Flash: Fortee

Image is Public Domain
Portrait of a Moorish Woman – Italy about 1550; School of Paolo Veronese (oil on canvas)
Presently in a private collection (as of 2003)

 “Do hurry up child, the painter expects us before nightfall.” Fortee’s husband barked on the way down the stairs.

The Ivory Coast immigrant bit her lip while adjusting her chemise and overgown one last time. Though married over three years, she had only been living with her merchant husband for a few months after he had made arrangements to bring her home. She still cursed her father every day for accepting the bride price from the self-absorbed money-grubbing man. The marriage contract benefited her family back in Africa as well as the Brunos here in Venice, but she paid the price. Her young soul longed for a single lingering glance or soft touch. Looking in the glass, her brown eyes questioned the servant behind her. The white maid nodded a half-hearted approval, not yet comfortable with the wife her master unloaded from the boat following his last excursion.

Enough dithering, Fortee squared her shoulders, eyed the high feather to gauge its height for ducking through doorways and followed in her husband’s wake. She found him at the front door giving orders for the evening’s meal; several guests tentative about participating financially in the next trade trip were expected. Black eyes darted, measuring her like lumber, before returning to his business, and she felt every bit of the age difference between them. None of the servants bothered turning as she approached.

“The drop pearls work well,” Johannes observed without inflection in her native tongue as they pulled on their wooden platforms before leaving the townhouse.

She muttered a “thank you” in proper Italian but didn’t believe he heard it. His mind tumbled numbers, charting the course and cities for next month’s voyage to maximize profit.

The portrait painter’s workshop neighborhood required walking deep enough into the city the last lingering scent of sea disappeared into the effluvium of humans and animals too long together in too small a space. Holding a scented cloth to her nose, Fortee stepped over horse dung to enter the artist shop. Inside linseed oil and other fumes pushed back the odors of the city.

Her husband was cornered by the oldest of the men in the open, well-lit room. Upon her arrival, the youngest of those present flocked to her. Dark skin drew them. Even in an international port like Venice, the children don’t see many Africans, at least this far into the city. At port, people from her continent sometimes were the only color seen, depending on which ships were in, but here the difference was a rare treat for the young. Fortee crouched down and shifted her shawl so they could touch the skin and hair. Well-trained, the children only patted and stroked, keeping her careful preparations for the painting unmarred.

Two of the older ones darted over to some bottles on the side. When they returned, their arms each had half a dozen lines of different browns. The boys compared it with her skin, then begged her to come over to the paint area so they could figure out exactly how to get the color right. Crowded by children, apprentices, and young journeymen, Fortee allowed herself to be dragged to the work area. Soon every child had at least one stripe somewhere on them representing their best guess at her color. She laughed alongside them until her husband demanded she join him.

There he explained the portrait would take several sittings, including a number of hours today. He verified she could find her way back to their house, checked the master would provide escort, and coins changed hands before he left to prepare for the evenings negotiations.

The master introduced himself as Paolo Caliari after Johannes left, as well as his sons Carlo and Gabriele and his nephew Luigi. All four wanted to paint her, their school priding itself on the study of color and the human body. Paolo arranged her seat and lighting best for the portrait her husband had commissioned. Once she and the master were situated, the rest took various positions around the room, including one of the scamps who had been the first to try and figure out how to paint her skin color.

Several times during the initial sketches they allowed her to get up and play with the children when the youngsters had breaks from crushing stones and mixing dirts for paints. She learned far more about stretching and preparing canvases than she ever expected existed from the excited children. Twice the artists asked her to cease moving during the “rest” breaks so they could sketch a particular position.

Until sunset, she had all the laughter, lingering looks, and soft touches she had been missing.

(words 778; first published 4/14/2018; published on blog on 4/22/2018)

Notes: Writing-in-Stone, my writing group, provided the above picture for inspiration for their April challenge.


Flash: Lowriding

Rating: Mature

CB popped back on his leather Stetson, now that he and Charlotte finished mucking the stables. He tossed his shirt into the stable clothes bin. Some things just weren’t worth taking to the bunk house and Miss Becca rather not have stink at her chow line. Charlotte or Miss Becca would pick up the laundry later, after the shirt ripened some more among the horse rags.

Leaning against a post just inside the barn, CB waited while the girl closed doors and put the equipment away just like she liked it. He rued the day he helped her with the putting back. She had a system and he broke it. After she finished tearing him up one side and down the other, he was more than willing lay about while she struggled with the picks and shovels. The woman had used no words she shouldn’t, but CB rather have the foreman curse a blue streak then deal with her on a rip.

Her eyes kept drifting to him, her lips curled in a secret laughing smile, as things got put.

