How to Love(3)

By: Kelly Jamieson

She pushed the door into The Black Bean Coffee Shop and inhaled the rich, dark aroma of Arabica beans, roasted and brewed to perfection. Being a bit of a coffee snob, this was another thing she appreciated about San Amaro. Well, not only the upscale coffee shop but all the little businesses that catered to a well-off clientele—designer clothing and jewelry shops, small cafés and a bakery. Her little art gallery and portrait studio fit right in, with a surprising number of people, both locals and tourists, willing to spend big bucks on her prints or her custom frames. Her portraits were her bread and butter, but she was working on doing more creative ones and trying to increase the framed prints she sold in her gallery.

Except that wasn’t going so well. She’d sold photographs that she’d taken on some of her travels to Indonesia and South America. She’d travelled locally, taking pictures of ocean and desert. They were selling okay, but she’d felt the lack of inspiration, the flatness of them. Then she’d gotten the idea to do some nudes.

Those had sold spectacularly well. In fact she had only a few left on display in the gallery with people asking for more. But nude models weren’t that easy to come by when she couldn’t afford to pay them anything. She’d tried to convince her friend Neve to pose nude, but even when she’d assured Neve that her face wouldn’t be seen, she still wouldn’t do it. Jules herself would do it, but it was a little tough to take pictures of yourself.

“Hey, Jules.” Neve smiled at her from behind the counter, a tiny diamond stud glittering on the left side of her nose, a barbell piercing her right eyebrow. She wore her long, perfectly straight blonde hair in a low ponytail and the usual white shirt and black pants, so conservative compared to the kinds of outfits she wore away from work. Her usual eye makeup—lots of liner and shadow—emphasized pretty hazel eyes.

It still amazed Jules a little that she had a girl best friend. It had always been hard for her to make friends with other girls. Guys—no problem. With guys there was always the sexual layer, which was usually the only layer for her, because she didn’t do relationships, but with girls if you wanted a relationship, a friendship, you had to actually open up a little about yourself. Which wasn’t something she was good at.

With Neve it was surprisingly easy to talk about things, maybe because she accepted that there were topics Jules didn’t want to discuss and never tried to probe too deep. Jules liked that Neve was a bit of a rebel who didn’t try to conform to what others thought she should be. Neve accepted Jules for who she was, which included the fact that she liked men and she liked sex. Neve never made her feel like she should be ashamed of that. And it was nice to have a friend to talk to and laugh with and do fun things with.

“Hi, Neve. How’s it going?”

“Excellent. What can I get for you? The usual?”

“You bet.”

“What are you up to this weekend?” Neve asked as she steamed the milk for the macchiato.

“Not much. I’m working tomorrow, Min needed the day off for a wedding.”

“Tomorrow night the Surf Sisters are having a beach party.”

The Surf Sisters’ beach parties were legendary. “I guess I’m not invited.”

Bella Chesley still held a grudge about the fact that Josh Busher, one of the local police officers, had dumped her soon after he’d met Jules. Josh was a great guy and sexy as hell, and yeah, they’d gone out together for a while after that, but it wasn’t as if Jules had stolen him away from Bella. She’d never done a thing to cause their break up, but Bella didn’t see it that way. Months later, she still hadn’t gotten over it.

“Yes, you are invited,” a voice said behind her, and Jules turned to see Bella’s sister Jaden sitting at one of the small tables. Jaden gave Jules a sunny smile, her blonde hair pulled back into a high ponytail. Luckily Jaden didn’t carry the same grudge as her sister. As usual she was dressed in board shorts and a fitted tank top, ready for the surf lessons she and her sister taught at their shop, Surf Sisters’ Swim, Surf, Sun. “I told Bella I was going to invite you.”