“I can only sit for an hour today.”
Gaella flung her clothing over the tri-fold screen, an Asian hand-me-down with long green blades of grass and skeletal cranes stepping through marsh. I watched the shadow of her, her flowing curves and angles. I could see her select the period clothing I’d provided for this portrait. They would be loose but would reflect the mood I sought to evoke, extravagant wealth awash in famine.
“I’ll take what I can get.” I pointed to a set of false stairs. They would be my model of ancient, plague-stricken Athens, the temple steps of Athena Nike. “There’s a goblet, if you could… Yes, that’s it. You can rest it on your knee.”
Gaella draped herself drunkenly across the wooden stairs. I grabbed my spray bottle. “It’s just water. I need you to look as if you’ve just struggled through an illness.” She nodded and I pumped the trigger misting her face, chest and legs. The skin of her dark thighs glistened as if due to exercise, or stress.
She shivered at the touch of the spray and spoke through her face mask, still attached. “Why is it so cold in here?”
I’d set the thermostat to seventy-eight. I’d rather sweat than hear their complaints. “Cold? Have you been feeling this way for a while?”
“What are you insinuate…” She unhooked an ear. “Damn, masks. I’ve been careful. I don’t want this cursed disease. I’ve even sent my housemaid away. My home is filthy, now.”
I’d gotten used to my own, home-made cotton mask, a Gaughan printed colorfully across the smile. “Of course not. I’m sorry.” The trouble with models—neurosis strolled hand-in-hand with beauty.
She couldn’t get comfortable. I arranged a few stained pillows and still she squirmed. The piece was earmarked for a pharmaceutical’s marketing plan, that is, if I could get it finished. Gaella’s fame and notoriety were to elicit empathy, no, not empathy, sympathy maybe, for the corrupt corporation that had theoretically suffered at the hands…
“Gawd! I’m burning up, now.” Gaella stripped off the robe and mask and started spraying herself, strutting around naked, Athena herself, brazen and indifferent to the mortal who sat waiting for her tirade to end.
“Perhaps, you should see a doctor.”
“Can you please turn the fucking heat down?”
She faced the bottle and squeezed a cloud of mist that detonated against her face.
“Do that again.” I grabbed my camera and maneuvered to position her between me and the setting sun that had drifted into the remnants of smoke from a fire that burned a hundred miles away.
“Do what again?” She spread her arms, the bottle in one hand, a question in the other. Christ, she was beautiful.
“Spray your face, throw the bottle down and surrender to the moisture embracing your heat.”
Gaella cocked a hip. “You get this right, I want my cut.”
“Yeah, yeah, just do it.”