22 Feb 2018

The Blues and Reds of Lavardin

David entered the gallery foyer, pausing momentarily to gaze up in interest at the banner promoting the exhibition of Catherine Dubois portraits. The image of the artist’s face looked airbrushed and artificial, set against a background montage of her work, and it was initially almost unrecognisable to the man who had shared her life for over three years. Could she really have changed so much in the time since their relationship had ended? Eventually, though, the piercing, glowing, Persian blue eyes registered some sort of reassuring familiarity. It was as if her face was slowly coming into focus, his mind indexing the points of recognition from her features, and linking them to memories that David had long since locked away. When he was content that it really was her, he nonchalantly continued inside.

Walking from the gallery’s foyer David followed some signs, turning left into a deliberately dimly lit corridor. He had come across this before in other galleries. Your eyes become used to the shadows and then suddenly you are plunged into a light flooded exhibition space, a contrast that is supposed to enhance the visually dramatic impact of what is on display. As David walked, voices echoed in the distance, seemingly drifting on a haze of luminosity far ahead, and his shoes ‘tapped’ pleasingly on the hard marble floor. He soon found himself turning right, emerging from the relative darkness into a massive, blindly bright, oval enclave. Before him was a spectacular high, cream coloured wall, adorned intermittently with Catherine’s large scale pastel portraits, impressionistic and colourful, each speared with beams of illumination coming from clusters of spot lamps in the ceiling.

From where he stood, David’s view of almost every drawing was obstructed by other people, but he instantly recognised the style of Catherine’s work. Inspired by Degas, she used strokes and colours that looked clumsy and illogical when taken in isolation. Skin colours mottled with blues and reds, surely out of place, but then when you stand back and look, you see how they have contributed to an overall tone that perfectly portrays the sitter’s personality and soul. David didn’t recognise the identity of any of the subjects, but he knew they would be celebrities, dignitaries, people she admired. Their poses and situations were incidental, as David knew that it was the face of the sitter that offered an insight into who they really were, and that was what Catherine tried to capture. David felt that he could interpret the personality of the sitter, just from the way she had drafted the life lines on his or her face. To Catherine, the lines on a face were like the pages of a book that told the story of someone’s life. He stood in front of one such portrait. A man, old, unshaven with un-kept white hair, his eyes forlorn and tinged with regrets. David stared and tried to think what those regrets might have been, but the regrets that came to mind were mostly his own, especially where Catherine was concerned. He thought about her, the time they spent together, and wondered if they were regrets that she shared.

David then turned as he became aware of something strange on the periphery of his attention. The people in the gallery were no longer scattered across the enclave. Instead, many had congregated together mid-way along the gallery wall. It may have only been twenty or so individuals, but gathered in a mass like this it seemed like more. David couldn’t see the portrait they were looking at, or what could possibly have happened to it, but curiosity compelled him to investigate. He wandered over to the throng and manoeuvred himself amid the torsos until he could see the artwork hanging on the wall in front of them. David’s heart quickened. Before him was a work unlike any of the others in the exhibition. A large rectangular painting, oil on canvas, depicting the interior of a room. In the corner of the scene an old metal framed bed was adorned with crumpled sheets and the twisted limbs of a couple. A naked couple, making love.

“It’s so explicit,” David overheard one voice say. He looked again, the woman kneeling astride her lover, his head reaching upwards, his face and mouth hidden, pressed into one of her hanging breasts, her body leaning forward and arching over his, hair cascading down around her face as she reaches down between her legs, guiding him inside her in the act of penetration.

“Have you noticed,” said another voice. “This is the only work where you can’t see their faces. I wonder who they are?”

David knew who they were. Even with Catherine’s loose impressionistic style he recognised the smudged patterns of green paint amongst her characteristic skin tones of blues and reds on the shoulder of the man in the painting, and he instinctively placed his hand over his own right shoulder, as if hiding the tattoo under his clothes that might reveal his identity to the others in the gallery. How could she betray him like this, he thought to himself? How could she seek to profit from their intimacy?

As David stood there, listening to the random comments of those around him, he experienced a range of emotions. His initial instinctive anger slowly subsided, and gave way to mild paranoia and then eventually embarrassment. Yet, as he stared at the scene on the wall, he became distracted and gradually oblivious to all else. Immersed in its imagery, he was transported back to that moment in time. He looked at the open window above the bed and the way Catherine had delicately portrayed the clear blue sky in the distance with skilfully placed dabs of paint. She had painted shafts of evening sunlight pouring through it into the room and the way the net curtains appeared to billow gracefully in the painting indicated the presence of a slight breeze. David could almost feel that warm breeze on his face and suddenly he was there. He recalled that old ivy covered stone house, forgotten by time, hidden under the trees that grew along the banks of the River Loire, outside the village of Lavardin, somewhere in central France. He remembered how, whilst lying on that bed, he could smell the lavender in the garden, and hear the gentle rustling of the willows and the distant constant sound of water snaking over a bed of rocks on the riverbed. David’s eyes darted left and then right, settling on objects in the painting, each one helping to refresh memories and enabling him to relive the events in his mind. The discarded white blouse on the floor, the empty bottle of wine.

