"She said no."
Alex didn't know who or what Steve was talking about; figuring maybe Steve has asked his girlfriend for head again. Alex flipped to the next page of his 120-page textbook "Art and Artists," as he took a sip from the Pepsi can resting on the pavement underneath his chaise lounge.
"Michelle, I mean," Steve said. "She doesn't want to pose for you."
Alex almost gagged on the cola that trickled down his throat. He placed, no, practically threw his text book aside to avoid spitting the cola all over the fine glossy pages as he tried to restore the air into his lungs.
"You asked her?" Alex said in disbelief.
"Well yeah, dude," Steve said, peeling off his shirt and eyeing the diving board above. "You said you wanted to draw a naked chick, right? I thought I'd help you get the ball rolling."
Alex slammed his text book shut and slid it into his book bag.
"I hope you didn't say it that way!" Alex said. "Michelle's gonna think I'm a pervert!"
"So? She's not gonna do it anyway," Steve said. "You'll have to ask someone else."
Alex rolled his eyes. Steve had never shown a sense of tact in the five years Alex had known him, why should he start now?
"Hey, why don't you just do a still life?" JB asked. JB only briefly looked up towards Alex to make his helpful suggestion before resuming his attention to his iPhone, furiously pressing the buttons to ensure the T piece landed neatly onto the I and L pieces with no spaces in between.
"Cause this dude's still a virgin who's never seen a naked chick in real life," Steve said, picking up a bottle of sunscreen.
"Shut up, yes I have," Alex said.
"The man's got a talent, might as well use it to get him some pussy," Steve said, smearing the sunscreen onto his arms.
"Artists don't sleep with their models, Steve," Alex said.
Don't know why they wouldn't," Steve said. "Especially if they got a good-looking one. Speaking of that- daaaaaaaaaamnnnnn!"
Steve almost dropped the bottle of sunscreen as he twisted his head to ogle two bikini-clad girls who had just emerged from the women's locker room.
"What do you think?" Steve asked. "The brunette could stand to lose a few, the blonde, no problem, no problem."
Alex turned to check out the newly arrived babes. He agreed the brunette was a tad overweight but had a pretty face nonetheless. The blonde had fantastic breasts and shapely legs, but perhaps a bit too much makeup. Alex tried to imagine her under softer lighting with a prop next to her. That might make a decent piece, Alex thought.
"Aw man!" JB shouted. "I got over 15,000 points and I just lost!"
JB shrugged and set his iPhone aside.
"Well screw this, I'm going swimming," JB said. He pulled his shirt up over his chubby torso and dropped it onto his chaise lounge.
"Woah, Casper, nice tan!" Steve laughed.
"Shut up Steve, not everyone spends their winters in a tanning booth trying to get that perfect shade of carrot orange," JB said. He then curled in to a ball and slammed his rotund body into the pool, splashing water all over Steve and Alex.
"My sketchbook!" Alex shouted.
The rush of displaced water careened onto the cover of Alex's sketchbook, which he had resting at the foot of his chaise lounge.
"You got it wet, dickhole!" Alex exclaimed. He grabbed his towel and meticulously wiped the water from the cover of his sketchbook. Alex flipped the book open. His collection of pastel and charcoal drawings appeared undamaged. Alex flicked a speck of dust from the corner of one of his drawings and shut the book again.
"Hey Leonardo, the pool is for swimming, not drawing," Steve said. "Why don't you get in and do a lap?"
What the hell, Alex thought. He wasn't getting much work done anyway, and was still no closer to finding a model for his project. Alex put his sketchbook into his book bag and zipped it shut. As an extra precaution, he moved his book bag a few feet further from the pool.
"All right, Gentlemen, let's clear the landing pad," Alex said as he stepped up to the pool's edge. He waited for JB to swim out of his way, only to find JB apparently hadn't heard a word he just said.
"Hello, Earth to JB," Alex said, but JB was staring intently at the pool entrance.
"She's here," JB said.
"What?" Alex asked.
"Hold onto your cock, sir, look who just walked in," Steve said.
"Who are you guys talk-" and then Alex stopped mid-sentence when he saw her.
