New spreads about campus about a barbecue coming up and Rosie and I say we’ll go. Free alcohol and a barbecue – why wouldn’t we? Besides Rosie wants to celebrate the 60%/60% grade she got for painting Olivia nude. I reckon Susannah has her favourites. Rosie begs to disagree.
“Olivia is just hotter than me.” Rosie says, slapping me on the head playfully and then running ahead, her earplugs dangling out of her skirt. She wants me to chase her.
“No, she isn’t. You are just a better painter than me.” I growl playfully. God I had forgotten how fast she can run.
“Have you seen her boobs? They’re gorgeous.” Rosie is doing 360s in front of me, trying to talk but trying to run away simultaneously. God – she’s gorgeous. Fuck.
“Rosie. Stop spinning.” I say, grabbing her hand, and forcing her to walk at an adult’s pace.
“Why? I was having fun joykiller!” She blows a raspberry at me.
“You were turning me on.” I smirk.
“Good.” She sticks her tongue out and then touches the tip of it to the tip of her front tooth, teasing me.
“You love it!” She’s running again.
“Rosie. Fuck. Come on. You’re killing me.” I run after her again. She drops her sketchbooks on the ground on purpose. I pick them up and keep running.
“I’ll blow you later.” She has no shame.
“Stop running.” I breathe. She’s fitter than me.
“Catch me. If you can’t, no blow job.”
I pretend to look horrified.
“Is that a threat?” I give her a sideways smile.
“Uhuh. What are you gonna do huh?” She has stopped. She’s eyeing me like a tiger would carefully eye a deer. I pull her books into my side more tightly and break into a sprint. She’s a thrill-seeker, that’s for sure. She’s running through traffic at some red lights now. They could go green at any second but she doesn’t give a shit.
I catch up to her on the other side of the road, throw her sketchbooks down hard, which is no way to treat her work, I know, but fuck, I just have to grab her around the waist and pull her into me, so our bodies are stuck together and I can smash my mouth over hers and breathe her in. She gasps for air. I am not giving her any. I want that suffocating feeling. That one that traps you in the limbo between breaking apart but needing more. She inhales and then slams her mouth back onto mine and drivers going past us beep at our PDA. I can feel her smiling. She pulls the hair tie out of my man-bun and detangles it with her slender fingers. She’s messing up my hair now. My hair’s all over my face.
“You Tarzan. Me Jane!” She’s a giggling child. She’s covering her face with her hands. Laughing.
“Come on, let’s go home then Jane.” I say, flinging my arm over her shoulder and looking out at the traffic before crossing the road again and heading home. She flings my grey hoodie up over my Tarzan hair, which is some feat for her seeing as she’s a good two feet shorter than me.
Rosie is splayed out on her back on her bed scoffing down chocolate. I have no idea how she eats lying down. I can’t do it. The food gets stuck in my throat. She reminds me that I haven’t told her my grade for her portrait, and I say “nah, I haven’t, and I’m not gonna,” but it was good enough to be displayed in the student exhibition that a group of third year Fine Arts students set up for students in our course and other courses. The exhibition runs for a week on the second floor of The Gazer – a building devoted solely to people displaying their artworks. It was purchased by The Victorian Arts Council ten years ago and has had major renovations since then. Rosie wants to swing by The Gazer to have a look at our works side by side before we head to the barbecue.
We walk into the foyer, recognising guys and gals from our course and stopping here and there to have a chat.
“Mate! Nice work. Rosie. Rosie. Rosie.” Michael Holt slaps me hard on the back and is smirking visualising Rosie nude. Rosie doesn’t blush. She’s quite used to the attention having gone to nudist beaches with her mum growing up.
“Thanks Mickey.” She smiles and kisses him hello.
“I didn’t make the cut, I’m afraid, but I thought I’d come along to support you freaks who did.” He’s genuine.
“Thanks man. Appreciate it.” I say, my hair falling in front of my eyes. I tuck it back behind an ear.
“Susannah ey? She has her favourites doesn’t she Bax?” Michael says, offering me a cigarette. I take the smoke and start to follow him out to the tiny courtyard where art-seers are downing Rekorderlig and smoking in circles.
“I’ll stay in babe.” Rosie says, and we part.
“So how was Europe man? Tell me.” Michael sits down on a crate, and I station myself on a brick wall and rest my back against some lattice work above it.
“Man, Europe was insane.” Of course I’m making it all up.
“Where’d you go? Paree and Amsti right?” He takes a deep drag of his smoke and blows into the coolish night air.
“Weed it out or what?”
“Yeah, we did. Rosie was loving it. She didn’t like it at night though. Scared her a bit you know.”
“Mmm, I’ve heard. Different culture there man.”
“For sure. Melbourne is still a great city though. We are fucking lucky here.”
“True. Get your pockets picked in Paris?”
“Nah. Are there heaps of pick-pockets there?” I’m genuinely curious.
“Loads. Mum and Dad went last winter. Their summer. Kids. Girls. Whoever. They’re so clever. Fucken nifty at what they do.” Michael drags again.
“That’s only one downside to it though. Everything else is great.” I say.
“Yeah. Don’t get me wrong man. There’s good and bad in every country. Beggars. You wanna see beggars? Get on the train. Melbourne is full of them.”
“I know. I feel sorry for them. But I’m broke myself mate. What can you do?” I say.
