Art Class

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Amateur

This is a story that has been kicking around in my head for more than a year. An email exchange with a fellow author on this site who likes the older/younger genre pushed me into finally getting it down in pixels. So, this story is dedicated to her. I hope she likes it. For those looking for a quick jerk story, hit the back key. This isn’t one of those.

“Bill?”

“Yes.”

“Bill. Hi. It’s Caroline.”

She sounded breathless, like she’d just run up a flight of stairs. “Hi Caroline. I hope you’re calling because you want to take me out for drinks now that the semester is almost over.”

“Alas, no,” she said. “I’m calling to ask you a HUGE favor.”

“My answer is yes,” I replied.

“Don’t say yes until you hear me out. Can I come over to your office?”

Ah. That kind of favor. Can’t say it over the phone.

“Sure. I’m here grading until I’m done.”

“Okay. I’ll be right over.”

Five minutes later, Caroline bustled in, which is unusual for her. She’s one of the most composed, most centered people I know. For her to be rushing around and looking stressed, whatever the problem was, it must have been a good one.

“Hi,” I said as she slid into one the chairs across from my desk. “Coffee?”

“Well…No. I can’t. But thanks.”

And with that, she reached over and closed my office door. Okay, it was to be a secret favor. Rather than prodding to see what it was, I just waited.

Caroline took a deep breath, then said, “I think you know I’d never ask for something like this if I weren’t desperate. And I’ve already asked at least five other people. No one could do it.”

“Yes,” I said. “I’ll do it.”

Caroline was, after all, one of my oldest friends, and even briefly, a lover. But that was two decades ago. More, actually. She was having none of my easy agreements though.

“Seriously, Bill. Hear me out.”

“Okay,” I replied. “I’m listening.”

“I can’t remember if I told you or not, but I’m teaching Life Drawing this semester.”

I nodded. She had told me.

“Well, this afternoon at four is the final studio session for the class. Half the students are done, but the other half really need this session to complete their portfolios.”

She paused, took a deep breath, then said, “My regular model, Stephen, was in a car wreck this morning on his way in and he can’t possibly be here. I’ve called everyone else I know and no one can do it. If I don’t have a model today, at least seven of my students are screwed. Is there any way you’d be willing to sit?”

Oh.

Maybe I shouldn’t have agreed so quickly.

“Nude?”

“Yes. Yes, of course. It’s Life Drawing, not Fashion Drawing.”

“Just checking,” I said. “Okay. Sure. But on one condition.”

“What?”

“I need to see the class list. I won’t sit for any students I already know. That would be a bit awkward, don’t you think?”

She nodded. Then began rummaging around in her laptop bag. After a few seconds, she produced her grade book, flipped through it, and then handed it to me, open to the relevant page.

I scanned the names. None were familiar at all. While I sometimes have a hard time remembering students’ names in class, I don’t forget their names in general. Calling roll day after day does that.

“Don’t know any of them,” I said. “So I’ll do it.”

“Oh Bill. You’re a godsend. I swear I’ll make it up to you.”

“Drinks after finals?”

“Done,” she said. “Name the bar and I’ll pick up the tab.”

“Sounds like a plan. Now tell me where to go and when.”

“I already told you the when. The class starts at four and runs until seven. So you have about half an hour to get over there. It’s in the Myersdell Studio building, second floor. My GTA Alison will be waiting for you at the door and will get you settled.”

And with that, Caroline stood, blew me a kiss, and said, “I won’t forget this.”

“Me either,” I said to her back as it left my office.

—–

“Dr. Sullivan?”

“Yes. Are you Alison?”

“I am,” said a pretty girl in her mid-20s, wearing a t-shirt and jeans that had more paint on them than cloth. “If you want to follow me, I’ll show you what to do.”

I waved for her to lead the way and she did. Down a short hallway we went, then through a door into a large studio, where several students were already setting up their easels and materials. There was a grayish wooden block in the middle of the floor and they were arranging themselves around it.

“This way,” Alison said, motioning me toward another door. “This is the changing room. Go ahead and strip down and put on the robe. When they’re ready for you, I’ll come get you and help you get comfortable. There are water bottles in the fridge, so feel free to take one or several if you like. It can get hot out there under the lights.”

