JUST SO. | By: Terry Collett | | Category: Short Story - History Bookmark and Share


"Just so," Max exclaimed excitedly, dabbing the canvas. Jeanne, his blonde model froze her features. Dab, dab, went his brush against the canvas. Jeanne sensed her limbs and jaw begin to ache. She hoped Max wouldn't be long. Some days he would be driven and be finished in less time than she feared, but others seemed to be an eternity.

"Just so, just so," he said as if singing a rhyme. After five minutes he stood back, his arms raised as if he'd been shocked at his own work. "Yes, that is it, that is it!" he said. "You can move, now you can move," he said over the canvas towards Jeanne.

"Was I all right?" she asked over her shoulder from her position on the floor.

"Yes, yes, fine, fine," Max said, peering at the canvas.

"I hope it's how you wanted it," Jeanne said, hopefully.

"I have captured what I saw," Max murmured to the canvas.

"And what did you see? Jeanne asked getting up from the floor.

"I saw your essence, Jeanne, your essence," Max said seriously. He placed his brushes down and stood further back. Jeanne came and stood beside him.

"That is my essence?" she said curiously.

"To me, yes, to you, who knows? Max muttered distantly. "We each see things differently. I see things as you may not. The artist sees things in a particular way and captures it, so," he said, spreading his hands out towards the canvas. He rubbed his chin. He breathed in
and then exhaled slowly. It was partly captured, he mused inwardly.

Some hours later in a cafe they were sitting drinking. Jeanne watched as Max and a fellow artist were talking. She watched his fine jaw rise and fall as he spoke. Her eyes watched the way his lips moved. She let her eyes settled on his hands as they made gestures. She sensed the hands upon her flesh. Recalled them moving over her thighs some hours back, after he had finished his work, after he had captured her essence.

"You must come see it," Max exclaimed excitedly to the artist opposite him. "It is possibly my best," he added musing for a few seconds over his drink. His friend nodded and said he would as soon as it was finished. Max raised his glass and said something which Jeanne failed to catch. Her eyes returned to his lips and watched as
they moved, almost in a silent mime.

"Is a work of art ever finished? Jeanne asked suddenly. The words had come out so quickly, she was not aware at first that they were her words. Max and his friend stared at her, saying nothing. She was about to repeat the question when she caught an answer in Max's eye. Her lips sealed. She looked away.

"Works of art are finished," Max stated, "but seldom completed." His friend concurred solemnly with a gesture of his head. Jeanne hid her hands beneath the table. They clutched at each other like lovers out of sight. Max stared at her for a few moments as if he were aware of her for the first time in ages. His dark eyes swept over her like a soft breeze. "There are questions which seldom find answers," he said to the room in general, but her in particular. "Sometimes we find answers to questions we have not even thought about," he added in a softer tone as if to himself.

Max laid his head on her breast. She could feel his breath on her flesh. He murmured words, but she failed to make sense of them.She looked at his black hair as it moved just under her chin. Her nose twitched like a cat's. She moved her arms about him as if he were a child brought back to safety. "Was that my essence?" she asked the head on her breast.

"As I saw it," Max murmured to her breasts.

"Was it what you expected?

"I expect nothing. I wait and see what comes," Max muttered softly.

"It was so..." Jeanne paused. She didn't know how to express what she thought.

"We seldom see ourselves as we are to others," Max stated in a whisper.He raised himself a little."If I had seen God it could only have been better," he muttered. Then lowered himself again.

Jeanne parted her lips as if to speak, but said nothing and her lips froze parted. What she had seen painted there unsettled her. Had made her feel somehow exposed. Made her feel undone. Yet not unsightly,not ugly, but in an unsettling way revealed in a way she had not thought.

"Is my essence something that you can love or not? Jeanne asked breaking the silence.

"The essence can sometimes kill love," Max uttered stiffly from her breast,"but it can bring about a deeper love, as with you," he added.Jeanne wanted to capture the words before they escaped,to hold them in her hands as if they were rare butterflies.

"Just so! Max exclaimed.

"What is love? Jeanne asked.

"The essence." Max said excitedly.

"And what is the essence?

"That which is real," Max stated over the canvas, with brush in hand. Jeanne opened her lips to speak further, but stopped herself.She watched the edge of the board on which she sat and focussed her eyes on it. Max's brush dabbed and dabbed. His breathing grew deeper and deeper. She wanted to see the essence of the board on which she
sat as Max had captured her essence, but all she could capture was a blurredness that made her eyes water.

"What is real? Jeanne asked without moving her head.

"That which does not exist," Max said. "That which does not exist to our senses," he added sadly, dabbing harder with his brush, as if he were seeking to break through to that essence he'd seen and had captured and was now beyond him again. Jeanne said no more. She was captured. Max had her essence. She seemed pinned like a butterfly on Max's canvas: still, lifeless, motionless, but her essence was there. Just so, just so, just so.
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