Audrey Poma, Alex's crush of six years, just stepped out of the pool office building. Geared up in a very form fitting red swimsuit with the word "Lifeguard" sprawled across the front in bold white letters, Audrey scanned the pool area through her ruby red-framed sunglasses and licked her lips. Alex had to take a step backwards when he felt her gaze pass him. His heart skipped four beats and he went momentarily catatonic. Steve and JB, while not carrying the torch for Audrey that Alex did, were still very much captivated by Audrey's alluring presence.
Steve wrapped his arm around Alex's shoulders.
"Now THAT'S the girl you should get for your art project," Steve said, admiring Audrey's curvaceous body.
"She'd never do it," Alex said is dismay.
"Won't know unless you ask," Steve said.
Alex turned to Steve sternly.
"Do NOT ask her," Alex said, with a penetrating stare into Steve's eyes.
"It's on you, buddy," Steve said, and jumped into the water.
Alex was too busy watching Audrey climb the lifeguard tower to mind the water Steve had just splashed onto him.
What a perfect body, Alex thought to himself. She would be a great model for Alex's final project, which he had informed Steve and JB two days prior would be a female nude. Alex's professor has encouraged the assignment, but Alex did not have the money to hire a professional model. He'd spent the past few days in the hopes of finding a girl who would do it for cheap, if he could find a delicate way to present the question.
Now here he was, in front of the perfect girl, and he had no idea how to ask.
"Come on, dude! Jump in!" Steve said.
That's right, Alex said to himself. I need to just jump in. Taking a deep breath, Alex stretched his muscles for a few brief seconds, and plunged into the water below.
"Now THAT'S the girl you should get for your art project."
Steve's voice echoed in Alex's head as he felt his heels touch the bottom of the pool. Ignoring the multitude of shuffling swimmers above him, Alex tried to imagine Audrey's slim, sexy body easing out of her tight swimsuit. Sliding the slinky material down her long legs, her round, firm breasts emerging into view. The mental imagine of Audrey's naked body danced about in Alex's brain. Firm. Gorgeous. Beautiful. A body any man would want to squeeze against his own.
Alex leapt to the surface and took a breath of fresh air. He wiped the water from his eyes and saw her right in his line of sight. Audrey lifted her left leg and rubbed sunscreen up and down her calf, up over her thigh, around the outside of her thigh and then the inside as well. Even from this distance Alex could see that Audrey was absolutely fantastic looking. Alex felt lost among the crowd of swimmers around him. He was just another fish in the sea.
"That's the girl," Steve's voice echoed again.
Alex knew Steve was right. There was no sense just staring and thinking about it. Audrey might say no, but Alex was going to have to ask. There was nothing else he could do. Alex climbed out of the pool and dried himself off with his towel. Grabbing his brush and quickly combing his chlorine-soaked hair as nice as he could manage, Alex took his sketchbook from his book bag.
Here goes nothing, Alex thought.
Alex walked along the pool's edge. Every few seconds he glanced up towards Audrey, just in case she might have been looking at him. She was watching the pool.
Alex finally arrived at the foot of the lifeguard tower. His heart felt like it would jump out of his chest. He had to do this.
"Hi Audrey," Alex said.
Audrey didn't respond.
She might not have heard me, Alex thought. Alex considered saying it again. Wait, what if she had heard him? If he said it again he would sound desperate. Maybe Steve had told her what he was doing.
Shut up, shut up, Alex told himself. It was time to get his head in the game. Alex cleared his throat.
"Hi Audrey," Alex said again.
Audrey looked down towards Alex. She lifted her sunglasses. She had the most gorgeous bright blue eyes that sparkled in the sunlight.
"Oh, hi Alex," Audrey said, smiling. Alex melted. "How's it going?"
"Great, you?" Alex asked. He tried to act casual, while clutching his sketchbook as if it contained the nation's nuclear arsenal codes.
"Just working," Audrey said. "I was supposed to have today off but Nick called off."
"That sucks," Alex said. He felt a gust of wind, and detected the scent of Audrey's hair. She smelled fantastic. Alex wondered how she kept that herbal smell in her hair when she sat by a large tub full of chlorine all day.
"Hey, whatcha got there?" Audrey asked. She was looking at Alex's sketchbook.
"Oh this?" Alex asked. "My sketchbook for art class."
"Ooh, can I see?" Audrey asked.
"Um, sure," Alex said. He handed the sketchbook up to Audrey. Audrey flipped it open to a page depicting a charcoal drawing of JB sleeping with his head on his desk. Audrey laughed.
