"Fields of Elysium"
By Al Kristopher, Mr. Toasty, et al.
This is a story involving two women and the relationship they shared with each other. It is by no means a romantic story, although there are several sexual themes inside, nor is it by any means a story about true love, or valor, or harmony, or anything of that sort. It's a very remarkable story, if you're into that sort of thing, and it takes place all over the world, because these two girls are globetrotters; they see everything in their careers. They're not noble creatures or women of honor: one of them is a dirty whore and the other is a vicious cynic. There won't be much flowery language or epic poems here, but if the characters feel up to the challenge, they might ramble off a verse or two.
I should introduce the girls one after the other, then show you what kind of lives they lead, and what circumstances drove them to meet each other and form their relationship. As I've said before, it's not a romantic one, and I'm not even sure if they share much passion together. But they're very fascinating women nonetheless, and anything worth saying has to be fascinating. In this chapter we'll be looking at one of the girls, and the next one shows up in number two. After that, we'll see where things go.
Our first heroine is called Shaun. That's not her full name, but everything else is meaningless, because who cares about anything else? Shaun is all you need to know—and, well, she's the whore. She woke up very late this morning, long after the sun rose, by her agent calling her on the phone. A beautiful young French lady was reclining next to her, garbled words falling out of her encrusted lips as noise and light infiltrated the room. They had very enjoyable sex the other night and became exhausted; Shaun barely knows the French girl, and they cannot understand each other because they don't speak each other's language. The phone had to ring several times before Shaun really woke up and answered it, and as I've said before, it was her agent.
"Do you know what time it is?" blared the older woman—a very nasty voice to hear when you're just waking up.
"No," Shaun replied, voice garbled over the phone. She estimated it was early.
"It's one in the afternoon," her agent indicated. "You have an appointment for two. Where the hell are you?"
"Asleep." Shaun was a whore, yes, but an honest one. Her agent was becoming agitated.
"Asleep," she repeated with indignity. "Asleep! You're with someone, aren't you?" The French girl woke and muttered slowly; she was naked. Shaun fell back on her pillow, looking up as the girl's breasts rise; she's getting out of bed.
"Where are you going? Get back here. No, wait—Stephanie!"
"Unbelievable," hissed Shaun's agent; she knew who the younger girl was sleeping with. "Get dressed and get over here! And make sure Miss Stephanie gets to her schedule as well!"
"What's the big rush, A?" Shaun grumbled; she sounded drunk. Her agent's name is Agitha, but Shaun slept with her as well, when she has the time and disposition for it, and so she doesn't feel like calling her sometimes-lover by her proper name. It makes her sound old, though she's only forty-four.
"Your appointment!" Agitha yawps; Shaun can almost see her throwing hands up in the air, perhaps taking something with them. Papers fluttering in the air, or a loose watch, or maybe nail polish—or a sex toy, in lieu of human presence? It could be anything; Agitha had busy hands.
"The two o'clock," Shaun yawned. She was stiff all over, but she climbed out of bed and made an attempt at dressing. She stunk from sex. The French girl was showering; there was some fruit missing from Shaun's refrigerator, indicating the girl had breakfast. Shaun picked out a peach and bit into it, so her words were quite unintelligible for a moment. "I got time," she assured Agitha. "About…fifty minutes. I can be there before then."
"There's prep time as well, you twat. Ronnie will not wait all day." Ronnie was the name of her next appointment. She was a model in her early thirties, single, and probably striking, considering the business they were all in. There was a pause in their conversation, so Agitha decided to add something acidic. "Don't think she can't go to other people, Shaun. You're not the only girl in this business. There are others."
"As good as me?"
"Good enough. If you're late, it'll cost us both. Get here on time."
"Got it. Can we shag later?" A joke, of course—Agitha wasn't in the mood. She hung up rudely, leaving Shaun to spread her mouth wide, teeth on display. She had a nice mouth and very pink lips; her lovers were fond of kissing her and being kissed in return, although to call them lovers wasn't fair since Shaun didn't believe in true love—but who could? In any case, she finished her peach and wedged herself in the shower for a few minutes, swatting the French girl away. She had to do business and there was no time for play, much as she regretted it. That Stephanie sure could fuck.
