TEA WITH TISSOT, | By: Terry Collett | | Category: Short Story - Friendship Bookmark and Share


After informing you that Mr.Tissot would be delayed and showing you
both into the large room, the young maidservant dropped a curtsy and
left, closing the door softly behind her.

You both stand in silence gazing about the room, at the splendour of
it, at the complete beauty of such a room with its Japanese objects
and works of art. Neither of you have seen so much Japonisme.

Lucienne stares desirably like a child in a toy shop, as if suddenly
she had been transported back to the days when such objects of beauty
would have been utterly new to her. And you, beside her, watching her
and how she seems so engrossed in what is before her, and you place
your left hand upon her back, gently, as if a butterfly were settling
there, and then stare with her at the object that so engrosses her.

"Isn’t it so beautiful, Claudine?” Lucienne asks. "How did Mister
Tissot manage to collect such wonderful works of Japanese art?”

"Takes one's breath away," you reply, leaning forward towards her.
But not as beautiful as you, my sweet, you say inwardly, feeling her
breath near to you. And out of the corner of your eye you see the
dark-red dress Lucienne is wearing more clearly; its cloth smooth
beneath your hand. And her auburn hair in ringlets under her small
dark-red hat seems such a beautiful thing to you that you barely
manage to refrain from touching it.

"O’ Claudine," Lucienne says to you, "what treasures these are!"
And she turns to you and her eyes pierce you as if a knife had
entered your heart. "What would our parents say if they saw such?”
she asks placing her hand between her knees and leaning forward.

And you let the warmth of her body touch the skin of your hand. She,
whom you have loved and love as no other, allows her eyes to sweep
over the object before her as if it was given by the gods. "Perhaps
one day," you say," we could possess such wonderful things ourselves."

"Do you really think so?” Lucienne utters softly. She turns to gaze
at you again. There is a child-like look in her eyes. An innocence.

"Who knows what we may have one day," you reply studying her eyes,
letting your own eyes drift over her features. She nods. She smiles.

And your mind reflects back to the previous weekend, when you both
lay abed in Lucienne's house, wrapped in each other’s arms, staring
out of the large window at the blue sky above.

"Will he paint us, do you think, Claudine?” Lucienne asks.

"I think he may," you reply hopefully, "I think he will."

"I do so hope he will," Lucienne says. And you watch her features
open up like a flower at the touch of the sun. "Will our parents
mind, Claudine, will they grant permission?" And you nod affirmingly,
letting the mere permission matter pass you by.

"It’s not as if we were to pose nude," you say smiling, seeking to
brush away her worries." Gentle-folk are often painted by him."

Lucienne stands upright and gazes once more about her. Then she turns
to you and looking at you for a few seconds says, “Your white dress
is lovely, Claudine. Makes you appear so...Well pure." You smile at
her and she looks away, as if a memory had suddenly broke loose upon
her, had entered her and shaken her slightly. "You know what I
mean," she says looking once more at your dress.
You both move about the room slowly, taking in the other objects.
Lucienne takes off her light-brown gloves and holds them in her right
hand. "I wonder how long he will be?" she says.

"Whom?" you ask.

"Mr. Tissot," Lucienne states. "The maid said he was delayed. How
long will he be? And will we have tea?”

"All in good time, Lucienne, all in good time."

"I cannot believe we're actually here."

"Even the impossible sometimes happens," you say softly.

Lucienne stops in front of another Japanese object. Her eyes drift
over it as if upon an open sea. You move close to her. You want the
nearness of her, the scent of her, to fill you, to enter into your
very being. "So calm. So pure," Lucienne says. Her hand wants so
much to touch the object, yet she refrains. Something holds her
back. Lucienne remembers the night over the weekend and closes her
eyes briefly. She sees you and herself abed and what you both did and
blushes slightly. "Such elegance, such grace," Lucienne mutters.
And you watch her lips move and the words fall from them like petals
from dying flowers." So alluring," she mutters," so comely." And she
falls silent, as if her words had exhausted her momentarily. Her eyes
open again and tears seem to hang there like pearls. She tightens her
lips to stop further words.

You let your arm rest upon her back and do so gently, soft as feathers falling, as the breath of a moth. You want to kiss her. To let your lips touch hers as they did that weekend, but you refrain. You hold back. You wait. You watch.

"Will he soon come?” Lucienne asks.

“Yes, soon."

"And will he paint us here, in this room?”

"What better place," you reply.

"I’m nervous. I've never been painted before."

"Your beauty will be captured."

"And this beauty about us, here," she says looking about her.

"What is beautiful here doesn't compare to your beauty."

"How so?” She mutters.

"You are alive. You exude beauty," you whisper.

"I don't."

"Oh, yes, you do, Lucienne," you say looking at her eyes.

"What of you and your beauty?" she asks.

"How can I speak of my own beauty?”

"Perhaps we should be silent about beauty," she says softly.

"Beauty speaks for itself."
"Does it?" she says looking at you in her child-like way.

"Yes." And she looks at you and smiles and remembers the weekend.