With that, she left me. I’ve had to strip and get into a robe many times in my life, but always for a medical procedure, exam, or x-ray. Not to sit naked in front of a group of college students. As I took off my clothes, I became hyper-aware of two things—the fact that I’d gained casino şirketleri a few pounds over the semester and that I was, well, not entirely soft.

Great.

But, I’d promised Caroline, so there was nothing for it but to get undressed and into the robe. I had just grabbed a water bottle when Alison rapped on the door.

“Ready in there?”

“Ready,” I replied.

The door swung open and a smiling Alison led me to the center of the room.

“Okay everybody,” she said. “This is Bill. He is a last minute fill in for Stephen and it’s his first time sitting as a model. Bill? Thanks so much for doing this.”

I nodded, my mouth just a little too dry to speak at that moment. Seven students, all girls. All looking at me. Waiting for me to take off my robe.

Oi.

“I want you to have a seat on this block, one leg on either side of the corner here,” Alison said, motioning to where she wanted me to sit. “Place your hands on your knees or thighs, whichever is more comfortable, and spread your legs relatively wide. Try to be as comfortable as possible. I know it’s not the world’s greatest seat.”

I almost sat down without taking off the robe, then remembered it at the last second. Still holding my breath, I untied it, slipped it off, and handed it to Alison. Then I sat where told me to and did my best to get comfortable. Legs spread. Everything on display. At least the partial hardon I’d had in the dressing room had deflated.

“Try to sit as still as possible, but don’t feel like you have to be a statue,” she continued. “No one can sit that still that long.”

I nodded again, very aware of the fact that all seven girls could see everything there was to see.

“After about 15 minutes, you can take a break. Stand up. Stretch. Whatever feels good. Then try to sit back in as close to the same position as possible. We’ll take a ten-minute break on the hour. And remember to drink water. Don’t want you dehydrating.”

I know she knew I was very uncomfortable, and not because the block I was sitting on was so hard. But she was also being very professional and that helped.

And so it went. The first fifteen minutes were pretty bad, because I was hyper-aware of the fact that I was totally nude in front of seven female students. After that, though, I began to detach from what was happening and my mind began to wander. Each fifteen-minute segment seemed to go by a little faster and all would have been well, except that my wandering mind began to think about drinks with Caroline. And then about what might happen after drinks.

The inevitable result of such musings was a sudden rise in the barometric pressure between my legs. Perfect. Just what I needed to have happen. Think football. Baseball. Lawn care. Anything boring. Just don’t think about the girls watching your cock rise you old slime ball.

Something seemed to work. Probably just generalized mortification, because after about thirty seconds of upward motion, gravity took back over, the barometric pressure dropped, and I could breathe again.

Fortunately, that was very near the end of the session, because when the next fifteen minutes ended, Alison came back in and said, “I think we’re done here.”

All the students were nodding, so I grabbed the robe off the floor, put it back on, and headed for the dressing room. By the time I came out, blessedly clothed again, only one student and Alison were left and the student was on her way out.

“Dr. Sullivan,” Alison said. “Thanks again for all your help.”

“My pleasure,” I replied and headed straight for my car. If I man ever needed a drink, it was me.

—–

“Dr. Sullivan?”

I looked up from my grading to see a young woman standing in my office doorway.

“Yes?”

She stepped in and took a seat. She looked familiar, but definitely was not one of my students this semester or last. But I knew her from somewhere. Maybe several years ago? At 52, my memory for students does seem to be slipping slightly.

“My name is Melissa. Mel. I’m in the studio class you sat for last week.”

Ah. That’s where I knew her from. The blonde just to my right wearing a tank top and jeans.

“Right. I remember you.”

“Well. I just wanted to stop in and say thanks personally. I was kind of in trouble in that class, but I made an A on my final work — you — and that boosted me to a B for the semester.”

She seemed genuinely anxious to let me know she meant it. So I said, “You’re welcome. I was happy to do it, if more than a little terrified.”

That earned me a laugh from her and a very pretty smile.

“I bet. I could tell you were pretty on edge. But you chilled out pretty quickly.”

I nodded.

“I wouldn’t have done it for anyone except Dr. Marks.”

“Yes, she told us you are old friends.”

Again I nodded.

