I was asleep in Lily’s bed when Manuel, my boyfriend who I met at Rochester Institute of Technology woke me up. My eyes were still closed when I heard, “Carmen! Carmen! Are you okay?” I opened my eyes and replied, “Yeah Manuel, I’m fine.” He said, “Oh good. I was really worried about you. You were puking all night at the club.” I replied, “Yeah, I know. I remember.”
Manuel said, “Carmen, sorry about last night. I shouldn’t have gotten you all of those martinis to drink.” I replied, “It’s okay. I asked for the martinis remember.” He said, “But I said I would only drink if you were going to drink so technically I peer pressured you into it.” Ugh, Manuel can be so annoying sometimes. I replied, “Look, Manuel, stop apologizing. It was my choice to drink all of those martinis. It’s over now. We’ve learned our lesson. We won’t drink too much again.”
Manuel then hugged me and said, “I know I said I loved you last night, but I was drunk and I think you might have thought I didn’t mean it, but today I’m not drunk and I still love you. I just wanted to let you know.” I then remembered Manuel saying I love you last night. It was the first time he had said it to me. I replied, “I remember you saying that. I said I loved you back and I meant it then and I still love you today. Sorry for puking all over you.” “That’s fine,” he said.
I was still somewhat drunk, but nevertheless, I got out of bed with Manuel’s help. We both went to the kitchen and Manuel made us breakfast. Manuel didn’t know how to cook so he prepared cereal for us. He got out two bowls and poured in Special K cereal and some milk and voila breakfast for the two of us. While eating Manuel’s phone rung. After Manuel got off the phone he explained to me that his best friend growing up, Gabriel from Fort Lauderdale just called. It turns out Gabriel was staying at a friend’s apartment for the summer in the upper east side. Gabriel’s friend was out of town so Gabriel is apartment sitting and wanted us over to have lunch with him.
So we took a taxi to the upper east side to a high rise apartment building. It was a really fancy apartment building. There was a concierge on the first floor who verified who we were. We told him we were Gabriel’s friend and we were going to the 7th-floor apartment 737. The concierge staff called Gabriel and told him there was a Carmen and a Manuel to see him and asked if that was correct. Gabriel must have told him, yes so the concierge led us to the elevator and pressed the 7th-floor button. We got out of the elevator onto a nice plush maroon carpet and headed to apartment number 737. We knocked three times on the door and Gabriel opened the door.
Oh my goodness, Gabriel was the most handsome boy I had ever seen. He had light brown eyes, dark hair, and was muscular. He was wearing a t-shirt and shorts covered in acrylic paint. It turned out he was an artist just like Manuel and I. Manuel hugged Gabriel and said, “Hey Gabriel! Long time no see. This is my girlfriend Carmen.” Gabriel reached out his hand for me to shake and said, “Hi, nice to meet you, Carmen.” I shook his hand and replied, “Likewise.” Gabriel eager to have lunch said, “That’s cool. You guys want to come sit out on the balcony with me and have lunch?” Both Manuel and I replied in tandem, “Sure.” Gabriel replied, “Uh oh you two must be double trouble. You must hang out all of the time to be replying at the same time.” Again, Manuel and I spoke at the same time, “We do.”
So we went out to the balcony and had lunch. Gabriel had prepared turkey sandwiches with Caesar salad for us. It was delicious. I had a marvelous time getting to know Gabriel. He was a lot of fun to be around. Very carefree. He gave off a surfer vibe. It turned out Manuel and Gabriel were very close and had known each other since they were in kindergarten because Gabriel used to also live in Soho where Manuel’s family still lives. The two of them went to the same school up until high school when Gabriel moved to Fort Lauderdale.
