Still Life with Strings (10 page)

BOOK: Still Life with Strings
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Jade Lennon, 21.53 p.m.: I am magic, aren’t I? And no, it’s
not pathetic. I’m going to transform that low self-esteem into high self-esteem
if it’s the last thing I do, mister! Btw, what’s the deal with Suzy Carmine?
She seems…enthusiastic.

Shane Arthur, 21.54 p.m.: You’ve been busy, or should I say
nosy! Sometimes the fans can be a little intense. She’ll get bored and move on
eventually. P.S. Yes, you are fucking magic. Xxx

Jade Lennon, 21.54 p.m.: You’re too sweet.

Shane Arthur, 21.55 p.m.: You should let me show you how
sweet I can be.

Jade Lennon, 21.55 p.m.: Shane…

Shane Arthur, 21.56 p.m.: I know. Sorry.

Jade Lennon, 21.56 p.m.: Okay, you’re forgiven. You nervous
for tomorrow?

Shane Arthur, 21.57 p.m.: Dreading it :-/

Jade Lennon, 21.57 p.m.: Don’t be. You’re going to be
fantastic. Are you bringing your violin?

Shane Arthur, 21.57 p.m.: Yeah, they want to get to some pics
of me with the Strad.

Jade Lennon, 21.58 p.m.: Oh, this is going to be so much fun.
For me, I mean. :-D I get to be a spectator.

Shane Arthur, 21.58 p.m.: You’re cruel.

Jade Lennon, 21.59 p.m.: Mwah ha ha.

Shane Arthur, 21.59 p.m.: I just realised your name is three
letters off John Lennon.

I laugh when I read

Jade Lennon, 21.59 p.m.: That’s because I’m John Lennon
reincarnated as a female. I was born seven years after he died, so it’s
entirely possible.

Shane Arthur, 22.00 p.m.: Well, in that case I’d like to take
this opportunity to thank you for writing some of the best songs of the 20

Jade Lennon, 22.01 p.m.: You’re most welcome.

Shane Arthur, 22.01 p.m.: Lol.

A couple of minutes
pass and I’m tired, so I decide to say my goodbyes for the night.

Jade Lennon, 22.05 p.m.: Right, I’m gonna get some sleep.
Talk to you tomorrow, friend!

Shane Arthur, 22.05 p.m.: Cool. Dream of me, Bluebird. Xxx.

His last message makes
my belly flutter. He doesn’t know it, but I’ve dreamt of him practically every
night since I met him. His kisses make my cheeks grow warm even though they
aren’t real ones.

The next day I dress
casually in jeans and a cream blouse. I’m on my way to meet Shane at the
Clarendon when a little kid slides in front of me. He can’t be any more than
eleven or twelve, and he has the gall to ask, “Hey, missus, gotta smoke?”

“No, I don’t. And
you’re too young to be smoking,” I say before walking by him.

“Yeah, well, your arse
is too big to be wearing those jeans, but that didn’t stop ya, did it?” he
shouts after me, brazen as you like.

Ah, lovely. If I ever
feel I’m getting too full of myself, all I’ll need to do is walk down this
street, and I’m sure some little fucker will take me down a peg or two.
Continuing my walk, I surreptitiously check out my bottom in a shop window.
It’s certainly well-endowed, but…oh, fuck it. I’m not thinking about this.

My phone buzzes in my
pocket, and I find a text from Shane telling me he’s already at the hotel and
that he left my name at the reception desk. When I get there a couple of
minutes later, I’m ushered on through to the elevators by a helpful

Oh, yeah, one of life’s
mysteries, why do elevators always have to be lined with mirrors? After my
run-in with “little mister gotta smoke,” I’m feeling decidedly paranoid about
my appearance, so I could really do without the three-dimensional view right
now. I run my fingers through my wind-tossed hair and wipe a fleck of mascara
away from under my eye.

When I reach the suite,
I knock on the door and get greeted by a pretty redhead, the photographer’s
assistant. Stepping inside, I find quite the professional setup. They must be
planning on putting him on the cover or something.

