FFF 1000: Disguises
Thursday, May 15, 2008, 11:16 PM
Flash Fiction Flood 1000
Once a month, writers are invited to come up with a 1000-word maximum flash story based on a theme. This month--May--is Disguises.
Wordcount: 1160 (uh, woops)
“It’s remarkable, Ms Dagget,” David said with a catch in his voice. His finger shook as he traced the naked figure of the woman in the painting.
“I call it Death Vengeance,” she said abruptly. “You see how her foot goes through the skeleton’s eye? Death. How her hands are crossed in front of her pelvis? Chastity. The red background is meant to represent blood. It has nothing to do with sex.”
His gaze hadn’t moved from the painting, but his finger had dropped to her signature in the bottom corner. She wondered what he’d think if he knew it was scrawled in her own blood.
“Well, we don’t have to share that. We don’t want to interfere with personal interpretation.”
She fought the urge to smirk. Let whoever purchased the painting hang it on the ceiling above his bed and jerk off to each brushstroke of her anger, pain and hate. The astronomical sums people paid for her paintings made her want to both laugh and weep; that the results of her hate could elicit such extravagance in paying far more than what a painting was worth seemed more sinful than liberating. But she couldn’t stop—the only way to get rid of the images was to create them. And she needed the money.
David tore his gaze from the canvas and looked at her with his mouth still agape. “The colors are amazing.” He switched the spotlight off that shone on the canvas. “Even now.”
Impatient at staring at the back of his head, even if he did have gorgeous blond hair and a set of wide shoulders, she retreated to the counter. “Like the others, I imagine it’ll sell before the end of the month,” she said.
He turned to her slowly, his dark eyes intense. “If you’d allow reproductions, we could make substantially more. Now wait until you’ve heard what I suggest. There are three avid Dagget fans and there are bound to be more as your name grows. How are you going to keep up with demand? A reproduction can be sold—”
“I don’t need that much money, nor am I interested in making fans.” There would be no reproductions of anything she’d created. One impression was more than enough.
David spread his arms out, angry at her business non sequitur. “Why?”
Because I said so.
“It’s the way I want it.”
A brief smile curved his mouth. “You want to become an elitist?”
Oh, hell. I’d rather pole dance.
“Exactly the opposite,” she said.
“I don’t understand.”
He didn’t need to understand. A part of her wanted to explain, but that wasn’t what M. Dagget would do.
She wanted anonymity.
She wanted never again to come face-to-face with the horror of her paintings.
Seconds passed while they both tried to outwait the other before David walked over, only he took his place behind the ornately carved counter. Her face began to heat under his scrutiny, but more in anger than with embarrassment. While this was personal for her, it was business for him. His eyes scanned her mouth, her eyes, but she knew it wasn’t with interest. Her skin was so pale it was sallow, and her pronounced under bite forced her bottom lip out too far. But his gaze challenged hers and her contact lenses became dry and fogged over because she refused to blink.
She lifted her chin. “Five thousand, Mr. Young.”
His mouth opened. She blinked. Oh, the relief.
“Five thousand, or I take my next painting to a competitor.”
“You can’t do that,” he growled. “We have a contract.”
They did, but it wasn’t legally binding, only he didn’t know that. Still, it would attract unwanted attention and trouble if she went to a competitor. “You’re more than capable of selling the painting at that price,” she said in answer.
Keep confidence. In him and you.
She felt his gaze like a physical touch against her back as she left the store. From now on, she’d send the paintings by courier. David Young was probing too deep, displaying too much attitude. His Adonis’s blond looks were starting to make her uncomfortable. Beautiful men were used to getting what they wanted, which meant he would care less and less what she felt or wanted. And maybe, just maybe, so would she.
But not if she retreated. Not if she removed the obstacle.
Damn his avarice for taking away her outings.
Outside, she faced a different kind of heat. The sun beat down on her head, and the warmth radiating from concrete sidewalk and the building next to her made her feel like an egg in a frying pan. It was August; another good reason for a courier. Maybe even an Alaskan cruise.
She flagged a taxi.
“Where to?” the driver asked as the passenger side window rolled down. She pulled the door's handle. It stuck. He hadn’t unlocked it. Swallowing a curse, she stepped to the side and peered into the open window.
“Broadway and 8th,” she said firmly. She hated, absolutely hated, being judged on appearance. Beauty was no different from ugliness.
The door’s lock thunked and she climbed into the cab with a sigh.
“You got cash, lady?”
Now he was insulting her. She dug out her can of mace and a billfold, then held up a twenty dollar bill.
He shrugged and mashed the accelerator. She kept the can of mace on her lap, smiling secretly at the number of glances he gave it. Skinny, nervous, disrespectful—all she had to do was ignore him, the wimp.
And so she relaxed against the backseat as horns blared behind them. Damn, he had the air conditioning on too low. It would be embarrassing if she passed out from heat exhaustion, not to mention all the questions that would cause.
She didn’t open her eyes until he slowed at Broadway. Thrusting two twenty dollar bills through the square of plastic, she told him to pull over. Then, mostly keeping her head down but making it a point to smile at anyone who crossed her path, she entered the Chapman Flats building. The wood and brass decoration of the elevator face always made her think of a dungeon chamber with decorative studs.
She rode the elevator to the fourth floor, fidgeting inwardly all the way because M. Dagget wasn’t overtly impatient or temperamental.
M. Dagget was a friggen bore.
The first thing she did once inside the apartment was to kick off her shoes. The oversized aqua tank top came off next, then the foam body suit that made her look twenty pounds heavier. Exhaling loudly, she walked to her marble-tiled bathroom and grinned at herself in the mirror. She pulled the bottom set of false teeth out and carefully unhooked the mahogany pageboy wig.
Nondescript. Common. Forgettable. That’s all it took to fool most anyone.