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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Romance/Love · #1104344
He reminded me of my one true love...and I 'bought' him for a certain price.

         Who says you can't buy love? Why, I just bought some for $393.56 - not cheap, considering gas prices these days. The need to pinch our financial expenses is a necessity, yet I shelled out that amount for a guy who reminded me of my first true love.

         Crazy? I don't think so.

         You see, I'm one of those people you could call rational. I'm the woman in the power suit walking briskly down 10th street with a cell phone attached to her ear (or maybe a Bluetooth), a briefcase in hand and eleven o'clock deadlines to meet. I co-own a small art gallery and when I'm not busy trying to find decent artists (I cannot begin to tell you the number of people who come waltzing through my door claiming to be so) or setting up gallery shows for the elite, you can find me confined behind a computer writing a column for a weekly Women's Magazine.

         I do not consider myself beautiful - gorgeous, perhaps. Hey, I'm not trying to be vain, it's just my partner who insists on referring to me as that. But then again, he is gay and likely to call anything that moves - including a few art pieces - 'gorgeous' as well. I don't really think I enjoy being put in the same category as a painting of a cow, but I'll take my compliments where I can get them.

         "Maybe if you let your hair down a bit," Greg (that's his name) would say, while gently petting his pet poodle.

         "It gets in the way," I would reply for the umpteenth time. "What good would that do when I can't even see the paintings I'm showing to prospective buyers?"

         "A little more make-up?" he'd suggest.

         "Too much of a hassle," I'd quip. I'm a low-maintenance kind of gal and I'd like to keep it that way. A good bath/shower in the morning, light foundation, some lip gloss and I'm all set to go.

         "Really, Becky. You should see all the men who want a piece of you and yet you turn them away with that scowl on your face. You're simply gorgeous!"

         Right, and the Pope, God Rest His Soul, was actually a Buddhist monk.

         So when did I meet the 'bought' man of my dreams? In the middle of the pouring rain. Sounds romantic, doesn't it? Well, it was anything but that.

         The forecast had called for a light drizzle that day and I figured I'd be able to dash to the gallery before it began. We had planned a showing for that weekend, of a young budding artist by the name of Larry Polk. Not quite the artistic name, but his work was good. Exceptionally good, actually. As soon as his samples showed up on our desk, Greg and I knew we had to showcase him that week. There was no way we were going to let the bigger galleries get a piece of him. Trust me, it's a cut-throat world in the art business. Don't let the boring façade tell you otherwise.

         My schedule for the day was as follows: grab a cup of coffee and some bagels from the Deli, get to the gallery early, set up the paintings we had for the showing today - Wednesdays are always slow days - and if I was lucky I'd have some time to revise my draft for the magazine. The editor, Maryann Summers, could be a real pain when she sets her mind to it.

         As I crossed the street, carefully stepping around puddles from last night's downpour, my mind was filled with my work ahead. So much so that I barely felt the first few heavy raindrops that fell to the ground. With no warning at all, the heavens felt it necessary to shed their tears with no mercy, and there was simply no place to seek shelter nearby. I ran blindly, my hair unraveling from its knot to fall into my face in thick, black clumps while my somewhat expensive dress suit was soaked.

         By the time I reached the gallery, I was irritated, cold, hungry (I missed getting my coffee and bagels) and in simply no mood to deal with anyone. Especially the young man standing before the gallery, looking like yet another wannabe-artist.

         Oh, Lord, I prayed inwardly. Give me the patience to tell him to buzz off without sounding like a bitch.

         "What do you want?" Okay, so that didn't exactly sound too friendly. However, my rude tone didn't seem to faze him in the slightest. He only smiled and when he did, I saw Neil Bradshaw standing before me.

         Neil. The only boy who had made my heart beat faster than a runner in a 100 meter dash. Neil. The only boy who could kiss me and make my knees weak. Neil. My first and only love back when I was a young girl of sixteen and he, seventeen. Neil. My Neil. He had come back to me.

         "Is everything all right, ma'am?" he asked, and that brought me crashing right back to earth. Ma'am? I'm only twenty-five, for crying out loud!

         Feeling even more put out than before, I rolled my eyes and continued my pathetic attempts to open the gallery doors. For some reason the keys wouldn't stop shaking in my hands. Damn it all.

         "I'm here to..." he began, but I silenced him before he could continue.

         "Listen, whoever you are. We're not accepting amateurs today, all right? Come next week when we have open auditions for artists and you can send in your portfolio. Until then, bye...and good luck," I added as an afterthought. I should at least send him off nicely.

         "I'm...Larry Polk?" he said with undeniable amusement in his tone. "I was the one who sent my portfolio by mail because I couldn't afford..."

         Larry Polk? The Larry Polk?! I spun around quickly and looked at him again. For a moment, I could still see Neil before me, but on closer inspection, Larry's hair was more of a honey blond shade. His eyes were not as dark green as Neil's, but they were still striking. His lips were full and very kissable...just like Neil's and he was a foot taller than me at least. Yes, you guessed it...just like Neil. He was dressed in an outfit that one could pick out from a thrift store. In fact, his entire appearance reeked of the clichéd term - starving artist.

         "Neil...I mean, Larry," I reached for his hand and shook it firmly. "Oh my goodness! I'm sorry. Look at me, I'm a mess and...and..."

         "I think you look beautiful."