Shane’s sitting in a
chair while a stylist does his hair, which in my opinion doesn’t really need
doing anyway. He looks so out of his comfort zone that I have to stifle the
urge to laugh. There’s a free-standing clothes rack lining one wall and it’s
full of classy men’s outfits — designer suits and the like.

His eyes are constantly
scanning the room while his hair is fussed over, and when he sees me he gives a
full-on smile; it’s one part happy to see me and two parts relieved his friend
is here to make him feel less awkward at being primped up like a show pony.

“Jade,” he says,
standing to greet me while the stylist scowls that he’s moved out of her reach.
He takes my hand when I get to him and gives it a soft kiss, which makes a
little swoosh rush through my chest.

“Hey, look at you,” I
reply, gesturing to the sharp grey suit he’s wearing.

“Do I scrub up well?”
he asks modestly.

“Hell, yeah.”

“Mr Arthur, I need to
finish your hair,” the stylist, a twenty-something honey blonde, interrupts

I give him the nod to
sit back down and he does, while I peruse a table of sandwiches and drinks set
up nearby. I pick up one that looks like smoked salmon and cream cheese, and
pop it discreetly into my mouth, all
la di da I’m just taking a look around

“Jade, could you bring
me some of those? I’m starving,” Shane calls, and I turn in surprise to find
he’d been watching me. Caught red-handed. It causes me to gulp the whole thing
down in one go like a bird of prey swallowing a live robin.

I purse my lips at him
and suppress a smirk of my own, while putting a couple of the tiny sandwiches
on a paper plate and carrying them over to him. The stylist lets out a sigh as
I approach; I’m obviously making her job harder here, but Shane did ask for
something to eat.

Feeling playful, I lift
a sandwich to his mouth for him to take a bite. His eyes stay on mine the
entire time as his mouth closes over it. Okay, perhaps that was a questionable

I didn’t anticipate how
hard it would be to stay platonic with a man I’m this strongly attracted to.
There’s an underlying note of sex in everything we do. I can barely look at him
without remembering what it felt like to have him fill me up, for him to
effortlessly hold me and fuck me against a brick wall.

I hand him the plate
then, deciding that feeding him was a little too…sensual for my liking. A
couple of minutes later, the photographer, a dark-haired man in his
mid-thirties, strolls into the room and starts giving Shane directions as to
where he wants him. I sit back and watch as he removes his violin from its case
and goes to sit on a chair by the window.

The photographer tells
Shane to look out the window and try to affect a thoughtful expression. He
flattens out his mouth and narrows his eyes, giving a faraway look. I can’t
help smiling, because he’s clearly not enjoying this at all. His posture is all
ramrod straight.

The photographer tries
to give him more directions, but he’s sort of useless at taking them. I butt
in, saying, “Hey, why don’t you try squinching?”

The photographer turns
to me, shakes his head, and laughs.

“Do I even want to know
what that is?” Shane asks, hesitant but amused.

“It’s all the rage
right now,” I explain. “You just sort of squint your eyelids and it’s supposed
to make you look better in pictures, you know, like, all moody and smouldering.
Ben and Clark both swear by it.”

I internally chuckle,
remembering Ben showing me his holiday pictures from Spain last summer, and in
every one it’s pretty obvious that he and Clark were trying to out-squinch each
other, which just ends up looking ridiculous. So yeah, a rule of thumb, if
you’re going to squinch, make sure there isn’t anybody else in the photo doing
it as well.

“If I squint I’m going
to look constipated, Jade,” Shane replies, deadpan, and I let out a bark of

The photographer puts
his hand on his hip, looking back and forth between the two of us. “Is she your
girlfriend?” he asks while snapping a couple of shots. Shane is still looking
at me and smiling.

“Nah, just a friend,”
he answers as he regards me warmly.

“Mm-hmm,” the
photographer responds in a very
sure she’s just a friend
sort of way.

“Ugh, I’m so bad at
this,” says Shane dejectedly, rubbing at his forehead for a second.