Dang, he knew he was dirty, especially after two weeks on the trail checking fences, but her stares since he came in with the dawn were making him a might self conscious.  He ran one hand down his chest seeing if any manure had snuck inside the shirt before he shucked it. Slick sweat and dusty red clay combined leaving mud across his pecs and abdomen. He started wiping with both hands, but the streaking went from bad to worse.

Seeing his difficulty, Charlotte snagged a clean towel from the pile they used to wipe down horses.

“Let me,” the brunette suggested.

The little thing didn’t even top his shoulders, but he figgered she had a good idea. “If you’re game, I’d be obliged.”

 He had worked the Double Bar T Ranch since the girl was a freshman in high school. None of the hands, including him, realize Charlotte worked harder than a mule following a carrot before she went off to college. Everyone made the piece of pudding welcome when she came home for the summer, and gladly returned her chores to her tender loving and firebrand care.

“Wouldn’t offer my services if I wasn’t.” She said as she gently wiped the mud off his front side. She looked up smiling, her head cocked to the side.

Tarnation, she had the prettiest brown eyes. CB sweated a few bullets before she started circling around back. CB stepped away from the pole to help her, and his jeans slipped lower.

Well that don’t beat all, his pants were falling off. He lost weight on the trail like he always did and he didn’t have a belt on. And he hadn’t wore underpants because he had done worn the lot on the trail and turned them inside out once to boot. He looked down and saw his short curls peeking over the top of his Levis.

He wondered if he could pull them up without her noticing.

Ooh, that feels so good. She put some ginger into her rubs.

“Like the moan cowboy, sounds just like Rowan when I get it just right. Why don’t you just set yourself down and I can work you top to bottom.” The nineteen year old pushed his twenty-eight year old carcass over to a bench. “Just sit right there and I’ll get the water.”

He watched the girl move through the barn, picking up two more towels, fetching the softer hand soap she preferred, and filling a bucket. He may have lost weight in the last two months, but she had put some on … in all the right and proper places. Her jeans were snug and her top was tight; she would need some new glads before the summer was out.

While he watched, one of the straining buttons failed, giving him a peek of white satin between red and blue plaid.

Setting the bucket beside him on the bench, she stepped between his legs to take off his hat and place it on her head. His eyes were in line with the gape in her shirt. Wouldn’t take much to pop another one. The buttons immediately above and below were straining like puppies on a leash.

A cold wet towel plopped on his head. “Now let’s get down to business CB.”

Shock of the cold made him reach out and grab the easiest thing handy. Happened to be Charlotte’s butt. She wiggled, not hard, just a something not right. Instinctually, like answering a horse shiver, he moved his hands down a bit ‘til they were comfortable. Cupping her sweet ass cheeks.

He outlined and massaged her ass, praying her daddy didn’t walk through the door, while she washed his hair, shoulders and face. Charlotte traced his face gently, gave him a quick peck on the lips and then leaned over his body to wash his back.

Okay, now he sometimes forgot to board the train as his fellow hands put it. But if a woman hits him with a clue-by-four he might figure things out. He reasoned it had to be easier for her to walk around to his back to wash him, rather than lean over him, pressing her breasts into his shoulders, her butt supported by his hands, and one leg wrapped around him for balance.

He brought a hand around to her front and rubbed the wide open juncture of her legs.

This time she was the one who moaned like Rowan.

“Oh dear,” Charlotte announced, “I am just getting wet through and through. Would you mind if I take off my shirt CB?”

“If you want to Miss Charlotte, I just don’t want no problems with Mr. Teahon.” CB’s hands continued to massage of her backside and front zipper. “My job here is as fine as you.”

Charlotte’s cadence changed from the East Coast university she was attending to her childhood tempo as her voice roughened in passion. “Aww, I didn’t expect no sweet talk CB.”

She lowered her leg outside of his denim clad one, pushing it against her own leg with his hand caught between. She lifted his face, holding it firm.

 “Now you don’t go worrying about my paw none. I have already told him what I want, told him even before I went off to schooling. He said if my eye hadn’t wandered by the time I got back and you were amenable-like, he would lock up the shotgun.”

Charlotte brought her other leg to the outside of his legs then sat aside CB. His buttons to her zipper. “So tell me, cowboy, are you amenable? I got some proof here saying you be willing and able.”

(words 1,122 – originally appearing at Breathless Press 9/29/2013 for the 7/15/12 Sunday Fun (unknown copyright on picture); republished new format 4/15/2018)

Flash: No Shirts

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Touch football time!” Someone yelled at the picnic.

“Donald, you’re a no-shirt.” A nearby woman assigned him to a team as he walked towards the field where everyone was gathering.

The blond twenty-year old laughed, pulling his gray T-shirt over his head and tossed it to the sidelines. “Why am I always a no-shirt?”

“Like you don’t know,” responded one of his uncles, patting his formidable gut, “but at least you get a chance to win. We get all the girls.”

“Not this year!” sang out Eva as she raced to the no-shirt team.