Yes, the wine. He and Catherine spent that afternoon exploring the ruins of a medieval castle above the village, then bought a bottle of Domaine des Liards wine on their way back, walking to the house hand in hand across the old stone bridge. David recalled the wine’s clean, fresh, apple-crisp lushness of its taste, complementing the perfectly cooked grilled trout that he himself had prepared. They both had several glasses, and as the warm confidence it gave them turned to light headedness for David, he collapsed back onto the bed and allowed his spinning head to sink into the soft feather pillow. Catherine smiled sympathetically, drained the last droplet of gold from her glass, and started to walk over towards the bed, slowly and purposefully as she tried to disguise the effects of the wine. With each step, and with each loud ‘clump’ the heels of her shoes made on the old wooden floor, David could see her breasts swaying slightly underneath her blouse. He lay there and watched, mesmerized as without inhibition she crossed her arms, grabbed the white silk blouse in her hands, and then slowly and deliberately pulled it up over her head. She tossed the blouse to the ground, exactly where the painting now showed it to be, and then reached up to pull her long, ebony, waved hair from her eyes, flicking it behind her head. David lay there, looking at her naked upper body from the bed. The evening sun, peering in through the open window, caused her skin to glow and it accentuated every graceful curve. He followed the sweeping shadowed lines of Catherine’s collar bones, leading his eyes towards the freckled skin on her chest, her pale skinned 34DD breasts slowly rising and falling visibly on her rib cage as she breathed, her nipples erect, standing proud from large pink and pimpled areolas. Catherine stared down into David’s eyes and sexily bit her bottom lip as she pulled down the zip on the side of her high-waist, black cotton, flared skirt. It fell silently to reveal slender, curvaceous hips, on which hung a pair of white lace panties, tight and creaseless, sheer enough for David to see her black pubic hair beneath. Catherine stepped out of the skirt carefully before sitting down on the side of the bed. The old springs snared audibly as she leaned across him to balance herself whilst she stooped down to undo the straps on her shoes. As she did so, the warm soft flesh of her chest pressed against David’s stomach. A moment earlier he had felt drunk and sleepy, now adrenalin was coursing through his veins, his breath shortening, heart racing. Catherine swivelled on the bed and stretched out alongside him. Her head now level with his on the pillows, they kissed tenderly. Lips locking together, Catherine allowed her tongue to enter his mouth. She tasted him, felt the warm wet smoothness of his tongue touching hers. Then, abruptly, she pulled her mouth away from his.

“Can I fuck you?” she asked in a whisper. The question was asked in calm and matter of fact way that David found extraordinarily erotic.

“Of course,” said David. Catherine didn’t hesitate. She placed her hand on his chest, feeling the firmness of his pectoral muscles, before moving it down and sliding it up inside David’s t-shirt. Her fingers caressed his skin, stroking the undulations of his taught abominable muscles. They started to kiss again as Catherine reached down and started to unbuckle his black leather belt. Once unbuttoned and unzipped, David assisted Catherine to remove his trousers and boxer shorts. As they were manoeuvred downwards, David’s semi-erect penis sprang free. Catherine rested her hand on David’s naked thigh and examined his penis intently. David’s racing heart pumping blood into it, each beat causing the dick to twitch, each pulse making him get visibly bigger. She smiled as the veins zig zagging around the girth of his shaft stood proud, and the sensitive head of David’s cock pushed up through his foreskin, his glans now large swollen and flushed purple with the blood that was being forced into it. Catherine moved her hand up from David’s thigh and cupped his balls, massaging them, feeling their warm shapes inside his soft, freshly shaved scrotum. David gasped with delight, as finally Catherine’s inquisitive hand reached his cock. She touched it, delicately at first, running her fingers along it length and smudging the globule of precum that had started to emerge from his urethral opening. Slowly she started to wrap her fingers around its circumference, slowly pulling his foreskin down, carefully and with great delight, starting to masturbate him.

“It’s lovely,” said Catherine as she increased her rhythm, not daring to break her gaze from the now fully erect phallus. Catherine continued to stroke as she turned over. David knew instinctively what was going to happen and he propped himself up on his elbows so that he could have the perfect view of everything that she was going to do to him. Catherine drew her knees up beneath her and kneeled over David, pulling up his t-shirt so that she could kiss and lick his stomach, moving inch by inch from his naval towards the neatly trimmed triangle of pubic hair. She pushed her tongue through the dark curls seeking out the monolithic protuberance that that emerged from it. Eventually, when her mouth came into contact with the base of David’s root, she immediately started to caress it with her mouth. She made her way upwards, kissing and licking, leaving a trail of glistening saliva, pausing to flick David’s frenulum with her tongue. David revelled in the sensations. He audibly moaned with pleasure, and that prompted Catherine to take him fully into her mouth. David pulled Catherine’s hair away so that he could see her head rising and falling on his aching cock, slurping loudly, gagging as she endeavoured to take his entire seven inch length into her throat. Occasionally, she would lift her head away, trying to get breath, beads and strings of saliva falling from her mouth as she did. Each time she would loosen her grip with her hands, sliding it up and down, testing the lubrication. Then, when she was happy that the hard penis was thoroughly wet, she held it in between her fingers and raised her leg to sit astride her lover…just as the layered tones of red and blue in the painting depicted.

