The Picnic Basket an oil painting by the artist Theo Michael

I unstrapped my dress and let it slip to the floor...

The Picnic Basket, a fictional short story by the oil painter Theo MichaelThe sun was streaking my hair, blond highlights were appearing, my skin a golden tan. My luck had run out and I was taking time out. I had to think things through and make plans for my future.

I took up this job serving coffee, only temporary of course. The sun and the sea were working wonders. Fortunately for me the customers kept coming back time after time and I was making good tips. I was serving a lot of mugs of coffee, got me thinking, perhaps it wasn’t the coffee they were after.

Strange lonely guys who needed to pour their hearts out, spending their hard earned cash in the hopes of getting something, a shoulder to cry on or perhaps something more. Like I said, most of them became regulars, in particular this Vincent guy. I liked him, but I liked his car more, a slightly rusty old open top Mercedes. He would spend hours sketching. He wanted to talk and I obliged. He tipped well, perhaps the cleavage helped.

‘What’s it going to be today Vincent?‘ I asked.

‘I’m not sure Gina, what would you suggest?’

Poor guy, he couldn’t decide on anything. ‘Well it’s a pretty hot day. What about a Frappe?

‘Ha, you always know best, that sounds fine,’ he replied.

‘Sold any paintings lately?’ I asked. Of course I knew the answer.

‘Err, not lately, but there is some interest. I am waiting for the Richmond Gallery to get back to me. Hmm must chase them up one day.’

Poor Vincent, he is no Van Gogh, but he was talented. His biggest problem was his self doubt.

‘Can I see the sketch you are working on? I see it’s coming along.’
He was sketching my work surroundings, the bright orange vending station, people leisurely scattered around with the sea as a back drop.

‘Yeah it will soon be ready to go on the canvas, ready for the oils.’ Vincent replied.

‘To be honest for me it lacks a focal point. Do you want me to model for you?

His eyes lit up, ‘would you?’

‘Sure, tell me where your studio is and I’ll be there. Friday is my afternoon off, and you can pick me up after lunchtime, okay? I’ll bring my own clothing and props.’

I watched him sip his coffee, his hands nervously shaking. I guess he had wanted to ask me for ages but couldn’t pluck up the courage.

Right on time Vincent picked me up on Friday in his Mercedes, a bright red colour, it grew on me.
‘What’s with the picnic basket?’ he asked.

‘You’ll see.’ I said.

The light was streaming through his studio window, his paintings adorned the walls, some old, some new. His easel and paints ready he anxiously wanted to get started.

I didn’t wait for him to instruct me with a pose.

‘Vincent I want you to paint the picnic basket on the floor beside me, also I want you to paint me like this.’

I unstrapped my dress and let it slip to the floor. I was totally naked. As I had hoped, Vincent was spellbound with my complete nudity. I had removed all pubic hair the night before.

‘Well let’s get started.’ He mumbled.

I took a standing pose by the stool and revelled in the power my naked body had over him.

‘Paint as you have never painted before,’ I stressed. ‘You need to step it up and paint something special here.’

And we succeeded, the painting was completed in two months and we decided to call it the Picnic Basket, our own version of le Dejeuner sur l’herbe.

Our friendship blossomed as we celebrated our first completed project together, and after the painting was finished, I would spend more and more time with Vincent. He even gave me keys to his studio. One evening during an intimate dinner, we were enjoying a glass of wine when the phone rang. It was Mr Levine calling from the Richmond Gallery.

‘I’m sorry’ an extremely puzzled Vincent said, ‘I haven’t called you recently. What do you mean my wife called you? I am not....’

‘Give me the phone’ I shouted and grabbed it of him. ‘I’ll explain in a moment.

‘Mr Levine, how are you? Thank you for returning my call.... Yes tomorrow, 1 o’clock. I will bring the six paintings as discussed, looking forward to hearing your client’s response.’

‘What is this all about?’ Vincent asked, looking hopeful.

‘Now you know, I couldn’t wait to tell you, it’s a surprise. Remember you said they wouldn’t return your calls. It’s my way of trying to help you.’

He looked happy and so pleased, ‘Thanks for trying to help me, but perhaps you should have told me first.’

‘No, I wanted it to be a surprise, but now you know. You deserve this. Cheers to your amazing art!’

I pulled him closer and kissed him gently on the cheek. ‘Perhaps you can drive me tomorrow to the gallery?’
‘Of course he said.’ And his lips found mind. ‘Success after all these years, that would be something.’

 The next day I suggested for Vincent to stay at home as he is often awkward with people. He agreed and I drove to the appointment alone, it went well.

Mr Levine explained ‘We were waiting for Vincent to get in contact, but we hadn’t heard from him for a while so we were so pleased when you called.'

‘My client has agreed, he has offered 12.000 Euros. Do you need to discuss the matter with your husband?’

 It was a poor offer, but I didn’t let on. I saw the chequebook on his desk and I wanted to close the deal.

‘That’s fine, we will accept that. Make it payable to Vincent Perez please.’ Mr Levine pulled out his pen, eager to write the cheque before I changed my mind.

Just before he began writing, I stopped him and confided. ‘We do have a cash problem at the moment and we would be prepared to accept 10.000 in cash for all six paintings.’

 His greed betrayed him. He had the cash out of the safe in minutes. I counted it and slipped it into my handbag, anxious to leave.

‘If there is anything I can help you with or anything you need, don’t hesitate to call.’ Mr Levine said shaking my hand.

You could take your eyes of my breasts for starters, I thought, but I bit my tongue.   

I sat in the car and paused for a second. I tied back my hair and put on my sun glasses heading for the motorway. I crunched into fifth gear, and cruised into overdrive.

I had served a thousand mugs of coffee. Poor Vincent, he was the biggest mug of all.

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