“Not much man. Not much. Changing topic. Rosie. She’s hot man. How does Rosie do it Bax?” He means how does she walk around the gallery knowing she’s on full nude display on a wall in a frame.
“Confidence. She’s got it man. She does.”
“Confidence is so hot. More girls need to be like that.”
“Her mum’s a nudist. Rose grew up on nudist beaches.”
“There you have it. That’s why. Maybe what Melbourne needs is more nudist beaches then.” Michael laughs.
“I wouldn’t knock that back.” I say, looking through the glass into the gallery.
“Excuse me, are you Baxter Breckeridge?” A girl I don’t know asks me.
“Yeah. I am.” I say.
“Your work is fucking sick. It’s so beautiful. You are so talented. Is your girlfriend here?”
“Oh thanks. Pull up a crate. She’s here. She’s inside. Do you know her?” I say, scooping a red crate across the concrete and putting it beside me so this girl can sit down. I take my last drag and butt my smoke out on the log in front of me.
“I’m Chloe by the way. Rosie is so gorgeous. I know why you chose to paint her.”
“Thanks. She’s stunning. I know.”
“Good eye, he has, see?” Michael chips in.
“Would she weird out if I go and find her?” Chloe wants to leave.
“Nah, she’s cool.” I say. Chloe gets up and leaves in search of Rosie.
“Someone has a crush.” Michael rolls his eye.
“Meh. She’s taken. She can try.” I wink. I’m joking.
Michael and I go inside and bump into some mates from the course. Max and Duke. Max is even taller than me, and has crazy curly black hair which he never cuts. He reminds of Red Foo. He likes wearing seventies tartan pants covered in chains with black tshirts and docs. Not my thing, but each to their own I guess. His style doesn’t affect his painting and for that he is one person who is accepted by everybody. Duke on the other hand is a funny one. We went to high school together. His name has seen him grow up with flamboyant airs and graces. His hair is slicked to one side, and his Polo Ralph Lauren polos are always tucked into his slim-fitting trousers. But no belts. He hates belts. He fancies himself which is why he will always be single. He is a diva; you should see how he walks. He talks a lot, and very fast. I love him, but in small doses. He doesn’t paint. He is a photographer, and a damn good one too. He wants to shoot Rosie naked sometime but until I find out whether he is straight or gay I won’t let him. I tell him this all the time. He laughs it off saying that I’ll never know. And then he’ll kiss me on the cheek, making it fucking even harder to tell. I laugh.
“Rosie!” He jumps on the spot clapping his hands together once.
“I know. I know. Thank you.” I fucking hate compliments.
“Personally she looks better than Olivia, but don’t tell Olivia I said that.”
“I won’t.” I smile.
“Have you walked around yet?” Max asks.
“Nah not yet. Been outside with Mickey.” Michael has disappeared.
“Come check out my stuff. I’ve already seen yours. We all know you made that wall because you’re a talentless prick.” Max is being sarcastic and we walk through the throng of tipsy students.
“Thanks man. I know I am.” I laugh.
“Rosie! When can I shoot you naked darling? You’re too hot to trot babe!” Duke wraps a friendly arm around her, and she kisses him on the lips, hello. That gives me my answer, which is what I think Rosie was trying to give me.
“When are you free darling?” She looks at him, and I’m totally okay with them. In fact, I think they’re pretty cute.
“Whenever you’re free sweet cakes.” He’s happy. We all walk to Max’s portrait of the girl who approached me before. What was her name? Chloe?
“Chloe? I met her before.” Rosie says.
“Nice girl. I met her too. She’s in love with you babe.” I tell Rosie.
“Me? What do you mean?”
“She bats for the other side.” I wink.
“Nah, she doesn’t.” Max says. Then adds “my sister’s not like that.” He’s laughing.
“Your sister? Shit! That’s your sister?” I’m staring at the painting.
“Yeah. She’s in year 12. Wants to come here next year.” Max says, gulping down the last bits of Rekorderlig in his glass bottle and then dumping the bottle in a nearby bin.
“Is that even legal? To paint your underage sister like that?” Duke asks.
“Probably not. But Mum and Dad were cool with it, and it did get me a sweet fifty nine percent!” Max is overjoyed.
“Ugh. Your own sister butt naked. What were you thinking?” Rosie asks.
“I was drunk. Let me tell you. I drank a lot of scotch beforehand.”
“You could have chosen any chick. Why your sister?” I ask.
“Have you seen her?” Max asks.
“I have. She’s pretty.” I say.
“There’s your answer then.” Max says.
“Art for art’s sake right? That’s all it is.” Duke says, handing each of us a Rekorderlig with no lids.
“Exactly. Mind’s out of the gutter friends.” Max says.
Chloe approaches our group.
“We were just talking about you.” Max kisses her head and drapes his arm over her shoulder, in what I hope is in a brotherly way.
“All good things?” Chloe has a camera handing around her neck.
“Your nudity.” Duke says.
“In the name of art. Women’s bodies make wonderful glorious art.” Chloe says.
“They do.” Rosie says, and she and Rosie hit their bottles together saying cheers.
“You are one hot woman.” Chloe tells Rosie.
“Thanks doll. You’re pretty lovely yourself.” Rosie responds.
“I’m a photographer. I want to snap you one day. Do say I can.” Chloe is excited.
“You can.” Rosie smiles and flings her arm over Chloe’s other shoulder.