Angelica fell for Blake’s spiky blonde hair behind the lens and his emerald eyes flickering with artistry whenever he saw her. Time asked much of nothing from her since she was swept into Blake’s realm of capturing her on film. Something had possessed him. Family felt the otherworldly thing that had taken hold of him. He would himself point it out awkwardly at family gatherings. Angelica, noticed his famous uncle’s jealous guilt as he passed on the lens given to him by his father, confirming Blake as the more talented one.
In his room, Blake explored Angelica’s coolness under her pigtails. Striped stockings and steampunk boots, lens picking up her loose threads. She was subtle yet demanding: his feel should linger on her as she was undressing the damsel, the embodiment of the ideal of perfection, exposing herself; all great art was grounded in truth.
When he bored of capturing every part of her, she flicked through one of his favourite graphic novels as a distraction from her wandering thoughts. Outside the world felt sick and shadowy, but inside, those shadows hid from the light of his lens. She made sure her eyes let him know that he had genius; a lifeforce that burst out of him and soon would light up the screens of the world’s cinemas. The world would bear witness to how he made something unsound found again and glow with natural beauty.
Cereal at night was her favourite distraction from her jealousy towards his tendency to stay too long in chatrooms, learning about starting his own channel. She felt it was his way to detune from a shadowy world.
She saw too much of his utility.
It scared her that her own shadow crept in and could inhabit the unguarded parts of him. His genius would find a rut rather then its groove—him being naive of the world outside of beauty and his imagining of it. He’d always pretend to be unbothered, had a timed response, lazily acquired upon the feeling of slipping away. He would talk those words into reality, paint a picture in her head so vividly that his escapism seemed more alive than reality, and faith never seemed bleak.
That was it; his talent. Close to nothing and then something.
Nothing would ever come close to that edge.
On a hill, overlooking a bay shaped like the mouth of a blue whale, he stood looking at her. A moment from a young person of male persuasion finding himself, she displayed, without truly witnessing the majesty upon his shimmering face. Memories never stood as soundly as imagination, and lifeless detachment was slow in coming from what mattered. He lit the joint and drifted to find the spots; gaps, spaces between and the unbroken grain. Close to that edge and indifferent to the madness of it, he stepped back and sat on a rotting stump. The embers extinguished, he lit the joint again, cupping against the wind, eyes dark yet beautiful. He was on the precipice, battling shadows and winning, she convinced herself. The sky was ominous; gold and black like molten light seeping from cracks in their foundation. And bubbles of fire in him as he pulled up his hood because she said nothing much at all about the wasted life on a cliff, as if they were safe from a storm, sending them on a fall. Her eyes spoke deeper for her, saw only hopeful expectation.
In a twirl, just a striped-stocking girl under a tree in the rain.
She looked gently at her mind, it’s view of art and how it’s authenticity might serve a purpose in keeping them from storms. His wandering gaze drifted away towards the choppy black abyss running away to a faded horizon.
She imagined him as a father, romantically outdoing herself in ideals. Laid upon her face she felt a lightness; wings of a rare butterfly that fluttered between their returning, blank and unharmful stares. One day a man would burst out of him. Deep from his gut would come a motion to swing a lifeless little soul a jolt, and then she’d see him fully. Growing but never grown, hopefully. The seed in her man commanded more; a duty to fulfill that of humankind’s possession, and humankind would pay him back. It was there, the real art, while he was elsewhere. She was as sure as unsure.
Lying on his side he lorded something under the surface; stewing emotions as ephemeral as heat. Such was her worry and blind hope, Blake’s shadowy eyes said he would make a film so detailed, so slowly observed and served with rapid éclat that life would change for all who saw it. His magic would be limned in the world’s waltz forever. Faithlessly, she watched him dream, her eyes fighting desire to spill all she had into him.
Flicking a page on a new comic book she sighed and said, “Sometimes you really annoy me, Blake?”
“You look sexy when you’re annoyed. Do it again. We got over a thousand new followers off of the last upload.”
“Stop it. You don’t really see me anymore.”
“That’s good though, isn’t it?”
“How is it?”
“When you’re hurt and feel, you give the camera something real.”
“I see, I suppose.” From his mouth things made sense that were otherwise unwelcome.
Spoken with a knowing of himself and her, somewhere far ahead, as if waiting. Oh, the insult to her intelligence, and as if she was a drag. But he’d have moved on, and she was too upset to remind him of something so obvious: that art, love and beauty were not manufactured.
“Oh Angel, you need to grow up.”
It was he who had stalled. She flicked a page and played with one of her pigtails—a followers’ favourite—dark thoughts bubbling up through her cracks. He tuned to her superficially beautiful musings, ran his toe along her thigh and slipped it under her skirt and then inside her panties. She opened her legs without resistance; a release from herself, not pleasure. Pleasure was Blake’s discerning speciality when he put the camera down.
