It's always a great day when you get good feedback.
I posted a couple pictures of Girl By Lakeside online, on a gallery or two, and people seemed to really like it. I did, too, and that spurred me to work on a couple other pieces.
And then I got a request. Someone wanted to buy Girl By Lakeside. I was... well, 'overjoyed' would be a good start do describing how I felt. Then another message came. She was a local. She wanted to meet, to discuss a commission.
My head nearly exploded. I babbled my way downstairs, still in my sleeping clothes, and grabbed Tia as she was on her way out the door.
"That's fantastic, Pel!" Tia said, giving me a kiss in the doorway, looking just perfect in her grey outfit, very business-like. "I'll celebrate with you later though, I have to get to work."
"Yeah, of course, Tia, just... I'm gonna be walking on air all day, you know?"
Tia grinned and gave me another kiss. "I know, sweetie, so will I, but if I don't go now I'm gonna miss the bus that'll make me only ten minutes late."
I waved to her out the front window as she hurried up the street, then breezed into the kitchen to make myself some breakfast, putting the silver ouroboros charm down on the counter as I got a mixing bowl out of the cupboard.
I'd never been to a fancy vegetarian restaurant, and was a little surprised that such things existed. The place was quite impressive. I was pretty used to vegetarian food, not being a big meat-eater myself, but seeing what looked like an old-style steakhouse that served no animal products was something of a shock.
I walked up to the maître d'. "Uh, I'm here to meet someone," I said a bit awkwardly. "Chance, table for two?" That was the name she'd given me for the reservation, anyway.
"Of course, miss," came the reply. "Your companion has not arrived yet, but I will seat you, if you would follow me."
I didn't stand out all that much from the rest of the crowd there, even though I felt like all eyes were on me. I wasn't used to getting fancied up, in general, but I'd put on my best blue dress to compliment my eyes, which I'd had to squeeze a bit to get in to; Tia always managed to maintain that perfect physical condition, but for me it was more of a struggle. Still, it accented my best features (long legs, full bust) and I wanted to at least pretend to be civilized.
It also worked perfectly with the ouroboros pendant. Silver on blue.
Being a lightweight, I declined to order anything but water until my prospective client arrived; it wouldn't do to have a couple glasses of wine and appear to be a lush (which I wasn't) or to seem like a poor negotiator (which I was).
I was only waiting ten minutes, which, considering I was five minutes early, was fine. A glamorous Black woman in a pure white dress, maybe closing in on forty, was led to the table. I got to my feet and offered my hand.
"Penelope Saverre, I hope?" she asked as we shook in greeting.
I nodded. "Yep, call me 'Pel,' please. And you're Natashia Chance?"
"Guilty, as charged," she said with a little chuckle. We sat. "So, Pel, you're a painter..."
I nodded again. "Always loved art. Drawing, painting, sketching, anything, really. Uh, sorry, I don't really know what you do."
She laughed. She had a pretty laugh. "I don't talk about myself all that much. Besides, I want to know about you and your art." She smirks.
"Well, uh, what is there to say? Most things I've made go up on my site. I don't do anything too..." I shrugged. "I mean, I just like to make pretty things. And that's what I aim for all the time, whether it's a painting from real life, or a dreamscape, or an abstraction."
The waiter arrived, and Natashia looked at me. "I'm afraid I don't drink. I'd just like a sprite."
"Same for me," I said. "I never figured out wine and the like."
"Well, then, we'll have a different drink." She smirked as though that was a joke. I obligingly chuckled with her. After the waiter left, she asked, "Have you eaten here before?"
I shook my head. "It's a bit out of my reach. Starving artist and all."
"Well, don't worry about it tonight. I know the menu well, if you're not comfortable I'm happy to choose a favourite or two."
"Sounds great to me," I said, and it did, really.
I found her smile quite attractive. "Well, should we discuss business?"
I shrugged. "It's your meeting. I have all the time in the world."
"Oh? Nothing drawing you back to the studio?"
I shook my head. "Nah, I do my work in little bursts every day. I find that's best for my mental health and my home life."
She nodded. "That seems very wise. You must know yourself well."
I laughed. "No, no, I'm a constant work of rediscovery, Natashia."
"What a lovely attitude to have." She took a sip of her water.
As much as this was a business meeting, I couldn't help but like her on a personal level. I didn't really associate with people at her tier of society, so I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I was really having a good time.
We got off on tangents about our lives; I told her about Tia and the story of Girl By Lakeside (skipping the hypnotic details of my story) and she told me about collecting art to try to make her single life more interesting and exciting.
Her dinner choices were beyond excellent. I was no stranger to meatless meals, and the dishes she chose were flavourful and varied and surprising. Like the company, too.
At one point, she headed to the washroom, and I checked my phone.
Tia <3: Hey sweetie :) having a good supper??
I sent back a quick answer.
Pel: Yeah it's really great, client is super nice
The reply came back almost immediately.
