I look around. Luckily no one is watching us.
‘You wound me,’ he says with exaggerated complaint.
‘I’m sorry.’ I grin, showing I feel no such thing. ‘I’m always unstintingly honest.’
‘You’re wrong.’ He sobers almost instantly and catches my hand. ‘Let me show you.’
I resist the urge to point out I’m supposed to be giving him the tour, and willingly go with him, up several more flights of stairs, until a sign points us towards the Impressionists wing.
Despite everything I have just said I pause as we step into the hall, instantly overpowered by the beauty and profound uniqueness of each and every piece before us.
Ethan looks at me, and then continues to move slowly, skimming his eyes over each piece of art until finally he stops in front of a lesser-known Matisse.
Woman Reading, the caption proclaims.
‘This was the first painting I ever loved.’
I look from him to the painting in surprise. ‘Why?’
‘There’s something about it that speaks to me. Perhaps it’s the way her back is turned. The whole painting is almost disdainful. The composition confusing. And yet the way I’m kind of...excluded makes me want to intrude. To tap her on the shoulder; make her look at me.’
He is describing a sense that is so perfectly what I think Matisse was aiming for that I want to kiss him.
Art-speak is not something everyone is comfortable with, and the fact that Ethan über-sexy Ash can do it so well is incredibly desirable.
‘That’s good,’ I say, wondering at the catch of feeling in my voice. ‘Art should create that kind of emotion in you. An emotional response is all that matters—no matter what inspires it.’
‘So I’m allowed to like the Impressionists again?’ he teases, all cerebral philosophising over and done with.
‘I suppose so.’
And so, amongst the Van Goghs, Mondrians, Monets and Seurats, we begin our tour of the MoMa...
‘Okay,’ he says after we’ve finished two full floors. ‘I showed you mine. What’s yours?’
‘My what?’ I’m genuinely confused.
‘Your favourite piece in here?’
* * *
Holy crap, she’s hotter than Hades when she’s talking about art.
I thought I might have lost her with my waffling on about Woman Reading, but if anything it spurred her on. As though she thought she was speaking to a kindred spirit—someone who understands her love of art.
And, Jesus, listening to her, I think I might.
Ally Douglas could explain anything to me and I’d be somewhat spellbound. I stare at her as she discusses the way light and shade have been used to create an apparent three-dimensionality to the simple painting, but all I can think about is the light and shade in her face, and the multi-dimensionality in her eyes as the late-afternoon sun cuts through the glass and settles freely on her face.
I think about the light and shade in her voice, too—the way it pitches and rolls with emotion as she moves along the exhibit, teaching me effortlessly. Not because she wants me to learn, or because she thinks I should know this stuff, but because she can’t help herself.
Art is her passion.
And she feels passionately.
I listen to her patiently even as I am burning up. We reach the end of the display and there is only a red fire alarm on the wall. I want to tell her how beautiful she is. I want to tell her she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.
It’s not just that. I want to do more of this. I like being out with her. Holding her hand. I like the idea of taking her to dinner. I want her to come to my concert and to be waiting backstage for me.
The arbitrary boundaries we’ve insisted on are annoying me now, and I know why.
I don’t like it that Ally is making an art form out of pushing me away, walking away from me when it suits her. I have an insatiable need to unsettle the ease with which she does that. To unsettle her a little bit. Why? To make her forget about our rules? Just for a while?
I lean closer and murmur, ‘You’re beautiful.’
Her head whips up to mine so fast I briefly worry she might have dislocated something. She stares at me but says nothing. I could get lost in those damned eyes of hers.