"I like this one," Audrey said. Alex nodded in appreciation. Audrey flipped to the next page. It was a pastel piece depicting Steve playing basketball.
"You are really talented, Alex," Audrey said.
"Thanks," Alex said. Maybe this was the time to ask, Alex thought.
"I'm still trying to find a subject for my final project that's due next month," Alex said.
"Ooh, maybe you could draw me!" Audrey giggled.
"Well," Alex said. This was as good an opening as any.
"You know I always wanted to be a model," Audrey continued. "You could do a drawing of me on this tower. I sit still all afternoon."
"I could," Alex said. "But I was thinking maybe-"
"Uh oh," Audrey said. A child thrashed about in the water helplessly. Before Alex could say another word Audrey dove headfirst into the water. Alex couldn't help but notice how majestically she swam towards the distressed youngster. Within seconds she had her grasp on the young swimmer and helped him wade towards the pool edge.
"All right there, big guy?" Audrey asked.
"I- I thought I could touch bottom here but I couldn't," the child said, panting.
"Let's get you up," Audrey said.
Audrey helped the child climb out of the pool and settle on the pool ledge. Alex stood by, awkwardly waiting for Audrey to finish her duties so he could continue making his subtle pitch. Alex could see Steve over by the vending machines, chatting with the blonde babe they'd seen entering the pool area earlier. He'd probably end up banging her later that evening. Alex wondered if Steve's girlfriend was oblivious to his womanizing or if it was just something she tolerated.
Once Alex saw Audrey was on her way back to her post atop the lifeguard tower, he prepared himself to pop the big question. Whether he would have done it or not he wouldn't know because JB chose that exact moment to interrupt Alex's focus with the news he did not want to hear at that moment.
"We got to go now," JB said.
"Now? Why?" Alex asked.
"My mom just called me. I need to drive my sister to band practice," JB said.
"Then go," Alex said. "Steve can drive me home."
"Steve said no," JB said. "He's trying to pick up that chick."
"Aw shit," Alex said, knowing that he would have more success trying to build a car himself out of the pool's piping system than cock-blocking Steve. "All right look, just give me a minute okay?"
"All right, but hurry up," JB said.
Alex walked back to the lifeguard tower.
"Hey Audrey?" Alex asked.
"Yeah?" Audrey said.
"Yeah, I was just wondering, if you wanted, maybe I could do a drawing of you if you wanted."
Shit. That sounded stupid.
"Huh?" Audrey asked. Alex had never in his life had so much trouble trying to put a sentence together. Maybe there was still time to salvage this.
"You know, you said you wanted to model?" Alex asked. "Well, I need a subject for my final project. Would you want to come to my studio and pose for me?"
Alex waited with baited breath.
"For real?" Audrey asked.
"Yeah," Alex said. "Want to?"
"I'd love to!" Audrey said. "I thought you were kidding at first. Yes, That'd be fun!"
Alex breathed a sigh of relief.
"When's a good time for you?" Alex asked.
JB tugged on Alex's arm.
"Hey, we gotta go," JB said.
"Hold on!" Alex whispered angrily, before turning back to Audrey.
"Well, I got tomorrow off," Audrey said. "After that I got work and school every day 'til finals."
"Oh, I guess we should do this tomorrow then," Alex said.
"Yeah. Do you have my new number?" Audrey asked.
"No, what is it?" Alex asked.
"I don't know it by heart yet. Can you meet me after my shift? I'll give it to you then."
"Um," Alex saw JB tapping his watch. "Yeah I'll see if I can be back here then. Five o'clock right?"
"Right. See ya!" Audrey said.
"See ya," Alex turned around and felt his insides explode with happiness. She said yes. Not even JB could spoil his mood now.
"All right, we can go now," Alex said.
"You didn't tell her you need her to be naked," JB said.
"I know that!" Alex said. "I'll tell her later."
Alex walked back to his chaise lounge and picked up his towel and book bag. After gathering all his belongings, Alex turned and took one last look at Audrey.
"What if she doesn't do it?" JB asked.
"I'll figure it out then," Alex said. "Come on; let's get your sister to band practice. I need to be back here at five."
It was 5:01 when JB turned left onto Pine Street, a block away from the pool.
