Paul Peters. It was a hell of a name for kid growing up. He'd been teased unmercifully because of it. "P.P." followed by jeers, laughter and a lot of finger pointing. Not to mention bullies who shoved him into school lockers or knocked his books out of his hands. He'd fought back of course, several times, but all the good it did him was to land him in detention more often than not.
And because of it, he learned to draw. With nothing better to do than just sit there, he drew, sketched, and sometimes painted. Paul's natural raw talent was appreciated and respected by his peers, teachers. But not by anyone that could give him the break he needed. Getting discovered by someone that had connections was harder than anyone might imagine. Though perhaps having a name like Paul Peters, or "Pee-Pee" as he remembered being called, probably didn't help much. He'd even considered changing it, but out of respect for his mother who had died so many years ago while he was still young, he didn't. She had truly loved him and he her though he never known his father.
"One day," she had told him. "Paul Peters will be known for something. Always remember that!"
"Yeah," Paul thought as he stood in the tiny loft of his apartment. "It's stands for nobody."
Paul stood just under six feet. He wore his dark brown hair long though keeping it in a ponytail much of the time. He was neither handsome nor plain. If anything his boyish features gave him a look that accentuated the natural creative talent he had. Provided he smiled, which he didn't do much of as late. Brown eyes that saw color in rich unique blends as he painted, almost unnaturally long fingers from a man, slender but strong from working part-time as a landscaper, but giving him a touch upon the canvas that allowed quick smooth strokes of his brush.
His entire world existed within the confines of his tiny studio. Much of which he'd ever painted sat in domino looking stacks along the walls, even the floor. Portraits, landscapes, even a few characters, and cartoons he had done, though these primarily as a way of expressing his thoughts and emotions more than anything else. Paul could basically sketch or paint anything. It really didn't matter what it was. All that did matter was that he wasn't selling any of it.
Paul opened his tiny refrigerator for the third time. And for the third time, there wasn't much in it that sounded appetizing to eat, let alone still being edible even if it did.
"I really need to do some shopping," he thought dejectedly. "But not now. Now, I think I'll treat myself to a burger."
Grabbing his sketch pad as he never went anywhere with out it, Paul headed down the street to a local diner that was one of his favorite places to 'hang' when he wasn't busy hanging in his studio apartment. Even Gladys, the owner of the café' looked forward to his visits. She was the first, and so far the only one to ever buy one of his sketches, and she displayed it proudly behind the counter where it hung prominently. He'd sat sketching her as she'd worked behind the counter, capturing the smile on her face that she had for each and every customer that came in. She'd noticed it while he was too occupied to realize she was standing there, putting on the finishing touches.
"How much?" she'd asked.
She'd startled him. "What?"
"For the sketch."
"Oh, not for sale," he'd said not meaning to make it sound like he was being rude. "But I will give it to you," he smiled handing her the finished work.
Just before leaving, Gladys had brought him his check. He reached into his pocket for what little cash he had left, picked up his check and smiled.
"One free dinner per week for life," she'd written. "Not negotiable!"
So ok, maybe it wasn't like someone had purchased his work, paying him a lot of money for it. But in a way Gladys had. A free dinner once a week for life wasn't something to shake your head at. In the long run, it could end up being the most valuable piece of work he'd ever done.
"Hey Paul!" Gladys said in greeting when he entered. "The usual?"
Paul waved, nodding his head. He always got her garlic burgers. They were the best he'd ever had or found anywhere. Taking a seat at his favorite back booth that was thankfully available, he sat facing towards the door where he could sit and sketch, often drawing a myriad of interesting customers that came into Gladys place. Sometimes he gave them away to them. Sometimes they actually paid him a few bucks for his efforts. Others looked at him as though he was some kind of creep out to make a buck, which he was... but he never asked for money, not for any of them. And any he didn't sell or simply give away, he just left. What Gladys did with them, he never knew, and she never told him.
He'd just started sketching an old guy that had come in off the streets. Not exactly homeless perhaps, he had enough at least to pay for his dinner. But it was obvious the man lived a hard and tough life. And so he began to sketch. Like always, when he really got into his drawings, paintings, he tended to shut everyone, and everything else out.
"That's pretty good!" he heard someone interrupting.
"Thanks," he responded not even bothering to look up. He'd heard the compliment before, appreciated them when he did. But it didn't buy his dinner or help make the rent.
"No I mean it, you really are good!"
Unfortunately, two compliments meant he actually had to look up. It wasn't within his nature to be rude, or at least that rude anyway. The sight of her nearly took his breath away, and for a moment he forgot all about what he was doing, let alone what he might have said.
Tall, dark shoulder length hair, piercing blue eyes with a smile that showed off her flawless perfect white teeth. She wore a women's business suit, obviously some sort of professional. And though it conservatively hid her femininity, there was no denying she had a body to match hidden beneath the suit she was wearing.
"You do this for a living?" she asked still standing there, obviously deciding he wasn't about to comment on her last.
"If I did, think I'd be eating here?" he answered, immediately feeling guilty for having said that, glancing up in Gladys direction though she was currently busy with customers paying no attention to him. And worse, he saw that beautiful smile on the vision standing before him fade.
"Sorry," she said. "I rather like eating here, they happen to have the best garlic burgers I've ever eaten." She turned beginning to walk away.
"Yes, they do," he answered feebly, apologetically by the tone of voice he now used.
She stopped, turning to face him once more.
"Can I ask you another question?"
"Sure," he said meekly.
She slid into the booth opposite him without being invited to do so. He was glad that she did however, actually smiling for the first time, though he quickly closed his mouth. His teeth weren't nearly as pearly white as hers were.
"By the way, my names Cathy Johnson," she said extending her hand across the table towards him. "But people call me C.J."
"Paul Peters," he said taking it. "But people used to call me Pee-Pee," he thought silently to himself. Thankfully, 'CJ' didn't seem to think his name odd.
"Nice to meet you," she said taking her soft warm hand back. "So... do you just do sketches? Or are you really an artist?"
Paul didn't take offense at her comment, he knew what she meant by that. "I paint too, mostly in fact. Landscapes, people, just about anything, you name it."
She nodded her head, not at all surprised by his revelation. "You ever considered getting into advertising? That's what I do for a living," she offered. "You know, billboards, campaigns, magazines, that sort of thing."
"No, not much call for what I paint or do," he said honestly. "Or if there is, plenty of others already available who are being used. Not much need for one more guy doing the same things everyone else is."
"May I?" she asked.
"It's not finished." Paul allowed her to take the sketch he'd been working on anyway as she slid it across the table towards herself.
"You have a really unique style. Not just capturing how a person looks, but capturing the emotion as well," she added. "You really are good!"
"Would you be willing to consider something?"
Paul looked at her questioningly, without answering. She continued taking that as a yes.
"I'm working on an idea. Nothing concrete yet, but I need to come up with something new for an advertising campaign I'm working on. So far, I haven't had much luck coming up with anything that hasn't already been done. I need something special, something eye-catching that will not only work, but will capture the attention of a prospective client I'm trying to win over to the agency I work for."
"Like I said," Paul began. "I mostly do landscapes, a few people, but nothing like products, cars..."
CJ laughed stopping him. "Would you be willing to give it a try? I'd like you to paint someone for me," she told him. "Actually, what I'd like you to do, is paint ON someone for me!"
"On someone?" he asked. "What do you mean exactly?"
"The idea I've been kicking around is this. A beautiful woman, most likely a model of course. One who is willing to allow herself to be painted in the nude."
"In the nude? Well that settles that then. Believe it or not, I don't do nudes either."
.... There is more of this story ...