“Honey, nobody with a
face and body like yours is bad at getting pictured,” the redheaded assistant
butts in, all sass and flirtation. I automatically give her an evil look
without realising I’m doing it. Shane is the only one who catches me, and he
seems pleased as punch about it. Great, now he thinks I’m jealous.

“Hey, I know. You
should play something and not think about trying to pose,” I say. “Forget
anybody else is in the room, and just pretend you’re practicing. I bet you’ll
look really natural in the shots if you do that.”

The photographer clicks
his fingers at me. “That’s a fabulous idea.” Turning his attention to Shane, he
says, “I like your friend — she’s good.”

“All right, I’ll give
it a try,” says Shane, lifting his bow and setting the violin under his chin.
He starts to play a really lovely, almost dreamy song, and the photographer is
like a bat out of hell snapping pictures. I smile, satisfied that my idea is
working. Sitting back on my stool, I watch the images float out of the camera
and sail through the window like bubbles floating on air, capturing a moment of
musical brilliance. The melody sparks off the images and makes them shine,
makes them that much more vital.

A picture is just a
picture, but add music and there’s emotion. There’s a story.

Shane plays for about
five minutes, and I’m sure at least a hundred or more shots have been taken
within that short space of time. In a voice that is unexpectedly quiet and
entranced, I ask him the name of the song he just played.

Méditation de Thaïs
he answers, setting his violin down on his lap, gaze on me.

“It’s beautiful,” I
reply, mentally repeating the name over and over in my head so that I’ll
remember to download it onto my iTunes later on. I’m too embarrassed to try to
write it down, because then he’ll know how affected I am.

A moment later the
stylist abruptly calls for a wardrobe change, and my special moment is broken.
This time she puts Shane in an all-black ensemble. Her phone starts ringing
just as she’s about to put on his tie, so she hands it to me instead while she
goes to answer the call.

Walking up to him tie
in hand, I feel my throat go decidedly dry. Since he’s a bit taller than I am,
I have to reach up to wrap the fabric around his neck. My fingers slide over
his smooth skin, and I notice his Adam’s apple bob as he swallows.

“You always dress well,
but I have to admit right now you’re looking pretty dapper, Mr Arthur,” I say
softly, and his head dips down a little while he watches the movement of my
hands intently. He’s not speaking, and for some reason that makes me extra
nervous. Our breaths mingle. We’re so close, and my stupid girl brain makes me
go slowly with the tie, wrapping it once in a loop, pulling it up and over, and
then slotting it through the loop. I tighten it a little, and several seconds
tick by before I cough and step back.

“There you go.
Perfect,” I whisper.

We lock gazes for a
long moment, and then the door to the suite opens and shuts. When the sound of
heels clicking on wood rings out, a posh female voice declares, “Oh, don’t you
just look marvellous!”

I turn to see a tall,
slim brunette lady wearing a tailored business suit standing a couple of feet
away from us. Looking back to Shane, I’m not sure if I’m mistaken when I see
him grimace.

“Hi, Mum,” he says. “I
didn’t know you were coming.”



A moment later Shane’s mother notices me
standing there, and her brow furrows for a split second.

“Hello. I’m Mirin
Arthur. I don’t believe we’ve met,” she says, holding out her hand to me.

“Hi, Mirin. I’m Jade, a
friend of Shane’s.”

She moves her lips in a
weird way when she hears my accent and then says, “How nice, and where did you
two meet?”

“Jade works at the
concert hall, Mum,” Shane interrupts. Is it just me, or does he seem annoyed?

Her gaze darts to him
and then back to me. “Oh, really, are you in management there?”

“Uh, no, I’m just floor

Usually I like to think
I’m a decently confident person, but there’s something about this woman that
makes me feel inferior. I’ve always been pretty proud of my job; I get to work
in a wonderful place, but Mirin Arthur stares at me like I just told her I clean
rat-infested sewers for a living.

“Right, well, it’s
lovely to meet you,” she says with a fake smile, and then she turns her
attention to the photographer. Striding toward him, she requests to have a look
at the pictures taken so far, before proceeding to
how well they turned out.

BOOK: Still Life with Strings
4.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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