He likes you, as usual,” Willow said. “And of course you don't care. You are such a bitch, sometimes.”
“I am not. I can't help it if he likes me.” Amber made a tiny swaggering move with her breasts. “Anyway, he likes you just as much.”
“Well, why doesn't he look at me?”
“If you'd wear something besides jeans and work shirts . . .” Amber's pants and short skirts clung to perfect legs. Her blouses were tight. She was averagely good looking. Her face was open and energetic; her hair was chestnut tending to blonde, shoulder length and wavy. Men found themselves looking at her, talking to her, and thenthe more they looked, the more they saw. She was faster than they were; she adjusted effortlessly in flight, becoming more serious or more carefree, more cerebral or more passionate under their gaze.
“Men are SO stupid,” Willow said.
“Don't you think they're cute sometimes? Even AhnRee with his tan and those big white towels he wraps around his belly at the pool. He's oldGod, do you think he's fifty?but he has those big round dark eyes.” AhnRee had picked up Amber the second day they were in town.
“When I see someone so special, I know! I must paint you. My name is AhnRee,” he had said with great dignity.
“AhnRee?” Willow asked.
“As in Matisse,” he said. “It is an honor, such a name. A curse . . . But never mind.” He smiled gallantly. Gigi, Willow said to herself. No one should copy Maurice Chevalier. They get the eyes and the teeth, but they don't have the engine. No fire engine inside the doors.
“No fire engine,” she said to Amber. “Huh?” AhnRee had said something to Amber and Amber was asking why they shouldn't try living in his studio.
“You will find it most private,” AhnRee said. “It is some distance from the main house. In return, a bit of modeling, say, once a week? Say you will,” he pleaded.
“Only if it is all right with Willow,” Amber said, kicking Willow in the ankle.
“Ah, Willow,” AhnRee said, wrenching his eyes from Amber who was becoming ever more elusive, more of a muse.
“Where is this place?” Willow asked.
“A short drive up the mountain. An easy ride on a bicycle. In fact, I have several bicyclesif you don't mind the old fashioned kind with baskets on the handlebars.”
“And what do I have to do?” Amber kicked her again.
AhnRee considered. “You may mow the lawn around the studio. And, if you wish, attend a little to the flowers.”
Willow had given in, and it had been fine. AhnRee had left them alone. And Amber seemed to enjoy modeling. “It's not so bad, being admired,” she told Willow.
“Well,” Willow said, coming back to the present, “you knocked Patrick out with that bit about foggy mornings on the Galapagos Islands.”
“Can I help it if my father is a Darwin freak? He practically made me go with him.”
“Christ,” Willow said.
“He likes you; I'm telling you,” Amber said.
“Gee, maybe he'll let me hold his hand someday, comfort his broken heart.” She smiled to soften the edge in her tone, and they pedaled toward home in the early evening light.
Willow liked Patrick. He thought for himself. And his eyes were cute, a penetrating blue that changed from hard to soft. He was the right height and looked strong underneath that funny European work shirt. Her imagination slowed at his belt. She had shared sleeping bags with Aaron at a sing-out, but it had been dark. It had been pleasant enough, I mean, O.K., she wrote in her journal, but men's bodies were basically terra incognita. What she knew of sex was a fuzzy blend of Michelangelo and the diaries of Anais Nin. There were plenty of men aroundit wasn't thatit was just that none of them turned her on. She tired of their talk and endless competition. She'd rather listen to the Beethoven quartets. That was another thing about Patrick. What did he say? “Rattled his cage,” that was it. Exactly. Her perfect brother, David, said he liked Beethoven; David always said what he was supposed to. But he never listened to Beethoven. He liked the Beatles, for God's sake. I mean, yes, they wrote some catchy melodies, but really. They were a long way from Dylan, let alone Beethoven.
Willow's indignation carried her to the top of the last hill before AhnRee's driveway. She got off her bike and waited for Amber. They walked up the bumpy dirt road, one on each side of the grass strip in the middle. As they passed the main house, they got on their bikes and pedaled to the studio along the edge of a small steep hay field rich in clover and wildflowers, surrounded by trees. The studio was made of dark weathered wood. It had a deep glow to Willow, perhaps because it was the first time she had lived anywhere other than home or the university.
She slept on a screened porch that looked into the woods behind the house. Amber had the bedroom. The central room had a cathedral ceiling and a skylight that faced north. It was furnished with an old couch, a coffee table, and two armchairs drawn up by a stone fireplace. They ate at a large table in the kitchen, the room through which one entered the house.
(from: Every Story Is A Love Story)
John Moncure Wetterau