"Shit, you think she'll wait for me?" Alex asked.
"I wouldn't count on it," JB said.
"Hurry up then!" Alex said.
"I'm not gonna risk getting a ticket just so you can get this girl's number!" JB moaned.
For one brief second, Alex wondered if a van speeding towards a swimming pool would make a good subject for an art piece. Maybe later, Alex thought.
JB pulled into the pool parking lot, and Alex hopped out.
"Just wait here, I'll be back in a second," Alex said.
Alex checked to see if a new lifeguard sat atop the tower. There was.
"Damn, gotta hurry," Alex muttered to himself. Alex lifted the latch on the gate and hurried in to the pool area.
Alex figured she probably went into the pool office after her shift, so he knocked on the door. A uniformed middle-aged woman answered.
"Yes?" the woman asked.
"Hi, is Audrey still here?" Alex asked.
"Who are you?" the woman asked.
"I'm- a friend," Alex said.
"You're a friend of Audrey's?" the woman asked.
"Hey Alex!" Alex heard Audrey say from within the office. "Come on in."
Audrey opened the door and Alex stepped inside the cool, air-conditioned office. The woman gave Audrey a dirty look as she shut the door behind him.
"This way," Audrey said.
Alex followed Audrey back to the lifeguard's locker room.
"Don't mind Teresa, she's always like that," Audrey said, opening the door to the locker room. "In here."
"You sure it's okay I come in here?" Alex asked, walking in cautiously.
"Of course, why wouldn't it be?" Audrey said.
"No reason," Alex mused. He followed Audrey down a row of lockers. She stopped outside one and began fiddling with the combination.
"I just got a brand new phone with a new number," Audrey said. "Let me get it for you."
Audrey opened her locker and bent over, digging through her handbag. As she bent over, Alex couldn't help but notice her fine ass. It was so firm and defined, especially within the confines of her swimsuit. Alex wondered if she was doing that on purpose. Alex had always noticed that while many people stooped down when they needed to retrieve things that were located down low, often women with nice-looking asses would bend over, without bending their knees, and Alex found that so distracting. Did they want him to stare at their asses? She seemed to be taking her time too, digging around through her handbag. Alex had nothing to look at but her firm ass and the back of her thighs, and in the position she was in, she looked so deliciously inviting. He just wanted to go and give her ass a nice smack. Seemed like she was asking for it anyway. Alex managed to restrain himself and soon Audrey was back on her feet with her brand new phone.
"You got to check this out," Audrey said. "It's got touch screen, GPS, I just love this thing!"
Alex looked at Audrey's phone.
"Yeah, that's cool. My friend JB has one kind of like that."
"It's my baby," Audrey said, holding it tightly between her breasts. Alex realized he wouldn't mind being that phone for a day.
"Now how do I find the number on this thing?" Audrey asked, flipping through all of the fancy menus. "Ahh, here we go. Ready?"
Alex took out his own phone.
"Ready," Alex said.
"'k, its 747-555-2139," Audrey said.
"Okay, got it," Alex said. "So what time do you want to meet tomorrow?"
"Whatever's good for you," Audrey said. "I got the whole day off."
"How about noon, then?" Alex asked. "I can use the morning to get the studio set up and I should be ready for you then."
"Great!" Audrey said. "I can't wait to pose for you!"
"Me neither," Alex grinned.
"What do you want me to wear?" Audrey asked.
Alex's heart skipped.
"I-" Alex was stopped mid-sentence when Teresa walked into the locker room.
"Audrey, your ride's here," Teresa said.
"Ugh, I haven't even gotten changed yet," Audrey said. "Well, I got to go, we'll talk about this tomorrow then?"
"Yeah, sure," Alex said.
"Okay see you then!" Audrey said, gathering up her belongings.
"Bye," Alex said.
He walked out of the locker room, putting his phone back in his pocket. He waited until he was out of the pool office before clenching his fists and in one celebratory exclamation, shouting "YESSSSS!"
"You mean you still haven't told her you need her to be naked?" JB said in bewilderment.
"I'm going to, alright?" Alex snapped. "Let's take things a step at a time."
JB drove back down the street, trying his absolute damnedest to put a damper on Alex's superlatively happy mood. Alex stared out the window at a park across the street from the pool. The playground's swing-set and slide had been uprooted, and workmen were installing new playground equipment in their place. Out with the old, in with the new.