         Why those words would make me feel like a giddy teenager again, I had no idea. But they did. My heart seemed to slam hard within my chest. My breath caught in my throat, and my entire body flushed with heat. I couldn't tear my gaze away from those green ones that seemed to bore through my -

         All right, hold it right there. This isn't going to turn into some mushy romance story. Besides, we were still standing beneath the red awning and getting even wetter as the wind picked up. I had no time for romance. Neil had killed that after he dumped me for another girl in our freshman year at college. But that's another story altogether.

         "I'm sorry," Larry was saying as I finally got the door to open and hobbled towards the alarm system. My shoes made squelching noises as I walked and it was pretty embarrassing. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

         I shook my head and tried to reassure him that he wasn't to blame. We all had bad days and today was just turning out to be that for me. I kicked off my shoes and ushered him into a chair and before long, we were talking about his work and his experiences as an artist. He's apparently just a year younger than I am and had no real formal training at any art school. He was born in some obscure town in Indiana and when he talked of becoming an artist, his father (the town's pastor) had frowned upon the idea. His mother, on the other hand, had encouraged him the best she could. She was the one who saved up the money for him to move to a big city like this to fulfill his dream. It truly was a story that could bring a tear to one's eye. Unfortunately, my tear ducts had long dried up and weren't about to overflow for Larry...yet.

         I would not consider myself a true art connoisseur, but there's no denying that my father's job as a museum curator and my mother's dabble into the art field influenced my life greatly. For as long as I can remember, I've always loved paintings and sculptures, and I'd spend hours with my father at his museum or helping mother with her craft -which she was quite good at. I studied diligently and learned to differentiate true artists and those who only mocked the genre. With my master's degree in Fine Arts, I was able to expand my horizons by traveling to other countries and experiencing all they had to offer in this beautiful field. To cut a long story short, I love my job and I wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world.

         "Your paintings spoke to me," I said quietly, caressing the image of a young girl reading. However this was no ordinary Victorian rendition. Larry had used strong, bold lines to emphasize the chaos and instability that surrounded this girl. In a world that was filled with darkness and hate, finding a moment to get lost in your own fantasy was a feeling I could identify with.

         "You have good taste," Larry commented, causing me to lift my head sharply. Was he coming on to me? It didn't seem like it though, since his gaze seemed far away and something else had garnered his attention.

         "Well," I began, clearing my throat to force his attention back to me. "We are glad to host your works this weekend. I'm sure you're bound to have lots of buyers and soon you'll be well known in the industry..."

         "I can't."

         The world seemed to spin for a moment and breathing became a little difficult. I gripped the edge of the table tightly and wondered if he was playing around with me. I thought we had wooed him completely, but now he was willing to go to another gallery? Just like that?

         "What do you mean you can't?" I finally asked through clenched teeth.

         He looked at me then and that feeling of being sucker punched in the stomach came back with more force. He really did have beautiful eyes.

         "I mean, I'm a bit low on cash at the moment and the place I'm staying in...well the landlady says I've got to pay her this afternoon or she's kicking me out."

         I must have looked at him stupidly because he laughed and looked slightly embarrassed - his cheeks flushed and all.

         "I guess what I'm trying to say is that, if I can't pay the rent by this afternoon, I've got nowhere to go and I'll have to go back to..."

         "How much?!" I interrupted quickly, my hands already reaching for my drawer to pull out the check book. I knew the other galleries would love to sink their teeth into him. But Larry was mine! He had sent his paintings to us first and I believed that Fate had a plan and that plan was for me to make him into a star in the art community. I wasn't about to let anyone take him away from me.

         "You don't have to..."

         "How much, Larry?" I tapped the pen restlessly on the paper and listened to him mumble some figures. "What?"

         "Three hundred and ninety-three dollars and fifty-six cents. But really, you don't have to..."

         "Here you go." I ripped out the check and handed it to him, watching his features light up like a school boy that got his first chance to touch a girl's breasts. At least Neil had gotten that look the first time I let him touch mine. "That's the only problem, right? You don't have some other shady business I have to know, do you...?"

         But before I could finish, he was already on his feet and wouldn't you believe the cheek of the man, he leaned over the desk to plant a kiss on my lips. How dare he?!

         And yet -

         "Thank you, Ms. Ronsfield!" he cried in delight. "Now, I've gotten one payment down, I guess I can only hope that the weekend sales go well, so I can pay up the rest. Man, I'm so excited, I can't think straight."

         You're not the only one pal, I thought, still trying to get over the kiss he had just given me. I can't remember the last time a man had been that daring. Larry was turning out to be...

         "You wouldn't mind me taking you out for breakfast, would you?" he suddenly asked, and I could only blink at him in surprise.

         "I thought you didn't have any cash?" I couldn't help smiling at the sheepish look he gave as he dug within his pockets to pull out his wallet.

         "Uum...just enough for some coffee and bagels," he admitted. "Consider it my way of saying thanks for being such a wonderful..."

         "Yeah, yeah, save the compliments for later," I cut in, already scribbling a note for Greg in case he showed up. The gallery would be fine for at least an hour. After all, it was raining and Wednesdays were always slow for business.

         That was three days ago and I can happily report that breakfast with Larry was a great success. I can spend hours listening to that man talk. He really is fascinating. I guess my beginning words were a bit misleading, since I didn't actually buy Larry for myself. But, if his whispered words of -

         "I'd really like to paint you someday,"

         - are any indication of where our relationship is heading next, I'm all for it. Besides, who says money can't buy love? For the right price, you can find the man of your dreams - and sometimes you don't even have to look very far to find him.

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