Once we finished lunch we chatted some more and watched a movie on Netflix and drank some wine. After a few glasses, we all got tipsy and Gabriel started flirting with me. He told me, “You have very beautiful eyes. They are so blue. I love them.” I replied shyly, “Thanks.” I wasn’t sure what Manuel thought of all of this, but why not accept Gabriel’s compliment graciously. He was just making a comment about my eyes. Everyone notices my eyes and compliments me. Then Gabriel added, “And I love your lips.” Then oh my God, Gabriel touched my chin, tilted it up and then he touched my lips so I looked at Manuel to see what his reaction was and Manuel just laughed. So, of course, Gabriel thinks it’s okay to flirt with me because Manuel is so amused that Gabriel continued by telling me, “Get up. I want to see your figure. Turn slowly.” And I was like oh my God, what is going on? I didn’t know what to do. I looked at Manuel with a look like what on earth is going on, but Manuel just smiled and said, “Get up and show him your figure.”
I got up and stood in front of Gabriel who was laughing. Then he touched my hips and turned me around slowly. Then he said, “You’re perfect. Will you pose for me? I want to paint you.” I replied, “Sure if it’s okay with Manuel.” Manuel laughed some more and said, “Yes, of course, that’s fine.” Gabriel then looked at his schedule and said to me, “Great I have free time Saturday afternoon. Can you come by yourself then? And can you wear a dress?” I replied, “Sure, I would be honored.”
Once Manuel and I left Gabriel’s I punched him on the arm. He said, “Ouch. What is that for?” I replied, “You don’t care if he flirts with me like that?” He said, “Look, Gabriel and I have been friends forever. I trust both you and him. Plus he’s a really great painter and you’ll make an awesome model for him.” I replied, “Fine as long as you’re okay with it”
On Saturday afternoon I went to the apartment on the upper east side where Gabriel was currently residing. I knocked on the door and Gabriel answered the door in clothes covered in paint once again. I said, “Hey Gabriel, long time no see.” He replied, “No kidding, it’s been days since we’ve seen each other. I missed you already.” I giggled thinking here we go the flirting has started already.
I didn’t have a dress so I borrowed one of Manuel’s sister, Lily’s dresses. Lily had died in a car accident a few years ago, but Manuel’s family had kept Lily’s room just the way she had left it. All of her clothes were still in her closet and Manuel helped me pick out the dress I was wearing. It was a long red, rosy dress with a low neckline. It was beautiful.
Worried that my dress wasn’t what Gabriel wanted for his painting I asked Gabriel, “Is my dress alright?” He replied with a sly grin, “Yes, I love your dress. You look stunning in it. Is that Lily’s dress?” Surprised by the fact that he knew it was Lily’s I said, “Yeah, it is. How did you know?” With a look of despair, he replied, “We dated a little bit before she died. She wore that exact same dress when she and I went to a formal dinner once at the Russian Tea Room.”
I didn’t know exactly what to say so I just said, “Oh that’s cool. So you guys were close?” He replied, “Yes, we were. We grew up together. We were close friends before we started dating. I used to always visit Manuel at his apartment in Soho and Lily was always there. Lily was only two years younger than Manuel and I so we used to let her play with us when we were little and then as we grew older she used to go to parties with us.” I said, “I see so you must really miss her.” He replied, “Yeah, when she died I had a hard time getting over it, but I am getting there.”
Gabriel then led me into the room where his easel, canvas, paints, and paint brushes were. It was the apartment’s library and he had transformed it into his studio. He had arranged a place for me to sit and had set up the room with a white sheet draping the background, a potted plant was situated in the back, and there were white roses next to the stool where I was going to sit. Gabriel draped the stool with white sheets and asked me to sit. Then he put his hand on my chin and turned my head, moved my hair to the side, and pulled down the straps of my dress so my shoulders were exposed. He then caressed my neck. I didn’t know how to react. His touch made me quiver and I wanted to take his hand and kiss it, but I decided to just ignore him.
He then started to paint with hurried strokes at first covering the background in mauve and white and then later more detailed slower strokes when he started to form my figure. For a moment all that could be heard in the room was his brush making marks on the canvas because both of us were silent. Gabriel was concentrating on the painting and I was daydreaming of someday perhaps having Gabriel visit me in Rochester where I lived. I know we had just met, but there was something about him. We just instantly clicked. I had a feeling we could become best friends.
