When it came to meeting “Nice ladies” Trevor, Lynn had almost completely run out of interest. It was clear to her that most men wanted most women to be happy to provide an all-in-one, sex-on-tap, listening and sock-collection service. And it didn’t seem to bother them that in return they weren’t offering much: horrible eating habits, a refusal to listen, and, in David’s case, a complete lack of attention. No, thought Lynn, it was not a good deal for women and if that meant never having a male companion again, she was prepared to go without.
Trevor pleaded poverty so to spare him the RHS entrance fee, Lynn agreed to meet him in Guildford, at a coffee-shop just off the high street. She was surprised when a tall young man, dressed in black jeans, approached her. Lynn had thought Trevor sounded naive in his letter, but she’d had no idea that he would be this young. He joined her and they ordered tea. Lynn watched his slender long-fingered hands on his tea-cup. Trevor talked about the art classes he was doing at college, and listened – with apparently sincere interest – as Lynn told him about her embroidery and her roses. The way he threw back his tea and looked hopefully into the pot made her think he was hungry.
“Do you want something to eat?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said.
When the waitress took his order, Lynn surprised herself by saying “and the same for me please”. They both had baked potatoes with sweetcorn, and a slice of chocolate cake. He ate like a starving bear, but with no mess. And he listened while, to her surprise, Lynn told him all about David, Agnieszka and the impending divorce.
“She young then?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Lynn. “Very young.”
“Don’t worry. He’ll wake up and regret it one day.”
“You know, Trevor,” Lynn smiled. “I believe I no longer care.”
Lynn was surprised at how relaxed she felt with Trevor. It was like spending time with a pleasant younger brother. He wasn’t a male version of a blanket, more of a light cotton throw.
“So why did you want to meet me?” Lynn asked, when they were done and sipping on coffee.
“You sounded nice,” he said.
“I’m sure you meet nice people all the time,” Lynn replied.
“Have you ever modelled for a painting?” he asked her, and she could feel his eyes wondering over her face and neck speculatively as he waited for her response.
“No, I haven’t,” she said.
“Well, would you?” he asked. “I can’t afford to pay though.”
Lynn felt as if she were standing on the edge of an abyss. Behind her was her life: comfortable, safe and under control. In front of her lay the void. She leapt.
Lynn lay back on the plump cushions of her sofa. Her favourite blanket, a turquoise rug, was draped over her lower legs and feet. A fire crackled contentedly in the grate. She felt intensely relaxed. Last night, she’d had a wonderful session with the dancing girls and the body builder and now every muscle in her body felt soothed, calm, at peace. There was an empty mug of tea on the small table near the sofa and another on the window-sill near where Trevor had his easel.
This was her fifth sitting. She and Trevor had quickly settled into a routine: she greeted him in her dressing-gown, they had a cup of tea and a chat, and then she took off the gown and arranged herself on the sofa while he painted. Later, they had a walk in the bracing air, then he gave her quick kiss on the cheek and got on the Guildford bus.
She knew that he went clubbing at the weekends and that he had a boyfriend. He told her he’d experimented with girls as a teenager but for the moment had settled for boys. Trevor had grown up in what he described as a “matriarchy”: his single mother, her single mother and all their female friends. He’d spent most of his childhood hearing about bastard men who didn’t meet their payments, about new men who turned out to be no-hopers, about cracking period pains and disasters at the hairdresser. He’d become a good listener.
Once she asked him why he hadn’t asked any of the women in his mother’s and grandmother’s social circle to pose for him.
“No, that would be too weird. I’m like their kid too, see? Just like their kids are my mum’s.”
“And what about girls at art school? Or people that you meet at the clubs? Wouldn’t they pose for free?”
Trevor gave her his artist’s look, the one that thrilled her.
“I needed to find someone different. Different from me, and the people I know. I answered a few other lonely hearts, but they weren’t right. I soon as I saw you I knew I wanted to paint you.”
Lynn took that piece of information to heart, and held it there.
Now she lounged on her sofa, somewhere between being asleep and awake, listening to the fire chatter and watching Trevor paint her. It was as close to bliss, or to John Travolta, that she had ever come.
(Copyright Charlotte Otter 2010)