This time, though, she stared down at her feet. I noticed that there was a portfolio there. I hoped she was not going to want to show me a nude drawing of me…

Instead, she picked it up, then put it back down, then looked back up at me and said, “Dr. Marks casino firmaları says you’re a talented photographer.”

Not what I expected, but okay.

“I don’t know about ‘talented,’ but I do like to shoot as often as possible.” Then I waved to the wall to her left where a number of my images were hung.

She stood up and began to examine them, each one very carefully, nodding to herself in front of a couple. Then she sat back down. I was impressed at how much time she spent considering them.

“She was right. You are good.”

“Thanks,” I said, not sure what else to say.

Then she picked up her portfolio again. Then set it back down.

“I’m a photographer too. It’s really what I do,” she said.

So that’s what was in the portfolio.

“Do you have some of your work with you?”

She nodded, reached for the portfolio, then stopped herself. She was clearly working herself up to something. I decided to wait, since she was the one who had come to see me.

After about a minute of fidgeting with the handle of her portfolio, she said, “I guess I’m wondering if you might consider another modeling gig. I could pay you for this one, though.”

I was about to say that, no, my career as a model was over. One and done. But the look on her face was one I’d seen before in my own daughter, when she really needed me to help her way back when she was seventeen and on the edge of some serious trouble.

So, instead, I said, “That depends on what you have in mind.”

The fact that I hadn’t rejected her outright made it possible for her to breath again and I watched as she took two deep breaths, the began to unzip her portfolio.

“This is my senior project. I’ve actually been working on it for more than a year already and I’m almost completely done. I just need a few more images and I’ll be ready for my show. There’s no way I can make it in time for graduation this month, so I’m going to spend the summer getting everything printed better than what’s in here.”

She patted the portfolio, but didn’t open it yet.

“The title of the show is It’s Not Up to You and it’s a riff on social attitudes about what constitutes an appropriate relationship. The whole point is to hit people in the face and make them think carefully about the assumptions they bring to the whole question of who ought to be with who.”

As she spoke, a certain fierceness entered her voice. The kind of fierceness the real artist gets about her work when it matters to her a lot. That level of conviction made me want to know more.

“So I’ve created these sets and I’m down to the last one. The one I’d want you for. Take a look and tell me what you think.”

At last she handed over the portfolio. Still unopened. I unzipped it the last little bit and began to leaf through the images. Each set was three different shots of the same couple. The first was of two men, one morbidly obese, the other painfully thin, both in their early thirties or so, holding hands. Clearly in love. In the second image, both were nude. In the third, only the thin man was nude, and the obese man was stroking his lover’s crotch, which sported a large hardon.

Okay.

The second set was of a conventional looking married couple, maybe in their forties, dressed like they were going to dinner, holding hands. Put together. The second in their set showed her topless, an upper body covered with tattoos and piercings, pinching her pierced nipples while he had a hand shoved down his pants. The third was of the two of them, dressed again, with their children, who looked like future Barbie and Ken models.

Different.

The third set was of a young American soldier in full dress uniform, standing next to a Middle Eastern looking woman in a hijab and conservative Muslim outfit. Both looked in their early twenties and they looked more than a little uncomfortable. The second image showed them both, fully nude, except for the scarf in her hair, facing one another, bodies almost touching. He was missing both legs from the knee down and had a horrible scar across his abdomen. She was pregnant. Probably six months or so. You could tell they were in love. In the third, he was kneeling in front of her, his face resting against her stomach, her breasts resting on his head, a look of intense love on her face for what I could only assume was the father of her unborn child.

Compelling.

And then the pages were blank.

“So you want me to be part of the final set then?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Your work is really powerful, you know. Disturbing. Challenging. You’ve got real talent.”

That made her blush.

“Thanks. Thanks a lot.”

I waited again. It was really up to her to tell me what she had in mind for me. But given the pictures I’d just seen, I couldn’t begin to guess. She stared me for a minute, our eyes locked, as though she were trying to decide whether to really go for it or not.

“Here’s what I need you for,” she said at last. “My friend Tara’s agreed to be the other model. You’ll like her. She’s tiny, maybe 4’10” and about 85 pounds. Looks like she’s güvenilir casino about 14 even though she’s 20. The fact that you’re so tall and so much older is what makes you perfect for what I need.”