David remembered how Catherine reached down between her legs and carefully positioned his erection so that his tip touched her inner labia. She lowered herself slightly, and David could feel his swollen helmet push inside, slowly encompassed by Catherine’s hot and soaking wet vagina. Now it was her turn to moan, as the feeling of the cock rubbing against her vaginal wall, filling her, was almost too much to bear. David pushed his face into her hanging, swaying breasts. Opening his mouth he clamped himself to her, taking one of her nipples between his lips, sucking it, biting it gently. Catherine, though, pushed him back onto the bed with her hands. She started to rock back and forth, her hips rising and falling as she slowly started to ride up and down on David’s cock. For David, the sensations were amazing. He placed his hand upon her thighs, sometimes holding her waste, as Catherine closed her eyes and fucked him. She continued to fuck for several minutes. Occasionally pausing and sitting upright, riding David with her arms raised and her hands holding back her hair, her breasts pushed out, bouncing with each rhythmic push of her pelvis. As she tired, David pulled her down upon him, and started to thrust his penis in and out of her. Now he was doing the work, his balls slapping against her bum each time his slippery member plunged deeply up into Catherine. Eventually, David could feel his orgasm build. A wave of intense pleasure overwhelmed him, his body going into spasm, as his cock ejaculated. The animalistic instinct to deposit his seed as deeply inside her as possible cause David to lift Catherine right up off the bed, impaled on his exploding prick, as spurt after spurt of his warm hot cum spewed from his tip.

Catherine collapsed on top of David. David pulled her sweat soaked hair away from her face and kissed her again. He withdrew his flaccid penis from her and lifted her up slightly so that she could wriggle himself down between her splayed legs. He prompted her to move forward until his head was between her wide kneeling thighs, looking up at her pussy just as his cum started to emerge from inside her. David reached up and pulled her labia apart gently, he found her clit with his fingers and rubbed it, soon raising his head so that he could seek it out with his tongue, licking, flicking, and biting. Catherine flopped forward, debilitated by pleasure as her own orgasm started to build. David could feel the warmth of his own cum, dribbling onto his chin from Catherine. As her body went rigid and then started to shake violently, David locked his mouth to her cunt, pushing his tongue deep inside her, lapping his cum into his own mouth. Catherine cried out as she orgasmed. An orgasm that came in a series of waves, her right leg shaking and trembling until it eventually started to subside. She turned over onto her back and David moved up beside her. He kissed her. The fluid in his mouth a heady cocktail of saliva, vaginal juices, globules of thick creamy sperm, and vintage Domaine des Liards, which he passed into her mouth on his tongue. They kissed in a passionate, almost primeval way. Convention and niceties forgotten, replaced by an instinctive desire to push the boundaries of sexual intimacy. Finally, spent and fulfilled, the pair lay in each other’s arms.

David snapped back into the present and looked around the gallery. Exactly how long he had been stood there, he couldn’t be sure, but the crowd of onlookers that had been huddled around the painting had long since dispersed. Now he was standing there alone. David saw a gallery attendant walk up to one of the portraits that hung at the far end of the enclave, and place a small sticker on the frame, indicating that it had been sold. He looked back at the oil painting and saw that there was no such sticker on it. He walked briskly towards a small attended desk adjacent to the exit.

“Excuse,” he said. “That painting, the one of the lovers, can I buy it?”

“I’m sorry, Sir”, the young blonde haired woman replied apologetically, “that isn’t possible.” David removed his jacket and reached inside to withdraw his brown leather wallet.

“If someone has already made an offer, I’ll pay more. I’d be happy to pay twice what they paid.”

"You don’t understand, Sir,” said the Gallery Attendant. “You see, this is the only painting in the entire exhibition that isn’t for sale. It’s on loan, from the artist’s own personal collection.”

David paused, frowned and bowed his head in resignation. He looked back at the painting, hanging there on the wall. He realised that Catherine wasn’t trying to profit from their intimacy at all. The painting was a record, a celebration of a perfect moment in time. One that he now believed was as special to her, as it was to him. As he turned, he threw his jacket over his shoulder. Some memories, he thought to himself, deserve to be preserved forever. He passed the portrait of the old man with white hair and saluted him.

“No regrets.”

As the Gallery Attendant watch David begin to leave, she saw the dark coloured outline of a tattoo on his arm, faintly showing through the sleeve of his white cotton shirt. She glanced at the painting and then back at David as he walked away, and she wondered.