Tia <3: We got a little busy here at work, gonna be a long night, so have fun and I'll see you when I get home!Pel: Sounds good c u later <3 *mwah*
I put the phone back in my clutch. Thinking of Tia, my fingers went almost unconsciously to the ouroboros around my neck, toying with it idly as I thought about the business aspects of the discussion.
"I had meant to ask about that," Natashia said, returning to her seat. I dropped the pendant in surprise. She smiled at me again. "Pardon me, I didn't mean to startle you. I had just noticed the snake, and I was curious, but it never came up."
"Oh!" I felt myself blushing a bit. "It's an ouroboros, actually, the snake eating its own tail. It's... got some meaning to my partner and me."
"Must be very significant," she said. "Is it custom-made?"
"Oh, no, no, we found it in an antique shop, thought it would be a fun toy for when we... uh..." I realized what I was about to admit to.
"I am intrigued, you realize." Natashia laughed. "You are being mysterious, Pel."
I blushed harder. "Part of that rediscovery I mentioned earlier."
Natashia grinned. "I understand, I believe." She looked at her watch. "Would you like to continue this discussion elsewhere?"
I tilted my head, confused. "Elsewhere?"
"I would like to see where the artist does her work. Do you have a studio we might visit?"
I went red again. "Uh, I just work out of an upstairs room of our little house. It's a split-level, you know? Upstairs is the studio and bedroom, and we spend most of our time on the main floor."
"It must be delightful. Full of art, lively, inspiring..."
"It's... really just a house," I muttered.
"Well, do you mind if I judge for myself?" She grinned.
And so I found myself in a cab with Natashia Chance, heading across town to our little row house. We made all kinds of small talk, as though this woman hadn't just invited herself to my home, but also as though this woman wasn't proposing to buy my work.
I did manage to find the time to warn Tia that I wasn't coming home alone, but she didn't reply. She must have been very busy at work.
I steered Natashia through the living room, since the kitchen was a mess, and up the stairs to the studio. My studio was a mess, too, but at least I had the 'eccentric artist' defense to fall back on.
"So this is where all the magic happens," Natashia said, looking around the space. She paused at one of my recent pencil sketches, which was inspired by the ouroboros pendant. "I do like this one, much like the charm around your neck," she said. "You've captured it's... hypnotic essence, I would say."
I coughed. "Hypnotic?" I asked.
She laughed. "Surely you see it?" She turned back to me. "There's something enticing about it. The way it goes around and around. Perhaps this is what attracted you and your partner to it."
I had been blushing a lot that evening. "It is... part of the attraction."
Her eyebrows rose. "Oh?"
I stood up a little taller, drawing up my confidence. "The ouroboros controls us. It's part of our game together."
"Now that is intriguing, Pel."
I nodded. "Whoever wears it can control the other for a time."
She seemed a little nervous. "Are you controlling me now?"
"It only works when the wearer is..." I hesitated, not wanting to reveal everything, literally or figuratively. "There are conditions. Rules."
"Ah, I see." She winked at me. "Wouldn't that be a fascinating way to guarantee a commission. Meet your client, use your charm on them..."
I fidgeted with the strap of my dress. "Natashia, it almost sounds like you want me to control you."
She mirrored my action. "I admit that I am curious."
"It would require that..." I swallowed hard. "That I remove my dress."
She fanned her face. "Oh my." She grinned. "Should I do the same?"
"Perhaps you won't have a choice," I said, letting off one strap, then the other. She watched, intrigued, as I unzipped and let the dress fall, leaving me in my underwear.
"I must say that you are quite enchanting even without the ouroboros," she said.
"My partner says the same," I replied, letting my bra fall and slipping out of my panties.
Natashia's eyes locked onto the charm between my breasts in a very, very familiar manner. And everything came into focus.
I walked across the studio, as 'Natashia''s gaze was fixed on my chest.
"Tia," I said, touching her face, and the illusion faded away. 'Natashia,' in my eyes, lost about ten years and some significant curves. Her white dress replaced the grey outfit in my memory, and I realized that what I remembered her wearing that morning had been wrong.
And now my lover stood in place of my commissioner, made up for a fancy night in her best white dress.
"Sneaky, sneaky," I said, caressing her cheek. A little smug smile crossed her entranced face. "What a fun little fantasy. I assume I agreed to everything and you set it up this morning, when I 'woke up late'?"
Tia nodded slowly.
"And I really did sell Girl By Lakeside. I just didn't get a new commission."
Tia nodded again.
I kissed her. Once, twice, then once more deeply. "You set all this up for me. And now, you know, you're going to take me to bed."
"Yes," she said, and even in her hypnotized state I could hear the excitement.
"Right." I couldn't wait any longer. "Tia, go to the bedroom."
My 'client' sleepwalked through my studio, heading for the bed we shared. I gathered up my discarded clothes and followed after her, still feeling the ouroboros cold against my chest. I couldn't shake the feeling that Tia just wanted to get a look at what I was working on, something I don't usually let her do.
Which was fine. By the morning, she wouldn't remember any of my unfinished pieces. I giggled to myself and headed into the bedroom.