He’s in the hospital.”
“Will he be all right?”
“Do you really care after all he’s done to you?”
Liz shrugged, “Old habits die hard, he’ll always be in my heart. I don’t want him to suffer. Besides as you just pointed out I let it happen," she sighed. "I thought it would be easier in the end to not rock the boat. Instead everyone’s hurting.”
“You’re too good a person,” Michael turned to the canvas. “I wasn’t saying it was your fault. I was just surprised, that’s all. My mom—“ He cut himself off. He wasn’t ready to face those demons. He picked up a brush and started playing with its bristles.
Liz tentatively touched his back, moving her hand up slowly until she gripped his shoulder. “Don’t shut me out Michael.”
“What are you talking about Liz?” He shook her off and strode to the counter that held his supplies and started arranging them around the easel he had set up in the corner.
She twisted her hands together and held them up plaintively, “I know you’re hurting, let me help.”
Michael dropped the charcoal pencils he held in his hands and stalked towards Liz, pulling her into a rough embrace. Capturing her face between his callused hands he gently brushed her lips with his. She moaned and parted her lips, allowing his tongue to slip between her teeth and claim her as his. He ran his fingers through her hair down the smooth silk of the nightgown that draped her back.
“Michael,” she breathed.
“Pose for me. I need to paint you. My fingers ache to paint you,” he said in response. Liz said nothing, only nodded her assent. Michael played with the straps of her nightgown, “Will you take this off for me?” he asked, “Do you trust me?”
“Yes,” Liz whispered the word. But it was more than enough to shake him into action.
Michael slipped the straps off her shoulders, allowing the satiny fabric to slide down the soft curves of Liz’s body. Gleaming silver in the light that streamed from the window her skin entranced him. He ached to cover it in his paints, to have her be his masterpiece.
If the world was one of your creation then you could fill in the lines any way you wanted.
So close your eyes. Open your mind.
And dream a little.
Liz shivered as the night air cooled her naked flesh. “Where should I sit?” she asked quietly.
“The settee straight ahead on your left will be fine.”
Liz nodded and cautiously made her way towards it. She’d never thought she’d ever pose in the nude for anyone, but there was something oddly liberating about the whole thing. It was as if not being able to see what she was doing made her less uncertain of what it was she was doing. Or maybe it was just as the old adage said: ‘I can’t see you, you can’t see me.’
But Michael did see her. He’d proved that time and time again. He was so careful, so considerate. It had been foolish of her to believe anything Max has said earlier. She knew now that he'd poked at her own insecurities. It had been unfair for her to put those on Michael. Even now, as upset as he was with this whole situation with Max, he still put her first. He carefully gave her instructions that let her do things on her own. He knew what she needed. It was time she returned the favor.
For some reason, Michael thought she was beautiful. She could tell by the way his breathing changed, by the way his voiced rasped when he spoke to her, by the way he pressed his lips against hers. Also, he'd told her so.
She trusted him. She believed in him. And he needed her now. Posing nude for him was such a small thing. Doing it let her feel powerful. Like she was in control. Giving Michael her body in this way, allowing him to shape it's image on a canvas, it was more intimate than she ever imagined.
It felt so damned good to be needed again.
“Just stretch out, get comfortable,” he said.
Liz nodded as she laid her body on the settee. She wondered for a moment what the scene looked like, imagining it was a frame from a cheesy romance flick.
It hurt to realize she’d never see what Michael painted. She’d never see how he saw her.
Why is red not green or blue?
Why let words dictate what we see?
Who are we to name the colors of the spectrum?
Why be trapped by other people’s version of right?
Michael lay down the brush. He’d been painting for hours, the lush curves of Liz’s body entrancing him until the sun had come up. He hadn't considered stopping until his fingers started to cramp. He’d sketched enough material for an entire series, and had even actually started on a canvas. He wiped his brow, ignoring the smudges of paint that streaked his arms.
He was exhausted. Liz had fallen asleep long ago.
He hadn’t wanted to wake her. Watching her sleep, drawing her as she shifted through the different stages of sleep, listening to the soft even sound of her breathing as she first tumbled into slumber, the way she smiled and her eyelids flickered as her dreams changed her version of reality. It struck Michael that Liz in her dreams could probably see. And he suddenly ached to be there with her.
She looked so comfortable. Her body stretched out on the soft cotton fabric that covered the settee, curled up against one of the pillows, her silky chocolate hair cascading over the side of the sofa.
He wanted to curl up with her.
But he couldn’t. She trusted him, and he couldn’t abuse her trust any more than he already had by getting her to pose naked for him. After all, that had never been part of the deal.
He gathered her up in his arms, and walked to her room. Laying her gently on the middle of her bed, he carefully covered her with the spare quilt she kept draped over the rocking chair she’d insisted on buying for herself. Their first disagreement had been over said piece of furniture.
He’d thought it was a hazard. But she’d persevered, and who was he to say no anyway? Besides he’d been so happy to see her eyes sparked with anger as she stood her ground. He’d had to buy it.
He lowered himself into it, and thought that perhaps it hadn’t been such a bad idea after all. He watched her sleep for a while more before drifting into slumber himself.
In your dreams is the world exactly as it is while you’re awake?
Or are the shades of sleep the only ones we’ll ever own?