After his painting was almost finished Gabriel started asking me questions about Manuel and I. He said, “How did you meet Manuel?” I replied, “At Rochester Institute of Technology. We are both fine art undergrads and we were in the same drawing class freshman year. The teacher had taken us outside to draw koi pond by the photo building and Manuel was hung over that day after a long night of drinking so he laid down on one of the benches and fell asleep. I woke him up and when the class ended he gave me his number. I called him and we went to dinner. We’ve been dating ever since.” He said, “Are you in love with him?” I replied, “You could say that. We were just friends, but we’ve gotten very close lately.”
After interrogating me about Manuel, Gabriel came up to me and moved some strands of my hair that had gotten out of place. Curious about what his chances were with me he asked, “So if I were to kiss you, you would be mad and Manuel might be upset with me?” Unsure of what to tell him, I just said, “Yeah, us kissing would be a bad idea. Manuel might be a little jealous.” Gabriel was very handsome and it was tempting to just reach over and kiss him. You could feel the friction in the air between us. I could sense this was not going to go well at all. Gabriel stopped painting and waited for me change my mind about kissing him. When I didn’t say I changed my mind he just got up and walked over towards me, bent down and kissed my cheek. I ignored him and said, “What are we in middle school?”
With a tinge of despair in his voice, he said, “You know you remind me of Lily.” I replied, cautiously making sure not to upset him. “Yeah, I hear that a lot. Manuel often tells me I look and act like her. We apparently both have the same blonde hair and blue eyes and always happy.” He said, “Yeah you’re a lot like her. I still miss her a lot and having you here makes me feel like she’s here with me.” I replied, “That’s cool. She seems like she was a nice girl. I’m flattered that I remind you of her.” Gabriel then started to talk about his memories with Lily and he told me childhood anecdotes of him and Manuel when they were growing up. Both Manuel’s and Gabriel’s parents were often busy so the two got into some mischief in Central Park after school smoking cigarettes before they were 18 years old.
A few hours had passed and Gabriel finally finished his painting. I got up to take a look at it. It was a masterpiece. Manuel was right Gabriel was an awesome painter and I’m glad I posed for him. I told Gabriel, “The painting turned out beautifully. You’re a gifted artist.” Gabriel then replied, “Thanks. Umm… can I paint you again?” Excited about getting a chance to hang out with Gabriel alone again I replied, “Sure, I would love that.” He then said, “Awesome can you come back tomorrow afternoon?” I replied, “Yeah, that would be cool.”
After Gabriel finished his painting I didn’t know if I should hang out for a bit or go home. I did love his company so I decided to stay for a bit. Unsure of what to do, I paced around the room nervously making small talk about college and my favorite artists. I then walked over to his easel when I noticed his guitar. I picked it up and strummed the strings and asked him, “Do you play the guitar?” He replied, “Yeah I do. Do you want me to play something for you?” I sat back down on the stool and said, “Yes, I would love that.” He then grabbed another stool and sat next to me and played the song Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls. He sang the song as he played the tune. What a beautiful voice he had. I was impressed.
Afterward, he said with a naughty grin, “Now that I’ve played the guitar for you can I kiss you?” I replied, “No, Manuel will seriously be mad at the both of us if he ever finds out.” But Gabriel kissed me anyway on my lips, a deep, long sensuous kiss. I felt really guilty, but the kiss was so soft and tender and he was so handsome so I kissed him back. After we kissed I got up in a hurry. I became nervous about the situation and I didn’t want it to get out of control so I told him, “I have to go home. Manuel is waiting for me.” He replied with a disappointed tone, “That’s fine. I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
Here is a video of me acting as my character, Carmen from my short story Romantic Artist Part I: Carmen Meets Gabriel.