"You're so dead," JB said. "When she gets to your studio tomorrow she's gonna flip when you drop that bomb on her."
"I'm going to tell her before then," Alex barked, though he realized JB was probably right. It wouldn't be prudent to tell her over the phone, and he wouldn't see her again until she arrived at his studio door, ready to be his Mona Lisa.
Hey Alex baby, here I am! What's that? You want me to take my clothes off? Okay! Here, help me unhook my bra!
Alex sighed. He needed to think of something.
"Audrey, put some damn clothes on!"
Craig Poma groaned when he saw his youngest daughter enter his front door still clad in her lifeguard uniform. An empty whiskey bottle rolled off the couch and onto the floor.
"Sorry Dad, I didn't have time to change after work," Audrey said, strutting down the hall.
Craig was still dressed in his work suit, though Audrey didn't bother pointing out that he also had yet to change from his work clothes and he'd been home for an hour.
She smelt the whiskey as soon as she entered which meant only one thing. The Orioles were losing.
"I know, you're always in a big damn rush," Craig said. Craig turned his attention back to the TV. "Fuckin' batter, learn to hit!"
Audrey's sister Trish set her car keys on the kitchen counter.
"Sorry, I guess I should have warned you," Trish said.
"No worries," Audrey said, and walked into her bedroom, humming happily. She emerged now fully dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, which her father would likely complain were too tight on her.
Audrey walked down the hallway, turned, and walked back into an empty bedroom, her oldest sister Katie's old room.
There were paintings adorning the walls of Katie's room; the legacy of Audrey's mother. Audrey slowly walked around the room, admiring each of the pieces. There was one depicting Katie, when she was only ten, holding a doll. Audrey looked to the next painting. which showed an eight-year-old Trish, holding a beach ball and smiling. Audrey walked past many other paintings, a self-portrait of her mother, a painting of her father. And finally, Audrey's eyes rested on the only unfinished painting. The face and body had been etched out; clearly depicting Audrey when she was only five years old. Audrey's mother had succumbed to Multiple sclerosis before she could finish it. It was her greatest regret; not being able to have a finished piece for each of her daughters, but the damage to her nerves had prevented her from making the brush strokes she needed to finish the painting.
Audrey reached out and touched the surface of the painting, feeling the rough sensation of the paint strokes.
"Audrey, do you want any of this chicken salad?" Trish said, walking down the hall. "Audrey? Where are you?"
Trish peered into the bedroom-turned-art-gallery.
"Oh, here you are. What are you doing?" Trish said, entering the room.
"Just looking at Mom's paintings," Audrey said with a smile.
Trish walked to Audrey's side and admired the paintings. Trish rarely entered this room anymore, no one from the family did very often, but whenever they did they couldn't help but take another look at works from a time past. Trish looked over at Audrey, who hummed cheerfully.
"What are you so happy about?" Trish asked.
"Because I'm going to model again," Audrey said.
Alex opened the door to his studio and turned on the overhead lights. They flickered momentarily before illuminating the small dingy art studio Alex has set up in the storage shed behind his parent's house. Several of his art pieces were set up against the wall while the center of the room served as his work area. He had his own lighting kit, an easel, writing desk, and even a cot nearby for when he needed to relax and let his mind wander.
Alex opened his book bag and removed several books he'd collected from the campus library and the bookstore. He was in need of inspiration.
He flipped open a book he'd purchased featuring several pin-up pictures from the 1950s. Alex loved the quaint and innocent poses of the doe-eyed models; he thought they looked sexier that way.
Alex had a fruit basket, a table and a chair to use as props. Somehow he had to find something that would compliment Audrey.
Alex stayed up for hours, browsing his books, finding nothing that piqued his interest. Nor was he any closer to figuring out how he was going to ask Audrey to take off her clothes.
Not finding anything helpful in his books, Alex flipped open his laptop and browsed through the Internet. Classic nudes, contemporary, there were plenty of ideas from which to choose. Alex needed something that would capture the ideal he felt Audrey best represented. Joy, happiness; Alex felt all kinds of emotions when he saw Audrey. He managed to stay awake past three a.m. before he conked out, dreaming about what he was going to do when Audrey arrived the next day.