Agitha did a good job of hiding her fury. As long as Shaun was presentable and she made it to her appointments on time, there was no reason to become cross with her. Agitha understood that her employee and sometimes-lover had an outside life, and she had the right to entertain herself with whatever means necessary. The only chain that bound them was the chain of business, the modeling business. Shaun painted bodies and was paid handsomely for it.
"Well what do you know," she whispered as Ronnie introduced herself. "You are very striking. Now what sort of job am I doing here?" She never liked knowing her work ahead of time; it always had to be spontaneous, spur of the moment. It left her with no time to think, forcing her to rely solely on instinct: her specialty. Agitha had conversed with Ronnie's agent earlier and knew exactly what was required.
"They're going for a floral motif on her palms and fingers, both hands. You don't need to do the wrist."
"Sounds fun. Anything else I should know?"
"The rest is up to you."
"No preferred color schemes, designs, anything like that?"
"They trust you. I stuck my neck out and dropped your name. Make me proud."
"Don't I always?" Shaun wasn't a very stuck-up girl; she just did an amazing job. Ronnie had rather rough palms, which told Shaun she hadn't always been in this selective business. Once upon a time, this girl worked for a living, and she had probably been discovered somewhere. Shaun herself had a similar history: Agitha had dropped by her college and found her work remarkable.
"Ronnie," Shaun said to her subject, "what sort of colors do you like?"
"Red, green, yellow…"
"Are you fond of Ethiopia? That's the colors of their flag."
"Oh. No, I just…"
"I can work with most of those. Up the fingers too, right?"
"Yes." Ronnie looked sort of Mediterranean: very tan skin, long wavy black hair, deep eyes, full lips, et cetera. Shaun couldn't imagine her being very much older than herself. She didn't usually talk to her subjects while painting, but she did play music, usually whatever the subject wanted. Ronnie said she didn't care, so Shaun put on an Iron Maiden album. Ronnie winced as Shaun decorated her palms and fingers with flowers: she painted with her hands and fingers, not brushes; it seemed more humane and personal. Besides, she liked to touch, and sometimes her subjects did as well.
The catch is that since Shaun was a sort of "body artist", she ran into a lot of people who wanted to be painted, usually in the professional world. Agents came to Agitha and traded ideas or requests, and Agitha directed Shaun as those requests go. The modeling world had an endless supply of people who liked being painted on; it was an exotic trade, and it made them all a fair bit of money. Shaun was rich, but not spoiled; she had a humble house, though she rarely lived in it since she was abroad most of the time.
Ronnie had rarely felt anything so sensual as the silky skin of another woman making flowers on her hands. There was something deliciously sinister about being that intimate: the nerves on the palms and fingers are perhaps the most sensitive on the whole body, and being coated in paint while maintaining contact with other fingers, a woman's fingers, was stunning. Shaun wouldn't deliberately seduce her subjects, though—they usually did the work for her. They were alone as the art developed, the perfect scene for sensuality. However, because the hands are so small, her work was finished very quickly; it took an hour to do both (so now it was a little past 3:00 in the afternoon). When they were finished, Shaun took an amateur photo of Ronnie's hands, more for her sake than anyone else's. She loved her work and kept it on file, in case any future potential clients happened across it.
"Thank you," Ronnie whispered, studying her colorful digits as if she'd never seen them before. Shaun's response was warm, professional, casual. She had to be careful: not everyone was so easily charmed by her touch.
"You're very welcome. Don't worry about it peeling off—that's a special mixture. Soap and hot water won't take it off, but I have a solution to get rid of it once your session is done. I'll give you the ingredients; it shouldn't be hard to make. Is there anything else I can do for you?" Ronnie had never felt this sensuality, and now that it was gone, she wanted more—she was intoxicated with it. That searing closeness with another woman—sinful, taboo, disgraceful, illicit, mortifying even, yet wickedly wonderful and addictive—it drove her, it quickened her pulse, it stole the breath from her. She wanted Shaun to touch her again.
"When's your next appointment?"
"Can you do any other parts of my body?"
"I was only paid to do your hands. Anything else is extra."