After such words you both fall silent. Lucienne wanders off to the
other side of the room and lets her eyes search out other objects.
You follow with your eyes. Her presence in the room warms you. Her
perfume draws you like a moth to flames. As she leans forward to gaze
closely at some object of art you move near her again. You place your
right hand gently on her shoulder, soft as a baby's breath. Her body
beneath your hand vibrant, electrifying, makes your own body feel so
alive that you want to scream out with joy; want to wrap your arms
about her and hold her close and closer until she merges with you in
a living pulsating compound being.

"I love you," you mutter almost inaudibly.

She turns from the object and gazes at you. She says nothing at first, but then, taking hold of your hand in hers, and gazing at your hand as if it were itself an object of art, she moves her lips.
"Words cannot convey how I feel about you. Even had I Shakespeare's
genius I could not find the words." She stops. The words have gone.

"What are words, Lucienne?" you say. She kisses you. What are words
compared to kisses, you say inwardly, letting the warmth of her lips
and scent of her fill you. Then she turns again to the object of art.
A Japanese ship of some kind. She is engrossed, is absorbed with it.
You move beside her and stare. You gaze side by side, your arms
almost touching.

"What can compare to this?" she asks.

"It’s a ship," you reply.

"Yes, but such a ship." And Lucienne seems in rapture about the ship. But your mind moves back to the previous weekend. What are ships compared to that, you say to yourself, glancing sidelong at Lucienne, glimpsing her cheek, wanting to kiss her again, but refraining from doing so. What can be so exciting about a ship compared to our lovemaking that weekend? you ask inaudibly, your words wanting to escape, but not doing so.

Lucienne moves her hand within centimetres of the ship, her fingers
moving over the air like humming-birds." One can almost see the men aboard the ship," Lucienne suddenly says. "Can you imagine them, Claudine?”

"I should get sea sick," you reply.

"You lack imagination," she says, as if amused.

"Not on all matters," you say.

"When will Mr. Tissot come?" she asks again.

"Soon, Lucienne, he will come soon."

"I think he has forgotten about us."

"The maid said he was delayed. He has not forgotten us," you say
moving her away from the ship by her arm. She sighs. She senses your
hand on her arm and remembers the weekend suddenly and it pierces her
heart. She gasps for her breath as if stabbed. Then, slowly, she lets
her mind drift, drift back to the night with you beside her. She
shuts her eyes momentarily to recall the scene in all its depth. Her
body shudders, convulses in response to the memory, not from disdain,
but from a new desire, a fresh awakening. She stares at you. Her
whole being suddenly, like a resurrected soul, joyous at being alive.

After the maidservant had shown you and Luicenne into the large
dinning-room and you are both introduced to Mr. Tissot, you and she
sit opposite him in a shy mood. He talks warmly and you both gaze at
him as if he were some god come down to earth amongst mere mortals.
You answer him more than Lucienne who seems dumb struck, and as you
answer him your eyes seldom leave his face. You take in his features
as if you yourself were about to paint his image. His voice sounds on
but you are scanning his eyes, his lips, his hair. Lucienne asks
about the painting he proposes of you both. Tissot responds slowly
and in detail. You gaze at him as he speaks and then at Lucienne as
she listens intently, and you want to go to her at that moment and in
front of Tissot, kiss her. But the mere thought makes you blush
and you turn your head suddenly back to Tissot and you think he
catches a glimpse of you and the blush and maybe foolishly you think
he knows your thoughts and smiles.

"I loved your Le Printemps," Lucienne says. Tissot nods and smiles.

"And we have just seen Une Veuve," You add, but do not follow on.

Mr.Tissot speaks and you both fall silent. He explains and you listen
intently. His voice holds you and Lucienne in a trance. He comments
on Lucienne's dress and her hair and on your white dress and how he
wishes to paint you both in the clothes you wear at a time convenient
to you all. His eyes drift over Lucienne slowly taking in each part
of her as if his eyes were his brush and the room his canvas. And
maybe you envy his gift and perhaps you are jealous of his eyes and
what they see, for at that moment, that brief moment in time, you let
your eyes float over them both. You watch his eyes and the response
he seems to make on what it is he sees.

And then it's all over. The tea and conversation and your and
Lucienne's response now a part of a small fact of history. Tissot has
left for an engagement and the maidservant stands waiting for you
both to leave. Lucienne looks about her one last time as if she would never see such a room again, and you gazing at the maidservant, at
her small dark eyes, at her lowered head, at her silence.

"That’s that," Lucienne says.

"Yes. Ended."

"Like a death."

"Similar," you say with a smile.

"Only memories left."

"Like an ended life."

"He was handsome," Lucienne says teasingly.

"He had not your beauty."

"Nor yours." Lucienne says shyly.

“Talented man."

"Lovely house," Lucienne adds gazing at you.

"But still a man."

"Yes, still a man," Lucienne echoes. And as you walk away from the

house you both look back and smile as if a dream had been fulfilled.
Click Here for more stories by Terry Collett