"Oh Shit!" Alex said when he awoke at 10:45 the next morning, lying on the floor of his studio. His cell phone showed three missed calls from Audrey.
"Shit, shit, shit," Alex muttered, groggily pulling himself to his feet. He flipped open his phone and called Audrey, waiting frantically for her to answer.
"Hello?" Audrey said.
"Hey, Audrey it's Alex, sorry I overslept," Alex said, wiping drool from his chin.
"Hi, sorry, I was trying to tell you I might be late today," Audrey said. "I need to buy a gift for a four-year-old's birthday I totally forgot I have to go to this afternoon."
"Oh, you do?" Alex asked.
"Yeah, it's not till 4:30 though, will that be enough time you think?"
"Should be enough," Alex said.
"So anyway, where's your studio?" Audrey asked.
"Oh, it's-" Alex fumbled about his studio, almost knocking over the stack of books on his desk. He had to think a second before he could remember his own address. "Five five oh five Melbourne, it's in the storage shed behind my house."
"Okay, I'll be there as soon as I finish shopping. Hey, do you know if kids like Veggie Tales anymore?"
"Um, I honestly could not give you a qualified opinion on that," Alex said.
"You're funny, Alex."
"Thanks," Alex said, scratching his head. He wasn't trying to be funny. That was honestly how he talked sometimes.
"See ya at noon-ish," Audrey said.
"Bye," Alex said. He hung up his phone. He now had an hour and fifteen minutes to prepare for his project., and just remembered something in his dream that told him exactly what he needed to do. What was it?
He was in such a frantic mood when he woke up Alex completely forgot what he had just dreamt. Something Audrey had said brought it back. Gift for a kid?
The light went on in Alex's head and he took out his phone again.
"What up, bitch?" This was Steve's usual telephone greeting.
"Hey Steve, I need to borrow your truck," Alex said.
Fortunately Alex didn't have to wait long for Steve. Alex could hear the thumping bass from Steve's speakers before he'd arrived, and was pleased to see Steve's black Ford pickup bounce up the gravel driveway, making the marijuana leaf-shaped mirror ornament twirl about. Steve screeched to a stop and Alex hopped into the passenger seat.
"Thanks dude, I owe you one," Alex said, wrapping the seatbelt across his body.
"So where's this thing we're picking up?" Steve asked.
"The park by the pool. You know, the one across the street."
"Where we saw that hot mom with the tight pants that one day?" Steve asked.
"Yeah," Alex said. "Your memory serves you well."
Steve backed out of the driveway and took off down the road.
"So'd you get that chick to pose for you?" Steve asked.
"Yeah, she actually agreed to," Alex said.
"Really? And she was all ready to get her gear off for you? Fuck yeah," Steve said.
Alex sank into the leather seats a little deeper. Now he had to hear it from Steve too.
"Well, actually, I haven't told her yet about being nude," Alex said.
Alex braced himself for Steve's reaction.
"Why not?" Steve asked.
Alex looked at Steve's face. Steve didn't appear shocked, just genuinely curious.
"Oh, I just didn't get to it yet, I'm gonna though," Alex said. "Hopefully she'll be okay with it."
"She will," Steve said. "She's got a nice body. Chicks with bodies like that love to show them off."
Somehow, Alex found that reassuring.
"So did you hook up with that blonde chick at the pool yesterday?" Alex asked.
"Yeah she came back to my place last night," Steve said. "She had some nice-ass-titties. I let her give me head, ooh, she knew how to suck a dick, too. And then she starts jawing about how she loves me and shit and how I'm not like any guy she's ever met, and I told her I already had a girlfriend, and she started crying. Dude, I fucking hate that, when chicks cry, it pisses me off."
Alex nodded in agreement, although he hadn't ever made a girl cry that he could remember.
"So what'd you do?" Alex asked.
"After that we fucked and then I told her to go home," Steve said. "She started crying again and told me I'm a jackass, and I said whatever, and she left. Her pussy was blown out too, I'm glad I used a rubber."
Alex stared out the window. He wondered why guys like Steve had no problem getting girls, and it was near impossible for him. He didn't feel sorry for the girls that Steve hurt. Not when he'd been rejected by countless girls in favor of guys like Steve so many times, only to watch them walk away crying. Alex dismissed it as the way things worked.