"I don't discuss that matter with my subjects. Sorry." Ronnie's breath became short and greedy. She was desperate. She yearned for that master's touch.
"Do you…" This was impossible, mad even. It was insane. She barely knew this woman. She was not a Bohemian, not a Child of God, nor a Free Love advocate. She was no whore. She was just a model. She kept herself pure.
"Do I what?" Shaun was beginning to turn her charm on. She only seduced those women she thought open to her advances. Ronnie was putting out all the signals, but she was shy, insanely shy, and needy, thirsty, starving. The girl was sexually emaciated. To hell with chastity.
"Do I what?" Shaun closed the gap and felt a burning sensation erupt in her body. The woman certainly kissed like a Mediterranean—oh, did she ever!
Three hours passed very quickly. Shaun fucked Ronnie and sent her off to be with her agent, then cleaned up and took a cab over to her next appointment. Agitha didn't know whether or not she had seduced Ronnie; most of her client's indiscretions were none of her concern. She wasn't chaste by any definition, so why judge somebody of the same sin? Shaun questioned Agitha about her next subject: she looked too damn young in her opinion.
"Don't worry, she's over eighteen. She just turned two months ago."
"She's got such a small chest, though," Shaun observed. "And that face. She looks like a baby."
"Why do you think she's a model?"
"How long has she been in the business?"
"About half her life. Started small and worked her way up. Her parents are mental, which is no surprise."
"It's a prerequisite with girls her age. What am I painting?"
"The back, from nape to heel. They want a sort of wind scheme on the thighs, some rays of sun on the arms, and there's going to be a dragon covering most of her back."
"What do you mean, 'which kind'?"
"Which kind of dragon? There's all kinds. Asian, European, humanoid, what?"
"Oh, Chinese. The head needs to be around her neck, and the tail should end around her left hipbone."
"Am I painting her ass?"
"Yes, but just rays of sunlight. No wind, of course. It's art, not vulgarity."
The level of nonchalance displayed just now might surprise some of you, but this sort of exchange happened all the time. As I've said, Shaun was an artist first and a whore second. She painted lots of girls and seduced most of them; she thought nothing of nudity or touching sensitive areas or painting strange objects. She wasn't paid to ask questions or exhibit a priggish sensitivity, she was just paid to paint the subject, so she threw every inhibition out the window. The girl's name was Claire, and she was young and blonde and resembled a child all the way through. She was terribly shy, not used to showing off her body to others, and sternly insisted that her rear end be covered up with a towel until the very end.
"Were you the kind of girl who changed clothes in the bathroom stall during gym class?" Shaun asked. This task would take a much longer time—it'd be very dark by the time she finished—so a conversation was almost required. Music alone wouldn't suffice.
"What? Was I the… What do you mean?"
"Well, not to pry, but you seem awfully shy. Sensitive, even. I'm just wondering how long you've had this trait." Claire snorted. She didn't like people prying. And Shaun's touch made her nervous. No girl ever touched her that way.
"It's none of your concern."
"I know. I'm just talking. This sort of job takes me awhile, and it'd be boring if we just stood here, or laid here, and did nothing. Damn, I should've asked what color the dragon was supposed to be."
"White, I think."
"Oh." Shaun worked Claire's arms first. Wind was typically a bluish-white, but this wind was supposed to be green; however, Shaun mixed white into the paint anyway, and it turned out rather lovely—ethereal, even. "Well, then let's talk about something else. You don't need to be shy around me, you know. I do this for a living; I'm a professional." Claire said nothing for a few moments. Shaun decided to paint the back of her hands at no extra charge. It was the tiny details that made her so good…or that was one of the qualities, anyway.
"How long have you been doing this?" Claire asked.
"That's a long time. I've been modeling that long, too. How'd you get your start?"
"Just chance. I practiced on a friend. Later I put my work up at college, and my agent discovered it. I've been famous ever since."
"Famous?" She raised her head, stealing glances. Famous?
"Well, not celebrity-famous. But people ask for me by name. 'Let's get Shaun on this, she'll know what to do!' 'Ah yes, Shaun is a great painting person.' You know, bullshit like that."