All day she had been wearing a blue long-sleeve hoodie over her white shorts. She unzipped the jacket for the first time at the Fourth of July reunion revealing a very tanned, very naked, and very masculine chest complete with a perfect six-pack.

Donald blinked a moment before the optical illusion changed to show a full-print T-shirt. She tossed her jacket into the pile with the guy shirts.

Grabbing Eva, Donald swung her around and announced, “You are the best cousin ever!”

(words 176 – originally appearing at Sunday Fun on Breathless Press 4/15/2013; republished in new blog format 4/8/2018)

Flash: Please his blue eyes begged

“Please,” his blue eyes begged beneath his terry hood.

I could not meet those eyes. All my paramedic skills could not restore the child he had pulled from the pool during the frantic short drive to the hospital. Instead I reached out my hand while others removed the small body from the Jaguar to take their turn at resuscitating.

We were guests of Mr. Parish. The party was the typical lavish affair he threw for his political and business connections I had no business being at; the only reason I was invited every year was I managed to save his life after a heart arrest.  I don’t know whose daughter we had tried to save or the name of the man who jumped in the pool fully clothed. His Gravait shoes must of sunk to the cement bottom by now.

The man pulled on my hand until our bodies touched. His head fell to my shoulder, and his svelte tall frame tried to curl into my much smaller form. I felt shakes from cold, exhaustion, failure, and sobs begin to rack his body. We would need to get him out of the wet clothes before he went into shock.

I watch as a Rolls-Royce, a few high-end Mercedes, and a limo frantically race into the parking lot. I pull my Knight-in-Sopping armor into the shadows of the entrance. The limo ejects a couple who are clearly the parents. Mr. and Mrs. Parish escort them through the doors. Mr. Parish makes eye contact with me for a second; I watch hope leave his eyes as he takes in my situation. None of the others notice me and my companion.

(Words 278 – originally appearing at Sunday Fun on Breathless Press 3/3/2013 (photo of unknown copyright); republished new blog format 3/25/2018)


Flash: Labor

Natalie gripped Kryler’s hand so tight, he felt bones move out of position. Finally, the contraction released and his wife’s quick panting filled the room. Grabbing a tissue, he moved to the head of the bed to dab her sweat-covered face. If he could take the pain from her, he would. Instead he did what every man has ever done, offer external support while covering all his internal worry.

Their daughter was coming too soon, nearly a month early after weeks of spotting. The doctors had sentenced Natalie to bed rest for most of the final trimester to reduce stress, and discovered instead her levels went through the roof.

When her job first found out she was pregnant, they pulled her off the fast track and moved her into the mommy track.

Not officially.

But the Spanish classes, they had been underwriting. Poof. So, sorry, budget cuts. Strangely no one else was removed from the tuition program. The mentoring program changed her mentor to “better suit her personality.” The vice president with whom she lunched weekly was assigned a new protégé and Natalie’s new support person was a manager in the customer service department where he worked. Wasn’t even the best customer service manager, but the one restricted to nights because there was less to screw up. The one he worked under.

His ball-busting, type-A, inferno of ambition stormed into HR and nailed the director to wall. All her privileges were restored within hours. Her vice president, reassured of her dedication, was leveraging a special project for her to head as soon as her maternity leave was over.

Bedrest had pulled her away from the moving and shaking. And she stewed. The doctors eventually relented and let her work half-days in the office, if he drove her in, and the balance of the day remoteing in. Her stress levels dropped to manageable levels.

Her breathing took on a regular pattern.

“My fireball.”  She was the most beautiful, bravest, incredible person he ever known. He leaned over and kissed her, barely brushing her lips from his upside down position.

Natalie smiled weakly. “You really shouldn’t have turned in your resignation yet.”

Always figuring the best angle, the best benefit. He shook his head at his wonderful wife. “Two weeks notice. Gives you time to recover and then I will be home with the baby.”

“You sure you want to stay home? I’m sure we could get your mom to sit.”

Walking back to the side of the bed, Kryler removed the ice water glass the nurse had dropped off last time she passed through the labor room from the bed stand and placed the straw on Natalie’s lips. “I’m sure. We just about have Rodger’s Retrieval ready, and the guys already are bouncing ideas for our next game around. Can’t wait to start animating it. Trust me. Between the game and the baby, I will not be bored.” He smiled at her confidentially.

Suddenly her eyes grew round. Dropping the glass, Kryler nearly missed the surface of the stand. He pushed the glass until it was balanced.

Natalie’s hands unerringly found his as another contraction took her.

He looked at the clock as she screamed in pain. Too long. Had she been in labor too long? He had no reference.

(words 549 – originally appearing at Breathless Press 9/9/2013 for the 5/20/12 Sunday Fun (original picture of unknown copyright, so not copied here); republished in new blog format 2/25/2018)