Curio(3)

By: Cara McKenna



I’m babbling about Didier’s décor because I was afraid to look at him at first, and those were the minutiae I lost myself in. But eventually I turned to face him.

“You have a lovely flat.”

“Thank you. Would you like a drink?”

“Sure.” I’d never needed a drink so badly in my life.

“Have a seat.” He waved toward the settee and armchair in the corner before heading for another room. “And you prefer English?”

“If you don’t mind. Thank you.” I set my umbrella and purse by the door and crossed the room to sit on the chair. Pigeons paced on the ledge outside the window, their little bird motors idling, purring and cooing their contentment. I envied their ease.

Didier’s voice carried from the far room. “I see you did not escape the storm.”

“No, sadly.”

He reappeared with two glasses of red wine, handing me one as he took a seat on the couch.

I have avoided describing Didier, I know. That’s because I worry I’ll never be able to paint him properly, to do him justice. But here goes.

I’ll start with his voice. It’s deep and gentle, warm and relaxed. I’m terrible at guessing heights, but he’s tall, over six feet. His image in those photos and sketches from the gallery binder are elegant, which he is in real life as well.

I can’t find the right word for his build. Though he’s quite trim, he has a large frame—wide shoulders, broad hands—making him seem heavy and strong. In person, his muscular body was of course hidden, and it was maddening to know what he looked like nearly naked and to then have to suffer his sweater and slacks. He had on socks but no shoes, which for some reason I found reassuring.

We sipped our wine and I have no idea what we talked about. The rain, how this spring was stacking up to previous years, perhaps. I took in only what I was looking at.

I know you must want to know about his face, one worthy of so many artists’ awe and my clumsy prose. It’s a stern face, as you’d expect of a male model. A strong jaw, though not square. Cheekbones that bend light, of course. Expressive eyebrows, black in the dim room. His hair is a shade lighter than his brows, and not as unruly as mine—a wavy sort of curly, long enough to clutch but not to wrap around one’s fingers. His eyes are deep brown with heavy lids that give him a slightly sinister, slightly sleepy expression. His nose is strong, not quite big, with the slightest hook to it. Like so many Parisian men, he has an air of caustic wisdom about him. Unlike many Parisian men, he does not have an aroma of cigarettes to accent the attitude.

Didier is the type of man who, even if you can’t stand seafood, makes you crave oysters. There is something raw and primal yet utterly refined about him that leaves you hungry for such a thing. He pairs with liver and black caviar and hundred-dollar champagne, this extraordinary delicacy of a man. A rare animal, worthy of hunting to extinction lest anyone else lay claim to the beauty of him.

“So tell me what exactly brings you here,” he said.

Ah, a question I had no answer for. “I saw pictures of you at a gallery, and heard that you… You know.”

He nodded.

“You’ve modeled a lot,” I said.

“I did. Not so often anymore.” The only imperfect thing about him is his teeth—white but a bit crooked, which I don’t mind at all. Mine are just the same.

“Have you lived here long?” I asked, aiming my gaze all around his flat.

“Ages. Nearly ten years.” Didier has a way of leaning forward, bracing his elbows on his knees and locking his eyes on yours even as he sips his wine. Though it sounds unnerving, it makes you feel you’re the most fascinating woman on earth. Normally I shy from a stare as intense as his, strong as a floodlight, but all I felt then was blank.

“And you?” he asked. “How long have you been in Paris?”

“Two years, next month.”

“School?”

I shook my head. “Work. At a museum. Assistant curator.”

He made an impressed face. “And so what brings you to me?”

My delusions of charisma faded. “Um… Do you have a confidentiality thing with your clients?”

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