Rafferty opened his pencil tin with his hands and his hands only; the rest of his body remained still, his eyes and head still sinking into attention on Frankie’s pose. She was honey milky sickly, skin all round and in his eyes. On her thighs. An olive piano hand rested gently on her exposed hip.
“Just a quickie then folks, ‘cause she’s going for gold this time.”
Chuck crept under the easels like a child tiptoeing across a bouncy castle, trying to stay out of view. The spring in his step might have been from a hyperactive awkward energy owing to social mental blocks. It might have been because he was happy with life. Frankie smiled.
She did the middle-distance thing, but Raff knew better. She stared straight into him like no other cheeky, brash, uneducated-
“Ten minutes, folks.”
– heard-before-seen little degenerate with no manners. It’s not polite to stare at the best of times, but this took Raff’s nerve. It’s more than rude to send someone that insane, even if only for a few minutes. He figured she was the kind of girl who didn’t realise that earring multi-packs were meant for multi-pairs of ears, multi-occasions. The kind of girl who shouted friends’ sports nicknames from a foghorn-shaped mouth.
Frankie drifted into a chocolate sleep, heavy and warm, tasty. She went round town in her head, traced her shopping steps. She did the tourist circle. Art shops and cafés floated through her, museums and libraries loomed and disappeared. Colours danced and jerked. A tiny stream of saliva made its way to the left corner of her mouth.
She came to the dungeons. She floated up and in. A misty must smuggled her into a small room full of people; children with teasing fathers, couples clutching at each others’ sleeves. And there was a man. A boy. Sort of both and neither. He was blonde and adolescent, but he spoke assertively of the horrors of medieval surgery and waved a jar of leeches around in front of paralysed open mouths. He picked squeamish victims and latched eye contact, moving in on them like rabbits, staring into them and threatening, ‘Oh yes, there was nothing to take the pain away…’ Frankie felt a rush against her wet chin.
The grubby made up face turned her way, and it was her turn to feel special. She saw a half-baked figure among blurred easels as her eyes flitted open and shut, letting in light like flash fire specs on old movie reels. The boy moved in. Black eyes fixed on hers and stared, intimidating. He gave nothing away. He won over her silent, excited tears and her heart in one. It was scrumptious. He leaned in and bit. Blood slid warmly, heavily down her body. He backed away slowly, and she could see a patch of it on his costume. On his face. His expression didn’t even flicker as he slowly, heavily raised his dead hand and pointed to the corner of his mouth.
Frankie woke, to see a new figure standing in front of the easels.
‘You’re not my favourite model.’ Celia. ‘She moves!’ Celia stomped out of the room, throwing her brush on the floor in front of Frankie’s midriff. Frankie watched from her day-bedas she left. Chuck had apparently gone on an errand somewhere. She pulled her olive hand from between her legs, slowly, heavily, and took her time.
Raff stood in silence as Frankie stood and ambled over, silkily, sleepily. His brush held paralysed on the upper thigh of his trousers, slowly pressing red into his leg with the determination of a missionary. Frankie smiled.
‘You’ve got red on you. May I?’ She peered round at the blotchy figure on his page, so delicately shaded up to a point on her abdomen where the brush trailed off through the bottom of the page to that point on his trousers.
‘Are you going to keep that?’ she hinted.