"Oh. My mom and dad pushed me to the modeling career. I won this pageant, see, and they sort of…um…how do I put it? They overreacted."
"Sounds cruel. What did you want to be?"
"I didn't want to be anything. I had no ambitions. I turned into a model and that's what I am now." Claire didn't want to come off sounding depressed. She forced herself to relax a little. "This is my first nude shot, you know."
"They won't see anything except your ass, and everybody's got one besides, so it's not like it's filthy. Do you like your parents?"
"My dad's all right. He's the sort of guy I like. Mom's a pain."
"Women can be annoying sometimes. Don't flinch, your muscles get tense. I need you to relax."
"Sorry. I've never been touched like this."
"Get used to it, you're a model. People will want to touch you a lot. You know, I've ran into some old subjects of mine now and then. We have a laugh and go bullshitting all over town—you know, drinks and dancing, that sort of thing—and sometimes we just have a nice wonderful fuck and say our goodbyes. Or I paint them again. I have lots of repeat customers."
"You have…sex with the people you work with?"
"Yeah, sometimes, if they're up for it. I'm not a flirt, though; they handle all the work. I just paint. If it were up to me, I'd paint and do nothing else. Maybe I might get me a steady girlfriend, but that's an If-only. I fuck them if they want it, though. It's fun."
"So you're a dyke?"
"No," Shaun laughed, "I'm a fucking faggot. But you can call me Shaun. I'm not fond of labels." Claire shuddered, and wished she could get away, quickly. She hadn't realized she'd be under the care of a gay body-painter. She felt horribly uncomfortable and wanted to leave. Shaun swatted her smartly on the foot. "No moving. You'll mess it up. Frankly, I'd rather get this done quickly. It's hard doing this for more than three hours. That's my limit. Are you all right?"
Claire was trembling.
"I'm not gonna flirt with you, if that's what you're afraid of!" she insisted. "I'm not that kind of girl. I like other women, sure, but they gotta like me first. No point in going after anyone that won't reciprocate, right? God, don't squirm; it'll smudge. There. Hold still. You'd be surprised how many gay people are in this business. Barely an honest straight person around, though I've known a few. This really cool guy I used to paint was one of them, and a few girls I knew too. It's not so shocking. Do you have problems with it?"
"I've just never…" She trailed off, insecure, afraid to cause offense. Shaun was almost incapable of being offended, though.
"Never seen one? I'm sure you have, you just didn't know it. There, arms done. You can move them if you like. Don't worry, the paint won't chip—it's a special mix. Yeah, stretch if you want. I'll do your neck next. Which would you prefer I do after, the back or the legs?"
"Which is quicker?"
"Legs, of course. There's acres of skin over your back. You're pretty small, so your legs are short, and you're really not very big, so your back is sparse. But it'll take more time to paint your back, I can guarantee it."
"And my…behind? What about that?"
"Saving it for last," Shaun smiled wryly. "I'll keep it quick if you promise not to wriggle around so much. I'm really not a flirt, Claire. I keep business and pleasure far apart." The girl drew a forlorn breath, and held her tongue as Shaun resumed her administrations. Their conversation was locked for several minutes. She took care of the neck and started on the legs; fortunately, Claire wasn't ticklish.
"So what's it like being with another girl?"
"I couldn't tell you that," she replied casually, quickly. "You wouldn't understand unless you've experienced it firsthand. You think that sex is sex, but you're wrong. Some people say it's like fucking a man, but I wouldn't know that. I've never been with men, only girls."
"So…what exactly is it like?" Shaun's smile became timid and warm; her hands glided smoothly, meticulously. The dragon was beautiful and fierce already.
"It's fun, and sensual, but really hard to describe. And my opinion would certainly be different from yours. You'd have to fuck a woman yourself to really understand."
"I don't think that will happen in the future."
"But you are curious."
"Fair enough." Another silence came into being. Shaun finished the legs and started on the back; Claire moaned in pleasure.
"That feels wonderful. You should be a masseuse."
"Nah, no thanks. My gift is art."
"You give nice backrubs, though."
"I'm just painting. If you confuse that with a massage, that's your issue. Breathe slower. You've got soft skin."