Alex actually enjoyed hearing about Steve's escapades, even though he secretly hoped one day Steve's girlfriend would find out about them.
"Here it is," Alex said, pointing out the window. "I hope it's still here."
Steve stopped his truck in front of the playground. To Alex's delight, the uprooted swing-set remained discarded at the park's border.
"Yes, it's still there!" Alex said. "You think they'd care if we took it?"
Steve shook his head.
"Nah, I used to steal stuff from construction sites all the time, they never came looking for it," Steve said. Some questions about Steve's life were best left unanswered.
"Okay, help me lift it into your truck," Alex said.
Alex and Steve walked over towards the uprooted swing-set. Steve turned his head towards two young women pushing baby strollers down the sidewalk.
"Check it out! Two no-problems at three o'clock!" Steve said.
Alex looked towards the chicks. They weren't bad looking at all. Alex had to smile at the fact that no matter how big of a hurry he was in, he always had a few seconds to spare for ogling. Alex loved being a male.
"No problem," Alex reiterated. He shook his head quickly and resumed his attention on the swing-set.
"On three, ready?" Alex said. "One, two, three!"
Alex and Steve lifted the swing-set by its legs and carried it towards Steve's truck. They hoisted it above their heads and over the truck's tailgate.
"Okay, let's get this back to the studio," Alex said.
Alex and Steve had to do some difficult twists and bends but eventually managed to get the entire swing-set through the door of Alex's studio. They plopped it down in front of Alex's desk, shaking it a few times to ensure it was steady.
"I got to hand it to you, Alex," Steve said. "A naked chick on a swing is a fuckin' sexy idea."
Alex bit his lip and smiled.
"Hope my piece is just that when it's done," Alex said. He checked his watch. It was five minutes to noon.
"Hey thanks man, but Audrey's gonna be here any minute," Alex said.
Steve raised his eyebrows.
"I help you lug that shit around in my truck and you're not gonna let me watch her take those titties out?" Steve exclaimed.
"Sorry, don't think it would be good form for a dude to be stroking himself while I'm trying to make art," Alex grinned.
"You know I wouldn't be rubbing one out, I'd be on top of that shit!" Steve laughed.
"Nice dude, but seriously, get the fuck out," Alex said.
"Alright, but I expect a full report from you this evening!" Steve said, pointing at Alex with an outstretched arm. "You will let me know that you got your dick wet because of my help!"
"Sure," Alex said.
"Peace, pimpin," Steve said, and walked back out to his truck.
Alex looked around his studio. He had his materials set up. He had inspiration. Now all he needed was the girl.
Alex paced around in his studio. How was he going to phrase this? What was he going to say to her? Alex sat down at his desk and tapped his fingers on his desktop. One minute till noon.
Alex shut his eyes and let out a sigh. Maybe if he just relaxed, the answer would come to him. Alex took a breath, and smelled that sweet smell from the pool yesterday. Not the chlorine, that sweet herbal smell of Audrey's hair. And footsteps- Alex could hear footsteps on the grass, approaching his studio. And finally he heard the sound of tapping on his studio door. Alex turned around and looked into the open doorway. Audrey was here.
She stood in the doorway, leaning against the doorframe with the biggest smile Alex had ever seen. She had sandals on her feet, and each of her toenails were painted bright crimson, with a beaded bracelet around her left ankle. She wore a red halter-top, cut nice and low enough to expose her generously sized cleavage. Below her halter-top, she had about two inches of exposed skin showing; she had very tanned and toned abs. Upon her hips she wore a short blue jean skirt with slits up both sides, revealing her firm and smooth thighs. She had a small white purse wrapped around her right shoulder, and a butterfly ring around her left middle finger. Her long blonde hair was tied back into a ponytail and fluttered in the afternoon wind.
"Hey there," Audrey said. Alex's pulse raced as he admired her beauty.
"Hey, come on in," Alex said.
Audrey sauntered into the storage shed and looked around in curiosity.
"Wow, this is your studio, huh?" Audrey said.
"Yeah, take a look, tell me what you think," Alex said, standing up to greet her.
Audrey walked around the studio, admiring the pieces Alex had displayed. She smiled in amazement at each one.
"These are SO good, Alex!" Audrey said. "You are amazing!"
Alex smiled humbly.
"Thanks," he said.
