He looked at her, lying in a crumpled heap at his feet, his blood-stained teeth displayed in a grotesque grin. Then he looked around the room.
“Ah, her diary. I wonder what she’s written.” He picked it up and began flipping the pages to the most recent entries.
Dear Diary… I met a very interesting man last night. That hasn’t happened in such a long time. I went to this private art showing at a small gallery. It was by invitation only and I don’t know how or why my name got on the guest list, but I’m not complaining! The artist was someone I’d never heard tell of before, but that’s nothing strange. I don’t know a whole lot about art. I just know what I like.
Anyway, I was standing there, staring at this fantastic picture. It was sort of like an ancient garden, with white fences, trellises, gazebo, and everything was overgrown with vines and climbing ivy.
There was a woman in the picture, wearing a long white gown. She was sort of in the distance, and there was another figure, a bit shadowy, resembling a man. It had a kind of hazy, almost mystical quality about it. I remember thinking it was like a picture of some fantasy, or a half-forgotten dream. I was so wrapped up in it that I didn’t know he was there until he spoke. I’ll try to write it all down as accurately as possible.
“You appear rather interested in that painting,” he said. His voice was deep and husky, really sexy. It reminded me of Vincent on the television show Beauty and the Beast.
“It looks kind of like the artist painted a dream from some long ago period,” I said. “Yes, I like it a lot.”
“Why don’t you take it?” he suggested.
“Oh, I’m sure I can’t afford the price,” I assured him. “It must be very expensive.”
“You like it. If you want it, it’s yours.”
“But …” I started to protest as I turned to see who I was talking to. This man certainly had no idea how limited my finances were. Cashiers were only paid the minimum wage and that did not allow for purchasing expensive artwork.
“No buts,” he said gently. “I have the right to dispose of my work any way I wish. This particular painting is special and must go to someone who can appreciate its ethereal quality.”
“You’re the artist?” I stared at him, openly admiring. His face might have been sculpted from flawless alabaster, with high cheekbones, straight nose and high, noble forehead. His eyes were so dark I couldn’t determine their colour. His shiny black hair was cut very short and neat. A black, high-collared shirt was tucked into fashionable pleated, black wool trousers that ended at shiny black dress shoes. The only sign of colour was the fiery red, ruby ring on his right hand.
“Drake Masters.” He smiled faintly as he held out his hand.
“Linda Murphy,” I answered and felt my hand clasped by firm, cool fingers. “Mr. Masters, this must be the best painting in the collection.”
“I think so,” he agreed.
Gently, I withdrew my fingers from his grasp. “They you must understand why I can’t possibly accept your offer.”
“On the contrary,” he said, “I understand why you are the one person who must have it.”
“I don’t understand.” I drew my eyebrows down and felt my brown eyes narrow, the way they always did when I was getting suspicious about something – or someone! “Why me?”
“This painting is very special to me,” he said smoothly, “just as I sense it’s special to you. Tell me the truth, Linda, do you not feel drawn to this picture?”
“Well, yes, I suppose I do, but that’s no reason for you to think you should give it to me,” I protested.
“Of course not. I want to give it to you. As I said, it is a special piece of work. Therefore, someone special should have it. No one else has been strongly attracted to it, not as you obviously have. Every artist has his or her whims, and you must allow me this one.” He wrote “SOLD” on a piece of paper and stuck it to the frame. “It will be delivered on Monday. And now, if you will permit me to see you home…?”
I hesitated only briefly, then said, “I’d like that.” I gave him what I hoped was my most enchanting smile, for I was more interested in him than in the painting. After all, it isn’t every day a girl meets a hunk like him. So what if he is a stranger? We met in a respectable place, among a group of people. And I’m not a child…
Well, Dear Diary, he brought me home – in a black limousine, no less! Talk about luxury! I felt like I was riding on a cloud with Prince Charming at my side. It felt so good to be so well looked after and pampered.
He was an absolute gentleman and didn’t even try to kiss me when he walked me to the door. I must admit, I was a little bit disappointed about that. Perhaps I shouldn’t feel that way, and I’d never admit it to anyone else, but I think I actually wanted him to kiss me. However, it was our very first meeting and he did say he’d see me again. I can’t wait! Maybe this is it. Maybe Drake Masters is my Mr. Right. Linda Masters has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
Dear Diary … Well, Drake had the painting delivered this morning, just as he said he would. It really is intriguing. It’s unusual too. The more I look at it, the more real it seems, like I’m looking through a window at a real garden instead of at a picture. I can’t stop looking at it. Drake is such a talented artist. I just know that one day he’ll be famous and I’ll be able to say I’ve met him.
You know, I’m actually very lucky to have this painting because one day, when he’s really famous, it will be worth a great deal of money. Not that I’d ever sell it of course. It was a gift and I’d never part with something like that. Perhaps I should look into having it insured.
There was a note delivered with the painting, from Drake, saying he would see me tonight. He also sent a huge bouquet of red roses. It’s the first time anyone has ever given me flowers. Needless to say, I wanted to look my best, so I had my hair done during lunch break and then I splurged on a new dress. I hope he likes it. It’s white rayon, with a large red rose embroidered on the left side of the bodice.
I should be upstairs, finishing getting ready. I’m still in my bare feet and I haven’t done my makeup, but I can’t seem to tear my eyes away from this painted garden for long. I keep coming back to it, almost as if some unseen force is pulling me to it. I’m certain, though, that the shadowy figure in the picture is a man. And I think it’s the woman’s lover, perhaps a secret lover.
Now I know I’m reading too much fantasy and romance. I’m also reading too much into Drake Masters’ attraction to me and this date tonight. I’m actually daydreaming about him, and fantasizing about him. That’s a fact, because I could have sworn that I just heard him whisper my name, and that’s impossible. He isn’t here. Funny, the voice sounded like it was coming from the painting. Isn’t that ridiculous?
Diary, I have to investigate this, but I could swear that the shadowy man in the painting has moved. He looks much closer to the woman that he did in the beginning. Could be a trick of the light or something. Or perhaps my eyes are playing tricks on me – I’ve been staring at the thing so long. There! I just heard my name again. And the man in the painting … oh, my God!
Drake Masters stretched out his long legs as he reclined on Linda Murphy’s pink satin-covered bed. Her diary was very interesting and revealing. She had felt just as he had known she would about the painting, although she did not begin to understand its full impact upon her. She could not have realized that it was merely a window into another world, a world of darkness and hunger.
He rose, lifted her in his arms, and laid her gently on the bed. She was beautiful and trusting. He discarded his original plans. She was not ready to join him in that other world yet. She was ill-prepared to deal with the dark life, not quite ready to become his bride. He had satisfied his needs and she would not remember the events of the past few days. Then he ripped the incriminating pages from her diary.
Leaning down, he touched his lips gently to hers. “Your blood is sweet, my dear. I may return one day, when you’re more ready to accept me as I really am.”
Drake Masters left the apartment second later. He placed a large picture that he carried in the back seat of the waiting limousine, then climbed in beside it.
“To the vault, Ivan,” he said. “I have much to do before sunrise.”
© 1990 Fay Herridge
© Fayz World & Sugarwolf Designs