"Thanks. I am a model."
"And a young one. But that's the thing these days—eighteen to thirty, and forget the others. But sometimes I get some women between forty and fifty-five. Those are the best. They're so insightful and wise, and…sexy in a way that a younger girl couldn't possibly understand. They fuck like crazy too."
"You're not very picky when it comes to women, are you?"
"Nope," Shaun laughed. "I've slept with quite a few. I don't discriminate." Claire gave no response. She must've been warming up to the idea, or at least desensitized to it. Then, a bombshell.
"Have you ever been in love?" Shaun sighed wistfully, but didn't miss a beat.
"Twice. Both of them didn't turn out the way I wanted. Love never does. That's why I don't believe in it. Besides, who'd be my girlfriend with this sort of business?"
"What do you mean? I mean, you seem okay…"
"I appreciate it," she replied, grinning. "But think about it. My job takes me all over the world. I use my art on all kinds of women. I touch them in very intimate ways. What sort of girl would want to be around me if I have that repertoire hanging over my head?"
Claire couldn't answer.
"Sorry. I don't mean to mix my personal feelings in with work. What about you? Any serious boyfriends?"
"No, not serious. I'm not even dating now."
"Oh, of course not. You're a model, you don't need that stress." Claire had to spend a few minutes in thought before she addressed her next inquiry. By that time, Shaun had finished the dragon's head and was working on the serpentine body.
"Who were the girls you fell in love with?"
"Well, the second one was my best friend, and she still is. She's married now, with kids and everything. I'm their godmother. The husband's a real great fellow; we're on good terms. And I love her kids. She's the first person that, uh, felt my true work."
"What about your first?"
"I don't like talking about it," Shaun muttered. "It was a long time ago anyway. It's a painful subject. Suffice to say that it scarred me. Anyway, my love-life has a long and sordid history behind it, and you'd probably fall asleep if I told it to you, unless you died of shame before." Claire giggled.
"That bad, huh?"
"Sometimes. It's all girls and fucking and…whorish business. I only have one life, I figure, so I may as well enjoy it. God made sex for a reason, right? He even gave us free will to go shag people of the same sex if we wanted."
"You said earlier that you've never slept with a man," Claire pointed out. "How do you know you wouldn't like it?"
"I dunno," Shaun shrugged. "My first two lovers were women, and that's stuck with me all my life. I guess if my first two lovers had been men, I'd be a different girl. Of course, I might also be a pregnant girl…"
"Do you want kids?"
"I have kids, godchildren. That's all I need. I've seen the way pregnant women go about their business anyway, and I wouldn't want that on me. It is nice making love to them, though." She laughed at Claire's reaction and swept her fingers over her shoulderblades, creating rays of light and wind and fire from the dragon's breath. The image was almost complete.
It wasn't Shaun's job to dwell upon the impermanence of this art. In time, for sure, this beautiful dragon would disappear, and Claire's skin would be clean and colorless. She gave all her subjects cleaning solutions and believed that most of them put them to some use (who really walked around with her art on their bodies?). She had pictures and photos and a portfolio stuffed with memories to cure this sensational brevity, so why dwell on it? It wasn't hard work gone to waste, it was just the timeless act of humanity leaving its artistic imprint upon the world—something attesting that Shaun was here, she did something, and she had a soul to speak of.
Once the session concluded, Shaun took her standard portrait and left the room. Claire had a shoot to attend to, and Shaun a good long cleansing. Her hands were caked with paint and oil and sweat; she was hot and sore from working so long. She didn't make love to Claire—there was no chemistry between them, and it just didn't feel right—she just said farewell, and wished her good luck in this strange, lonely, harrowing business of theirs. She was a feast for the eyes, this Claire, a nymph for the ages, spreading her limbs to reveal the dragon at her rear, a shadow of her exotic side, glorious and dangerous and as fleeting as a gust of wind.
The French girl was long gone by the time Shaun returned to her apartment, and Ronnie was as good as lost. It didn't bereave her of much to spend the night alone; she had grown numbly accustomed to the idea and reckoned she needed some breathing room anyway. No matter; tomorrow had all sorts of possibilities.