Audrey admired a painting of a little girl standing over an ice cream cone that she had dropped on the pavement.
"You know my mom used to paint," Audrey said.
"Yeah, I read your blog last night," Alex said.
Audrey looked at Alex in surprise.
"You read my blog?" Audrey asked. "So you saw my comment about-"
"Yeah," Alex said. "Sorry she wasn't able to finish that piece for you. Hope today can make up for that."
Audrey looked into Alex's eyes.
"I'd really appreciate that, Alex," Audrey said. "So, you ready to get started?"
"Yeah," Alex said, as he cleared the books off his desk.
"Is this outfit okay?" Audrey asked, turning around for Alex to check her out her front and backsides. "I never did get to ask you what you wanted me to wear."
"Yeah, I wanted to talk to you about that," Alex said. He fumbled the books he was holding, and dropped them on the floor.
"Oh, let me help you with that," Audrey said, and helped him gather up the fallen books. She picked up one book, "Drawing the Nude," and glanced at the cover.
"Just some reference material," Alex said, taking the book from her. Alex placed the books into his book bag and set it aside.
"You draw nudes?" Audrey asked.
"Well, I haven't yet, it's something I've been thinking about," Alex said.
"Oh, ok," Audrey said. "Nothing wrong with that. So what did you want to talk to me about?"
"The style," Alex said. "What style are you comfortable doing, you know, modeling for?"
"I don't know, you're the artist," Audrey said.
"Well, I was looking through a lot of books for inspiration, to get ideas, about what style to do your picture as, so I thought-"
"Like nudes?" Audrey asked.
Alex felt his heart pound even faster.
"Well, that was ONE idea I had, you know, possibly I could do at one point."
"With me?" Audrey asked.
"With someone, I didn't know if you'd be interested in that," Alex said.
Audrey took a step closer to Alex.
"Did you think I would ever pose nude for you?" Audrey asked.
"Like I said, I didn't know, I was just thinking it," Alex said.
"You were thinking about asking me to pose nude for you?" Audrey asked.
Alex couldn't tell if Audrey was mad or simply curious. She seemed to be probing him with each of her questions, almost as if she were trying to get him to say something he shouldn't.
"I- I don't know," Alex said.
Audrey stared Alex in the eye. Alex thought he might die from the awkwardness. Finally, Audrey broke the silence with laughter.
"I'm just teasing you, Alex, I heard you talking to your friend at the pool," Audrey said.
Alex felt his heart sink.
"You heard? You knew this entire time?" Alex said. Alex was dumbfounded.
"Your friend JB is quite the loudmouth. I'm surprised the whole pool area didn't hear him," Audrey said.
Alex covered his face with his hands. He had never felt so humiliated in his life. He shook his head for a few seconds and decided maybe this was for the better.
"So you're okay with this?" Alex asked.
Audrey tapped her finger on her elbow.
"If you wanted me to pose nude why didn't you ask?" Audrey asked.
"I didn't know what you'd say," Alex said.
"Then you never will know," Audrey said. She sat down on a step, which lead to the back of the storage shed and crossed her legs. She took a small file from her purse and casually filed her fingernails.
Alex took a breath. She wasn't going to make this easy.
"Audrey," Alex began.
"Yes?" Audrey said, looking up from her nails at Alex.
"Will you pose nude for my project?" Alex asked. "Please."
"Yes," Audrey said. "I would be happy to pose nude for you."
Alex could have been told he'd won the lottery and felt less excited than he did right now. Those were the words he never imagined he might hear. And now that he'd heard them, the worst part was over.
"Thank you," Alex said. "You're going to love this, I promise."
"I'm sure I will," Audrey said, rising to her feet. "I guess I'll go get undressed."
Audrey walked up the steps towards the back of the shed.
Alex took another deep breath and got out his art supplies. He took out a 12 by 22-inch piece of cream colored drawing paper and laid it out on the desk in front of him. Through the corner of his eyes he could see Audrey standing near the far window pulling off her halter-top. Alex took out a set of pastels and set it next to the blank sheet. He rubbed his palms together as he looked at the blank medium before him ... Alex loved the anticipation before beginning a new piece; so many possibilities.
Alex looked over at Audrey again. He saw her unhook her bra fastener and set her bra aside. Alex quickly took his gaze away. No sense staring, and he would see her soon enough.