Music blaring, lights flashing, the gallery was a happening place. Maddy walked through the well-dressed crowd wondering how they could stand in their high heels and tightfitting garb - they were probably wondering how someone with a simple frock and flats obtained an invite to the event. The very thought made her laugh out loud. This was mad - the art on the wall was clearly avant-garde and priced very high. Not much here for a working girl to consider. As she turned the corner, she caught a glimpse of a tall, brooding man in a well-appointed suit staring intently at the wall - the painting or art piece was so hideous Maddy wondered if he was related to the artist. Who else could look at the mess on the wall for more than a second? His silver hair was a little too long, resting on his starched shirt collar. Handsome? Yes. Age 60 or so, but well preserved. His arms were crossed and as he moved his hand to his chin in contemplation Maddy realized she was staring at him. She shook her head but was drawn by the way he stood, one ankle crossed over the other. Why was she even looking? She wondered. As she moved closer, something about this man made her think he looked complicated.
She approached the figure and in a loud stage whisper asked, “Would you really consider buying that for your wall?” He turned slowly and her heart fluttered, she was sure she was burning up with a fever and her legs felt weak. Surely, he was a piece of art. He cocked his head and stared quizzically “You don’t like it?” As he moved his head the light defined his features - a fine face with character and yet, his eyes looked distant and sad. Posture, ramrod straight - boarding school, she guessed.
They stared at each other for what seemed like minutes when a shrill voice broke the spell, “Ah, Sebastian, there you are, where have you been all night?” The voice was getting closer. Maddy heard a groan escape his lips and saw the grimace on his face. His eyes darted towards the voice. At least now he had a name - Sebastian.
“Just kiss me.” Maddy leaned forward and grabbed the lapels on his jacket and pulled him to her. The kiss was long and stirring......he had not hesitated or faltered. The voice behind them was indignant “Well, I might have known you would disappear and find a place to hi......oh, my”. The smartly dressed raven-haired woman stopped short, hands on hips, shaking her head in disbelief. She turned quickly and spat out the words “Easily distracted I see - perhaps you might call, when you get your senses back.”
She walked away, leaving a trace of strong perfume, tossing her long hair. “Don’t bother seeing me home, I’m leaving for the Lounge with the Tennis crowd. Not your thing, I know.” She said in a cruel voice. “By the way, that piece is perfect for you...dark and confusing.”
“Well, that might have been awkward.” Maddy said as she shook her head and straightened her long scarf. Sebastian stood in silence, watching her, unsure what he could possibly say, his eyes dancing, his mind racing, a smile forming on his lips.
“Indeed.” He paused. “……reckless as well.”
“Maybe, but it was fun.” Maddy laughed easily, rolling her eyes, arching her eyebrows.
“Let me show you one of the artist’s early works - I think the style might be better suited to your tastes.” Maddy held out her hand and turned to walk through the crowd. After a moment of hesitation Sebastian took her hand and followed, wondering what this woman thought his taste might be. His hand was cool and smooth, she noticed. Her hand was warm, he thought.
They wound around the art groupings and crowds until they came to a small alcove where a less modern, more studied series of art was displayed. He had to agree, this area was more appealing to his sense of colour and form. “Well done. Who are you?” he asked after studying the canvas options. Maddy held out her hand, curtsying slightly “Maddy Davis, Canadian. Just an ordinary person. I wanted a midlife crisis - so I ran away from home, just like Shirley Valentine, to find myself and really experience London. Emerson said, ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’ Is that true?”
“How did you get in?” He asked warily. He had not taken her offered hand.
“Purely by chance. Two gentlemen were having words on the street as I walked by. They handed me their invites as they hailed a cab. They did say I would need several glasses of champagne to appreciate the work. How serendipitous for me!”
Sebastian watched her with awe. This woman was so confident - she seemed perfectly natural and at ease in the sea of designer dolls and stiff conversation - as if she was in her own world. She was fit; Rubenesque he thought, perhaps 40 - 45 years old, her hair framed her face, blonde with natural white highlights, not grey. He noticed her big blue eyes, she wore no make-up, her simple linen dress, leggings and bright scarf seemed perfect, her smile lit up the area around her and she looked as though she could not stand still. She was so…so…he searched for the right word in his mind. She was so...…alive. Yes, alive, that was the word. He felt comfortable around her, and that was disconcerting. Her ‘kiss me’ scheme had worked at keeping the wolves at bay, for the moment. Without thinking, he suggested she might enjoy the ballet next Friday evening. Her enthusiastic response made him feel very grand and generous. He found himself looking forward to the performance. She didn’t ask who was performing, she just accepted.
“Oh dear, I should get going.” She said suddenly and he was reminded of Cinderella leaving the ball before midnight. “My driver can see you home.” He offered.
“I’m in the west end, I can take the tube - I have an Oyster Pass. Thank you. Much appreciated. See you Friday, Sebastian.” She breezed out of the room leaving him feeling lost and incomplete. “Indeed” he mumbled to himself as he headed for the door.