She purred a moment’s encapsulation, now too easily disrupted by a vomitus vanity of morality. Madonna in the habit, she called it.
Humility pulled together her loosened threads. She should make more of him. But timeless lovers exchange permits to abuse time; their commerce of love came in situ of play and apropos of nothing.
“How do I know you so well and not well enough?” she said, stopping his soothing caress and putting a pillow between her knees and chest. Nothing real had happened besides his big plans and a maturing of his handed down belief in himself. Met one’s shadow yet, Blake? Not theoretically. Live inside it. It’s real. Otherwise humankind won’t believe you when you swan into their lives.
He was dreaming; not yet ripe enough to pontificate about how the squeaky wheel gets the oil.
And as if to prove her deepest intuitions correct, some luck arrived for him.
What fucking luck?
The noise of an amusement arcade. Her flash of a smile; teasing. Barely able to lift her cheeks anymore if truth be told; a forced fluttering of her eyelids and not much else.
Dazzling colours and neon lights, the world was full of such sights and they would see it all together. Once they were together, but something pulled them apart.
“You know what would be nice for us two mice?” he said.
Tiny feet and a gurgle too much for you still?
His eyes were droopy and wide, shoulders rounder, long lens skilfully adjusted, catching something about her he’d never seen. “A long break.”
“Separate?” she sighed. Relief or disappointment? Hard to tell in such a bubble.
“No. Never. I mean a holiday.”
He tutted. “Wherever you like.”
She shrugged and picked at her arm. “Dunno anywhere.”
In love with her ‘mystery’ again, he lit a joint. Nearly one million followers of those oblique shots of her now, somehow. Wide aperture and blurred, a happy accident and an opportunist’s grab.
Space Invader machines as a backdrop today, the reflection of her protruded derriere in a pane of glass a backdrop to the real thing, her stockings stopping short of the pink babydoll skirt and, revealing a strip of her smooth skin.
“Maybe next year,” she said.
A gurgle. “A holiday.”
They were somebodies now with something to do and something was happening. How did that happen? Of course it happened, hashtag gorgeous. It was written in the stars. Star crossed artist and muse. Who was the artist and who the muse? Who wouldn’t love that? Just turn the camera and say cute things, Angel.
“We should have kids, Blake. We can show the pregnancy.”
“Kids? What? Seriously Angelica? But how is that art?”
“You could make it art.”
“Yeah I could.”
Finding slowly the thing that served the most purpose was Angelica’s way of being. Piecing together nuggets, falling like golden rain into a pond of monk fish. Her reflection shimmered a face of worried grace; of movement back towards truth and real art. It would sell online. A baby star, so accustomed were they with the camera, so would it become.
The artistry was in making the mundane intoxicatingly familiar.
The thought is ugly. “They’re all watching us,” she said, resting the burden on her palm. The fun of success had never really felt like fun, truthfully. It was not joyful to be loved by so many strangers, rather troubling actually. But it had given them so much.
In the background the riddled dance of an ambitious jester climbed the steps of their newly bought magical glass castle by the sea. “Put that camera down for a second, Blake. Look at me.” In pigtails again, bleached and died pink. Converse feet. Posed on their new L-shaped couch overlooking the ocean, all paid for by a happy accident and owned by pride. “We should make a baby,” she said. “It’ll fix things.”
“Things aren’t broken.”
“Blake look at me.”
“Without the fucking camera. We should.”
“Tell me you see me,” she said.
“What do you mean?” he ran his palm along her thigh, wide aperture, some new piece of driftwood in the background—that’d make a great shot.
“I mean, tell me you realise there are things I say and things I refrain from saying. Tell me you know there is more to me than meets the eye.”
Her nails scraped his nose, thank God it wasn’t his expensive lens. She fell onto her back, eyes seeing nothing worth mentioning—maybe plastic surgery in the spring. God what a thought. “How did we become so shallow?”
“What’s wrong now, Angel?”
“This isn’t… it.” Shade had grown long on his face; the look of a chancer. “Fuck.”
“Jesus, what is it?” he said.
“You’re a dick,” she said, swinging her legs off the bed. “Actually I’m the dick for not seeing it before.”
“You.” She sat with her back to him, movie style, looking over her shoulder. “God, I can’t stop posing.”
His shutter was mute for once. “You look incredible. Hang on, let me get my tripod.”
“You’re lost. We’re lost! This isn’t real life.”
“We’re in love, we have money… we’re going to have a baby.”
“You’ll always be a dreamer, and I’ll always be your shadow. A baby? It’d be child abuse.”
The door slammed and she was gone.
Darran Brennan ©