Portrait

by Gillian F Taylor


The glossy magazine dropped to the floor, followed more slowly by the girl. She propped herself up on one elbow and arranged her things around herself. Mechanical clunks indicated that the record was settling correctly onto the deck; the black vinyl was camouflaged against the deck. A strong voice, wondering the mysteries of love, filled the small bedroom.

Martin entered the bar and looked around, identifying his friends and acquaintances from the band. The manager smiled at him, having a genuine liking for the young man whose talents had made him rich. He introduced Martin to a writer from an American rock magazine and the two struck up a conversation on science-fiction writers. Martin had been interviewed so often about the band over the last few weeks, as they toured America, that it was a relief not to mention the new album title even once.

The record finished. The girl put down her coloured pencil and sat up to swap the single for another. That done, she gazed intently at the picture in her magazine. Sea-grey eyes minutely observed all the details of light and shade. She picked up her pencil and returned to the drawing of her favourite rock star.

Everyone was present in the hotel bar now: the band, the important members of the crew, writers, two photographers and an assortment of hangers-on. Everyone except Nick, the singer. Martin wondered where he was. The two had founded the band together back in school. They were still the best of friends and would normally have been getting drunk together. Martin excused himself from the journalist and wandered off. Robin, the drummer, was sitting alone, content to watch the rest of the party. Martin's July sky blue eyes pierced his protective fringe, getting the shy man's attention. He asked where Nick was, but the drummer didn't know.

The second single finished and was duly replaced. This too was rock music; loud, thumping, aggressive. The girl listened as she shaded in the eyes of the drawing with a blue pencil. She glanced at the photo to check the colour; her grey eyes silently meeting the blue,

Superficially, Martin was enjoying himself, but he felt the situation would take a dramatic turn if only he could find Nick. He looked around sharply. His head seemed to be throbbing steadily, rather like one of his own bass lines. The bar was getting hot in the afternoon sun and he wanted to get out. Martin took a deep breath.

The girl paused and sighed, staring briefly at the half done picture before changing the record. The next song started on a low, hypnotic guitar riff. It formed a sense of claustrophobia in the small room.

Martin noticed that the terrace doors were open, and he made his way out gratefully. The sun lay over everything like a heavy blanket, smothering him in its heat. He paused in the doorway, aware of the smoke and talk behind him but reluctant to leave. A faint breeze touched his face and lifted his long hair. Martin gave up waiting for Nick to appear and stolled out onto the terrace. He hadn't intended on going for a walk, but he found himself moving out of view of the bar as if he had a definite purpose in mind

The picture was well on its way to completion. The eyes were there, blue and penetrating, and the nose was shaped. The girl worked on the mouth, finishing the expression with delicate touches of her pencil. She ceased her work briefly, fumbling through the box of singles until she came to the next rock track. She set it on the record player with no more than a glance. Blood-red vinyl gleamed on the deck.

Robin watched Martin leave the party. He considered following him but abandoned the idea. Someone called his name and he turned, automatically brushing the long fringe of honey-coloured hair from his eyes. In a few moments, he had forgotten about Martin.
Martin found he was heading toward the hotel pool. He hadn't planned it, but the idea of shifting, swirling water attracted him. He came within sight of the lozenge shaped pool and paused at the top of the steps. Nick was standing by the pool and looking into it, his back towards Martin. Martin stepped carefully down, his rubber-soled trainers making almost no sound. He glided over the concrete slabs and stood silently behind Nick.

The music tied itself up in a neat bow and ceased. The expression was done. The girl's hand worked at re-creating the long, slightly tangled yellow hair. She finished one gentle curve and stopped to turn the record over. The music thundered back into the small room. A quick, climactic build-up followed by a full-throated, terrorizing scream.

"The water looks nice, doesn't it ?" Martin spoke conversationally.
Nick failed to show any surprise. Martin felt a brief flame of annoyance that his quiet stalking had failed. Either Nick's acute hearing or a sixth sense had warned him of Martin's presence. Nick turned to Martin, smiling and agreeing with him. Both men were simply wearing shorts and T-shirts because of the heat. Martin found himself suggesting that they have a quick swim. Nick pulled off his T-shirt and left it with his sandals by the pool's edge before jumping in. Martin did the same, sliding into the water and floating peacefully in its coolness. The water seemed to embrace him as he relaxed. He felt it moving sensuously over his naked torso. He suddenly reached out and pushed Nick's head under the water, acting on a mad impulse. Nick dived deeper and freed himself, surfacing a yard away to shake hair and water from his eyes.
"You want to play rough ?" he challenged.
Nick seized Martin's head and shoulder, pushing him under. Martin struggled, just trying to free himself, not wishing to hurt his friend. The strong grip continued. Martin's lungs began to hurt. He struck out more wildly; the game was going too far ! He needed oxygen. Nick held him under remorselessly. Martin could only struggle weakly until the moment came when he had to breathe. Water flooded into his lungs. Nick held him down until the struggles ceased, then pushed him downward and swam clear, watching Martin's body sink. Nick climbed out, dried himself on Martin's T-shirt, and set off back to the hotel.

The girl stared ruefully at the picture. It had been perfect, but now a puddle of lemonade spilled from the overturned glass onto the paper. The pencilled eyes stared out from under the film of liquid.

Mute, blue eyes, the same shade as the water that surrounded them, stared at the bottom of the pool.
Nick entered the hotel bar from the hall and greeted his friends. Robin smiled at him, and wondered where Martin had got to. Martin and Nick were together nearly all the time; it was amazing that their friendship had survived the stresses of living and working together so well.

The girl set up a new, dry sheet of paper and turned the magazine to another photo. Her subject this time was a slender man with a shy smile and a long, honey-coloured fringe.

Nick smiled at Robin, all emotion concealed behind the surface of his soft brown eyes.



This is another story that I wrote many years ago in my high school days. I once denied having written pretentious things as a teenager but having read this again, I'm willing to admit I may have been wrong. However, I'm not so ashamed of it as to keep it locked away in the bottom of my writing drawer. I still think it's rather interesting in a mildly macabre kind of way. It also inadvertently reveals a lot about myself as a teenager; certainly almost everything in the 'girl' scenes is straight from life. Except that none of the rock stars I drew have drowned yet. (It might be a useful talent if I could do it though - commissions gratefully accepted !)


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