At 6’4″, I would certainly tower over her other model. And at just over 200 pounds, I’d dwarf her.

“I want to set it up like the rest of these. Make it appear that you two are having a sexual relationship. Because of your age and size differences, it will definitely stand out.”

I nodded. I could kind of see it in my mind.

“There would be nudity, of course. Both of you. And I’d want to position you in at least one shot so it looked like you were having sex. I know that’s really pushing the limits, but, well, it’s what I need to finish the show.”

That was more than I’d expected. Nudity yes. Simulated sex. Not so much.

I think she could see the anxiety bloom on my face, because she rushed forward, not willing to let me speak yet.

“I’ll give you right of first refusal on everything. If you don’t approve of an image, I’ll exclude it. I swear it will be fine. Really.”

If she hadn’t had that look, just like my daughter, I most certainly would have said no. If I were still married, I’d have said no. If I weren’t tenured, I’d have said no. If I could have thought up a good reason to say no, I’d have said no. But I couldn’t.

So I nodded.

“Really? You’ll do it?”

“Yes. But only if you give me a signed agreement on the first refusal.”

“Of course. Of course.”

Then she snatched the portfolio off my desk, flipped to the back, and pulled out a sheet of paper.

“Here you go.”

Already?

I read what was on the paper and sure enough, it was just the sort of agreement I’d wanted, giving me complete control over the images she took of me. With a place to sign on a line with my name typed out under it. I looked up at her and she was holding out a pen.

I was painted into a corner and hadn’t even seen it happening.

So I signed.

“Any chance you can come over this weekend? Maybe Sunday?”

“Okay,” I said. “Sure. What time.”

“How about two?”

I nodded and she took a post it note from my desk and wrote on it.

“Here’s my address and number. Call me if you need anything. Directions. Whatever. Oh, and wear a blazer, dress shirt, tie, and nice shoes, okay?”

I nodded again. I’d been doing a lot of that since she came into my office.

“Excellent. See you then,” she said. Then she gathered up her stuff and waltzed out of my office.

Waltzed.

Great.

—–

We exchanged a couple of texts before Sunday…I think she wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to back out. What she didn’t realize was that the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I grew up in a family of artists, you see, and so I knew what it was like to struggle to get something just right. And I knew enough about photography to know she was very talented.

Last but not least, at 52, I’d reached that stage in my life where I just didn’t give a fuck what people thought about me. Being older, divorced, and a tenured full professor without much left to accomplish in your field can do that.

Which is why, at 1:50 on Sunday I was knocking on the door to her apartment, the top floor of a triplex in an old house a few blocks from campus.

When the door opened, Mel—we were now on a first name basis—ushered me right in.

“Sorry it’s so hot in here. I’ve only got the one window unit and I’m afraid it’s not very powerful,” she said by way of explaining why it was something like 80 degrees in her apartment. That also helped to explain why she was wearing so little…very short cut offs that didn’t even manage to cover all of her ass and a tank top chopped off to show most of her midriff.

She wasn’t kidding about the heat. I was already sweating a bit from the walk over in the blazer and tie she’d asked me to wear, and the heat in her apartment didn’t help.

“Tara’s going to be about ten minutes late. You want a beer?”

“Sure,” I said as I surveyed the place.

Her apartment was really a large studio. The accoutrements of a photographer were everywhere…light trees, backdrops, various prints in various stages of framing, a door on saw horses turned into a mat cutting table, and a second door covered in computer screens, a very large and expensive looking printer sitting next to them. The only sign a person actually lived in the one big room was a futon over by the window with the AC unit, a small dresser, and a kitchenette in the corner that also seemed to house a bathroom.

I stood, not sure where to sit, as she brought two beers from the dorm-sized fridge by the stove top. At least they were cold.

“Cheers,” she said and gulped down about half her beer in one long pull.

I was about to say something in response when there was a knock on the door.

“Oh. That’s Tara. On time after all,” she said and went to let in my partner in modeling.

Tara was as earlier described. Elfin is the word that came to mind when I first saw her. For sure she wasn’t five feet tall and for sure she didn’t weigh one hundred pounds. If I hadn’t already known she was 20, I would have assumed she was between 14-16, which is, I knew, exactly why Mel wanted her in the shoot.

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