Portrait, Chapter 1

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Image icon Small Portrait .jpg879.76 KB

Small Portrait .jpg
by Leslie Moore

Chapter One

I was working in my office when Matt called. I smiled thinking about our morning as I said hello.

He didn’t sound good when he greeted me. He came right to the point. “Hey, babe. Bad news. I’m broke again.” His voice sounded pained.

I frowned. Mathew was a challenge, but he was my challenge. I tried to stay calm. He needed to hear calm. “Tell me.”

“Well. Man, this sucks.” He paused and I could hear him getting control. “I got a call from the bank this morning and went over. I talked to John. You’ve met him. He oversees the family accounts. He told me I’m way overdrawn and that mother refused to balance me up.”

“Uh-huh. Did you talk to your mother?”

“I called and her secretary told me she’d see me today for a late lunch. I have to go. Will you come with me?”

I cursed to myself. Lunch with Matt’s mom meant a whole afternoon lost. But the end, I’d have indigestion and have to work late into the night to get a project ready for my customer. I sighed inwardly. “Sure. I’ll have to come home and change. I don’t want to wear jeans.”

“Great! I’m going to get a shower now. The good news is I’ve been working this morning.”

“Good. I can’t wait to see what you’re working on.”

“It’s just another portrait of you.”

“You are too sweet. Well, I’ll stop in the studio before I come upstairs.”

“Do that. Should I wait to shower with you?”

“No. Go ahead. It’ll take me an hour to clean up and then I want to walk home. It’s too nice a day.”

“Okay. See you in a while. Of course, she's sending the car for us around two.”

It took me about sixty minutes to rough in the layout for the ad. After I worked on it tonight, I’d see that it got out tomorrow. I want to keep my customer happy.

When I was done, I capped all the inks and cleaned the pens. I let the dog out and made sure her water bowl was full. I locked up and walked the six blocks to Matt’s condo. I pressed the elevator button for the third floor so I could stop off at his studio.

In the middle of the big room near a wall of northern exposure windows sat his large easel. He was half done the portrait. Mathew had become obsessed with my face and I didn’t want to deny him that pleasure. After all, it had been a year since he’d paid for my surgery and we both knew that I wouldn’t be half as pretty without the work.

Others liked his work too. This year, he’d sold twelve pieces. Three were portraits he’d painted of me. He painted whatever interested him. The gallery in Manhattan that represented him always wanted anything he did. All his work was selling and for good money, too.

I stood and studied the painting for a few minutes. I remembered when he’d set up the appointments and paid for my operation in advance. He chose the most expensive team to do the work. My old face was hidden deep in that portrait. But, a lot had changed.

My Adam’s apple was gone. My jawline was reduced and completely reshaped. Naturally, the brow lift changed my forehead and eyes. And my nose looked more like my sister’s now. I loved my new cheekbones, too. Between my weight loss, the estrogen, and the surgery no-one would ever guess that I had been born male. Mathew had insisted on perfection and I loved looking perfect for him.

I sighed. Who would have ever thought I would be so lucky in love? We’d met in a bar eighteen months ago. He was so drunk he needed to be carried out before the bouncers called the police. Matt was an angry drunk and that night was a bad one. He was about to get in a fight with the manager. I stepped in-between them. I didn’t know him but I sensed a good person under the alcoholic haze that was controlling his mood.

I persuaded the staff to help me get him into a taxi. I took my rescue home with me that night. I made sure he was still breathing when I left him on my couch and brought the dog in my bedroom. Then I carefully locked my bedroom door. In the morning, he was still out when I got up to make my breakfast and brew my tea.

I heard a sorrowful voice call out to me. “Miss, do you have any coffee?”

“I do. How do you like it?”

“Black with two sugars, thanks.”

He was back to sleep by the time it finished brewing. I left the coffee in the French press with the sugar packets by the side of the cup. I wrote a note saying my workspace was on the ground floor and to stop and say goodbye as he was leaving.

When he knocked on my door jam to get my attention, he looked like the typical drunk trying to clear his head.

“Thank you. The coffee was good. I appreciate you keeping me out of jail last night. The sober part of my brain knew I was behaving poorly, but the drunk part was winning.”

I smiled. I always felt sorry for homeless cats and dogs. He was pretty sorrowful looking. “Do you need a couple bucks for the bus?”

“Oh, yeah. No. I’ve got a ride home. I meant to ask you. Where am I?”

“You’re in Brooklyn. You were in Uncle Sally’s Bar last night.”

“Yeah, Right. I knew where I was. But, why were you there?”

“I’m trans. It’s a safe place to drink with friends.”

He looked me over for a long minute. Then he held out his hand. “I’m Mathew.”

I shook his hand. His grip was surprisingly steady for a drunk. “Caroline.”

“Well, Caroline. Thank you for the rescue and the use of your couch. I will find a way to show my appreciation. Do you have a business card with your address?”

I handed him my card and watched as he studied it.

He smiled and left. He stood outside for a while. When I looked up the next time he was gone.

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